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September 20, 2012

Little Miss Bossy


Yesterday, Husband and I took a short walk with Maile, and then stopped by her new favorite place -- the playground! She played for a bit with a boy just a month older than she, and his 4 year-old brother ... who, if I'm being honest, was a bit much for her ... This kid loved to give hugs. 

Soon, we heard the chimes, buses vrooming, parents talking, kids squealing with happiness, as the K-8 school in our neighborhood let out for the day. The small playground close to the school quickly started to fill up, and we were really enjoying seeing the "older" kids interact with Maile, and she with them, until it happened: The Playground Bossy. 

I won't call her a bully, because she didn't push or shove or get physical, but she made it very clear that she wanted nothing to do with Maile. Of course, Bossy was playing with three other little girls (I'm guessing all were about kindergarten age) who were very much enjoying Baby Girl being around them. 

It all started when Husband, Baby Girl and I were sitting at the child-size table under the playground, and Bossy asked us to move. She wasn't altogether polite about it, but we figured she was just being a kid, so "Of course!" we said, and got our grownup butts out of there. Maile stayed behind, kicking her feet and leaning over the little table, just enamored with the big girls around her. 

Then, it came out -- the special toy. Just a small, pink plastic frog that "jumped" when you pressed it hard enough. Probably something out of a Pizza Hut coin machine. But the little girls filled the table, ready to take turns making the frog jump. Bossy, clearly ... well ... the boss: "First I'll go, then you, then you, then you." Little Girl: "What about her?" nodding to Maile. Bossy: "No. I hate baby drool. I don't want her putting it in her mouth. She can't play." 

To Bossy, that was clearly the end of the conversation, though the same little girl muttered, "She's cute, and I think she can play too."

Life altering? No. But definitely not nice.

As Husband and I were watching this scene unfold, we raised our eyebrows a bit at each other, but we did just that -- let it unfold. In hindsight, the mama bear part of me wishes I would've told Bossy that, in fact, though Maile is small, she loves to play with big girls because she wants to be like them, and that the odds of Maile putting a non-food item in her mouth were slim to none. But I didn't. I just watched. 

Maile hovered much too closely for Bossy's liking, so she ordered her little gang over to the swings. To my great surprise though, only one followed. Two (twins, whom Maile played with a few weeks ago) stayed with Maile, guiding her to the slide. Showing her how to climb up the ladder. Holding out their hands for her. Letting her "talk" to them (and talking back). And being ever so patient as she tried to climb back up the slide after each time she slid down. Not once did the girls say "No" or "You're doing it wrong" or "Get out of my way." I may not be their mama, but I am proud of them. 


I know the reasons kids boss vary. Maybe Bossy is imitating a parent or an older sibling. Maybe she has a younger sibling at home, and isn't getting enough attention.

But here's my question: How do you protect your child, when she doesn't know yet herself that what's going on is intended to leave her out, or make her feel bad? She may face real bullying at some point, and I want her ready to deal with it if she has to. 

I'm anxious to hear your thoughts, or ways you protect your child from bullying ... Whether it's at daycare, preschool, or on the playground. If you think I'm being an oversensitive mama bear, I want to hear that too!

27 comments:

  1. I think it's great that you are so in tune to whats going on so early.

    As a young child (elementary age), I was consistently and deliberately left out by a group of girls at my daycare. When they did invite me to play, they were the mama's and I was the babysitter, having to stay behind and watch their babies. This went on from 1st grade until 5th when I finally outgrew that daycare.

    In school, I was fine, but afterwards and before, at daycare, miserable and lonely.

    My mother, and I were so upset every night trying to figure out how to deal with this. We cried together a lot and Mom made constant calls to the school who was helpless, in most cases, and what they tried never worked.

    The permanent impact of this is something that I deal with daily. I'm constantly thinking that whenever someone whispers, it's about me. I always wonder if people "like" me and if I'm "being annoying" in every interaction. It's a constant battle with my insecurities and I can see it directy tied to my history with those mean girls in elementary school.

    Here's what I wish my mother had done: gotten me out of there, she didn't want me to look weak and to give up, but if I had been sent to another daycare, I may have made friends with people who wanted to be around me.

    I'm glad your trying early to prepare Maile for the inevitable bully. But also, please, if necessary, make decisions to get her out of situations where you can.

    She is so beautiful. I love the slide picture. Please frame that one! It's so great!

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    1. Claire, I never had any idea that this had happened to you!

      Moving so much, I wasn't consistently bullied, but I dealt with a Queen Bee / Mean Girl type in 6th grade that I won't ever forget. I still remember her name; I doubt she remembers me at all! She was so horrible to me that in the end, my mom called her parents and told them she would fight to get a restraining order against this girl if the harassment didn't stop. It did stop, but it took my mom going mama bear! At the time, I was, of course, mortified. But I'm thankful for my mom's action now.

      Being a know-it-all (Yes, I even know that I "know it all"! Haha.) I deal with exactly the same fears as you -- Did I talk too much? Was I annoying? Did I alienate my new friend? It's tough. Then I find myself apologizing to people for being myself. Working on that one!

      If the situation had escalated any more, we absolutely would've redirected Maile, or said something to Bossypants. Maile may be a bit too young to understand that this girl was trying to leave her out, but I certainly am not!

      And thank you! I am absolutely going to frame the slide picture. I need to order a print today, actually, before I forget -- I am SO bad at that!

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    2. I'll bet she remembers you, Katie. I remember too many times when I was unkind or mean to another girl. Now that I'm older, I don't remember why I thought they deserved it, but I remember my mean heart and I'm so sorry I ever behaved that way. I share my regrets with Maura sometimes when she's telling me about her own playground drama. I usually tell her a few options for how she can behave in a situation, but I warn her choose wisely because years from now, she may not remember what Suzie or Janey said or did, but she will definately remember if she retaliated with an angry heart or a mean spirit. Growing up is hard. Parenting is hard, too.

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  2. Been there many times and I'll admit I'm a bit of a mama bear. I say things like hey Si let's go to the swings this boy isn't playing nice. Or when the occassional bully boxes him out high up on the jungle gym where i cant reach him, i climb that ladder faster then a monkey to teach him a lesson. I even had a dream last night that Silas took his toy back from a bully, aggressivly, and i jumped up and cheered, loudly. I know it's likely ill be one of "those moms" at sporting events. I suppose i need to let him fight his own battles, but you're right, it's hard he doesn't understand they are being mean.

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    1. Haha! I don't necessarily think that being passive aggressive towards kids is a bad thing. They may not bat an eyelash, but it also might make them stop and think, "Am I playing nice?" I also don't see anything wrong with you correcting physical behavior. If that child's parent won't, or isn't around, it is your responsibility to "protect your young", so to speak!

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  3. Hi! I just wanted to say thank you for commenting on my blog post the other day. I am glad you liked my wallpaper. I will be posting more very soon!! Your little girl is adorable! Have a blessed day! Heidi

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  4. Ugh I wrote a long post and it disappeared.

    I intervene immediately if it is physical. I will not hesitate to correct the other child. Generally if one child is bullying in another way I will remove Caleb from the situation. However, there are times when kids will be kids and you have to let it play out as you describe. I try not to go all mama bear on them because they need to learn both positive and negative social interaction. Just keep a dialogue with your child. I am so amazed at how much Caleb understands (and what he can perceive from my expressions). You are doing a great job and I would have handled it similarly (while gritting my teeth mind you lol)

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    1. Thank you, Tiffany! I completely agree with you, and had it gotten physical, I would've been in there FAST (though I would've had to beat Tim). ;)

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  5. Oh, this is a tough one!! My heart literally hurts thinking of Cruz getting bullied or kids picking on him. My first instinct would be to get my mama butt in there and put an end to the situation, but at some point you can't control every situation, you know? I think when they're still small and so vulnerable like this, it's our job as mamas to protect them as much as we can. Having said that though, there comes a point when you can use these situations to teach your child about loving people even when they're not nice, how to be kind even when someone doesn't deserve it, etc. I do agree with TIffany, if it's physical, then something needs to be done pronto. Thanks for a great discussion!! xoxo

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    1. I think you hit the nail on the head, Andrea! The idea of using the situation to teach grace (even to ones so small) is fantastic.

      Yes, physicality calls for immediate intervention -- Absolutely!

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  6. Ohh, that is so precious! I love how nice the two little girls were being to Maile. That is just too adorable. Mrs. Bossy, I cannot believe. That is just crazy, it makes you wonder where she learned it from, it's kind of that nature vs nurture thing. I hope Jeremy turns out like the micer ones Haha. As for how Maile acted, she is a trooper! I want to make sure I teach Jeremy to stay positive and ignore the mean people :)
    Job well done

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  7. She is soooooo adorable also! :D

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  8. I don't have kids so I can only speak from my experience as a nanny but I spent more time with those kids than their parents did so I felt very Mama Bear over them! When there was physical bullying at the playground (which happened a couple of times), I stepped right in to let the bully know that was not acceptable behavior regardless of whether their parent/nanny was around and immediately removed the kids from that situation. But at other times, when it was more like what you described, I generally let it play out, especially if my 'kids' (Ian and Sasha) were unaware that someone was actually trying to be mean or hurt them. Sometimes they didn't even realize that's what was going on and were perfectly happy just observing other games. When they were hurt by it (I remember one very specific incident similar to what you described), I explained to them -loudly enough for the bully to hear- that the other kid was not playing nice and needed to learn better manners before we became friends with them. Maybe it was passive aggressive (or b!tchy?) but they got the point.

    Btw - found you through Michaela's blog! :)

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    1. Thank you so much for your input, Stephanie!

      I completely agree with your situation assessments. On the bright side, we were at the playground practically all afternoon today, and had a wonderful experience! Even had one little boy push Maile down. His mama promptly sat him in a timed, one minute timeout, and then had him apologize to her (which, for an 18 month-old, meant kisses -- tee hee).

      I've only been able to take a cursory glance at both your blogs today, but I love them! I'll be following along for sure. So funny, the last time we were at the SF zoo, that same bear was bobbing for apples and pears! I'll have to dig up the pictures. :)

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  9. I clicked on this post expecting to read a story about Maile being cute and sassy and was a little heartbroken by the story I read. I can't imagine how tough it was for you to watch that scenario play out. I think you did the right thing in this situation by stepping back and observing. Even though she didn't realize exactly what was happening, it seems to me like a good early lesson in self-reliance.

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    1. I still can't decide if the fact that she didn't quite "get" what was going on made it better, or worse, for me.

      Thank you for the words of affirmation!

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  10. I agree a lot with what Stephanie said. If it is something physical, definitely step in right away. If it's something like your situation, stepping back and observing is your best bet (until you feel you need to intervene).

    Teaching first grade for 3 years, I had several encounters with bullying (and surprisingly...or not so surprisingly...95% of the time it involved girls).

    I think it's super important as a parent to chat with kids about bullying-what is a bully, why a person might bully, and what to do in that situation.

    So sad that that little girl was being such a boss. Sweet little Maile just wanted to play with the older girls!

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    1. Thanks, Kristin!

      Sadly, I'm not surprised that most of your elementary bullying situations involved girls -- Females are just brutal, and unfortunately, that doesn't ever change.

      I so agree that it's important to get an early start on identifying and understanding bullying situations. Do you know of any good books?

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  11. My daughter is older (5) and so we handle these situations differently than you would with such a small child. It's my instinct too to step in and deal with mean kids myself but I don't want to constantly be handling situations for her. I watch for her reaction, most of the time I notice she kinda ignores them and moves on but occasionally I'll see her letting some "bossy" get push her around and at that point I call her over to me and simply tell her that she doesn't have to let kids treat her like that and she needs to tell them no in a polite way and find someone nicer to play with. And it's funny how quickly "bossy" usually mellows out when someone stands up to them. But at M's age I would honestly just remove my daughter from the situation and distract her in some other way!

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  12. I think I'll have to worry about this much more now that I have a girl...girls can be so bossy and mean from such an early age. It's so, so sad. Andrew's 3.5 and the kids at the playground are usually really nice. And if they don't want to play with him he doesn't really notice - ha! I do think if anything ever got physical I'd step in right away. There's just no need for that! This parenting stuff is hard, you know it??

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    1. Hard, hard, hard! And I agree, girls can be brutal. It's sad, because as women (and girls), we are special and unique in so many ways -- Yet we often don't include members of our own sex in the sisterhood we should all have as females; it's a bummer.

      Thanks so much for your input, Meagan!

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