When I co-wrote The Angry Smile,
I did not intend it to be a How-To book. In fact, I know lots of ways
to be assertive, direct, and emotionally honest with others. But letâ€™s
face it, sometimes a situation calls for a little passive aggressive behaviorâ€¦
My 8-year old daughter has a frenemy. She has known this
un-friendâ€“and experienced the girlâ€™s on-again, off-again
spitefulnessâ€“since they were in pre-school together. The girl, in fact,
is the subject of a previous article that I posted on Psychology Today
back in 2010, entitled Sticks and Stones: A Little Girlâ€™s First Experience with Bullying.
Things havenâ€™t changed much with this girl over the last four years.
At times she is delightful and I must credit her with having an uncanny
knack for charming her peers and making them want to please her. Even
in her mean girl moments, she is so subtle and innocent-seeming (her
extra-small stature seems to play into this) that I understand fully how
she gets her covertly cruel jabs in before her targets even realize
that they have been mistreated.
Unlucky for her, I study girl bullying, so Iâ€™m on to it.
My daughter is tooâ€“sort of. On at least a dozen occasions this year,
my third grader has come home from school with stories about how the
frenemy mocked what she was wearing or teased her about something she
had made in art. As a spirited young upstander, my daughter is even
more impassioned when she describes how the frenemy relentlessly bullies
a classmate with special needsâ€“and covers it up with a sugarcoated â€śJust kidding!â€ť if an adult should overhear.
Being the therapist that I am, I always try to turn these
conversations into opportunities for empathy and teachable moments about
coping with mean behavior, reaching out to the bullied, and seeking out
kind friendships. So, yes, I am very conscientiously teaching my
daughter all of the right things to do. And above-the-radar, I do my
best to be a great role model of kindness and assertive behavior.
Anyone who never acts undignified should stop reading at this point.
Seriouslyâ€“if you are compelled to lecture for a bit of misbehavior,
itâ€™s time to click away. Believe me, I donâ€™t need you to tell me that
my actions in the following situation were wrong. I know it. I chose
it. Thatâ€™s rightâ€“like most passive aggressive
people, I was aware of what I was doing and yes, I took a little
pleasure in it. Thatâ€™s why I am bothering to tell you; itâ€™s part
soul-cleansing confession, part funny-what-a-Mama-bear (or Papa
So, simply put, I took my daughter and her frenemy to see a movie
yesterday. Before the film, I bought them each a box of candyâ€“Skittles
for my daughter and Sour Patch Kids for the un-friend. Both thanked me
graciously. At the end of the movie, the frenemy approached me and said
the roof of her mouth was â€śall scratched upâ€ť from the Sour Patch Kids.
Perhaps itâ€™ll be harder for her to use her mouth to say mean things now.
What? At least I didnâ€™t send her home with a box of super-sour Sweetarts to wash it all down.
Signe Whitson is the author of Friendship & Other Weapons: Group Activities to Help Young Girls Aged 5-11 to Cope with Bullying, in which
she provides engaging activity and discussion ideas to help kids
assertively (not passive aggressively!) respond to girl bullying. For
more information, please visit www.signewhitson.com, Follow her on Twitter @SigneWhitson, or Like her on Facebook.
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read more: Girl Bully Meets Passive Aggressive Mom: Game On!