This story takes place before spring break 2021.
Zara is the social butterfly in our family. She came out that way and definitely got that from her daddy. I’ve always worried that someone would try to dim her light. So I straddle the line of giving her the real while allowing her to enjoy her childhood. Imagine my reaction when she shared that she has been crying at school because a girl in her class talks to her too aggressively.
Long story short, the classmate seems to find her way into Zara’s business and tell her what she is doing wrong. The problem is 1. Zara never asks for her opinion and 2. The girl practically yells at Zara. Zara says that she is friends with the girl except when she is bossy. From what I can tell, it seems like the classmate spends a little extra time focusing on whether Zara did a word problem correctly or if Zara hung her backpack on the correct hook. Petty? I know. Second-grade stuff. Totally. But the point is that Zara feels like she can not tell the girl to MIND HER OWN BUSINESS because she doesn’t want to be rude to her. The irony.
The first thing I did was have a talk with Zara about speaking up for herself. The fact that I had a conversation with a 7-year-old about making sure your friends respect your boundaries is not where I thought I would be this year but here we are.
Zara attends a predominantly white school and to be completely honest with you, I do believe that this is her first encounter with a school-age “Karen-to-be.” and I felt that it was important to share different ways that she could tell Karen to mind her business.
Zara didn’t want me to tell her teacher but I emailed her anyway because…documentation. Her teacher was absolutely supportive and got right on it. It seems that the child is considered a bit of a “mother hen.” We call it nosey, bossy, and aggressive but either way, it vexes Zara’s soul. Sounds like she does it to other kids too but I’m not worried about other kids, I’m worried about my own. After some time, I had to send a follow-up email to the teacher because it seems the clash of personalities was still circulating.
I wanted to share my email today in case you’re not entirely sure how to communicate with your child’s teacher or school in the best manner. Here’s a snippet of my email to the teacher. Of course, names have been changed to protect the identities of Zara’s teacher and Miss Karen.
[Starting off an email without a greeting is triggering to teachers. I know. Trust me.] I hope you are doing well. My child [state the problem immediately, teachers don’t have time for fluff and neither do you] has been really struggling with a student in the class, Amanda*.
[Show evidence that you have done your due diligence and got as much proof and truth from your child as possible. This allows time for processing on your part.]
This weekend my child actually asked me to reach out to you to see if you could address the issue about Amanda. I know I sent an email a few weeks ago (To Miss Davids*) about how my child feels that the student is too aggressive with her. I’ve discussed my child advocating for herself and speaking up for herself whenever she feels that Amanda is overstepping her boundaries but she is still feeling unnerved by her.
[Don’t blame the other student because it could be a misunderstanding.] I do not believe that the student is being nasty, [Be sure to state when something is your opinion and not a fact to avoid confusion and anyone being wrongly interrogated.] she just seems (in my opinion) to be nosey and bossy and aggressive when sharing what my child should do.
I was surprised that my child actually wanted me to send the email this time. She didn’t want me to before. [Avoid saying your kid would “never” do something while still maintaining that you know your child’s habits and tendencies.] Again, I think it’s a personality issue but my child seems to want to stay on Amanda’s good side so she doesn’t yell at her. [Be honest about your kid too.] I do understand my child is a sensitive girl. But it’s not like her to constantly talk about a particular student. She does say they are friends but that she sometimes cries privately because Amanda is constantly telling her what to do and doing it aggressively.
[Share that you have already started the process of teaching your child how to advocate for themselves while also stating the real issue may be.] I already explained to her that it’s okay to be friends with everyone as long as they respect her boundaries but it seems like the other student is dancing on the line of those boundaries.
She says that she thinks of rebuttals in her head but never says them out loud to Amanda because she doesn’t want to be rude. She doesn’t want to answer rudeness with rudeness back.
[This is key. Avoid demanding the other child be immediately accused of wrongdoing. Instead suggest/request support on de-escalating a potential future situation.] Can you please keep an eye out for any uncomfortable moments between my child and Amanda? I don’t think it’s an everyday thing though. For some reason, she wants to stay in Amanda’s good graces (which is totally fine) but it bothers her soul the way Amanda seems to constantly tell her what to do.
[Another critical point. Position yourself as an ally to the teacher. Which you should be anyway!] Please let me know if I need to address anything on my end. I [share your goal or preferred outcome here] don’t want my child to feel like she has to tiptoe around anyone while she is at school.
[Be reasonable but firm.] I’m sure it’s just second-grade stuff but I am taking her lead on reaching out with her permission.
[Always end your email by leaving the door open for communication and partnership.] Feel free to call me or email me.
I want to be clear. In my particular case, the teachers were immediate in their actions to resolve the issue or at least commit to monitoring the situation. They were absolutely encouraging and supportive in making sure Zara feels safe and secure and even offered to talk to the student again.
Zara feels happy with the outcome so far but I have also told her that she has the right to have friends that respects her boundaries and she also has a right (and our permission) to not hold it in and shut Baby Karen down.
Minding your own business costs you nothing. Respectfully.
The next step if necessary will be a meeting request with the student’s parents but my prayer is that it never comes to that and it just works itself out.