School clique shuns girl

CHILD LIFE

February 25, 1996|By Beverly Mills | Beverly Mills,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

A girl in my daughter's second-grade class is able to persuade other girls not to be friends with certain girls in the class. My daughter is not in the clique, and she cries and doesn't want to go to school.

The teacher doesn't believe there is a problem, but other mothers have complained, too.

Is there anything I can do?

...B.D.,

Dallas

Take some of the sting out of the rejection by going out of your way to help your daughter build solid friendships with other children, parents and experts say.

"Get the girls who are not involved in this clique to form their own friendship club," says Ann Amerman, a mother from Tacoma, Wash.

"They can do sleep-overs and have ice cream parties. Make sure they understand they wouldn't want anyone to be treated the same way they have been, so if anyone else wants to join in the fun, they can. Pretty soon everyone is going to want to be in their club," Ms. Amerman says.

Have a friend over

If the club idea doesn't work, Frances McVittie, a parent from Palo Alto, Calif., suggests inviting your daughter's favorite friend from the class for a visit after school.

"We did this, and my children now have some friends they are very close to," Ms. McVittie says. "It gives them security."

Mona Hansen, a mother from Minneapolis, suggests going right to the source of the problem.

"Make a special effort to get acquainted with this little girl," Ms. Hansen says. "Invite her over so they can get acquainted one-on-one. This worked for me. The children who exclude are usually the ones in need of a best friend."

While you and your daughter are working on friendships, don't overlook the opportunity to teach the valuable lesson of how to deal with rejection, says Betsy Buchtel, an elementary school psychologist for the Sunnyvale, Calif., school district.

Imperfect world

VTC "In a very supportive way, you can help your daughter understand that she is not always going to be chosen, and that doesn't mean there's anything wrong with her," Ms. Buchtel says. "It makes us sad and we're hurt by it, but we get through it."

Along the same lines, find opportunities to show your daughter how special she is, advises Judy Lalli, author of "Make Someone Smile and 40 More Ways to Be a Peaceful Person" (Free Spirit Publishing, $8.95).

"You can help her learn the life lesson that liking and acceptance of oneself is more important than trying to gain acceptance of others," says Ms. Lalli, who has herself worked as a second-grade teacher for 25 years in Morristown, N.J.

Parents should also take an objective look at their child's style of interacting with other kids, suggests Leanne Domash, author of "Wanna Be My Friend?" (Hearst Books, $12, $17.95 Canada).

"Try to be honest and figure out if she is contributing to the problem," says Ms. Domash, a child psychologist in New York City. "Is she shy? Is she bossy? Once you figure out if there's a problem, there might be lots of ways to deal with it."

If these tactics don't help, parents and experts agree, the teacher should be given another opportunity to deal with the problem.

Meet with teacher

"All of these parents together should schedule a conference and, in a nonthreatening way, ask the teacher to observe closely the ** dynamics of the class," says Ms. Buchtel, the school counselor. "Ask her also to observe the girls on the playground. Then set up a follow-up conference for some mutual problem-solving."

If the teacher still denies the problem, go to the principal, says Helen Zear, a retired teacher from Whittier, Calif.

"This is a very common problem, and we have to give a lot of encouragement to help children learn to get along," Ms. Zear says.

One final resource is the mother of the little girl who is leading the clique.

"This child's mother probably has no idea that there is a problem," Ms. Domash says. "If people are decent, they don't mind hearing about things that are going wrong with their children. Parents should talk to each other because it prevents a lot of misunderstandings."

Can you help?

Here's a new question from a parent who needs your help. If you have tips, or if you have questions of your own, please call our toll-free hot line any time at (800) 827-1092. Or write to Child Life, 2212 The Circle, Raleigh, N.C. 27608.

* Single mom: "As a single mother, I am very close to my 9-year-old son," says Bonnie of Virginia Beach, Va. "My son sometimes treats me more like a sibling than a parent. My son respects authority, but there's always a debate when I ask him to do something.

"How can I impress upon him that there are boundaries?"

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