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 Post subject: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 1:53 am 
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Situation: I am part of a really good group of families that meet weekly, either at a venue (park, pool, etc) or the group organiser's home. We do a few kindergarten-early primary/elementary themed activities then the rest is free play. Most of the children are girls aged 6 to 10. My daughter is 4yo.

Both my children have additional needs and the group organiser and other parents have been fantastic about accommodating us (not that we need anything different), but as far as social groups go in terms of being inclusive, this group is awesome.

The problem however is the children. They have never really been welcoming to mine. I'll talk specifically about my daughter, my son doesn't really factor in to the situation I'm in right now.

Over the past few months Husband and I noticed the girls in this group were excluding our daughter. We didn't think anything of it because the girls know eachother more, are older and just do that sticking together thing. Husband and I would offer calm reminders about including everyone, sharing, etc. The parents of these girls were not around when this would happen. We didn't think there was any deliberate attempt to exclude our daughter and she was happy to play on her own, so we let it go.

In the past few weeks however it has turned in to full on deliberate exclusion. For eg when my daughter approaches them, they stop to scowl at her, then pointedly take eachother's hands and walk off, and they keep watch for her to see if she's coming and quickly grab eachother to move away. She has been told to play somewhere else, had something snatched off her with a "nyerrr" tongue poking, told to wait her turn when she wanted to use the trampoline to join the three girls (who were just sitting there blocking her access), going in to the bedroom and shutting the door so she can't go in etc. It's definitely deliberate as I have overhead them planning this, and they show no regard for my Husband and I being right there when they do the mean girl thing.

We attended this group again the other day and planned to talk about it with the other parents but from the moment we arrived, the daughters of the group leader did the same exclusion thing, then it got worse so we decided to leave. The next day I emailed the group leader, who is really lovely, and told her (nicely) we weren't returning as our daughter didn't feel comfortable. All I said was that the girls in the group are now deliberately excluding my daughter and that it is becoming worse.

She replied, really nicely, but said she spoke to her children who were 'surprised and upset'... but it's actually her daughters (mainly the older one, who is 9) who seems to be the ringleader in this! She also referred to cliquieness but she doesn't quite get we're not talking about a clique, we're talking more about deliberate planned bullying.

I'm so sad about how my daughter has been treated but just as disappointed that the "it's not my kids" sentiment has shown itself. I understand parents don't want to believe their kids are capable of this behaviour but they have been doing it and getting worse.

I figure what's the point in replying to this lady when she is (probably) taking her daughters' word that they know nothing about it... but then I get all riled up and think no, in the past I've just shut up and let it go which is not advocating for my daughter and I end up kicking myself later on for not having stuck up more for her (or my son).

Would you just let it go? Or reply and say something along the lines of "this is what we have observed" and give a few examples (without naming kids or being too specific/giving away who the kids were)? I feel obligated to just be quiet as these women are just genuinely nice and I can see I have upset the group leader a bit (judging from her defending her daughters). Not only that, one of the other girls involved (who is more a follower) is the daughter of my friend and my friend's mother has recently passed away so I don't want this friend to have another stress to deal with. Chances are this friend will email me and ask what's happened. I figure though that if I am discussing this only with the group leader, then it's up to her to do something about it and if she does or doesn't, I'm not part of the group anymore so it's no business of mine.

You know, I can handle mean parents and hold my own against them because I can not abide bullies. I spent my entire school life terribly bullied and I don't stand for it now. So it really is quite difficult when the mean behaviour is coming from the kids of these lovely parents.


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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:02 am 
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Coming from someone who did a lot of behavior like that growing up I don't think anything my parents said would have changed it, it was my personality and I had to grow out of it. I once teased a girl so badly in middle school about her weight that she developed an eating disorder. I look back on it, horrified. Going to extra lengths to describe what the girls have done to the parent may help open her eyes a bit but I'm not sure what it will accomplish. I'm sure you would like the behavior to stop to prevent this from happening to other little girls, but it's not likely. I think the better option would be to talk to your own daughter about what happened and why the girls acted the way that they did. Help her feel comfortable with herself about it so that her self esteem doesn't suffer.

Just my 2 cents.


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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 5:53 am 
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I would find another group of children for your daughter to play with who are closer to her age. Is there a pre-school group you can join? A 9-10 year old is not really early elementary. A ten year old is 4-5th grade.

Unfortunately, there are huge developmental differences at play and not all older kids are good at including much younger children.

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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:28 am 
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I really think dragonssister has a good point- talk to your kids first about it. let them know it's ok to talk about it and vent.
Vantine as well - an age spread of 6-10 allows plenty of space for pushing around the little kids, and older kids love to do it.

i'd have a really hard time in that situation not intervening (my kid or not). Where was the leader, btw, when this was happening?
All I could think of was that if i wanted to try it again, i would try to sit down with the organizer, tell her why i really enjoy the group, and ask if maybe the next time she could help you in trying to make the situation more comfortable. explain you don't want to be seen as telling other people's kids what to do but maybe if she saw what you were talking about, together you could think of some way to make things work out better. Aside from the bullying (!) it sounds like a decent group, and if she's so accommodating, if you don't present it as a judgmental thing, she might realize it's a good teaching moment for everyone.

Unless you're sure you aren't going back, in which case i'd just let it go.

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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:32 am 
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I think it's one of those situations where you really have to know the people involved to figure out how to proceed. I know if it were my daughter, I would really want to know if she were exhibiting bullying behavior so that I try to work through it with her. But since I feel that way, I probably wouldn't make my first response a denial (or even talking to her), rather I would want to make note to observe the situation myself, without alerting the kids to my awareness. But that's me and I try to remain acutely aware of how she treats others and make a point to have regular conversations about it, including putting herself in the others' shoes.

With that said, I agree you should probably find a more age appropriate group. I'm sure you remember what it was like to be 8/9/10. Unless a kid that age really, really loves younger kids, it's hard for them to play with them. Interests are different and they're in totally different places developmentally. Think about it, if someone picked you up and put you in a room with a bunch of adults you may or may not have anything in common with, could you guarantee you would be interested in interacting with every one of them, or even any of them? Yet, playgroups assume kids can and will do this. Now, that doesn't excuse their exclusionary behavior, because there are better ways to handle it, but kids have to work through and learn those.


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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:41 am 
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I agree with everyone that it'd probably be better for your daughter to find a group that is closer to her own age. She'd have a lot more fun and that way you won't have to deal with older ones not wanting to play with her.

I'm a big believer in just calmly talking to kids when stuff like this is happening. Sometimes just pointing out how they are acting is making another kid feel can help a little bit. Maybe saying to the older girls "She really likes playing with you, is it okay if she joins in? She really feels sad when she doesn't get to play with everyone." and maybe acknowledge the age difference? "I know she's a lot younger and doesn't know how to play this as well as you do, but maybe you could teach her? That would be so nice of you!"

Silas tried to make friends with some kids last week at storytime and they and their moms just ignored him and stared at him. Finally I said "Sometimes kids don't want to play! Let's go find some fun kids who do want to play!" and led him away. They weren't worth our time!

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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:57 am 
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It does seem cruel but I don't think it's unusual for older children to exclude younger ones. I experienced this quite a bit myself growing up as the youngest of 3 children - my siblings and their friends did not want me tagging along when they played. Sometimes my mother intervened and that was almost worse, because it was not much fun playing with kids who did not want me there. I agree with the suggestion that it may be better for your daughter to find a play group with children closer to her age group.

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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 10:58 am 
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Definitely find a different playgroup with younger kids OR get some families with younger kids you know to join this group.

You don't have any leverage over these people. One of my jobs is running a supplementary (afternoon/weekend) school. We had a kid this year who broke another kid's finger during class. All the talk about bullying in the world made barely a dent in our bullies' behavior, but I could say to those parents (who totally denied their kid was an issue even though they acknowledged what she did!) "your kid is suspended, period, we're not talking about it anymore." If parents are denying and even if they aren't denying, but they might not really be able to change it without hovering over their kids constantly (which they're not going to do) and even if they make their kids not be crassholes, their kids will still not be genuinely nice to your kid, you know, there's nothing you can do to make that stop.

Still, if it were my kid being bullied, I'd pitch a fit, even if it was pointless.


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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 6:51 pm 
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thanks folks,

the playgroup does have boys my daughter's age but they do their own thing and most of the time my daughter likes solitary play. But for those times she tries to join in, it's the girls group and they keep watch for her so they can run away or physically block her access to them.

I don't really think the girls' exclusion-behaviour is based on their age because we attend another group where the other girls are aged 7-12 and they are brilliant with my daughter. All these girls have personal experience with being bullied so they are compassionate towards her and make sure she is included, even when she's having a bit of anxiety. At this group I don't expect my daughter to be 'one of the group' all the time because sometimes she likes to be on her own, other times the older girls are talking about music etc but they will always whip their heads around to check where my daughter is and talk to her. So I'm a bit hesitant to base it solely on age. The girls that are excluding my daughter are planning it so to me that's more about attempts to be in control, dominate, etc particularly as my daughter is an easy target. It's a shame because the group leader is actually a peace activist, works in that area, educates people about peaceful resolution, does this work in the community etc). So I'm pretty disappointed the issue I raised doesn't seem to have been addressed and has just been 'resolved' because her daughters have denied any knowledge (they were 'upset' apparently, I prefer to think of it as a guilty conscience) :)

I think I'm so disappointed because I would want to know if my children were doing this kind of stuff so it could be dealt with. I can't understand the parents who take the "my children wouldn't do that" attitude when an issue like this has been raised. I think I'm also smarting a bit because when I told the group leader, her response had a touch of "blame the messenger". My husband wasn't impressed and he is the most laid back water off a duck's back kind of person you'd ever meet. So when he's ticked off, it's baaaad! :)

Thanks again!


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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 8:34 pm 
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Sending lots of good thoughts TVV!

I really appreciate reading everyone's thoughts on how to handle this, because my first reaction would be to start going blind with rage, which obviously isn't productive. We were at a toddler playground and a kid shoved my baby off a toy she was playing on, and it took everything I had not to shove him off the toy, which would have been a disaster of course. And of course, his mother was watching and talking to her friend and not about to intervene unless her kid was getting hurt not hurting.

I was bullied a lot as a kid too, and I think that a lot of the hurt from that time comes back and I experience it like a flashback. I'd like to do what Kelly did with Silas - be an adult and support my child and empower them to know that there isn't something wrong with them/they aren't doing anything wrong - instead of reacting and lashing out from my own pain and being confrontational, which risks further hurting my kid.

I do think that when a large number of wise PPKers give the same advice - here find another play group - that is probably best. You can't change the bullies or their moms (if they are in denial) but you can protect your child from being treated shabbily.

It does sound to me like you should reply to the group leader, not to change anything or make her wrong but for your own sense of closure, because it sounds like you are struggling around leaving stuff unsaid. So send an email and say what you've observed and that you and your husband have heard the girls actively planning to exclude your daughter and that it has made you feel that, although you think the parents are all wonderful, this is not the right group for your child.

Sending you a ton of good thoughts. I really can't imagine anything tougher than watching your child suffering.

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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:01 pm 
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Oh and just so you know you're not alone, appifanie had a similar thread, not too long ago. viewtopic.php?f=10&t=12157&hilit=other+kids

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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 9:28 pm 
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Quote:
I can't understand the parents who take the "my children wouldn't do that" attitude when an issue like this has been raised.


It's pretty obvious why anyone would! Loving something so intensely as a parent does a child it is truly hard to wrap one's mind around that kind of thing, even if you're a very logical, observant person.

This all sounds to me like the lady you emailed is coming from a well meaning place, and will try her best to do what she thinks is right. It might not fit with exactly what you feel is right, but as long as it's all civil and respectful, I think it's positive.

Also, with the kids, I agree with dragonssister to a certain point. It seems like there is just something those girls, especially the leader, see in your daughter that they don't like, and are being mean about it, yeah. But, that happens; I think it seems more harsh than it is because since it's such a small playgroup, it's very focused and your daughter doesn't have many other options like she would at school or something like that. I think it makes perfect sense that sometimes, some playgroups just don't work out because of certain combinations of kids. I think doing a little 'playgroup shopping' until you find one or two that click is really the best way to go about it. There are people at my place of work I really don't like, for no good reason whatsoever! If I was 9, I would totally be a dick to them. Thankfully, with age, I've learned how to deal with people I don't like respectfully!

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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Fri Aug 31, 2012 11:45 pm 
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Thanks again :)

I'm also coming from a place where I am hyper vigilant, because when my son was in kindergarten he started showing some pretty big behavioural/social problems and was one of the 'bully' kids. Husband and I were mortified but we acted on it. Eventually our son received his ASD diagnosis and it all made sense because elsewhere he was angelic, but at no point did we disbelieve/go in to denial about the behaviours reported to us. So I'm very aware of how and why kids may be acting a certain way and that's why I find it difficult when other parents adopt the "my child wouldn't do that" (then again, that's because we got the same attitude from parents whose kids were picking on our son). I don't even like using the word bully because when my son was doing 'bully' behaviour there was no malice or hurt intended whatsoever. He just did not understand certain social rules and expectations back then, or the impact of his behaviour on others.

I think my situation is one where I've pretty much said my piece (politely and friendly-y) to the group leader, I gave an example of what we had seen directed at my daughter so she could see it went beyond girl cliqueyness and as we've left the group it's up to her to drop the ball or run with it and see it doesn't happen again. The bottom line is if I want some kind of validation from her, or admission of error on the part of the girls or whatever, I'm not going to get it. Kind of like any situation really were you're in disagreement with someone over a very delicate issue and you want them to admit they're wrong. But it just isn't going to happen so you don't spend any more energy on it. That's what a counsellor told my friend who was in counselling over the truly crappy treatment dished out to her by her mum and sister. The counsellor was saying to my friend "so you want them to admit they're wrong and to apologise?" and my friend was all yes that's IT and the counsellor was all "sorry honey but you ain't gonna get it!" Makes perfect sense really! :)


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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 5:55 am 
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TVV- you've hit it on the head i think!!

as for the peace activist thing- it's so ironic, we love our children so much and they naturally, innately grow up to humiliate us. Teachers' kids were always the worst to babysit, and being a teacher and a hippie and a peacenik I can only wait and see what my daughter will grow up to be. Anything but republican is my hope.

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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 7:46 am 
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so would this be a situation where it'd be extremely inappropriate to secretly videotape the bullies to show the parents?

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 Post subject: Re: Telling other parents their children are out of line
PostPosted: Sat Sep 01, 2012 8:34 am 
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supercarrot wrote:
so would this be a situation where it'd be extremely inappropriate to secretly videotape the bullies to show the parents?


Yes, but things like that are my inclination, too. Sadly, I know someone who has a child who acts terribly toward their mom at times, but somehow mom doesn't see it at all. In situations where parents have kid blinders on, it seems the ability to rationalize behavior can be pretty extreme. Plus, some kids are excellent manipulators. Like TVV mentioned that maybe the girls being "upset" was a guilty conscience, but I took it as an act "Who, me? Never!" Of course, it's never good to assume another's motives, so that's with a big grain of salt.

I just want to point out that my kiddo is totally testing her boundaries with us and frequently pushing them. I may not know the best way to handle it at times, but I certainly don't make excuses for it. In other words, I'm not above saying my kid is acting like a jerk and I need to solve the issue. She also has a boy in her class with special needs (I'm not sure what they are, I just know what she's relayed about him) and I frequently talk to her about her treatment of him.

Anyway, I hope you find peace with this situation and some more positive outlets for play with your little one.


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