Practical advice needed

My daughter has fallen victim to a Queen Bee. You know about Queen Bees. They’re the little girls who decide who is popular and who isn’t, and who use gossip and put-downs to relegate people to their proper rank in the Queen Bee’s hierarchy. This little particular QB (all of 10 years old) has told my daughter that nobody in their social circle likes my daughter but “We’ll talk about it tomorrow and I’m sure everything will be all right.” Of course, after words like that, things may never be “all right” again.

My problem is that I don’t know what help to give my daughter. I was always a complete flail when it came to dealing with QBs and simply retreated to my books. Nowadays, I deal with social manipulators by not giving a flying whatsit, so nobody bothers me because there’s no mileage in it. (And no, age is no defense. As I know from an old friend who lives in a retirement community, QBs may age, but they never go away.)

While I’ve learned the art of not caring, it’s not the first skill I want to teach it to my daughter. This is her social circle, so I don’t want her either to walk away or, worse, be chased away. Instead, I’d like to give her a strategy that ends this little QB’s reign, at least as it affects my daughter. (Incidentally, this isn’t the first time the QB has struck, nor is my daughter the only one of my children who has been on the receiving end of her social manipulation.)

One other thing — if your advice is to talk to the parent, I’m not quite sure how to go about doing that either. This particular parent is (deservedly) one of my favorite people, and I absolutely don’t want to offend her or muck up our relationship.

Any words of advice would be much appreciated.

UPDATE: A little digging has revealed (as it always does) that there’s a legitimate core to the QB’s complaints about my daughter’s conduct. Nevertheless, rather than taking it up with my daughter in the first place, she’s broadcast the issue to the entire social set and encouraged them to isolate my daughter.

To be honest, I know that this is a temporary tempest in a teapot, because these young children’s social situations are so fluid. Nevertheless, because this isn’t the first time it’s happened, I’d like to take what steps I can to make sure it’s the last.

UPDATE II:  I was right to have faith in my friend.  Unbeknownst either to me or my daughter, my friend caught her little QB in the act, punished her, and phoned me specifically to apologize.  That’s a good Mom and a good friend.  We talked about it, and are definitely on the same page about controlling the dynamics in this little social circle, one made up of fundamentally good kids, but kids who are also testing how far they can push socially.


16 Responses

  1. If the QB has deemed your daughter not quite up to her standards, she’s probably done the same to other children. Why not encourage your daughter to gravitate to those other children. Encourage them to be proud of their little group.

    (I have no idea if that would work. Also, I doubt that having your daughter say, “my mother’s a proud member of the Watcher’s council and your mother’s not” would work. Sorry. I know you were asking for serious advice.)

  2. This year my daughter had to deal with a QB who bossed her around, tried to manipulate her into writing a love letter to a boy in class, and who wrote her numerous manipulative and demanding notes. These were unprovoked and were all about power, and I think some jealousy too. My sweet, thoughtful daughter tried to reason with her, “You are hurting my feelings” (like school teaches her to say- this only made QB gloat or provoke her further. QB would sulk or pout when she didn’t get her way. My daughter worried about hurting her feelings and would give in.

    The solution was to teach my daughter how to not let the QB think she had any impact on her, but to appear cool, calm and collected- and indifferent. So, my daughter and I practiced and role-played conversations to prepare her for anticipated scenarios. We practiced until it became easy and automatic for her. At school, QB escalated her provocations for a few days, waiting for my daughter to cave- and when she didn’t, QB quit, stopped her harassment altogether for months, and even apologized for being so mean, both verbally and in writing. Your daughter has so much power when the QB sees that she can’t manipulate her.

    The strategy? A casual and indifferent “okay” to every order and command while continuing to do as my daughter wished, or when receiving unwanted notes she learned to toss them directly into the trash without reading them (or secretly pocketing them to bring home to show Mom. She also learned to appear unfazed by QB’s threats. “If you don’t write Parker(or Hunter, Skylor, Tanner, Connor) a love letter you can’t be in the group anymore. Response- “Okay, so I’m not in the group”, walk away. QB, sensing she may lose her power, “Okay, you can stay in the group.” She also learned not to react or pay attention to QB’s pouts, sulks or drama.

    In the end, it was my daughter who decided she didn’t like or need the QB, but she also felt tremendously empowered by learning how to handle and not fear manipulators. You actually can’t teach your daughter not to care- just to seem that way. Kids catch on very quickly to the strategy and why it works, and they get how unsatisfying it is for the QB to try to control someone who seems not to care, who doesn’t feed into the hurtful comments. QB ended up seeming mean even to herself.
    Though I would encourage your daughter to hang out with some different kids as well.
    Hope this helps.

  3. yikes! poor kid 😦 I don’t have any advice since my child is too small to have to deal with that. hope everything works out ok!

  4. This particular parent is (deservedly) one of my favorite people, and I absolutely don’t want to offend her or muck up our relationship.

    Talking to the parent is not popular for children precisely because it makes them feel more helpless than ever. You know, the sense that you can’t defend yourself, so you have to not only call your own mom but the mom of your attacker. Besides, it is never a permanent solution, since it does not raise the self-worth and mental defense of your daughter against future attacks.

    So, if going up the chain of command doesn’t work, why don’t we deal with this on a personal level. Men might solve such leadership fights with a… well fight. Or physical intimidation in order to see which side backs off first.

    But for girls and women, use of words and verbal attacks seems to be far more favored.

    I can only suggest turning the tables on the Queen, by making her feel more insecure. So long as the attacker has you focused on your own vulnerabilities and frailties and the pain you are feeling due to his attacks, your attacker has the advantage. But if you shift it, go on the attack, see yourself as the hunter, rather than the hunted, then that provides some defense psychologically.

    Without a foundation upon which to feel confident about, I don’t think you can successfully ignore attacks. Your daughter must feel that she is in control, that she is able to affect who likes her or not, that her worth as she sees it is not dependent upon what the QB says of her or anything else. That’s not an instantaneous process, and having read Lulu’s recommendation, I think it is a very good one in that it allows your daughter to do something in order to combat the fear. Just the sense that she is doing something to stand up for herself, in a positive manner, will help her belief in herself rather than focusing on how afraid or intimidated she is. It is worth wonders for the psyche and self-confidence.

    I do not have any specific recommendations, Book, only philosophical principles distilled down to general plans.

    Perhaps you should teach her what a hierarchy is and why people behave as they do given the common subset of human behavioral. A hierarchy is based upon strength, after all Book. And whether for men or women, those at the top will test your strength, see how weak you are, whether you can be made to follow them or not.

    Understanding her opponents may help her fight the stress she faces concerning her social circle, although it does not translate to any specific action.

    UPDATE: A little digging has revealed (as it always does) that there’s a legitimate core to the QB’s complaints about my daughter’s conduct.

    Of course there’s a legitimate complaint. The best psychological attacks always have a hint of truth to them. Only a rare few can make up things from whole cloth to hurt people with, since usually they just make stuff up to improve their own image.

    There are specific behavioral therapies that have proven to work concerning phobias for example, which is similar to teen peer stress. Role models help, if they see someone they respect or have the same problems as they do, deal with the problem in a common sense and strong manner. Say, someone with a fear of snakes sees an actor acting out a fear of snakes, trying to get close to one, retreating, coming back, and touching the snake. Humans have a hardwired instinct to emulate their peers and the leaders of the hierarchy. When the hierarchy shuns you, you have no model to inform your actions, to tell you what you should or should not do. Scary. It is of course used to punish behavior that the group or the leader deems “inappropriate”. The Palestinians executing American and Jewish spies that are Muslim, is a good example of a rather… adult version of the process.

    While I’ve learned the art of not caring, it’s not the first skill I want to teach it to my daughter.

    I think human beings will always care about their success or failures, their strength or weaknesses. It is just that sometimes you obtain something you care about more than the opinions of people you no longer respect, Book. Until your daughter feels more self-confident and superior in relation to the QB and her social circle, the QB will continue to use such group methods of control to punish and to reward behavior that she deems correct. Hey, she thinks it works, and it probably does work.

    Depending upon which persons in the group are following her model, I think what your daughter may have to do will differ based upon that. Sometimes the group is very loyal to the leader models, and the one being shunned simply has to find another group. Other times it is just… well temporary so to speak.

    The group after all shuns the member at the bottom, because they fear being shunned themselves. It is hard to stand up against a whole group of people, you definitely feel outnumbered. Surely there is a way to confront the QueenB privately or even publicly, challenge her, and make it known that how the QueenB is treating her unjustly can be done just as well to any other of the group. Depending upon the loyalists in their camp, you might shake some things up, try and get the people who disagree to speak up, by inspiring them with your example, break up the monopoly of control and fear. You can foment disatisfaction and anger at the Queen, rather than have the group be controlled by fear, if they see your daughter challenging her. Perhaps many of the group disagree with the shunning of your daughter, but fear being shunned themselves if they stand up to the Queen and disobey her rules and orders.

    I love the idea of practice from Lulu, it removes much of the uncertainty when the moment comes to perform.

    These are my preferences, of course, and you know them for what they are, so take them as they are, Book. You surely have the experience to make good on whatever plan you decide to implement to help your daughter.

  5. Talk to your child about the QB bullying problems.What is more important your child’s happiness or your social standing with the bullies mother? A no brainer.If this doesn’t work straight to the school counsellor.There is no need for this crap to be taking place.End it now or the next thing you know QB could grow up to be the president of the United States.

  6. Bookworm-

    I like Lulu’s advice for you. Not I only do I think that it will work, but it will be a confidence builder too.

  7. Lulu has it exactly right, in my opinion. Great advice.

    The role-playing with your daughter is certainly a key to help her develop her coping mechanisms. A Queen Bee attacks, and the attacks must be blunted. I think Lulu has offered some great approaches that have a good chance of working.

  8. The aggressive pacifist non-violent Gandhi help paint an ugly picture of the British behavior in 1930-40’s India strategy or in this case nasty little ugly QB’s attempted domination of Bookette.Not bad srategy.Works for me.Use it all the time but don’t dismiss the pre-emptive strike.Educate and inform QB’s mother if she doesn’t already know of her child’s behaviour.Acorn doesn’t fall far from the tree !

  9. Yes, Lulu’s advice is great. That would be my recommendation. There are these points of crises in every person’s life where you begin to get a glimmer that someone you cared about and who you thought cared about you is actually less than what you thought. The lesson to take from that is not to doubt your own evaluation of the situation, nor to try to talk yourself into endlessly trying to change them, or change yourself to gain their approval, but to accept the reality and begin to detach from someone not appreciative of you, respectful of you, or worthy of you–despite the pain of the change and the fear of being and outsider for a little while. Because kids change so much as they grow, this happens more often, I think, with young people. As a parent you can help them make sense of it all and lessen the fear and pain by putting it into a larger perspective, letting them know there will always be new and better friends in the offing. (“This too shall pass.”)

    I recently read *Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls* by Rachel Simmons, which talks a lot about this. Dealing with these situations is no joke. Lulu has the best advice for the immediate, daily reactions to this kind of bullying. As for the big picture, our daughters (and our sons) need to understand that ultimately any friend (of either sex) who would bully or intentionally be mean to them, even under the guise of “friendship” (as many females, masters of passive-aggressive meanness do) is not worth having or trusting as a true friend.

    I would not say anything to the other mother, but I couldn’t help wondering where her daughter picked up such meanness (it could just be “contagious” behavior among the clique of girls at school right now). I would hope her daughter might outgrow it (or wise up, if your own daughter offers her an honest or an enlightening reaction to it). But there could be just as much chance that both you and your daughter will eventually distance yourselves from these people. Such is life. Learning to evaluate (yes, judge) people in relationships with them, and learning not to care so much about people we shouldn’t is just a part of life, and a pretty necessary skill.

  10. Please take this with a grain of salt – my job in the military is based on manipulation (I’m an interrogator).

    Role play with your daughter as suggested; this is a first line defense.

    Second, give her scenarios to undermine the QB – if you feel it is warranted, have your daughter invite several girls over for a play date/party and leave the QB off the guest list. It is dirty pool but a direct application of social force against the behavior.

    Third, though you like the parent, you must stop social interaction with her and the QB family if possible. A statement as simple and indirect as “my daughter just doesn’t enjoy spending time with yours” as an excuse for the lack of interaction can bring a big change. Especially if the mother is driving the social dominance (in my experience this is very often the case). When QB abuse starts undermining Mother QB’s social status, the underlying behaviors (both mother and daughter) change.

    It’s easier with boys; we tend to beat each other up and shake hands after.

    SGT Dave

  11. It is easier with boys. Girls are nasty, underhanded and spiteful when they fight.

    This behavior will only intensify as they get older, unfortunately. My daughter was part of a tight group in HS that underwent social stress. Boy A was a close friend of my daughter, and undoubtedly had a crush on her. Boy A acquires Girlfriend A, who is then integrated into the group. Girlfriend A perceives my daughter as a threat, and resents her presence in the group. Girlfriend A then proceeds to undermine my daughter and alienate her within the group.

    Interestingly (from a social standpoint only, because I really wanted to slap several people), even though my daughter was in many ways the center of the group, she was quickly thrown to the curb by the rest. The power dynamic was much simpler that way. Even her oldest friends went along with this course of action, including a couple of girls who had no social life before my daughter befriended them. The way the group unconsciously determined the path of least resistance was quite extraordinary.

    We had many long talks about all of these things. Lord knows, as a custodial father, I just love having to play mommy. My daughter has recovered quite well, and is thriving at college. Her oldest friends have even come back to her, finding the benefits of the group less satisfying than her friendship. I only intervened once, when one of the other boys in the group was continually snide and rude to her. I called his house, meaning to talk to his parents. He answered, and once he knew who I was, dissembled about them not being there. I left strict instructions that they were to call me back, and that we would be discussing his behavior. They never called, and his behavior improved dramatically.

    Sorry for the length of this anecdote.

  12. Lulu’s got it right as to immediate action. It works and it helps your daughter for the future.

    That’s not all, though. I’m sure you’ve talked to little BW about the underlying kernel of truth, and that’s great. The more she learns to do some introspection in service of self-improvement, the better.

    On the other hand, be sure she does some analysis…no kid should get down on themselves over the exaggerations of another who uses inflated criticism of minor faults to play Queen Bee. Zabrina is right – a really important thing for kids to learn is that some people’s opinions shouldn’t carry any weight. If you don’t have much respect for someone because of the way they operate, why agonize about their bad opinion?

  13. Gosh, I wish all of you had been my Mommy when I was struggling with these same situations decades ago. Of course, looking at my passionate little daughter, it’s going to be tough teaching her to anesthetize her feelings sufficiently, at the moment, to shrug off the hurt. The ideas about role playing to help her are good.

    As for the parents, I know them well and they are genuinely nice people. The Mom would be appalled if she knew the games that her daughter is playing. I’ve known the child a long time, and she’s just a natural born QB who needs to have her little stinger plucked.

    Chris, your story rings so many bells about my own childhood. I’m glad your daughter weathered that social storm. It can be incredibly painful to have people — read, “girls” — turn on you when the more powerful social arbiter demands that it be so.

  14. If the people are genuinely nice people and the QB is just feeling her oats in acting out, Book, maybe YOU should sit down with little QB in a quiet private moment and straighten her out in a gentle manner, appealing to her sense of fair play and empathy for others. That might be enough to give her pause about continuing such behavior.

  15. Group dynamics are interesting subjects. And it seems group behavior is indeed based upon the Alpha male/female theory model. Whoever is the most aggressive and able to wield the most terror and vindictiveness, usually is the one able to control the group’s behavior, even if in chris’s case that person was a newcomer.

    Men are more confrontational of course, but I suppose in general everyone already knows that.

    Dave’s pragmatic plan for the pool party, given Book’s ownership of a poor which I had forgotten, does indeed provide a practical application of undermining the QB. Social embarassment, pressure, and what not is always a more effective punishment than removing toys or direct application of punishment such as grounding. Grounding is temporary, so the psychological mind of a person is still stable because they know it will soon be over. But being socially shunned, there is no “outlet” no “hope of appeal” so to speak, and thus it is far more psychologically devastating and effective.

    The more psychologically devastated your daughter becomes, the less effective she will be in holding her group of friends, holding their loyalty, and preventing the QB’s dominance. So helping her mental state my way would slightly differ from yours.

    it’s going to be tough teaching her to anesthetize her feelings sufficiently, at the moment, to shrug off the hurt.

    The way I see it, it is better to focus pain into anger. If you have to feel pain or fear, control it instead of the other way around. If a person is controlled by his pain or fear, then he becomes weaker, and if he becomes weaker than his status in the hierarchy will suffer. The more clumsy a person feels, the less confident of his actions, the more likely he will actually make a mistake in reality. Mental attitude is important, but I don’t think it stems from shrugging off the hurt. But rather going through the pain, surpassing the pain and the fear of losing friends and social acceptance.

    Anger is even harder to control than fear, because it is more powerful. It is more destructive in nature, of others rather than of yourself. But anger does wonders to dampen both fear and pain, physical or mental. Turn her passion into something constructive, Book, instead of damping it down. If she feels angry that she is being treated unjustly, if she feels pain at how her friends are treating her, and if she feels fear for her situation and helplessness in the face of the group’s power, then you can help her by showing her what she can do to fight back. Both against external factors and enemies, and internal factors as well.

    For some people understanding the motivations of the QB may be sufficient. For others, they may need to do something, like talk to parents and those in the know. She is your daughter, Book, you know her better than any of us. I am sure there is a way that you will find to help her, yet not stymie her passionate feelings and personality. She will have to change, in some part, but I hope it is for the better, to become stronger and more confident of herself. To become perhaps a little bit wiser and knowledgeable in why people do things.

    We talked about it, and are definitely on the same page about controlling the dynamics in this little social circle, one made up of fundamentally good kids, but kids who are also testing how far they can push socially.

    I would try to be wary of the QB taking out her own punishment on other weaker members of the hierarchy. Some people are like that, in that they receive punishment for doing bad things but instead of feeling guilty, they feel self-righteous.

    Don’t belittle your own instincts, Book. This after all may be temporary a situation, but the effects on the psyche and personality of your child may well become not only long term but permanent. We do acquire some very bad or good habits in our early age after all.

  16. The angle to this saga that hasn’t been discussed is the whole Nature-v-Nurture question. Why do kids get this way [bully boys and QB girls — same M.O., in a sense]?? I lean toward nurture as the bigger factor — you know, watching adults in action, live or on TV. Wondering if any studies have ever been done on this “trait”.

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