When a BFF isn’t a Friend, After All

 “She says if I don’t do what she tells me to do then we can’t be BFFs anymore.”

I hated—hated—those words coming from my daughter’s lips.

But I had a feeling they were coming.

My six-year-old dances through life confident, bright, independent – and with a big friendly grin on her face.

The main comment I hear about her from adults is, “You will not have to worry about this one caving to peer pressure.” The main comment I hear about her from kids is, “Can she please come over to play?”

And yet…those words.

I had hoped she wouldn’t have to deal with this BFF Bullshit until she was much older.

I had hoped she wouldn’t fall for this BFF Bullshit, ever.

Like we’ve all fallen for it at some time.

Her words sparked a conversation we’ve had before, and we brought her brother into it again, too. We talked about how friends should make us feel: good. I rattled off a list of kids who accept her and her brother for who they are, and like them for it. I made it clear that someone who threatens to stop being your friend if you don’t do something they want you to do isn’t a friend at all.

I assured them that if you have a friend who starts to make you feel bad, or pressured, or uncomfortable, it’s okay not to play with them anymore.

I explained that not being someone’s friend anymore doesn’t have to be a big deal; it can be a quiet backing away from someone who needs to work on themselves before they get to spend time with you again.

I asked why she would risk getting into trouble just to stay friends with this one girl, when she has so many other friends who treat her much better.

I asked why she would want to be BFFs with this girl, when she has to tease other kids, try dangerous things, or be less herself to do so.

My spritely girl has stood up to boys twice her size, wooed roomfuls of adults, and spearheaded elaborate campaigns to try to persuade her dad and I to give in to some whim of hers that we’ve already said isn’t going to happen. She believes in herself and her ideas. She knows her value.

So why does this one girl have this effect on her?

What is it about girlfriends that makes us go against every fiber of our beings just to be accepted?

I wish I had the answer.

Until then, I can only stay strong and follow through on my promise to punish her when she breaks the rules for this girl, and hold her close when she’s brave enough to break her own heart by saying “No” to this BFF Bullshit and loses this “friend.”

Standing here waiting to see which she decides to do first is going to be hard for me. I want to protect her. I want to make the decision for her. But I know I can’t.

Growing up was never easy, but I had no idea that watching your own kids go through the process is infinitely less easy in times like this.

Good luck, baby girl. I’ll be here for you.

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When a BFF isn't a good friend after all by Kim Bongiorno @letmestart

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  1. says

    I saw this title pop up in my inbox and knew I had to read it ASAP. I am totally in your boat right now with my seven year old. She has had the BBFF (best bitch friend forever) since kindergarten, and I can’t stand this kid- she is manipulative, cruel, and dishonest. The girls’ kindergarten teacher even told me to request that they be separated in first grade. I did, they were, and now in second grade they are back together. I try so hard to be diplomatic and helpful with my comments (you know, the whole reflective listening thing…) rather than just snappishly forcing my own feelings onto her, but man, it’s hard. Watching these friendships play out while allowing my daughter to find her own way is going to be one of the hardest parenting challenges, I think. Great post, Kim, and I feel your pain!
    Stephanie @ Mommy, for Real. recently posted..Aiming for Mediocrity: Why I’ll Settle for a Good Enough 2014My Profile

  2. says

    Ugh. Why does this have to happen? My 5yo son came home today and told me that he was friends again with one of his classmates. So I said to him when and why were you not friends? His response: Well because he said sometimes I’m not cool enough, but it’s okay mom he thinks I’m cool again. I still have a lump in my throat which is making it hard to enjoy my afternoon coffee. As soon as I saw this post I thought wow it’s happening everywhere to everyone at way too young of an age. You handled it perfectly. I’ve said it before and I will say it again…this parenting gig is not for the weak.
    Outsmarted Mommy recently posted..Motherhood Monday-No One Told Me There Would Be Days Like ThisMy Profile

  3. says

    Girls are SOOOO mean. When my daughter entered what was the equivalent of 1st grade in the UK, she decided she wanted to go by her full name, Madeleine. Her teacher changed all the nameplates, the template she would use to trace her name, etc to respect her request….and the bossy little girl she called her “best friend” told her after about a month that “she liked her better as Maddie”…and she had the teacher switch her name back. My daughter is one of the most strong-willed children I’ve ever met, and this little wisp of a girl would have her tied in knots. I’m so not looking forward to middle school….
    Jenn recently posted..Nitpicking to PerfectionMy Profile

  4. says

    I got a taster of this when my daughter started school in September and I didn’t know what to do – it was exacerbated because I’m friends with her BFF’s mum. Not that she tries to get my daughter into trouble at school (as far as I know) but she does when she comes over to play. Drives me nuts. When she went through a week of deciding she didn’t want to be friends with my daughter anymore my lovely confident happy child decided she was sick and didn’t want to go to school. At four! The teacher didn’t take it seriously either, which made me cross.
    I intend to follow your advice, although I’m not sure what to do when she’s just being mean. I have to be diplomatic in case it gets repeated and gets back to my friend. Argghh things I never knew about being a parent…

    • says

      I made it clear to my daughter that if she decides to be mean – even if it’s because of this girl’s ultimatum – she will be punished as if it’s her own idea to be mean.
      It sucks, but her behavior is directly correlated to her decisions. And if she decides to do it – no matter the reason – she’s gonna get it trouble. I just hope she makes the right decisions!

  5. says

    It took me over 30 years to really learn, embrace and accept the lesson you are teaching your daughter. My mom wasn’t there in that way. And, regardless of the path this friendship takes, I’m just so happy she has you walking just slightly behind, off to the side and sometimes in the bushes – but, WITH her…all the way.
    Bethany @ Bad Parenting Moments recently posted..If at first you don’t succeed, come sit next to me.My Profile

  6. says

    You teach just as beautifully as you write. I suffered through so many ‘friendships’ like this, until it finally occurred to me that I don’t have to be around people that make me feel bad. Wahoo! The reasoning is simple but the lesson can be so hard. I don’t know why.

  7. says

    This is where I’m a little glad that I have boys; though, I heard from a mom whose kid was having a birthday party that my kid got made fun of at the party. He denied it and said he didn’t even notice it, which I hope it true. I think boys shrug things off more easily, but the playing field of peer pressure probably evens out as both boys and girls age. I’ve already been talking tot he boys about “true” friendship. We’ll see what develops.
    Kathy @ kissing the frog recently posted..Resolutions, Everybody’s Got ‘EmMy Profile

  8. says

    This makes me so sad! And BTW, for all the readers, this is not isolated to girls! Boys are just as bad. My 7yo son has a boy in his class who, for whatever reason, has put a target on my son, and continuously tries to “steal” friends, or accuses my son of doing things he didn’t do (these stories have been corroborated by his teacher, I’m not only going on my son’s word.) It sucks to see your kid treated this way by another kid! =(
    Kristen Mae at Abandoning Pretense recently posted..New Year’s Resolutions that Aren’t Total Crap?My Profile

  9. says

    I’ve been in this same situation with Miss M so many more times than I care to admit and, d’ya know what? It gets harder and harder as they grow. Trusting them is one thing, trusting their world is altogether another. All we can trust is their own strength of character and the self-respect we hope we’ve instilled in them. And then, as you say, we can only be there to catch them when they fall and cheer from their corner when they triumph. What an outstanding post. I love the advice you gave to your daughter.

  10. says

    There is nothing worse that girl drama and broken hearts. I worry so much about raising my kids to be resilient and get through these kinds of things. Hope your daughter is feeling better soon and both of your hearts get a rest.
    Jessica recently posted..Time travelMy Profile

  11. says

    I am having the same issue with my 5 year old. Even down to how you described your daughter, it matches mine. I was surprised when she became BFFs with the territorial and demanding gal. I hoped mine would help the other relax and play but that isn’t exactly how it has gone.

    They just seem so young for all this drama :(

    Carrie, the Just Mildly Medicated gal
    Carrie recently posted..Kat and Beau, a Dysautonomia Service Dog Alert TeamMy Profile

  12. jackie d says

    When my daughter entered kindergarten I told her that there will be girls who might say, “Do this….or I won’t be your friend”. My daughter replied, “Oh, they already do that in preschool.” Of course, she saw this over and over again throughout her elementary school years, but not one time did it ever upset her. Her response was always, “Why would I want to be friends with someone like that?” She projects a quiet yet strong energy about herself which classmates have never challenged. Our daughter values kindness above everything. She is friendly with everyone and chooses to be with people who equally show kindness to everyone. I often hear girls complain that a good friend can be really nice sometimes and then do something mean another time and it drives them crazy. I tell them that it is like holding their hands under a faucet of running water: the water is usually warm, but can turn ice cold and then super hot and then back to warm. On some faucets you cannot control the temperature , but you CAN take your hands away from the running water and find another faucet that is consistently pleasant. When our daughter was in 3rd grade she heard about middle school bullying from her brother who had just entered 6th grade. Our daughter said then that she ‘couldn’t wait’ to be bullied. When I asked her WHY she said that she would say to the bully, “Are you happy at home? Do your parents love you?” She is currently in 6th grade and has been untouched by any social drama. However, we are well aware that the girl drama scene amps way up in 7th grade….. we are ready to expect anything!

    • Ashleigh says

      Unfortunately they do, and I have heard my 4 year old say it numerous times :( In which every time he says it, I remove him from the situation and speak to him about it….I haven’t heard it from him in a while. I know he has picked it up at his Preschool. That’s not something he picked up from us. It hurts to hear him use that….So I try to explain to him that, that’s not how friendships work.

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