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“My daughter has no friends and I don’t know why”

“My daughter has no friends and I don’t know why”

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

Erin

Friday 22nd of November 2019

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

Angie

Wednesday 20th of November 2019

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.

MB

Wednesday 20th of November 2019

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.

Bron Maxabella

Wednesday 20th of November 2019

Good on your Siobhan for finding a solution for your daughter. Bringing the kids together like that is brilliant.

Bron Maxabella

Wednesday 20th of November 2019

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...