“Dear Abby” (WAshington Post, 7/24/06, B4) printed a letter from a mother whose 8-year old daughter was beating up and verbally abusing a young friend, “putting her down or stopping her in mid-sentence to constantly ‘correct’ her.

The mother was deeply disturbed but also deeply puzzled. This child is “a straight-A student, loved by all of her other friends, their parents, her teachers, our pastor; etc. She’s involved in theater; sings, dance, ice skates competitively, cheerleads, races motocross and plays the piano.”
Eight years old? Ice skating competitively, cheerleading, and RACING MOTOCROSS? In addition to voice, theatre, dance, and piano? Abby suggests that the child may be over-scheduled, and “her friend was the only thing in her life she could control.”

Definitely, but how about another explanation? How about thinking of this child as an extension of her parents’ need for status and accomplishment? These are one show-off activity after another. Maybe she is pushing around her friend because she has learned that she always has to be competitive, always on top, always center stage and loved by everyone. Somehow her friend isn’t giving her what she wants, so the child does what she has been taught — she does whatever it takes to get back on top.

A clue to the parents’ motivation here is found in the mother’s closing paragraph: “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.” So it’s all about the parents’ desires, in the final analysis.

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