DEAR ABBY: I was recently informed by the parent of a close friend of my 8-year-old daughter, "Emma," that Emma had been "beating up" her daughter. When we confronted Emma about it, she admitted it but could not explain why. Emma has also been verbally abusive to the girl, putting her down or stopping her in mid-sentence to constantly "correct" her.
Abby, Emma's a straight-A student, loved by all of her other friends, their parents, her teachers, our pastor, etc. She's involved in theater, sings, dances, ice skates competitively, cheerleads, races motocross and plays piano. She is very well-behaved at home, and we have no trouble with her. I just don't understand what's going on. When I ask her, she doesn't have an explanation, but truly feels bad for hurting her friend.
The girls are no longer allowed to be friends. This is damaging for us parents because we were all very close and did a lot together. We camped, fished, hung out, etc. Help! What do I do? -- CLUELESS IN ESCONDIDO
DEAR CLUELESS: Children sometimes pick on other children they perceive as weaker. Some do it out of anger; others do it simply because they "can." Your daughter may have done it because she is overscheduled, and her friend was the only thing in her life she could control.
I'm not sure it is realistic of you to expect your 8-year-old to completely understand why she has acted out against someone who is supposed to be a friend in this way. But I'll bet a child psychologist could provide some insight -- and also help you teach your daughter that there are more appropriate and effective ways of dealing with her emotions than victimizing someone who can't fight back.