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Did I make a mistake here? Possible bullying situation


Just Kate
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We recently moved to a neighborhood that has several kids who play frequently. Basically, we are at the end of a cul-de-sac and there is a basketball hoop where the neighborhood boys play all the time. They also play often in two of the kids backyards (I hope they will play in our backyard before long, but for now we are trying to grow some grass where we had a pool removed). We have never lived in a neighborhood with kids before and ds loves it! There are three boys that are exactly his age, one who is a few years older, but plays well with the 10 year olds, and then a few other boys come and go as well.

 

The problem is that one of the boys has a 13 year old sister who likes to hang around and play with them. I thought nothing of it until ds started coming home and telling me that Gwen picks on him all the time. He says that she tells him that he stinks at basketball (I keep asking him for clarification...does she really say exactly that? - yes, he says she does). When they are playing, she takes his ball and refuses to give it back to him (she is quite a bit taller than him). Recently, some adults in the neighborhood had a giant pool party and most of the kids went. Sadly, we weren't invited which really hurt ds's feelings (I wasn't surprised as we don't really know these neighbors yet). When the kids were together playing after the party, ds asked if those neighbors have parties frequently and according to him, Gwen responded that yes they do but you will never be invited. Each day ds comes home with a complaint about Gwen!

 

Yesterday, I was sitting on the porch with my dd and ds started walking toward our house with his hands over his face. I could tell he was crying. I started to go to him when the older neighborhood boy (I think he is 13) came to ds, talked to him, and walked him back to the group of kids. I let it go, but just kept my eyes on them. When ds came home in the evening he said that Gwen just wouldn't stop telling him how awful he was and that he couldn't take it so he started to leave. The older boy (who is very sweet) came and got ds, told him it would be okay, and took him back to the group. 

 

Ds was so upset last night that I thought that I had to do something! I am just getting to know my  neighbors, but I do have some connections to Gwen's mom through some other friends. But I certainly don't know her well and I rarely see her. Imagine my surprise when I took my dog out last night that she was outside. Without really thinking, I called to her and asked if we could talk. I tried to be as nonconfrontational as possible. I told her that ds loves playing with all of the neighborhood kids, but that he has been complaining that Gwen picks on him. I said that I realize that ds can be sensitive and I also realize that ds could have done something to upset Gwen. I said that with summer coming, I really just want all of the kids to get along and I was hoping we could work something out. She was shocked by my allegations and said that Gwen is a great girl and she can't imagine her saying mean things to ds. The conversation ended weirdly with her promising to talk to Gwen. I could tell I made her very uncomfortable.

 

Now, of course, I am second-guessing my quick decision to talk to the mom. Have I made things worse for ds? Is there something else I should have done/should do? I don't really know these kids and I'm not close enough to them to hear their conversations, since they spend about 99% of their time either playing some type of ball or tag. We have never dealt with a bully situation before, but it is making ds upset enough that I feel that something needs to be done.

 

Oh, and before all of this escalated yesterday, I gave ds some tips on dealing with Gwen. For instance, when she takes his ball, I told him to tell her to give it back. When she says something mean, I told him to tell her to stop talking to him that way. Sadly ds was so excited to have neighborhood friends that I think he just takes it because he doesn't want to ruffle any feathers.

 

Anyone have any advice for me? If you remember, I am also dealing with some medical issues with ds, so this has been an all-around stressful time.

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There is no way to predict how her parents will talk to her - if she's a special snowflake and they'll never believe anything negative, or if they'll come down hard on her.  All in all it's not your responsibility.

 

I would try and not intervene as long as possible.  I would try and talk to your son, listen, ask him what he thinks he should do about it.  I might be old school here but generally with bullies it's best for the kid to fight back - verbally not physically in the case of a girl, but he does need to learn to toughen up a little bit and stand up for himself.

 

Are there no girls in the neighborhood?  Why is this girl not off with her own friends?  What do the other boys say to your son about her?

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I think you did fine.  It's really hard to know how different parents will react.  Some would take that information and would nip any problem behavior in the bud.  Some would take the same information and get defensive.  And many would be somewhere in between.  It's also hard to know how Gwen will react to her mom talking to her.  But I don't think that should have kept you from trying the straightforward way of handling it.

 

Is Gwen always out with the other kids?  Is it possible for your ds to play with the others when she's not around? 

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You did an extremely maternal and fairly reasonable thing. You've taken an action, now all you can do is wait for the reaction.

 

I would tell my child that I'd spoken to Gwens mom about her though. He might be mortified, but he needs to know.

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You have some great advice.

 

We have a situation like that in our neighborhood except 13 year old is just a girl in the neighborhood and seems to have it out for dd turning her friends against her, telling dd her friends hate her, telling friends she's going to have a slumber party but won't invite dd, not that I would ever let an 8 year old go to a 14 year olds party much less slumber party.  Dd is feeling left out.  I let dd talk it out and really listen to her to make sure things do not get out of hand. 

 

 

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I think it is unlikely that dealing with this woman will change anything. But it sounds like you did the right thing. You were as non-confrontational as possible and talked nicely. I have never met a bully's parents who acknowledged the behavior of their child as anything other than perfect. I would have the neighborhood kids over inside your house for some fun pretty soon and establish your house as the cool place to hang out so that he has some refuge from her.

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I think I would have done the same thing!  Where are the girl's friends?  Maybe because of her attitude, she doesn't have her own friends...  Can you invite some of the boys over sometime so your son can continue to get to know the boys but without the girl present?  I guess you will just have to wait it out a bit and see how it evolves, but don't be afraid to step in again if it continues.  Sorry you have to deal with her.  :(

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If you know other people who know this family, you might try ask them if there is something up with Gwen. I think you can only do this without sounding like a total busy body, if you know the other people really well. Say you've moved in near these people and their dd is pushing your ds around and see if they volunteer anything, like the girl is mildly autistic, has depression, her closest aunt died a few months ago. Then, I might tell ds Gwen is having a hard time and she's dealing with it by pushing someone around. Her behavior has nothing to do with ds, but acknowledge it's hard to be the object of the behavior that has nothing to do with him.

 

Since one of the older boys is intervening and encouraging your ds to keep playing the with group, it's probably safe to assume everyone in the group is on to Gwen's behavior and may have experienced her wrath at some time. Given the ages, I would just back away for now and not orchestrate with parents.

 

I would work on getting to know people. Take walks and say hello to who ever is weeding their yard, getting their mail, etc. Their kids are playing with your ds and you want them to have some idea of who your ds is connected to.

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Thanks! The girl is almost always out there when the boys are playing. I don't think there are any girls in our neighborhood her age, so maybe that's why she tags along with the boys? I have asked ds what the other boys do when Gwen picks on him and he says that they always tell her to stop and leave ds alone. I guess I will need to tell ds that I talked to Gwen's mom. Ugh...I'm kind of wishing I had never said anything.

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When we lived on a street loaded with kids I was outside as much as possible and I was that mom who would tell kids no when needed.  I had no problem banning kids from my yard when they couldn't get their behavior under control and I did go to parents when it was needed.  Otherwise it was a frenzy and kids got hurt physically and emotionally.  They needed an adult around.  And I found they gravitate to our house b/c they knew things would be fair but fun and no meanness allowed!  At first I worried about kids not wanting to play with my kids, but we found the kids liked being able to voice concerns to an adult when issues arose.  And soon other parents started coming out and taking ownership of their kids and also being willing to talk to the problem kids firmly and their guardians.  No regrets being that parent who won't let the bullying happen.  No regrets telling a kid they were mean and to change their behavior or go home.  We had so much fun on that street and it worked out b/c I was willing to state the obvious when needed. 

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I don't think you did anything wrong at all.  We have been in similar situations and I wish I had been as calm and nice as you.

 

Can I make one tiny suggestion? I have only skimmed the replies so I don't know if this has been mentioned.

 

The 13 year old boy who came and brought your son back to the group?  Next time you see him, thank him.  More importantly, I would find out where he lives, ring the doorbell, and tell the mom what a nice thing her son did.  Moms never hear the good things their children do.  Tell her how much you and your son appreciated the kindness.  This is the kind of family you want to get to know in your neighborhood.

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Are there no girls in the neighborhood?  Why is this girl not off with her own friends?

Where are the girl's friends?  Maybe because of her attitude, she doesn't have her own friends...

 

Its very possible that these boys are Gwens friends, or at least her core group. I was a part of a small gang of boyhood friends and there was a girl in our ranks. She was kind of bossy but she was our friend. I will say that it sounds like Gwen is jealous of your son, sort of like a "new baby" in the family, her position with her mostly (all?) male friends may be threatened by the arrival of another male who could 'replace' her. She sounds like a mean and bossy 13yo girl, I knew a lot of those when I was a kid.

 

Is Gwen always out with the other kids?  Is it possible for your ds to play with the others when she's not around?

I take it these neighborhood kids attend PS so they kind of have the same schedule

I would have the neighborhood kids over inside your house for some fun pretty soon and establish your house as the cool place to hang out so that he has some refuge from her.

This sounds like the thing to do.

 

Since one of the older boys is intervening and encouraging your ds to keep playing the with group, it's probably safe to assume everyone in the group is on to Gwen's behavior and may have experienced her wrath at some time. Given the ages, I would just back away for now and not orchestrate with parents.

This is also sound advice, in my opinion. When I was in 4th grade I had a friend, Eric who was mean and bullyish, he was domineering and more in-your-face than most people would be comfortable with. Eric was our friend but he only became our friend after it was clearly established (never spoken, just understood and demonstrated in a few instances) that he couldn't get away with acting that way toward 'us'. In 7th when Connor moved to the neighrborhood it took a while for him to realize he didn't have to take Eric's BS either.

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If my kid were saying mean things to another kid, I would want to know. Parents don't always know what their kid is doing/saying and often have an idealized vision of how "nice" their kid is. I think my kids are generally nice people, but if someone came to me and said that my child were saying mean things, I wouldn't dismiss it. I would talk to my kid about it, and I would make sure that I emphasized that how others perceive you matters and that you have to be careful not to say or do things that could be misinterpreted. If I found out that my kid were actually being mean to another child, there would be consequences for my child. My children are not special snowflakes, and I will not cover for them if they are being mean.

 

I would be embarrassed if another mom told me my child was being unkind, and I don't know how I would come across in the moment, but I certainly would take the matter up with my child.

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The problem is that one of the boys has a 13 year old sister who likes to hang around and play with them. I thought nothing of it until ds started coming home and telling me that Gwen picks on him all the time. He says that she tells him that he stinks at basketball (I keep asking him for clarification...does she really say exactly that? - yes, he says she does). When they are playing, she takes his ball and refuses to give it back to him (she is quite a bit taller than him). Recently, some adults in the neighborhood had a giant pool party and most of the kids went. Sadly, we weren't invited which really hurt ds's feelings (I wasn't surprised as we don't really know these neighbors yet). When the kids were together playing after the party, ds asked if those neighbors have parties frequently and according to him, Gwen responded that yes they do but you will never be invited. Each day ds comes home with a complaint about Gwen!

Unfortunately this is one of his friends sister and the family 'was here first' Ugh! I hate that sort of thing, have you encouraged your son to give Gwen the cold shoulder? If you don't see any improvement on Gwens part, then I say to just completely and utterly ignore her.

 

When she says "You stink at basketball" ignore her, when she takes his ball--and you should go ahead and use a sharpie to label all his belongings--that is the time to notice a butterfly and strike up a conversation with the other boys and ignore her. (He can get the ball back from Gwens brother later.) Try ignoring her for one week straight and if she persists then its time to brain storm a new course of action.

 

Yesterday, I was sitting on the porch with my dd and ds started walking toward our house with his hands over his face. I could tell he was crying. I started to go to him when the older neighborhood boy (I think he is 13) came to ds, talked to him, and walked him back to the group of kids. I let it go, but just kept my eyes on them. I would find this boys parents and tell them what their son did. I would thank the young man for being a friend to my son. People always hear about what their kids did wrong. It would totally make someones day to hear what their kid did right. Plus, if you are lucky, this mom, will have 'The Scoop' on Gwen and will let you in on it. When ds came home in the evening he said that Gwen just wouldn't stop telling him how awful he was and that he couldn't take it so he started to leave. The older boy (who is very sweet) came and got ds, told him it would be okay, and took him back to the group. 

 

 

Anyone have any advice for me? If you remember, I am also dealing with some medical issues with ds, so this has been an all-around stressful time.

Let your son know that you spoke to Gwens mom.

 

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Its very possible that these boys are Gwens friends, or at least her core group. I was a part of a small gang of boyhood friends and there was a girl in our ranks. She was kind of bossy but she was our friend. I will say that it sounds like Gwen is jealous of your son, sort of like a "new baby" in the family, her position with her mostly (all?) male friends may be threatened by the arrival of another male who could 'replace' her. She sounds like a mean and bossy 13yo girl, I knew a lot of those when I was a kid.

 

 

Sure, but a lot of girls once they've hit their teens will start to hang out more with friends from school.  These kids sound (for the most part) younger than she is.  So I thought I'd ask anyway.  One can always hope that she starts to want to hang out at the mall!  

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I think you did the right thing.  If the mom talking to her doesn't fix the issue, which I'm guessing it won't immediately, then continue to encourage your ds to stick up for himself.  When the kids start playing in your yard you could of course say she was not welcome because of her behavior.

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I think speaking to the mom was fine. The only thing I would have done differently is to have tried to hear one of these things happening so when I spoke to the mom, it was firsthand knowledge and not "my son said." I'd let your son know you spoke to her mom so he's not caught off guard at whatever comes next. And do tell the boy's parents what a kind young man he is.

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I think you did the right thing. It's our job as mothers to protect their little hearts. I think you should tell your son that you talked to Gwen's mother because you love him so much and he doesn't deserve to be treated like that. Kids need to know that mom is going to stick up for them when they can't. Now, having said that, also teach him to try to solve his own problems. Teach him exactly what to do when the bullying starts. At the same time, I would provide ample opportunity for playing with the boys at your house, and I might even conveniently be around a bit more...you know, taking a walk, watering your flowers, etc so you can get a feel for what's going on.

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Does the girl treat her brother like that?  Some siblings have an antagonistic/teasing relationship that they carry over to their siblings friends.  If the friends are not used to that they may not "get" the dynamic.

 

I have always had a relationship like that with my sister.  We tease and call each other names like Dork even as adults.  We love each other and are very close, but my father never really understood.  He was an only child and to this day still thinks that we are being "mean" to each other.

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Thanks everyone! I do wish I could be closer to the kids so I could hear their conversations. I am out in my yard quite a bit and I can see them, as the basketball hoop is just a couple houses up from ours. I just can't hear them and I would literally have to stand in other people's yards to hear them.

 

As for the older boy, he is a very sweet kid. I actually went to high school with his parents and I do know them (a tiny bit) so I will say something. Also the boy is friends with my 13 year old nephew and I have heard from my family that he is just a good kid. Ds loves playing with him.

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If you know other people who know this family, you might try ask them if there is something up with Gwen. I think you can only do this without sounding like a total busy body, if you know the other people really well. Say you've moved in near these people and their dd is pushing your ds around and see if they volunteer anything, like the girl is mildly autistic, has depression, her closest aunt died a few months ago. Then, I might tell ds Gwen is having a hard time and she's dealing with it by pushing someone around. Her behavior has nothing to do with ds, but acknowledge it's hard to be the object of the behavior that has nothing to do with him.

 

 

This. I think you did the right thing, OP, but I would also do this (suggested above).

 

Your son may have made his entrance into the group during a difficult time in the girl's life.

My daughter's very best friend (neighborhood girl) went through a VERY rough time last year, related to her father's alcoholism (great dad, just deeply depressed and self medicating) and the custody issues that ensued. She took it out on my daughter - they went from being attached at the hip for literally 6 years, to the girl leaving nasty, horrid video messages for my daughter and sending them to dd's ipad. It was terrible.

 

I talked to mom and, while uncomfortable, mom was glad I had done so. She DID talk to her daughter, things DID get better, and they are once again the best of friends.

 

You can never know what is going on behind closed doors. With that said, there's always the chance the girl is just a Butt and nothing is going to change, in which case I would just give your son an out. He may be too young for this, but what seems to work for my daughter (and I know I'll get some backlash for this, lol) is to look at Bullying Child in the eye, smile sweetly, and say "well bless your heart!", before returning to her own activities; rinse and repeat. It's sarcastic and probably not entirely kind, but meh - I'm a rather sarcastic person, when absolutely nothing else seems to work to remedy the situation. I do NOT think she should be able to get away with ruining your boy's fun.

 

*hugs* I hope your boy finds some relief from the situation.

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Sure, but a lot of girls once they've hit their teens will start to hang out more with friends from school... One can always hope that she starts to want to hang out at the mall!  

Oh, well I am hardly an expert of Girl Psychology, so I'm sure you lot know more about that than I do.

 

Our gang was formed around 4th grade and lasted through high school. The girl was one of our core members and considered a friend in her own right, so I just assumed that Gwen was "one of the guys".

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Could you invite some of the boys to go to your house, even if the yard is not available?  Or invite a couple of families to go eat out or go to a movie or something?  To help solidify relationships and get to know everyone better?  Just in general, that might help the situation.  And maybe even invite Gwen over with some of the boys sometime.  Maybe to play board games or something.  If you could monitor her behavior in person and maybe get to know her you might have a better grasp of how to handle her.  It might also help how she is treating your son if she feels like a part of things and gets to know your family.  Since her brother is a friend of your son this wouldn't look too out of the ordinary.  She may very well feel like your son is a threat to her place in the group.  Or that she can appear more in control and important if she picks on the new guy.  

 

:grouphug:

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You sounded super reasonable to me.  It's not like you approached her with a tone of your idiot child is hurting my special snowflake.  I'm sorry.  I hope your ds can find a way to hang out with the neighborhood boys.

 

I have found it helpful to remind my own kids that when other kids are mean, there is something wrong with THAT kid and they are likely feeling badly about themselves for some reason.  My 13 year old boy rarely even flinches now if someone says something mean to him.  You might wonder if this girl is feeling badly because they other neighborhood kids have a new friend?  Maybe she's interested in the 13 year old boy and having a new kid is distracting?  My 13 year old has even said things like "Wow - what's wrong with you?  Do you have a self esteem issue?" when kids are a$$ hats.  He's a little over confident sometimes.  All 85 lbs of him.  ;)

 

:grouphug:   to you and your boy.

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They also play often in two of the kids backyards (I hope they will play in our backyard before long, but for now we are trying to grow some grass where we had a pool removed). 

 

Please remember that kids are more important than grass. You can grow grass after you're finished growing kids if you haven't managed to do both at the same time. Kids are only kids for a short while. 

 

 

Are there no girls in the neighborhood?  Why is this girl not off with her own friends?  What do the other boys say to your son about her?

 

The girl is with her friends. 

 

Thanks! The girl is almost always out there when the boys are playing. I don't think there are any girls in our neighborhood her age, so maybe that's why she tags along with the boys? I have asked ds what the other boys do when Gwen picks on him and he says that they always tell her to stop and leave ds alone. I guess I will need to tell ds that I talked to Gwen's mom. Ugh...I'm kind of wishing I had never said anything.

 

Yes, you need to tell him. You don't have to make a big deal out of it, though. You can say something along the lines of "Oh, by the way, I saw Gwen's mom the other day and mentioned that there were some problems brewing" Your son needs to know you are on his side! 

 

I think speaking to the mom was fine. The only thing I would have done differently is to have tried to hear one of these things happening so when I spoke to the mom, it was firsthand knowledge and not "my son said." I'd let your son know you spoke to her mom so he's not caught off guard at whatever comes next. And do tell the boy's parents what a kind young man he is.

I disagree. Firsthand knowledge isn't necessary, this isn't a court of law. 

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. I said that I realize that ds can be sensitive and I also realize that ds could have done something to upset Gwen. 

I recommend that you not say anything that could be remotely construed as negative about your son. Remember, you are on his side. Don't say anything about him in this situation that you would not want him knowing you said. Also, don't provide an excuse or a way out for the mean girl. 

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I recommend that you not say anything that could be remotely construed as negative about your son. Remember, you are on his side. Don't say anything about him in this situation that you would not want him knowing you said. Also, don't provide an excuse or a way out for the mean girl.

I agree with this. The way it was worded makes it easy for the other parent to blow it off as your child being sensitive. DH often does this kind of self-deprecating thing when he's making a complaint and it drives me crazy.

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Some conversations are inherently awkward - there is no way to find the right words to make them comfortable. Given that, I think you did great.

I don't believe in "letting kids handle it" when it comes to power differentials, cruel, unkind or bullying.

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You 100% did the right thing advocating for your son.  When my kids were younger ds and the girl down the block were like oil and water.  She was usually okay 1 on 1 or even a group of 3 but once all the block kids were outside she was one major manipulator.  And her parents thought she walked on water.  My son was not always innocent but she went out of her way to make him look bad.  Another neighbor even went and spoke to her dad after she witnessed an incident.  Long story short-she was always right and my son was always wrong.  Eventually, I just stopped letting my kids hang out with the kids on the block because my kids were always wrong and all the other kids were always right.  I tried to make sure we were busy doing something else most of the time.  

 

I still remember her dad emailing once about something that happened between the two kids (passive aggressive much) and would I talk to ds.  I emailed him back telling him I absolutely would discuss the incident with him and that his behavior was not acceptable.  Then I tacked on-I would appreciate it if he would ask his dd would stop telling my dd (who is 2 years younger then this girl) jokes full of the f-word. Yeah, I can be passive aggressive, too.

 

Point of my story-keep an eye on the situation and step in when necessary.

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I like the idea of having everyone, including Gwen, over for board games and snacks. That let's her know you are involved in your son's activities. Also, good idea for having some of the families over for a BBQ to get to know them. I would start with the family of the young boy that encouraged your son to come back and play with the group. :)

 

You might have your son confront Gwen when she's being rude by saying, "why are you being ______?" Sometimes it is better to 'call it like you see it', as my Gram would say. It might help the other boys to recognize her behavior for what it is.

 

Sorry you are dealing with this.

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I wouldn't call that escalating anything. You saw the neighbor, you talked to your neighbor, she was surprised, she said she would talk to her child.  There is nothing wrong here, as it stands.  It's never easy to hear anything negative about one's child, and it's rarely easy to make a move to talk about difficult subjects. So far, so good. Now to see how it plays out. In the meantime, try not to worry.  You didn't do anything wrong, and so far, neither did the other Mom.  Take care, and give yourself some space to rest your mind.

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I wouldn't call that escalating anything. You saw the neighbor, you talked to your neighbor, she was surprised, she said she would talk to her child. There is nothing wrong here, as it stands. It's never easy to hear anything negative about one's child, and it's rarely easy to make a move to talk about difficult subjects. So far, so good. Now to see how it plays out. In the meantime, try not to worry. You didn't do anything wrong, and so far, neither did the other Mom. Take care, and give yourself some space to rest your mind.

I thought by escalating, she was meaning her son leaving the group and coming home in tears.

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Sure, but a lot of girls once they've hit their teens will start to hang out more with friends from school.  These kids sound (for the most part) younger than she is.  So I thought I'd ask anyway.  One can always hope that she starts to want to hang out at the mall!  

Not necessarily.  dd14 is one of the guys.  She really only hangs out with guys.  There is some girls at cadets she talks to but she has almost nothing in common with them outside of cadets and anatomy.  DD14 is a tom boy, and would rather be goofing off, shooting bb guns, playing video games or up a tree then be caught going to the mall and talking about boys, hair and makeup etc.  She finds all of that vapid and annoying.  The only girls she is willing to hang out with are younger than her and look up to her so she is good with that.

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Perhaps you could establish your home as a source of snacks. For example, buy a bunch of ice pops and call the kids over to get some. Doing this often might give you some insight. You could even go out of your way to connect with the girl and see if that helps.

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There is lots of good advice here and I think you're right to get involved. I had to deal with many bullies as a kid and I agree that it is foolish to let kids "just work it out" a.k.a. continue it unchecked.

 

I used to have a really insecure classmate (age 13) who tried similar tactics with my younger sister (age 10). She would mock my sister and put her down because she was really jealous of us and my sister was an easier target than an agemate. What worked well in the moment to get her to back off was a slightly snarky comment like, "Is picking on a ten-year-old the most exciting thing you can think of to do?" Or, "Maybe in three years I'll be as awesome at basketball as you are." Or, "Aren't you in jr. high? You're old enough to be my babysitter and you think picking on 4th graders is cool?"

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I would thank the 13 year old boy and ask him what the deal is. He may say "oh Gwen is always like that with new people at first", or "she is missing he best friend who used to live where you lived" or "you just need to show her you aren't scared of her" or whatever.

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