My 7yo daughter, Kathy, has a bunch of kids in her Sunday School class. One–Wilma–is a nice little girl that we have over often. I’m friends with her mom. Another–Missy–we don’t see so much, and quite frankly I think she’s a little bit of a snot. Very much the social leader type and will undoubtedly be leading cliques soon. They are in the same school and always sit together in SS, which makes Kathy a little bummed, but she has other friends too. Kathy is a very friendly kid and likes everyone–she makes friends easily.
Yesterday Wilma was here, as she has been for most of the week. I guess Kathy asked her why she always sits with Missy and never with her, and Wilma said that she’d like to sit with Kathy, but Missy won’t let her sit with anyone else. Kathy brought this social conundrum to me this morning.
I asked her what she thought, and she would like to help Wilma–which is nice, but I also said that for the most part, Wilma would have to stand up to M herself. So K. wants to help her do that. I’ve asked her to think about ways she could reply to girls like that, and I told her that sometimes girls will threaten not to be your friend any more if you don’t do what they say–and we should think about that too.
I’m thinking that those girls are mostly bluffing anyway, and it’s the right thing to do to stand up to them and say “you’re not my boss” or “that’s OK, we don’t need to be friends.” At the least, it will get you out of their manipulations, and maybe it will even help them to eventually realize that that’s not a good way to keep friends.
Any thoughts on the tooth-and-claw jungle that is little girls’ social lives? So far my kid has been free of all that, but obviously it will be starting quite soon. I’m not anxiety-ridden about it or anything, just looking for experiences, opinions, and insights from those who have been there.
My daughter’s kindergarten class was sixteen little girls and three boys. Her kindergarten teacher retired after the end of the year having taught for 30 years. She said in all her years of teaching she’d never had such a class. They brought in the social worker for friendship classes.
We are going through it too. I’m sharing my girlfriends daughters with her occasionally since they don’t go to her school and aren’t part of her cliques, she can have some ‘friends’ that aren’t going to know the school political scene. Keeping separate groups of friends seems to be helpful
Having raised two female Sevens (who are now 23 and 17), having watched their posses come and go over the years, and being a Sunday School teacher myself observing with fascination the “who sits next to who” sweepstakes every Sunday morning for the last 14 years, I feel qualified to speak on this.
It isn’t Kathy’s job to “help Wilma stand up to Missy”. The best thing you can teach your daughter in this situation is that people sometimes become friends with other people for reasons which may be mystifying to onlookers, and as you go through Life, sometimes you will just have to accept that two people are going to have a relationship which appears to you to be odd, if not downright dysfunctional.
You shouldn’t encourage Kathy to view Wilma as someone who is being oppressed by Missy, even though that’s what Wilma may have told Kathy. There are all sorts of reasons why Wilma may not be telling the complete and unvarnished truth–for starters, it’s entirely possible that Wilma really enjoys having Missy for a friend, but that when Kathy put her on the spot and demanded to know why Wilma wouldn’t sit with her in Sunday School, Wilma didn’t want to rock the boat and say, “I like Missy better than I like you”, so she said, “Missy makes me sit next to her.” It’s called a “convenient excuse”. Or “waffling”. Girls’ interpersonal relations–the art of juggling a big collection of dissimilar friends, some of whom at any given moment may not be speaking to each other–hinges on this skill. My youngest daughter, La Principessa, throughout grade and middle school always had at least four separate circles of friends, all of whom knew each other, but most of whom did not socialize with each other; the only thing they had in common was that they all knew La Principessa. I always visualized it as a sort of social Venn diagram.
And the art of juggling this sort of thing relies on the quick “convenient excuse”, a.k.a. “the social lie”. “Can you come over to my house today?” You can’t tell her there’s a party somewhere else you’re going to, so you tell her you have to go to your grandma’s.
Or she says, “How come you never sit with me in Sunday School?” And you say, “Missy makes me sit with her”, because you want to keep Missy as a friend, too.
Or, yanno, it’s just marrrrrrrginally possible that Wilma doesn’t actually…um…like Kathy. I know, you’re transfixed with horror that someone could not like your daughter, but, like I said, people sometimes become friends with other people for reasons which are mystifying to onlookers, and by the same token, people sometimes “take against” other people for reasons which are equally mystifying.
And, alternatively, it’s possible that Wilma just doesn’t want to be friends with someone who already has tons of friends. There’s the appeal of exclusivity–Kathy “makes friends easily”, and maybe every time Wilma tries to connect, other people butt in, themselves also wanting to be connected to Kathy. So she cultivates Missy instead, because nobody likes Missy, who is bossy, but Wilma thereby gets a chance to be someone’s Best Friend (capital B, capital F), even if it’s only because nobody else wants the position.
If Wilma herself feels that she’s being oppressed by Missy, then it’s her problem to stand up to her, and if she needs help, it’s up to her to enlist the aid of others. This is a sad but true fact of life: you need to learn to fight your own battles, and Wilma will eventually learn (hopefully) that if someone is picking on her, how to cope with that.
And I know plenty of little girls who have obnoxious friends who drive them crazy, and who eventually do figure out a coping mechanism for getting rid of the obnoxious friend. Second grade is not a good time for this, though. They’re still basically “little kids”. It takes until they get to be about age 9, or in fourth grade, before they all will develop the teeth and claws that will enable them to be truly cruel to other girls. This is an ugly thing to watch in the lunchroom, true, but it’s a necessary skill. And Wilma will eventually develop it if she needs it, without Kathy butting in.
The second-best thing you can teach your daughter is never to try to “steal” a friend away from a third person. That way lies madness, everybody loses, nobody benefits. The girl in the middle gets “torn between two lovers” and is forced to make decisions that she shouldn’t have to make. The girl on the losing end gets hurt for two reasons–she lost a friend, and her former friend is revealed to be fickle and disloyal, so she wonders what was wrong with her, that she could have chosen such a fickle and disloyal person as a friend.
And the girl who actually winds up with the friend finds herself wondering whether her new friend likes her for herself, or only because she and her parents took her to see Wicked in Chicago.
So help Kathy to understand that it’s okay if Wilma doesn’t want to sit with her, that for the moment, Wilma and Missy are friends who prefer to sit together in Sunday School. And that sometimes we don’t understand why two people are friends together, but we have to accept it.
Thanks, DDG. Yeah, I really don’t want my kid getting involved, but she has a savior complex or something–she wants to help everyone. I’ve been talking her down and telling her that W. will have to learn to stand up for herself–I’m trying to sort of turn the focus away from that situation and talk about what she can do for herself. I’ve also told her that when girls threaten like that, they are usually bluffing and will forget about it after a day or two, but on the whole I’d like her to figure these things out herself.
I’m not saying that Missy is an awful kid or anything, but she’s obviously going to be Popular one of these days; she’s that kind of kid. My kid and Wilma are good friends, really and truly, but Wilma and Missy are more ‘best friends’ since they go to school together. I’ve always told Kathy that there are lots of kids to sit with and not to worry about it (she has two other girlfriends in the class and always spends a lot of giggle-time with them). This town is pretty funny with schools and nearly everyone goes to a different place, btw.
Anyway I’m really not obsessing over this or anything and have no plans on getting deeply involved in my kid’s social life, but this is the first time we’ve run into it, so I’m in the mood to talk. I well remember being a kid myself and fighting with my best friend and all that, and quite frankly my kid is better equipped to handle it than I was at the time–I think she will do just fine.
So thanks for your input everybody and keep it coming!