My daughter has no friends and it's like a stigma

My name is Rebecca, and I’m the mum of one of “those kids”. The ones who don’t ever seem to fit in with all the other kids at school. My daughter has no friends, and gets picked on and belittled every day by the other children.

Despite what all the anti-bullying wokeness would tell you, I’m here to tell you that not much has changed since we were kids ourselves. I was one of “those kids” myself. I don’t know why. Maybe my family is born with a genetic sign on our foreheads saying, “kick me”. I can’t see it myself, but kick us they do. I was bullied all through primary and high school, and even in my first job afterwards, and now it looks like it’s now my sweet daughter’s turn. 

Is it the way she looks?

I’m not the best looking person in the world, and while I think my daughter is beautiful, it seems others disagree. I honestly think that’s why I was picked on, so maybe that’s why they are going for my girl as well. She is clean, well-dressed and well-groomed – in fact, in an attempt to reduce the stigma, we try to make sure she is perfect every day. But it doesn’t help.

It’s like some disgusting stigma that you just can’t escape from. You don’t understand why it’s attached itself to you, but you can’t shake it and everyone can see it

She is still called horrible names, ostracised and told she should “just go and kill yourself” nearly every day. What kids are saying that in year 4 at school? I would be so mortified if I heard any of my kids talking to another person like that. Do their parents know that their kids are like this? What are they doing about it? They mustn’t know, because surely this isn’t something they would let keep happening!

My daughter has no friends and we don't know why

Kids are sneakier these days

Kids are smarter these days than I remember us being. They’ve all been to the “don’t be a bully” talks and as far as I can tell, these kinds of programs haven’t stopped mean behaviour one little bit. Kids today know what the teachers are looking out for and they’ve found ways to be just as mean, only they’re quieter about it. In my day, they used to chant horrible rhymes at me in the playground. Now, they just whisper nasty things in my daughter’s ear and then run off laughing that they might catch something from getting so close. 


Related: 10 ways to help kids build resilience


 

I worry that it’s only going to get worse. She’s in year 4 right now, so online bullying hasn’t hit us yet, but I’m bracing myself. It’s gonna be awful. I’ve tried my best to bring her up strong and proud – I’ve read every single thing ever written about resilience and being assertive, you bet I have – but I know I haven’t really got the skills to make her strong. You can’t role model to your kids what you’re not yourself.

You can’t role model to your kids what you’re not yourself.

Adults are no better

I should mention that this is her second primary school where this has happened. We moved her in year 2 to get away from this exact same behaviour at her first school. And here we are again. My daughter has no friends and is constantly bullied again.

We’ve been to see the new school counsellor on many occasions and I guess that has helped her feel a bit better herself. Her teachers have also been helpful in trying to get to the bottom of things. This school has certainly been more supportive in that sense.


Related: 5 types of mean online behaviour and what you can do about it


 

I’ll be honest with you, though: in my heart, I think grown adults like counsellors and teachers have at the back of their mind the idea that there is something wrong with kids who other kids don’t like. I think they are prejudice about kids like mine from the beginning. It’s just my own experience and now backed by my daughter’s experience.

It’s like some disgusting stigma that you just can’t escape from. You don’t understand why it’s attached itself to you, but you can’t shake it and everyone can see it. Even the people who are supposed to help you.

My daughter has no friends - can you tell us why

Not knowing why is killing me

No one can tell me why my kid is a kid other kids don’t like, so how can I help her? Do they have any idea what it’s like trying to tell a sweet little 9-year-old that there is nothing wrong with her when all her peers are constantly telling her there is? Do they have any idea how it feels to love your child dearly but be unable to help them because you just can’t see what others clearly can? I cry myself to sleep most nights and it kills me to know that my daughter is doing exactly the same thing.

I feel like what we really need is for adults to be more honest about the situation. That way, we can change the things that are attaching this stigma to us. How else can we ever make it go away? But everyone hides under a veil of politeness and won’t say what they are really thinking. Only the kids do that – and being told you “smell”, when you don’t, and you’re “nothing”, when you’re not, is even less helpful than adults pretending nothing is wrong.

Everyone hides under a veil of politeness and won’t say what they are really thinking

Please, can you help me understand?

I’m grateful for a place to get this out of my head, and I’m hoping other mums will have some insights into what we could do. Maybe they could ask their kids about “those kids” at school and find out what it is about them that makes them so unlikeable. 

My beautiful, kind-hearted daughter and I would be very grateful for any insights. And please, Mums, I beg you, make sure you really know that your kid isn’t nasty to others. It’s so important that kids understand the terrible impact of their teasing and mean behaviour. Maybe your child could be the one to offer a child like mine the gift of friendship.

Do you have any insights or advice to offer Rebecca?

Further reading: This article on Psychology Today is a reminder that it only takes one friend… Let’s raise our kids to be that friend.

Feature image by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič – @specialdaddy; sea by Aziz Acharki; crying boy by Kat J

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11 Comments
  1. Rebecca,
    My heart bleeds for your daughter, and for you xx
    I believe there is this mob mentality and it’s why your daughter is being picked on, simply she doesn’t fit some unwritten package. Likely she has a beautiful soul and that’s what the pack senses. I do know having experienced ostracism and bullying myself it impacts xx
    If you are considering options, I’m more than happy to discuss homeschooling with you, just drop me a line. I’ve been involved in the homeschooling community since the 80s, have homeschooled my own children for the past 26 years, still have over a decade to go, and have successfully graduated 5 of my own children. Here in our own regional town we are seeing a huge increase in homeschooling, and I know this is across the nation. One of the key drivers is bullying. It’s heartbreaking. What is heartening and an incredible privilege it see is how the children thrive as they blossom at home.
    I realise homeschooling is not for all, but if this is something you’d like to explore I’m more than happy to listen and share. xx

  2. Part of it it will probably be the school environments (public schools are sometimes harder to navigate than private) or simply that the school doesn’t fit for your child, and part of it is probably some social awkwardness of some behaviours that your child is not aware of that are alienating others. I’ve seen the latter several times. Parents don’t get it, the child doesn’t get it, but some things that kids do just make their lives harder because they don’t have the perspective or maturity to know that those things cause social problems. This is not at all to say the situation is your child’s fault. It’s not. It’s almost certainly a combination of factors. Can you ask another adult to observe your child in social situations and let you know that they see? A visit to a child psychologist would also be very worthwhile. Possibly look into other schools if you can. If you can’t get to the bottom of it though, homeschooling is something you might consider. Extracurricular activities can provide excellent opportunities for socialisation in a safer environment than school and homeschooling could save you and your child some trauma.

  3. You ask what causes it – from what I’ve observed the kids that get treated this way are the ones that seem just a bit socially awkward, the ones that try a bit to hard to be friends. It’s the first girl that comes up to befriend a new kid in the hope of finding a friend. Kids are like animals that can smell desperation. It’s an awful, viscous circle and I think this is why it may follow a child from school to school. They have an eagerness to please. And I think that sometimes, as an adult, these attributes are ones we like in a kid. They are ‘easy’, they want to help out, they are loving and affectionate. They might be really enthusiastic and passionate about a particular topic that isn’t mainstream. We love this about our kids but these are the things that kids can be savaged for in the playground.

    I think the best thing is to build their self esteem externally by giving them a passion out of school and focussing their energy there. These passions will have likeminded kids and her successes in these areas will give her self esteem. We can’t give our kids real self esteem just by telling them that we think they are smart/beautiful/funny etc. they have to learn these things through achievements.

    It’s a horrible thing for you to go through and I really feel for you both.

  4. Love Brenda’s advice about having no shame in just asking. If Rebecca has the confidence to do this, I truly believe it could be the breakthrough her daughter needs. You only need one friend…

  5. Kids are mean, it’s a fact. is she pessimistic? Even nice people can find it hard to stay around pessimistic people. I have a very sweet little girl and kids don’t include her often. She looks and sounds younger than she is, so I think that doesn’t help. That said, I’m pretty positive and I’m not shy, so I’m role modelling that to her all the time. We and go all out for birthday parties. We changed primary school when she was 7, and when we joined the new school we held massive Birthday parties with lots of kids invited to sleep over. It helped my daughter get to know lots of kids, but also for me – it helped me to understand the other girls, mean ones included. Every day my kid will struggle with mean girls, but these birthday parties have allowed little connections to happen and for my girl to feel she belongs. in the mean time I try to join her in her interests and be by her side when she lets me!

  6. Oh Rebecca,

    Tear are falling for you and your daughter. How unimaginable and heartbreaking to watch this unfold. If I may offer some advice, and apologies if you have tried these or feel they are unhelpful.
    1. School is one way to make friends, but look further afield. What does your daughter LOVE above all things. Is is dancing, horseriding, ballet, ninja, drama, scouts? I ask this, because I think it is essential she find her tribe. Get her out in a group where there is a common denominator.
    2. Reach out the one of the mums in your daughters class. There has to be one good egg, in that classroom, I truely believe it. Ask your daughter who she wants to be friends with. Given you are still quite new, write a note for your daughter to give that girl to pass onto her mother. Tell her you would like to arrange a catch up and be honest if she does contact you (as in your daughter is struggling to make friends) can your daughter be my daughters friend. Have no shame in just asking!
    3. See a peadiatrican. This will sound horrible, but I am a mother of a child on the spectrum and sometimes the girls just fall through the cracks as they are so good as masking and pretending to know what do in the social situations. Perhaps by getting some assistance with an OT, Pysch etc could see if there are any neurological issues underlying this.
    I do wish you all the best and you are doing a great job.
    Take care of yourself

  7. Oh my heart does go out to you. Although I never experienced this type of behaviour myself at school we did have to deal with it with my daughter. It is horrible but when you are in the thick of it so hard to understand. The issue we found with my daughter was that her physical appearance didn’t fit into what the ‘Norm’ expected. She has extremely curly hair (Shirley temple but tighter and frizzier), at 12 years old she was breaking the 6 foot mark and not only the tallest at school but taller than some of the teachers as well….. She looked like a mature young adult however was far from it. In fact her maturity was probably about 3 years younger than what her age was. This is where her problems started. Kids expected so much more of her than she was ever able to give and as such struggled to find anyone who would be her friend. It was heart breaking. She could be found playing with a new group of prep kids (5 year old’s) when she was in year 4 as these were the only kids happy to give her there time. The school yard is brutal though and as soon as word had passed around, not even the new Prep kids would allow her to play. Her biggest issue was exclusion. We to changed schools at the end of year 4 as the school was simply blaming my daughter for her situation rather than trying to help. I have found it is often easier to blame the victim than punish the perpetrator.
    I hate to say it but we moved away from a public school and into a private school. I am not saying that this is the answer but from our experience the private school had far more resources and support at hand to assist my daughter. (I am sure not all Private schools offer this though so you would have to do your homework if you were to look at a private school) My daughters school were able to put time into her emotional state and teach / encourage her mental maturity and show her ‘friendship skills’ etc. It was a very hard road with lots of time and energy over many many years but we found the private school far more willing to work with us to assist. I don’t know where you live however we found this program to be very helpful. https://www.shineacademy.com.au/ There may be something like this in your area you could look into. My daughter was also involved in a local lifesaving club where she could socialise with another group of kids who she didn’t go to school with. This club was great in that all kids had to work together on duty days and unable to ‘exclude’, giving her an environment to try out her new ‘interpersonal’ skills (with lots of adults around to support as well). Maybe a ‘Brownie’s’ or ‘Scout’ type group might help?
    Our daughter is now at University and doing pretty well. She still has issues with trusting friendships and finds every new school year a challenge but she is getting there. It is a hard road to travel but you simply can’t give up and does get easier at some point. Good luck. x

  8. I went through the same thing with one of my daughters. It is really hard, she pretty much went through the whole of primary school alone. It was really hard to hear about her playing with no one at recess & lunch, kids being mean all the time. We took her to counsellors & built up her resilience. By the time High school came around, we chose a smaller school, with more help, less students & she found her niche! Had a small group of good friends, who she is still friends with years later. She has a lit of online friends & is a little different to my other kids but hey, whatever makes her happy!

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