Yesterday my first grader came out of school with her shoulders slumped and her head down. "How was your day?" I asked.
She lifted her hand and gestured so-so. This is a kid who is usually bouncing with enthusiasm about every last activity in her life, so I figured something specific was bugging her.
She was noncommittal about the details of her day at first, but then she explained that recess was the problem.
Ahh, yes. Recess. Also known as the jungle. It is the bane of every neurotic parent's existence, the nagging worry in the pit of a school's stomach, the dreaded and longed-for unstructured play time.
Apparently, every day at recess, my daughter spends the whole time sitting on a bench watching others play. "Why don't you join in?" I asked her.
She said sadly, "Because XXX told me I cannot play with them, and she tells other kids that they are not allowed to play with me, and they listen because she is the boss, and I have to sit alone on the bench."
"What did you say to XXX in response?" I asked.
"I said that I really want to play too, but she said that the game is full and that I can't join."
Deep breath, mama. You know the drill. This is normal social conflict -- the same crap that kids go through every single day -- and you know that kids switch roles all the time. My little one is on the receiving end of some unkindness, but there is no doubt that there have been times when she is the one acting like a queen bee. Don't rush in to fix it; work together with her to find a solution. Don't demonize another child, because in two weeks, they may be best buddies.
"Do you like sitting on the bench at recess?" I inquired.
"Not one little bit," my daughter told me.
Okay then. Time to enact THE PLAN, the same one I advise other parents to do every time I speak about social conflict and bullying!
1. Have my kid describe exactly what is happening. Help her to name the specific behaviors of the aggressor, rather than just accepting the general statement, "XXX is being mean to me."
2. Focus on kid-initiated solutions. Work together to make a plan of action.
3. Role play with my kid to help her practice for the next unwanted or hostile interaction.