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. I ordered the book Little Girls Can Be Mean thinking of my daughter who is now in 1st grade. The day the book arrived I received a phone call from the school principal saying my SON had gotten into some trouble. The principal then explained that my son had been the bullied that day. When the principal went on to say who the bully was, I was surprised. It was my son’s “best friend”. Although this book is written for bullying with girls, I do believe it can be helpful with boys as well. (I’ve started reading it.) I look forward to learning what I can do to help my all my children navigate through difficult situations. THanks for the help!!1

    1. Agreed. My son went through a similar situation for 2 years. Our school was no help whatsoever. My husband and I coached our son in ways to deal with this frenemy in similar ways to the advice given above. Looks like a timely and discerning book!

  2. Thank you for turning me on to this resource! I will blog on it too. May I repost your post with credit and link back to you? Such a timely and useful topic!! Thanks! mia

  3. Thanks for featuring this, Melissa — sounds like something I can use in our small group right now!

    1. Gbemi, What is your small group? Is it moms? Tell me more – want to write a guest post about it??

      1. It’s a small group of 2nd grade girls, talking friendship, relationship, power, community-building, etc., and strategies to navigate it all. I’ll email you!

  4. I cannot recommend this book enough. Love, love, LOVE what the authors have created. It is a shining example of how we can support young girls and help them help themselves. We’re all in this together…and what a wonderful testament this book is to the power of building healthy relationships. Imagine how DIFFERENT middle school would be if all elementary schools embraced this model! They have FAB activity-based exercises to do with girls, too!

    Wendy @Kidlutions

    1. so true – I really feel that this book and it’s philosophy could revolutionize the way we are handling bullying in elementary schools. We all must read and implement in our schools!

      1. Jennny crosment says:

        i think the book is amaze! my 12 year old is always on this website loooking for good books, Could anyone recommend an immaginitve and yet very realistic book for her? she really wants to get some to read throughout the summer.

  5. Thanks for highlighting this perspective on bullying and recommending this book. My daughter’s worst bully was her “friend”. I only wish this book was available when she was growing up – it should be a must-read for parents of little girls.

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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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