On the Family Front

The Neighbor Is a Bully

Q. My daughter and a neighbor's daughter are frequent playmates. My daughter's friend is more aggressive and consequently my daughter is often hurt or bullied. She still wants to play with her friend, but I'm worried she'll learn the wrong message about friendship. Am I wrong for letting her play with this child, or should I separate them and risk hurt feelings by the other parents?

A.I remember having a very hard time standing up to a friend about her son's aggressive behavior toward my daughter. But one day, when he was about to hit her, I finally stepped in. I realized that God called me to protect my daughter?that's my job. It was a relief to work through the fear of "what people will think" and to realize that the only opinion that mattered was my daughter's. Still, it's a challenge; so get ready to grow! Here are a few ideas to help:

Have visits at your house for a while. You can supervise the play and correct your daughter's friend when she's out of line. Be sure to explain the house rules: "Belinda, at our house, we take turns deciding what game to play. You decided the last game, now it's Jenna's turn." As you see healthy interaction, allow play time to return to your neighbor's house. If the problems come back, you'll know that your house is the safer place to play.

Teach your daughter to be assertive. Give her verbal tools to use when she starts to feel bullied: "Belinda, I don't like it when you decide all the activities. I want us to take turns." If this isn't strong enough, ask your daughter to shorten the playtime when Belinda is a bully: "I want to go home now because we aren't taking turns." This limit will usually motivate the other child to cooperate.

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