The Best Friend and Worst Enemy Bully

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Very commonly, elementary aged girls are bullied by good friends. Surprised? I was, too.

Girl friends bullying girl friends is the premise of Little Girls Can Be Mean (affiliate link). One of the authors, Michelle Anthony, Ph.D., walked me through the book over coffee recently.

Initially, when she told me about her book, I felt shocked. Friends as bullies?

Then I thought about girls. And how they can be.

Are you with me so far?

Best Friend and Worst Enemy Bully

Except, it’s not what we’ve been teaching our children about bullies. We’ve been teaching kids that the bullies are mean kids. Not our friends. Never our friends.

“It’s very confusing for kids,” says Anthony, “their idea of bullying is very stereotypical, not the best friend / worst enemy.”

With boy’s it’s different, it’s physical. But, with girls it’s relational, explains Anthony.

Anthony says, “Girls in general are trying to find power in the relationships, that is why we find mean behavior – begin in elementary school, in general kids are mean because they’re trying to serve a purpose for themselves.”

This book began when Anthony’s daughter had a friend who turned against her. Together they began a journey of trying to deal with this friend (frenemy.)

Anthony realized that she couldn’t just tell her daughter to play with someone else. Not when her daughter craved a friendship, and wanted to be friends with the girl who was bullying her. So, Anthony and her co-author, Reyna Lindhert, figured out a way to help Anthony’s daughter see the situation for what it was, assert herself and problem solve. The book, Little Girls Can Be Mean, breaks it down into four steps.

The Four Steps

  1. Observe. Watch your child as a social being in a new way and how she responds to conflict
  2. Connect with your child. “I notice that when your friend Katie leaves, you start fighting with your brother a lot. Are you sad that she’s leaving?” Help your daughter begin to notice things. You want to give empathy but NO problem solving. You’re setting yourself up as her partner. You’re becoming a team.
  3. Guide. When you really are connected, together brainstorm and list all the things you can do to deal with the bully. All your ideas are valuable – even sending the bully to the moon. Write up a whole list of possibilities. What this does makes it seem like there are many solutions. That it’s not an insolvable problem.
  4. Support the Act. Help your daughter choose one of two things herself that she’s going to do. Then role play what she’ll do. P.S. SHE chooses – NOT YOU says Anthony because your daughter is building inner strength inside herself. If the idea doesn’t work, go back to the list and choose another.

the BEST book on bullying for elementary-aged girls (The Best Friend and Worst Enemy Bully) Little Girls Can Be Mean

Anthony lives in the Denver area, does workshops all over the country, and writes a column for Parent and Child magazine.

This book changed everything for me – and I think it will for you, too. It’s the best resource for elementary-aged girl bullying. You can’t do anything about the other girl’s behavior, but you can empower your own child. I really, really appreciate this empowering approach, what about you?

Attribution Some rights reserved by oksidor

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56 Responses

  1. My 7 year old all last summer played with the 2 little girls next door. They loved each other. One sister year older one year younger. In the fall a new girl moved in who was 3 grades older then my daughter and two years older then the oldest girl next door. They all played together for while but then they would do performances and only let my daughter be in the audience and then telling her in was late and too go home while the rest of them went into the house. Sometimes they play with my daughter they now tell her that they are going somewhere or can’t cause a friend is coming over ( the other neighbor girl). My gut response is they are worth being friends with, but to my little girl loves them not the new one but the others. What do we do?

    1. I would read this book — it offers really helpful ways for you to question your daughter to make her realize that she can decide what she’s looking for in a friendship and who might be a good choice.

  2. Hi, I’m a teacher and I have problem dealing with mean little girls. They have been bullying another student, even with constant reminders and advices that I have given them, less listen but it’s still going on. It’s quite alarming because the parents of the little girl that is being bullied have asked me, why is their little girl sad whenever she arrives home. What should I do? Please help me.

    1. Do you have a school counselor? Could you start friendship groups to help both the perpetrators and the victim. You might email the author of this book, Michelle Anthony, about ideas, too.

  3. I did not realise what was happening to my little 7 year old until I stumbled upon this article. She was crying every day. Writing letters to her besties to allow her back in the group…she had done nothing wrong. Because of this I realised she was being bullied. I would never have known as I also thought best friends can’t bully. Thanks a million xx

  4. Jennny crosment says:

    my daughter really wants a fantasy but imanginative book any one have some comment for that?

  5. I really love your blog. I remember going through this when I was in 8th grade which was a decade ago now. Of course at that time no one thought it was bullying and I was told to suck it up and that my “friends” were just teasing me. I never understood why my “friends” would turn on me. I didn’t do anything wrong they just quit eating lunch and talking to me and it made me very upset and going into my freshman year I was a loner because I didn’t think I could ever have friends and it finally dawned on my parents that I had been bullied and the way I was being treated wasn’t right, because no one would believe me or listen to me I suffered from depression for two years because of these hurtful tactics which only got worse over time. Things finally got a little better my sophomore year when I met a group of new people I could connect, but even with that I still felt and sometimes do that I can’t trust people because of this. Fast forward ten years later my sister is in 8th grade and going through the same thing only the school and my parents took it much more seriously this time and recognized what was going on was actual bullying. I’m glad it got resolved in a much more timely manner than my situation did. My sister is such a bright happy kid and it made me miserable to see her so sad and to see her go through what I did. I hope your blog inspires more people to recognize the signs of bullying and realize that it is a serious issue and it should be stopped before it gets worse. Thank you again!

    1. wow, Cheri, I’m so sorry this happened to you and to your sister!! It does mess with your head, doesn’t it? I have found that talking to a therapist helped me figure out how to build trusting relationships. It’s hard to do on your own, at least has been for me. BIG hugs to you!! xx

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    Hi! I’m Melissa Taylor, mom, writer, & former elementary teacher & literacy trainer. I love sharing good books & fun learning resources.

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