Now that my daughter is getting older, I have found myself faced with the question of what to do when my tween gets bullied. It’s not like when they were toddlers. My daughters seem to be magnets for bullies. Despite being nice kids who are friendly with almost everyone (according to their teachers), they always seem to be the target of bullies. Now, I know we live in a world where parents like to overuse the term “bullying.” I don’t think I do but when you go single white female on my child and then harass her relentlessly when she just isn’t that into you, I think that constitutes being a bully, bordering on harassment and just a scoatch out of the stalker realm. Any way you slice it, you’re not being nice and I just don’t trust the situation.
My girls have had a bully almost every other year since preschool. I’ve taught my girls not to take it personally and to ignore these people. This is for my kid than the bully. I don’t want my daughters obsessing over what someone else thinks of them. Honestly, it’s irrelevant. I also don’t want my kid being teased, hurt and harassed because another kid doesn’t like something about them. Can’t we all just get along and move along.
I live in a reality based world. I don’t expect everyone to like everyone else. Sometimes it’s nothing more than non-compatible personalities. Hey, we’ve all known someone who we just don’t like based on fundamental personality differences and that’s okay. I don’t even want my girls to want or try to be liked by everyone because that just sets them up for a life of people pleasing and, pardon my French but, f*ck that.
This is how bullying usually goes. My kid starts acting weird. I ask them what’s going on. They don’t want to tell because they don’t want to tattle and they feel embarrassed that someone is picking on them, making fun of them or harassing them. I ask a few more times and finally, they end up breaking down and telling me.
I tell them to rise above it, ignore it and it’s not about them, it’s the fault of the bully. Bullies have low self-esteem and it manifests by them being mean to others to make themselves feel better. It’s a weak person’s way of leveling the playing field. Instead of rising to the occasion, bullies prefer to pull you down to their level. I also tell my children to tell me and they’ve done nothing wrong. Then, I handle it with the powers that be.
You see, in a world where kids plant bombs and go on shooting sprees, in a post-Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan world, I don’t believe in a “kids will be kids” do nothing parenting. I in no way fight my children’s battles but I also do not stand by and let my child feel like they are alone in the situation. I have no problem contact the school or wherever and keeping them abreast of the situation. Which brings us to this past weekend.
For a couple months, my daughter has been telling me that a girl at ballet doesn’t like her. Up until now, it’s been what I’ve perceived as a non-compatible personality situation. Petty things like bringing all the girls in class a piece of candy and purposely excluding just my daughter. Granted, it’s a shitty thing to do but it’s not “bullying” it’s just being a punk kid. I told my kid to ignore it and I bought her a bag of suckers and on the day she took them into ballet, I made sure she had enough for everyone. I thought let’s kill it with kindness. I’ve always taught my girls that you can’t control others reactions but you can control your own actions so put good into the world and if someone doesn’t return it then that is on them, not you. You do good, that’s all that you can do. Well, that didn’t help the situation at all.
Then, this particular little girl decided to try to befriend my daughter’s core group of friends. One-by-one she starting talking to them and trying to ingratiate herself into their lives by plying them with sweets and trinkets but her fatal flaw, as soon as they would talk to her, she would say something mean about my daughter and reveal herself to be the mean-spirited person she really was. Two of the girls were friendly to her in the way you are friendly to colleagues, which is essentially what they all are but she wanted more.
Still, she was calling my daughter prissy, annoying and saying that she talks too much. I mean, she is my daughter so she probably does talk a lot and prissy and annoying, well, that’s just that damn personality thing I was referring to. However, then it began to get weirder. Her tactic of befriending was more of collecting friends to exclude my daughter. It was more about alienating my daughter than having friends.
These girls are all tweens ages 11 and 12-years-old. My daughter has a group of four “best friends” who talk every day and have sleepovers and genuinely care about one another, more than just like a colleague more like sisters. They are protective of one another but they are a good group of girls. They are not mean. They actually try to be very diplomatic, as much as you can be at that age.
So, a couple weeks ago, the bully decided that if I can’t steal the friends and exclude Bella (my daughter) they will all suffer my wrath. First, she started calling one of the little girls “fat” to the three other girls. I told my daughter that they should shut it down and tell the bully it wasn’t okay but not tell the girl who she was calling fat because it would only hurt her feeling and make her feel embarrassed. Let’s be honest, as a tween girl, being called fat can have some serious ramifications, especially if you’re a ballerina. 12-years-old is when my eating disorders were first triggered. Then, she told another one of the girls that my daughter was fat, which by the way she is not even close to being. This girl just knows that calling any girl fat, no matter her size especially in their industry, is a trigger.
She is not saying any of this to the actual girls she is talking about but rather telling one of the other girls in the group. It’s like she enjoys not only talking shit about one girl but torturing the other girls by putting them in this awkward position. All the while, she is trying to befriend each of the other girls, except for my friend. She eventually goes through the entire group calling them all names like fat, can’t dance, blackhearts, prissy, annoying, clumsy, untalented and talks too much. It’s all very superficial but it really hurts these girls’ feelings and in the end, it’s not about whether I think it is serious or not, it’s about how it’s making the girls feel and they feel terrible. It’s about the effect it has on the bullied child. Then the notes began.
Apparently, the girls sticking together only angered the bully and she decided to attack them in letters. It started two weeks ago. She stuck a note in my daughter’s ballet bag that read, “I don’t like talking to annoying, prissy people. Sorry, not my type.” And she signed her name. My daughter didn’t even tell me. She crumpled it up and threw it into her bag. I guess my rise above it mantra is sticking.
Not getting the reaction she wanted from my daughter, she went on to one of her friends and wrote her a creepy single white female letter. Basically saying, your other three friends are shit and they called you shit when you weren’t here. Then she went on to say, let’s have a sleepover and exclude those girls. You need to become best friends with me, etcetera, etcetera. It was a very weird note but that’s the gist of it. Instead of taking the bait, the girl who was given the note shared the note with the other girls at a sleepover they had on Friday.
Instead of being mean back to her, the girls googled how to write a form letter and then must have ended up on some manager training site because they wrote a letter with the formula “for every bad thing you tell her to say something nice and always use empathy.” They brought me a copy of both letters because, as my husband says, the kids all know that you’re the mom who gets shit taken care of.
Super long story slightly shorter, I spoke with the principal and the director at the ballet on Saturday morning. They took it very seriously because the 4 girls also brought the original f the note the bully write and their reply for proof. You’d think they were going to court. I was assured by the ballet that it would be handled.
The girls as a whole at ballet were given a warning about behavior and etiquette and how this sort of petty behavior and bullying would not be tolerated. They were reminded that they are a company and are supposed to be tolerant and supportive of one another. However, the bully has an older sister who is friends with my daughter and her group of friends. She told her mom what her little sister had been up to and the mom handled her daughter, the bully. Did I mention this all happened on a performance day?
We all went home and thought it was handled. Until Sunday when one of the little girls was cleaning out her ballet bag and found a second note basically threatening my daughter and her group for getting her into trouble. She called them idiots and jerks and said she would get revenge at ballet and to have great lives in hell. Concluding with, I hate you. She wrote this note after she had been reprimanded by the ballet and her mother. So basically in the face of punishment she was angry enough to say to hell with the consequences.
I am dumbfounded. This has been going on, on and off, since last spring but has been slowly escalating. It’s to the point now, especially after the last note, that I don’t feel terribly comfortable with my child being around this child. I feel it’s getting to Tonya Harding levels of desperation.
What would you do if your tween gets bullied?