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To Put An End To Her Daughter's Bullying, A Mother Takes A Page From Darwin

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Many parents are on alert for signs that our kids are being bullied, right? But how do you know if your child is the one doing the bullying? Leslie Blanchard has five kids and one day, years ago, she got a sign from her daughter that she might be headed down that path. Leslie wrote about it on her blog. It's called "A Ginger Snapped." And we found her story on The Huffington Post. Leslie Blanchard joins us now from Norman, Okla. Hey, Leslie, thanks for being with us.

LESLIE BLANCHARD: Hey, thanks for having me.

MARTIN: So let's talk about this. Your daughter at the time was in fourth grade. And as you recount the tale, she came home from school one day and told you that a little girl in her fourth grade class named Bethany was annoying her. And that's the word she used - right? - annoying her.

BLANCHARD: Yes, annoying her.

MARTIN: That's, like, a normal kid thing to say. So why was it a big red flag for you?

BLANCHARD: Probably just the way she said it. She said, she's sitting by me at lunch and following me around on the playground. And I said, you mean trying to be your friend?

MARTIN: (Laughter).

BLANCHARD: And she said, yes, she's annoying me. And I knew my daughter had a little group of friends, a little posse or a little clique or little whatever you want to call it, and...

MARTIN: ...She was popular. She was like...

BLANCHARD: ...Yes, she was. I mean, I know we all hate that word, we really shy away from saying it, but that's just the truth.

MARTIN: Yeah.

BLANCHARD: And, you know, I kind of had this theory about having some social bank, you know? And I feel like when you've got some social bank, you can risk it a little bit for somebody that maybe doesn't have some social bank. And I just really encouraged her to - you know, to get to know this little girl. I said, you need to come home and tell me three things after school tomorrow that you learned about Bethany. And she said, absolutely not. I'm not doing that. And that continued on into the night. And we got up the next morning and she got dressed for school and I told her I wasn't taking her to school. And I did not take her to school until 1 or 2 o'clock that afternoon. She was only in school...

MARTIN: ...Until she conceded - until she agreed.

BLANCHARD: That's right, she conceded.

MARTIN: So what happened? You told her daughter she needed to come home from school having learned three cool things about Bethany, which meant she had to spend some time with her, to ask some questions.

BLANCHARD: She had to hustle. She only had an hour...

MARTIN: (Laughter).

BLANCHARD: ...Or two, maybe. I think she did it after school when - in the carpool line. And she jumped in the car and told me some things about her, and I said, that's fantastic. And they ended up being very close friends for many years, until that family moved away.

MARTIN: Why did you see in this interaction that your daughter clearly didn't want to be friends with this little girl? But she wasn't overtly cruel, right? But how did you recognize the seeds of bullying in this interaction?

BLANCHARD: Just from the stories that she told me how - about how hard this little girl was trying and that my daughter was so disinterested. I mean, it's very hard for me to imagine being that disinterested in somebody that's that interested in you. And I just felt like my daughter, Gracie, needed to push herself a little out of her comfort zone. And most of the feedback on this article has been extremely positive.

I've had a few people say, I don't tell my children - force my children to be friends with people, but these very same people force their children to brush their teeth, force their children to eat green vegetables. I just think that if you're going to go to all that trouble to force your kids to do the things that you perceive to be healthy, then why wouldn't you think that you have the same wisdom with respect to your child's social development?

MARTIN: You were saying something about the nature of bullying, too, that it's not just bullying as we conceive it to be - writing mean things online about someone or physically abusing someone or calling them names, even. It can be far more subtle than that.

BLANCHARD: Bullying, in my opinion, is not the star football player or the head cheerleader picking on some little nerd. It is the person right by you on the social ladder trying to keep you from taking their position. I mean, it's usually someone in their own friend group that they were either mistreating or that they were being mistreated by. It's very subtle. Parents are, you know, not really paying attention if they think it's these - you know, there's not these huge disparities. It's usually somebody not that different from you.

MARTIN: Leslie Blanchard. She writes about her family on her blog. It's called "A Ginger Snapped." Leslie, thanks so much for talking with us.

BLANCHARD: Thank you so much for letting me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.