momwhocares2 asks:

My 11 year old daughter did something not nice to another child in order to be looked at as "cool" in the eyes of other kids. How do we discipline her?

She attended a camp with other kids aged 10-14 in her group.  She does not normally interact with these kids at any other time of the year except for these two weeks.  Two boys teased her about her last name one day and two other girls (supposedly her 'friends') talked non stop about their phones and snuck them during camp time to send texts.  She wanted to be looked at as cool by these kids so she said she would pay one of the boys to tease another.  She knew it was wrong as soon as she said it but was afraid to retract it for fear of not fitting in anymore.  We have removed her from the camp immediately and taken away privleges.  She has never done anything like this and has even been teased herself so why would she think the was appropriate?  She was afraid of not belonging...but with kids she didn't really like in the first place.  
In Topics: Friendships and peer relationships, Discipline and behavior challenges
> 60 days ago



Aug 19, 2010
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What the Expert Says:

Dear MomWhoCares,

I think that it is so important that you and your husband are taking the incident seriously and are striving to help your daughter learn from the situation. Given that your daughter immediately recognized that her behavior was hurtful, and she knew it was wrong, I think there is a strong chance that she can grow from this experience with your support.

1). To help your daughter learn about the consequences of her behavior, one strategy would be to require that your daughter apologize to the child who she had named as the target for the teasing. Work with her to come up with the appropriate language, as well as when and where she would give the apology. If she will no longer have contact with the boy because she is not in the same camp, perhaps she can call him or write a letter.

2). You may have already done this, but you and your husband may want to sit down with your daughter and provide her with ideas for how she might handle situations like this in the future. It is understandable that she would feel a little uncomfortable and awkward with peers she does not know well. Reassure her that this is normal and natural. You might even share some of your own experiences of struggling in unfamiliar situations. In my experience, children enjoy hearing about their parent's time as kids. Help her think through the following questions: What can she do in the future when she is in a similar situation? What can she do with the uncomfortable feelings she is having around peers she is not familiar with?

3). Talk with her about the characteristics of a good friend. Share your own values around friendship and what you wish for her in her relationships with peers. Let her know that peers who do not accept you when you do the "right thing" are often not really your friends. Help her think through these kinds of important questions.

It may be surprising that your daughter initiated this kind of teasing behavior when she, herself, has been bullied in the past, but research shows that many bullies were once victims themselves. Children who have been bullied likely want to take "control" of a situation in order to manage some complex feelings. Once she has better tools to handle these kinds of situations, she most likely won't get swept up into the bullying cycle again.

Warm regards,

Laura Kauffman, Ph.D.
Licensed Psychologist JustAsk Expert

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