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How can I help my 9 year old avoid being bullied by mean girls?

My daughter is almost 9 years old. She is an intelligent, sweet, caring little girl. She has always been a bit shy at times.

She recently had a friend treat her very badly at recess. Mainly saying mean things and yelling at her. Since this incident, she has had daily stomach aches at school. At least one time a day she has visited the school nurse.

The things the friend said to her were not insults or name calling, but my sensitive child is a little unforgiving! She had similar nervous stomach aches a couple of years ago for a brief time.

We have visited the pediatrician and a gastrointestinal specialist. My little sweetie needs some confidence to help defend herself from the "mean girls" that seem to still haunt the playground.

Jocelyn | Expert


I find it extremely important to teach our children the reasons behind bullying, so that they can be confident in knowing it really has nothing to do with them.

When children make fun of other children, it is typically because they feel bad about themselves. They don't know how to deal with those feelings so they attack others. The kids that are usually attacked by bullies are those that are typically nice kids that won't fight back.

I raised my children to understand this before they started school. However, because they are the nice kids that are well behaved, at one point or another within the first couple of years of school, each of them was been targeted.

When they were targeted, they would turn to the offender and tell them how sorry they were for whatever it was that they were going through and make them understand that what they were saying to them didn't bother them because they knew it wasn't true. 

This always nipped the bullying in the bud and made others stand with my children against such behavior. People tend to look up to other people who stand up for themselves and exude confidence, and it is no different with children. 

As my children became older, they began interrupting any bullying that they saw and taking those that were being targeted into their big group of friends. Now, I don't know how this will work with a child that hasn't been raised with that mentality toward this type of situation, but it might be worth a try.

Another tactic I used as a child, with great success, was to just start laughing at the person that was saying mean things and walk away. It takes the tension out of this type of setting and gives the child that is being bullied a sense of control in an out-of-control situation.

My biggest concern at this point is what is being done by the school to stop these children from attacking other children. If you have not spoken with the principal about this situation, that should be done soon.

Remind your child that she is beautiful, inside and out. Remind her of her strengths and give her ideas on how to build on her weaknesses (while not pointing out that they are weaknesses) so that she feels good about every part of herself. Standing up for one's self often brings about a sense of confidence all on its own, but this has to be done with grace and conviction, not by stooping to another's level.

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