My Daughter’s Friend Group Drama Has Gotten Out of Control – Slate Magazine

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Care and Feeding

And a parent is getting involved.

A teenage girl.

Photo illustration by Slate. Photo by ajr_images/iStock/Getty Images Plus. 

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Dear Care and Feeding,

My 13-year-old daughter has had the same set of six friends since first grade. Lately, the group has begun turning their back on one of these girls, Samantha.

They don’t invite her to things anymore, they have had some big blowout fights, and Samantha dropped out of their group chat (but still wants to be invited to things, I guess by special invite). I routinely check my daughter’s phone and I can see that the other girls aren’t exactly mean, but I can see they’re not being inclusive either. They don’t want Samantha around.

The backstory to this: for years, Samantha, an only child, has been demanding, high-maintenance, and unable or unwilling to ever compromise. If the girls wanted to ride bikes, Samantha thought it was too hot. Or too cold. Or too windy. Then she would be mad that they went without her. This is a pattern of behavior that’s gone on for years, so some of this new exclusion, I think, is simply the consequences of her actions.

However, that’s not the characterization made by Samantha’s mother, or the school. Samantha’s mother has continually discussed the “bullying situation” with me and the other parents. She shows me messages and screenshots from online that seem innocuous to me (example: an Instagram post of Samantha in her formal dress and one of the other girls commented “Oh it’s red!”).

For a while, my daughter would try to include Samantha, ask the other girls if Samantha could come, text her separately outside the group text (she almost always declined), then be the liaison between the group and Samantha. It was exhausting! My daughter was always unhappy with this. The other girls would be annoyed, Samantha would be frustrated, hurt, upset. We’ve recently decided that she must stop trying to include Samantha in group activities. It wasn’t working anyway. I told her if she wants to maintain her friendship with Samantha, her obligations were 1) to be a good friend and invite her to hang out one-on-one, 2) defend Samantha if the group talks badly about her, and 3) tell the group that they can’t badmouth Samantha to her. But that’s it. She is not responsible for making sure Samantha is included in activities at one of the other girls’ houses.

Now, Samantha’s mother is insisting that we choose between her old friend group and Samantha, and I’m just over all of this. I feel like we’ve done all we can here, but 13 is hard. I’m not forcing my kid to abandon all her old friends, when I’m not even convinced that they’re bullying anyone! Am I wrong? Trying to teach teenage girls boundaries, while being kind and inclusive, is exhausting.

— Bullies or Boundaries

Dear B.o.B.,

It sounds like you’re handling this pretty well! You’re making your daughter honor her friendship with Samantha without expecting her to sacrifice more than she should in order to do so. I understand Samantha’s mom’s frustrations; and there are certainly ways in which one can feel bullied and targeted outside of mean language and exclusion, so keep in mind that things may have looked or felt worse to Samantha and her mom.

But I do echo your sentiment that there isn’t at this point a need for your kid to pick hers over everyone else. Just remain hypervigilant in checking with your daughter regularly to make sure that the behavior hasn’t escalated into something verbally or physically abusive, and that she won’t stand to see Samantha (or anyone else) blatantly mistreated. Make sure that she is clear that standing idly by or maintaining friendships with bullies is just as bad as being one yourself, and keep your eyes on this situation long-term. Best of luck to you.

—Jamilah

More Advice From Slate

I was recently horrified to learn that my first-grader has been writing nasty notes about kids in her class. It was brought to my attention by the mother of one of the victims. I spoke to my kid, who denied it at first; when I found a nasty note in her bag, she admitted everything. Apparently, there was a group of girls who made a “mean club” and she felt left out. After speaking to the teacher and the head teacher of the after-school program, I learned that there has been an unusually high level of mean girl behavior in her class—exclusion, name calling, etc. She admits she knew at the time that writing the notes was not good, but she didn’t think it was bullying because the kids discussed didn’t see the mean notes and it made the other bullies happy?!?

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