Friday 23 February 2018

My young daughter is struggling to control her temper after falling out with her friends

David Coleman

David Coleman

I have a nine-year-old girl who, on the outside, appears as a happy child. However, she has no friends. There are several other girls her age living in our estate and they mock and jeer her whenever she is out on her bike and it is having a very damaging effect on her behaviour.

She has been verbally aggressive, always causes an argument over the slightest things and hits her little brother. She is also getting into trouble at school because of run-ins with classmates. I have sat down and talked to her and she says she can't control her temper.

She gets upset and remorseful. I have tried reasoning with her but I've also lost my temper with her as it's becoming a daily occurrence.

It seems like she can't make friends now. She used to play with the other girls but over the summer she wasn't in their group anymore and they seemed to gang up on her.

She is in ballet, gymnastics, choir and youth club but seems to only talk to one other person. Can you please advise me as to the best course of action as I'm becoming increasingly worried?

I am sure you are becoming increasingly worried, as is your daughter, I'd guess. She probably doesn't understand why she fell out of favour with her friends on the road during the summer.

Like most children who are excluded, then mocked or jeered, she will assume that there is something wrong with her or that she is being left out because she did something wrong. She will, likely, believe that this is her fault.

She may also feel angry about what is happening to her, believing (probably correctly) that there is no justice in it. It isn't right or fair that she be excluded.

It must also be very hurtful for her to experience the rejection by the girls she used to play with.

I think when she comes in to you then, she tries to show you the intensity of this mix of feelings (of rejection, hurt, injustice, guilt or inadequacy) by getting aggressive.

It is very common for children who feel upset because of something like bullying, to act out that distress by becoming angry with everyone around them. And what is happening to your daughter is bullying. So do be patient and tolerant with her if she is out of sorts. When she is cross with you, you could choose to use it as a sign that things are going badly on the road rather than as a personal attack against you.

Naturally, at age nine, it is very difficult for her to deal with the bullying directly. I think it will really help her if you can try to sort out what is happening in the group of girls.

The most efficient way might be to go and talk to some of the other mothers and to explain about the exclusion, the mocking and the jeering that their daughters seem to be perpetrating.

In going to talk to the mothers, however, your aim is not to blame their daughters but to enlist the mothers' help to get the girls to change their behaviour and to become more inclusive and accepting again.

I'd imagine most of these mothers would be shocked to hear what is happening to your daughter and will be horrified to think that their daughters may be acting so meanly. With luck, they'll be very active in ensuring that their daughters include your daughter.

If this active bullying is resolved, then your daughter can begin to heal some of the hurt she has felt. Her sense of being a lovable, likeable person is taking a constant knocking right now. The additional rows with you (even if she provokes them) may also be a source of distress. The more empathetic and understanding you can be, the easier it will be for her to calm herself down.

When she is calmer, you might then like to talk to her about how hard it is for her when the girls leave her out or mock her.

Your goal is to stop the bullying and help her to feel better about herself so that she regains her self-esteem and self-confidence. Then she will find it easier to take the risk of trying to make friends again.

Irish Independent

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