Am I Raising My Daughter to Be a Victim? | This West Coast Mommy
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Am I Raising My Daughter to Be a Victim?

“But we’re friends again, Mommy. So it’s okay.”

Nobody ever said that parenting is easy. We all know that being a mom comes with sleep deprivation, no privacy, and worrying about everything, but sometimes things come up that you least expect, and they throw you for a loop even more than usual. Like when you’re trying to do the right thing and it comes back to bite you in the ass.

Since starting grade two at her new school, Tee has been telling me all about the other kids in her class and her new friends. As you would expect, 20 kids generate their fair share of drama, and Tee has talked to me a bunch of times about another girl with whom she butts heads on a not infrequent basis. Let’s call her Alice (not her real name of course).

I only have Tee’s perspective to go on, but from what she’s told me, the two of them just can’t seem to get along for more than a day. They argue and bicker, and get into what I thought were minor playground spats. Once Tee told me about Alice pushing her out of the way to get to the markers, and not long ago, she laughingly told me that Alice was her “frenemy”. To be clear, I’m not one of those moms who thinks my baby couldn’t possibly do anything wrong. Tee and her sister fight all the time, and Tee can be bossy with her friends just like I was at her age. When she talked to me about Alice, I’d say, “You don’t have to be best friends, but you have to be kind.”

I’ve always tried to encourage my kids to be kind and friendly with everyone. We talk a lot about empathy and compassion and doing the right thing. Raising compassionate children who treat others as they want to be treated – that’s good parenting, right?

A couple of days ago, when I arrived to pick her up from school, Tee’s teacher asked me to stay behind to discuss something. Naturally, while we were waiting for her to finish dismissing the class, I asked Tee what had happened. “Better tell me now!”

So Tee told me that she and her classmates were chasing each other and splashing water on each other at recess that day. Tee thought she was playing with Alice, but apparently Alice didn’t agree because she pinned Tee to the wall by the neck and choked her – leaving red marks on her neck – until Tee was able to push her off.

I was angry and horrified, but Tee kept talking… and it got worse. Somehow Tee forgave her for choking her, and they began playing together again after lunch, at which point Alice got upset again and shoved her down hard enough to bounce her head off the ground (thankfully it was wood chips and not concrete). Tee’s teacher confirmed every word she said.

Tee must have seen the look on my face as I listened to her teacher describe Alice strangling her, because she quickly reassured me that she and Alice were friends again, so everything was okay. When she told me that, my heart sank. My beautiful little girl thought it wasn’t a big deal to be hurt like that, because being friends was the most important thing.

By emphasizing empathy and understanding, have I somehow also been teaching her to excuse violence and come back for more? Have I been teaching her to be a door mat? In ten years’ time, will Tee be the girl who excuses her boyfriend’s abusive behaviour because, “He said he was sorry?” In twenty years will she be the battered wife who stays because, “He loves me?”

Later that night as I tried to talk to her about what had happened, Tee was confused when I encouraged her to avoid Alice for the time being. “But you told me to be friendly. I want to be a good friend.” She was really upset by the idea of not playing with this girl. She said, “I don’t want to hurt her feelings.” And as we talked, I realized that this wasn’t the first time Tee’s put up with other kids being mean to her in the name of friendship, just the most obvious.

I feel like, despite my best intentions, I’ve fallen into the trap of raising my daughter to prioritize being “nice” over keeping herself safe. I’ve failed to walk that line between teaching her to be kind and teaching her to stand up for herself. Somehow, “being a good friend” has turned into valuing someone else’s feelings over her own feelings and rights. I’ve let her down. I’m not exactly sure how to fix this, but I have to. This little girl deserves better.

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  • This post teared me up,my kids were certainly raised in the glory days it must be so hard in today’s World raising kids.

  • I can so relate to this. Mine are teens and we have walked a very fine line for a long time with this. I am raising caring, kind, empathetic little people, young adolescents now actually. That often looked similar to what you are describing. BUT my older girl somehow has managed to negotiate all that and shut it down now when it is negatively impacting her. She is now 16. I feel like confidence in other activities like martial arts and skiing and even theatre has helped her to understand actually friends behave like friends not like the kid you just described. My youngest however asks always just like I do – How Can I help? Which is kind and caring and I love that about her however this past little while she is convinced she needs to help friends all the time so much so that she’s taking on all of their problems. Although this might sound ridiculous as a problem here’s how that looks – it looks like her talking way too late to said friends to keep them calm or help them out, then it looks like forgetting to eat and forgetting to do work or go to bed or help out at home and irritability with others because she’s putting herself and her needs somehow as secondary. I have again gone to her sensei and given them a coles notes version of what is happening and why I need someone there to motivate her to channel this into something positive and directed at martial arts so here’s hoping this works out here. Might be possible to get Tee’s sensei to talk to Tee too. (if she’s still doing that) I also find myself many times over the years saying – think about Mommy’s friendships and how we behave around each other. Do I do X Y or Z to M? No, and does she do that to me? NO. And do I pace myself when it comes to the harder friends who need more, who are a bit higher maintenance? YES. I repeat that a lot and try to show her this is how adult female friendships look. VERY much relate to this. It is our life too.

    • Thank you for sharing your experience with your own 2 girls! I can totally see the concerns you’ve had with your youngest putting her friends before her own needs. I do worry how things will play out with my own girls when they’re teenagers and I have less control/influence over what they do.

      I do what you do too – “How do my friends treat me? And how do you treat your friends?” Tee is still doing karate (just did her belt test!), and standing up for herself is definitely one thing I hope she learns from participating. I’ve also had a couple of conversations with her school teacher who gets where I’m coming from and agrees she needs to take a break from socializing with this girl.

  • Thanks for this vulnerable and thought-provoking post Olivia. I *hope* that I’m modelling and encouraging personal boundaries as well as kindness and empathy for my daughter. But, as you’ve written here, it can be a hard balance to navigate. Thanks again for sharing.

    • Thanks, Camille! Like you, I’ve been striving to walk that line, and I expect it will be a work in progress. I don’t have sons, but it definitely seems to be more of a challenge for girls with all the expectations of “niceness” that are more likely to be placed on them.

  • I grew up in a home with domestic violence. My mother used me as a shield from my alcoholic father during their fights. Do NOT teach your daughter to be “kind” & “friendly”. A stronger personality like that Alice will sense weakness and walk all over Tee. Tell her to avoid that girl like the plague. Any “friend” who would choke you or slam your head down on the ground is not a friend. She is cruel. When I was old enough-age 12 -I asked my mother why she puts up with that crap. Her stupid response- “What am I supposed to do ? I can’t hit him back he’s bigger than me” No, you don’t hit him back YOU LEAVE! That’s what Tee should do. Leave situations where she is not treated extremely well. I’ve been with my husband of 40 +years who treats me like a queen. My 4 sons treat their wives that way too. I learned from what I saw growing up what I would not tolerate. I would rather be alone than be with someone who would not treat me like I deserve to be treated. Teach your daughter to be strong not nice. If she tolerates that with a grade schooler what is she going to tolerate when she wants a guy to “love her” I worked as a Labor & Delivery nurse for 2 decades. Saw a lot of very young girls who were pregnant because they were looking for love.

    • Thank you for sharing some of your difficult experiences. I’m sorry that your mother didn’t protect you as you deserved to be. I agree that someone who hurts you is not a friend and Tee should keep her distance. I don’t think that Alice is necessarily cruel though. A 7 or 8-year-old behaving like this has other issues, and I believe that with support and therapy she can learn better, healthier ways of coping with her frustration/emotions. I don’t think that kindness and strength are mutually exclusive, and I hope that Tee can be both kind and strong.

      Having said that though, when you asked how much will she tolerate when she wants someone to love her… that is a BIG worry for me. It sounds like we’ve had some similar experiences and I know how easy it is for girls to fall into that trap. I’m working on it, but I’m under no illusions that there are easy answers.

    • Thank you for the link!

      This part really resonated with me: “Be kind. Sweetness is about how you are received. Kindness? Well, it is about what’s right.”