I watched from my park bench as a young mother tried to console her sobbing daughter. “I’m sorry, honey. I don’t blame you for being upset.”
“I don’t know why they won’t let me be in their group for the talent show. They just said they already had enough people and their routine was done and there wasn’t anything they could do about it. I told them I would make a new one up, but they wouldn’t do it.”
I tried to focus on my kindle while occasionally looking for my kids to exit the school door, but the wailing was distracting and as much as I tried not to eavesdrop, I had to admit I was interested to hear how the mom would handle this all-too-common situation.
“Well, they’re probably just jealous of you honey, because you are such a good gymnast and they aren’t. They probably don’t want you in their group because you’ll show them up,” the mom stated matter-of-factly. “You should do a solo routine. Or maybe one with Chloe.”
“You think?” the girl replied, her tears slowing down. “You think they’re just jealous of my tumbling?”
Several minutes passed before my girls came out, but the interaction between the mother and daughter stuck with me for a lot longer. Maybe the girls were jealous, or maybe they honestly had their routine finished.
Feeling excluded is a common problem in today’s transparent culture, particularly among girls and women. Social media exasperates it, as often we mindlessly scroll through images and come across a photo of a group at some fun activity that did not happen to include you.
There is also the problem of parents striving for perfection in every aspect of their lives. It is intimidating to be surrounded by a sea of thin, perfectly coiffed women in expensive Lululemon athletic outfits or watch a working mom of five kids whip up homemade, gluten-free, glow-in-the-dark snacks for the Fun Fair as you drop off cookies from the grocery store in your stained yoga pants.
But what happens when we continually use jealousy as the rationale for exclusion? What are we telling our daughters that the only reason anyone treats them poorly is that someone is envious of their talent, stature or situation?
A few years back a friendship went off the rails for me. Someone I liked a great deal turned into a person I didn’t even know anymore. I tried multiple times to mend fences, but she clearly stated she wanted nothing to do with me.
As another friend and I sat and tried to rationalize what transpired and why my relationship with this woman turned combative, the response came easily. She was jealous of the relationship I formed with another mom, perhaps even jealous of the fun we were having. My friend even surmised that perhaps she was jealous of a position I recently acquired. It didn’t seem to fit based on the person I knew, but it was a simple rationalization, alleviating me from any responsibility or introspection.
I found out nearly a year later that a mutual acquaintance apparently shared what I thought was a private conversation among three women over wine with my former friend. When she provided what I felt like was a lame excuse for not joining us for a birthday dinner, we ended up discussing how we felt her husband was a little too controlling. I wouldn’t say the conversation was malicious, but I can see how it would be hurtful if relayed.
The net-net is I did something wrong, and I got caught. She wasn’t jealous of anything. She was mad, and rightfully so. Unfortunately, she received an exaggerated story that I spread this gossip all through town, and she decided anything that subsequently came out of my mouth was not worth hearing.
We both handled the situation poorly, and it took me awhile to process the entire event and understand my role in it.
Now that my daughters are in their tweens, I try to avoid using jealousy as a rationalization for bad behavior for a myriad of reasons:
Reduces the need for self-examination. When we write off other people’s behavior as jealous, it eliminates the opportunity to consider our role in the situation. How can girls learn that their actions impact other’s responses if we are easy to blame jealousy as the answer.
It also promotes big heads. If we constantly tell girls that other people are jealous of them, whether it is because of their appearance, friendships or grades, how will they develop coping mechanisms when they get out in the real world? There can be a thing such as too much self-esteem. In our Kim Kardashian culture, we assume each time someone dislikes our actions, it’s because she is jealous or the nefarious “hater.” This I-can-do-know-wrong mentality is a dangerous way to live.
Decreases the opportunity for compassion, and more importantly, grace. The pressure on young people today is tremendous. From looks and grades to social media presence and athletics, the burden to be the best weighs heavy on our most impressionable minds. This also creates a culture of envy and unconfident youth who do not know how to step away from the stories they create in their minds of their peers’ perfect lives.
Often, when someone hates on you, it’s because you’ve got something they want. This is not the time to rub it in their face by acting even more confident. It is not our job to teach other people a lesson on how we perceive a situation. Instead, it’s an opportunity to extend kindness and grace. Most times it will be ill-received, but we shouldn’t stop trying.
Consider offering a compliment to a woman you feel is sizing you up. There is a power in acknowledging what you admire in another woman, and it can change the dynamic of a relationship. On the flip side, do not acknowledge a snide remark another mom makes about your daughter winning the science fair…..again. Instead, take the higher ground with jealousy and simply do not acknowledge it. Letting go of the need to defend yourself releases you from the burden of other’s perceived opinions. Plus, it stops the negativity dead in its tracks — it’s tough to have an argument with only one person.
That being said, if there is a pattern of snide comments or damaging behavior, it’s important to practice self-distancing. Learning not to engage with negative people is an important life lesson as well.
It extends mean girl behavior. Recently I watched a gaggle of kids in my neighborhood playing a game. It was a mixture of children who lived on our street and friends of friends. Out of the corner of my eye, I watched as a sad seven-year-old boy slinked over to his dad, telling him he was left out. The father’s response: “Don’t be ridiculous. If you want to play, just tell them you want to play.” And off he went. No drama, no attempt to decipher the other kids’ thoughts. Just a swift kick in the pants to go after what he wanted.
When we tell our daughters consistently that girls are jealous of them, we are perpetuating a stereotype we’ve lived for too long. While insecurity is still a major problem — and the main reason for the “Mommy Wars” — jealousy should not be the go-to excuse in our feminist toolbox. Instead, we need to teach our kids how to navigate difficult relationships and improve communication as opposed to merely writing off behavior as a jealous rage.
Jealousy isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s human nature. It’s natural to feel jealous from time to time. Fighting off the green eyed monster is hard, whether you’re the one experiencing the emotions or on the receiving end.
What’s important, though, is to teach kids — especially young girls — that you can stand for something without tearing another down. Imagine the power we’d give our kids then?
I read this article a few weeks back and have been corresponding with the author, Vanessa Schenck. I love what she is all about. She’s an entrepreneur, she’s a mom, and she’s concerned with what’s happening to our girls. And she remembers David Cassidy too, so we totally get each other. I asked if I could republish this article that originally appeared on Girilla Warfare, and thankfully she said yes because I love the message.
What I am even more excited about is Vanessa will soon be launching a lifestyle brand for Tween girls called TIA Girl Club – an online community-based retail store providing girls an encouraging and supportive place to shop, play and discover their authentic voices. You can find Vanessa on Twitter at @VanessaSchenck or more information about TIA by visiting the website tiagirlclub.com
“So, something happened to me at school today,” said Julia, my nine-year-old daughter just as we were sitting down to eat dinner the other day.
I could tell it was not going to be good.
My daughter went on to tell me one of her best friends had crushed her that day. Apparently, in gym class, the girls played a game that required everyone to find a partner. Julia told me she had asked one of her best pals to be partners and was told, “Sorry. I already have a partner.” To which Julia tried to reason with her by saying, “The teacher said you can have three in a group” and was told, “Why not go ask someone else?”
Knife to the gut.
This left Julia feeling awful, as it would anyone who was just rejected by one of their best friends.
Being rejected by anyone tears into your self-confidence, let alone a really good friend.
This is not the first time I’ve gone through a BFF Crisis-Management Situation with my daughter, and it surely won’t be the last. Let us remember: Julia is in Middle School.
Ah, Middle School! I’ve done my research, and what I know about girls this age is that it’s the time in their development when they are most likely to change their behavior, act in a certain way that’s not really who they are in order to “fit in”. And they will put up with a lot to do just that — fit in.
Girls this age are more likely to compromise their authentic voices, not say what they really want, need or think to be accepted by their peer group.
One psychologist — Dr. JoAnn Deak, author of Girls Will Be Girls, Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters, calls this time in a girl’s life “camouflaging.” It’s exactly what it sounds like. You change who you truly are in order to blend in with those around you. And, like with any good camouflage, you render your true self invisible. As Dr. Deak tells us, camouflaging isn’t all bad. It can provide “an opportunity for self-discovery and growth”. But taken too far, Dr. Deak says a girl can “hide herself not only from others, but ultimately from herself”.
How many of you remember saying you loved David Cassidy because everyone loved David Cassidy (did I just totally date myself)? Or, how many of us dressed as Princess Leia for Halloween because everyone else did, even though you truly didn’t like Star Wars. One bit.
Here’s the thing: At first it doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, not speaking our truth. But the more we do it, the easier it becomes.
Although, as easy as it may seem, it does come with a hefty price-tag. You see, eventually, Dr. Deak says, by continuing to camouflage, we can lose any sense of our authentic voice, and then, suddenly, it’s gone.
Dr. Deak tells us it can take up to three decades for women to get their true, authentic voices back. Thirty years, Moms! She calls this “The Three-Decade-Power-Outage” — and rightly so. Thirty years we go around pretending to be someone we’re not — and most of us don’t even realize it! We’ve played the part for so long it’s become our normal. Yet, it’s not. Not even close. We are being controlled by fear.
Fear, as everyone knows, robs us of living the lives we were meant to live.
That, my friends, was me. I absolutely lost my voice, my confidence in Middle School.It manifested in my life in more ways than one. I attended a University that clearly was not a good fit. But who was I to tell my parents my dream school was in California? Disappoint them? Are you out of your mind?!
Let’s not even begin to discuss my ex-boyfriends. Okay, lets. There was my college boyfriend who was verbally abusive. Remember Oprah’s sage advice: “The first time they show you who they really are, believe them.” Well, the first time he told me I wouldn’t have any friends if I ever left him, I knew exactly with whom I was dealing but I didn’t have the confidence/voice/strength, whatever it is you want to call it, to stand up for myself and leave right then and there. Eventually I did, only to repeat the cycle with the next one. Who I married.
My first husband? Disaster. He and I were no more meant to be together then Jlo and Ben Affleck. I sat in my bedroom and bawled my eyes out the morning I knew he was to propose. Why? Well, because I knew it was coming, the proposal, but, again, I’d lost my authentic voice to be true to myself and say, “Um, no thanks.” It was buried deep under years of pleasing those around me, trying to be someone other than my genuine self.
For me, I managed to recover my voice when I hit my late 20s (this was done through loads of what I call soul-work and self-reflection). I guess you could say I was one of the lucky ones, as my “30-Year-Power-Outage” was cut in about half.
I remember waking up and saying, “Enough!” Once I recovered my confidence the first thing I did was use it to get a divorce (no kids, thank God), move to NYC from Seattle and follow my dream of working in fashion.
I also started my first business. And, last but not least, met and married my one true love, who still makes me belly-laugh after 14 years of waking up together.
My life exploded when I recovered my true voice.
Back to Julia. So, when my daughter sat down at dinner and told me about her friend, the first thing I did was ask her how that made her feel. Knowing about the “30-Year-Power-Outage” and how Julia could slip into it at any given time — starting now, in Middle School — I wanted her to exercise that beautiful voice of hers, to express her true feelings and to know she was validated in those feelings. She didn’t disappoint.
She told me she was upset. Confused. Hurt. All of it. My job, as her Mom, was to listen to it all. And hold her. And tell her everything she was feeling was totally reasonable. That she was allowed to feel it all.
Here’s the thing: Losing your voice is a direct result of losing self-confidence. You are robbed of your empowerment, you feel unworthy and begin to shut down your authentic self. Feeling unworthy leads to all sorts of self-destructive behaviour, for example:
But how does this start to happen? What causes girls to lose confidence? For that answer, let’s look to the Procter & Gamble study — the one which resulted in the Always #LikeAGirl campaign. You know the one? It’s been viewed on YouTube 70 million times!
In that study, 89% of females agreed that WORDS can be harmful, especially to girls.
It is my belief harmful words (“I already have a partner. Go ask someone else.”) are the driving force behind our girls’ drop in self-esteem — especially in Middle School. Is there any time more impactful than having someone say something hurtful to you than when you are in Middle School, on the brink of, or are going through puberty?
And it’s not just other people saying harmful things. It’s also you, saying them to yourself.
“I am fat.”
“I am ugly.”
“I am stupid.”
We’ve all said them. It’s you, telling yourself, “I am not good enough.” It’s you, telling yourself you need to change who you are to be accepted. To be liked. To be invited to the party.
So what can we do as Moms?
Well, if I could give my daughter heaps of self-confidence and empowerment I would. But, as Dr. Deak says, we simply cannot GIVE our daughters any of it. They have to EARN it themselves.
All is not lost, though. Because, what I can do is provide her with a safe and encouraging home where she knows her voice IS heard. And loved. That, I can do in spades. By providing her a secure home environment, Julia feels safe to express her authentic self. And Moms, that is so incredibly important. By being able to use her beautiful voice, Julia is learning what she has to say matters. She has self-worth. We do care. We do hear her.
We can also teach our kids that words matter. What Julia says about herself and others not only matter, but also actually create the world in which she lives. Oprah said it best when she said, “What you say becomes your reality. You speak life into being.”
There’s energy in words. By speaking what it is you want in YOUR life, you are drawing exactly that to you.
There’s more. As her Mom, I am Julia’s most influential role model.
By living my authentic life, by speaking my truth, I am showing my daughter every day how my words are creating the life I want.
The day after Julia told me about the gym class incident we were at the mall buying shoes for her Halloween costume and we ran into a classmate. Afterward, Julia turned to me and said, “Mom, that girl said I was ‘freakishly’ tall.”
I was getting ready to give her the “You-Can’t-Control-What-Other-People-Say-About-You” speech when she stopped me short, grabbed my arm, smiled, and said, “Mom. It’s okay. I don’t care what she said. I like being tall. I just wanted to tell you.”
And, you know what? I believe her. My little girl is becoming her true self. Her beautifully tall, authentic self. And I have a front row seat to watch it all unfold. Lucky me.
“Mean girls come from mean moms.” That is the comment I heard the most after my post about mean girls went viral. And I mostly agree with that assessment, although I also believe that sometimes kind-hearted, well-meaning parents — parents that have a hard time saying no or turn a blind eye to certain behaviors — can also create mean kids.
But because we can’t really change anyone else’s behavior despite how much we try, we have to keep working on our own. That’s why when I read this post on how to avoid being the mean mom by Dr. Angelica Shiels, a mom and psychologist providing therapeutic services for children, adolescents, and adults, I asked her if I could share it on Playdates on Fridays. She’s funny, smart, and actually has a degree to back up her advice. Check her out on Facebook or at www.ontheyellowcouch.com.
Are you the Mean Mom?
So I bet you think this article is going to be about those times when your kids openly let you know when you’re not being nice. You know the times: Like last week when you told them they were not allowed to take the can of tuna-fish into the bath, and one of them stomped off, proclaiming “You are SUCH a MEAN MOM!” while dragging his wet towel behind him. (Oh. Right. That was me. But I digress.)
Sorry, but if you thought you were going to get silly article about all of the ridiculous reactions kids have to perfectly appropriate limits, you’re not in luck. Despite our kids’ announcements to the contrary, prohibiting flip-flops in the snow and denying them marshmallow pie for dinner does not a “mean mom” make.
But, as I’ve recently observed, we moms can definitely be “mean” in every sense of the word. Really mean.
I have witnessed the following phenomenon no less than five times in the past two months: Two (or more) grown women with small children, usually with drink-in-hand, totally trash another grown woman with small children behind her back. Any number of indiscretions are fair-game fodder for the “mean moms.” Maybe it’s because the other mom doesn’t handle her kids in the mean-mom-approved way, maybe it’s the way she talks, or maybe it’s because the targeted mom was impolite or forgetful or gained weight or clumsy or poor or rich. But the rules of the mean-mom game are always the same: 1) the talk is always negative 2) it’s always unconstructive 3) it’s always behind-her-back.
Of course, I have found myself pulled into these momversations, and even jumping on the bandwagon at times. Hey, I’m only human and sometimes it just feels so damn good to be “accepted” by the mean-girls and so damn scary to do the right thing. But if I don’t do the right thing, afterward I always feel a little…uhhh……
And after-the-fact, whether I am brave, complicit, or a fellow mean-mom, I always find myself overthinking. What should I have done? What could I have said? (And the ever-important question: what in the world are they saying about me behind my back if they are saying that about her?)
So let’s assume we all already buy into the” golden rule,” we all are totally on-board with “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say it at all,” and we all already truly believe “we lead our kids by example.” Let’s assume that we all want to do “the right thing.” How exactly does one accomplish such a feat when dealing with such an ornery animal as a “mean mom”? I mean, certainly we must be prepared to experience a certain amount of disapproval for not joining-in, but the real trick is to strike a balance between being in on the meanness ourselves and being completely annihilated by the mean-girls for taking a stance….
So here are 5 ways to avoid being a “mean mom” when you find yourself in a mean momversation:
1) Offer something positive: This one is both simple and socially graceful. A good way to shut down a gossipy conversation is to mention something positive about the target of the gossip. (“Sure Susan feeds her kids donuts for breakfast, but she is really an awesome mom. Did you know that she is the room mom in Danny’s class and she makes it a point to go on every field trip?”)
2) Offer understanding: Even if it is hard to think of something positive to say about the targeted mom, try to offer some understanding. (“I can totally see why she gives her kids donuts for breakfast. Sometimes it is just not worth the battle in the morning.”)
3) Steer the conversation into something constructive: Step one: Become serious and erase any trace of sarcasm from your voice. Step two: Ask the “mean moms” whether they truly have a real concern and whether there is anything they think can be done about it. If there is no constructive reason for discussing the topic, it will quickly become evident, and the trash-talkers might even feel a little awkward continuing the conversation. (“So are you guys really concerned about the kids’ health because of the donuts? Do you think someone needs to talk to Susan about it?)
4) Use humor to get your point across: This tactic is my personal favorite, but the hardest to pull off. Step one: Smile and look like your charming self. Step two: Say something over-the-top or clever to get the heat off the current “victim.” (“You’re busting Susan for feeding her kids donuts every morning for breakfast? I’m just cringing because last week I came downstairs at six in the morning and caught my son hiding under the table, shoving his little cheeks full of skittles….” By the way, personal blunders described with confidence and humor are rarely picked up as mean-mom fodder. Confidence disarms mean moms of their superiority.)
5) Be honest, and then change the subject: Although this tactic is not always the most socially-graceful, this one always works to shut down the gossip. (“All this talking about Susan is making me feel a little mean. Oh! I forgot to ask you guys if you signed Johnny and Chris up for basketball again!”)
Next time I get the opportunity, I am definitely going to try one of these tactics out instead of being passive or joining in. Why? Because I don’t want to be a “mean mom”…. And, incidentally, my kids are looking to me for an example, and I don’t want them to be “mean kids.”
As always, just something to think about.
This overthinking mommy
Bullying. Mean girls. Aggressive behavior.
It’s the terms du jour right now, and everyone has an opinion on it. Some parents think it is just part of life, and others believe it is crushing our kids.
I think it just sucks.
Unfortunately, I do think bullying and mean behavior will never go away; but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stop trying.
Recently in response to an article I wrote about BS Excuses Parents Give for Mean Girls, someone commented that the incident between a seventh grade girl and a group that ostracized her could have been diffused if one brave student had stepped in to intervene on her behalf. One brave student acknowledging the behavior or getting up to sit with the girl left alone could have sent a powerful message to the “group.”
This got me thinking. While I put the onus on being a brave parent, I didn’t continue to connect the dots…one brave parent can create brave kids. Brave kids make good things happen.
A few years back all three of my girls were having sleep overs at our house with good friends. While they were eating their pizza, some of the older kids started discussing how they knew a girl who lied a lot. The conversation started getting really mean-spirited, so just as I was about to intervene, a little voice piped up and said, “That girl is my neighbor. I know her, and she isn’t lying about those things and I think it’s mean for you to say that.”
BAM! That little six-year-old pip squeak shut it down. It was very brave of her and I admired her courage to stand up for her friend despite being the youngest in the group.
Recent efforts to combat bullying have been focused on the role of bystanders. Some research even estimates that fifty percent of all bullying events stop when a bystander decides to intervene. Unfortunately, 88 percent of the time bullying happens in front of other kids, but only one in five kids will intervene.
It’s a tough call as a parent. I worry about my child’s safety, but I also want them to stand up for what’s right, and especially for those that can’t stand up for themselves. But standing up to someone who is seen as either more popular or more powerful is a pretty big ask of a kid.
And it’s not just kids that face this problem. In 1964, Kitty Genovese was brutally murdered despite the fact that dozens of witnesses heard the attack. Psychologists called this the Genovese Syndrome or Bystander Effect. Simply put, as the number of witnesses to a crime increases, the chance that anyone will intervene goes down. Most people assume that someone else will help, and it ends up that no one does.
Famed novelist and juvenile protection advocate Andrew Vachss said this: “Life is a ﬁght, but not everyone’s a ﬁghter. Otherwise, bullies would be an endangered species.”
Someone has got to fight back.
Most kids want to do the right thing, but aren’t sure how to do it. “Parents should not tell their children what to do as a bystander. Instead, they should listen to their children and ask them what they would do in certain situations — sort of wondering out loud, to spark a conversation.”
So how do we encourage our kids not to be bystanders yet remain safe? Here are a few tips:
+ Don’t join in. Yeah, this is easier than it sounds otherwise the term “mob mentality” wouldn’t be used so regularly. Make sure your child knows that laughing at or encouraging mean behavior is as bad as doing it. And simply by watching it happen is subliminally telling the bully that it is okay.
+ Take away the attention. Some kids are bullies merely to get attention or make their friends laugh. Encourage your child to walk away (and bring her friends) from a situation where one kid is picking on another. Merely taking away the audience can often stop an incident. If they say something sarcastic like “There’s nothing to see here” even better.
+ Reporting is not tattling. Encourage your child to report bullying incidents to a trusted adult. If they are worried about being viewed as a tattle-tale or ratting out their friends, encourage them to do it anonymously. Another option is to give teachers, coaches, etc. a heads up that bad things are happening without giving specifics. For example: “You should watch the girls locker room after fifth period, but please don’t mention that I told you.”
Some studies have shown that kids do not believe their teachers or other adults will do anything about the bullying incidents. Encourage your child to continue to report to other adults and build a case documenting the situation because at the end of the day, they could eventually be a witness to a crime and not just poor behavior.
+ Bullying is not private. Some research states that kids do not get involved with bullying incidents between other children because they believe it is none of their business. Stress that if another child is being threatened physically or verbally, it is not private and someone should step in. Also, encourage empathy by talking to your child about how he or she would feel if they were the target of bullying and no one intervened.
+ Stick up for victims, but not directly. Sometimes sticking up for the bullying victim can make the situation worse. For example, a girl defending a boy or a younger kid stopping an incident for an older kid can further increase the teasing a victim receives. Encourage your child to step in but they don’t have to defend the person. A simple, “Hey, the teacher wants to see you” then leading the victim away can change the course of an event.
+ Physical altercations should never be ignored. Kids should assess the situation and determine whether he or she should get an adult or try to distract the bully. Sometimes a loud, “Hey, what are you doing” can be enough to diffuse a situation; however discourage your child from intervening physically.
+ Safety in numbers. Bullies often target those they think are weaker or a kid they feel is a loner. Sometimes the best way to prevent bullying is to be a friend to a potential target. This could be as simple as walking to class together, sitting with them at lunch or hanging out before school.
Not sure how to talk to your son or daughter about bystander behavior? Visit Reachout.org for more information. ReachOut is an information and support service that uses evidence based principles and technology to help teens and young adults who are facing tough times and struggling with mental health issues. All content is written by teens and young adults, for teens and young adults, to meet them where they are, and help them recognize their own strengths in order to overcome their difficulties and/or seek help if necessary. The Inspire USA Foundation oversees ReachOut.
I talked to a friend of mine the other night who told me a heart wrenching story about how a group of 7th grade girls literally got up from a lunch table and moved when her daughter sat down at it. They certainly had a good reason to do it. After all, an 8th grade hottie asked her daughter to the dance and (gasp) she said yes. Unbeknownst to her the boy was verbally taken and off-limits. Yes, I know this sounds like Mean Girls, Part Deux but in fact it wasn’t. It’s just another day in a garden variety middle school in a small New York town.
As much as the girls’ vile behavior upset me, it’s what my friend told me next that really got my blood pressure boiling. When my friend called one of the girls’ moms — someone she has known for more than a decade — the response was this: “Oh, I don’t think it was a big deal. I just don’t think they are as close anymore. I’m sure it was just a misunderstanding.”
Um, what the what what?
I get it. It is a hard thing to imagine that your sweet little girl can also be Regina George but are we really that naive? Are we so blinded by the love we feel for our kids that we refuse to believe they are capable of unkind behavior towards someone else’s child, someone else’s little girl?
I worry sometimes about my own three girls. Although I know their hearts are kind, I wonder are their minds strong enough to know right from wrong in a moment of weakness, of jealousy, of rage. Or when they see someone they admire acting cruel, will they have the courage to act appropriately? It’s a lot to ask of a young girl and it’s crazy to think they won’t make mistakes.
To be clear, I do not believe that one bad incident does a mean girl make. There is a difference between a child that makes a bad judgment call, and one who out-and-out torments another kid. But, I do believe that the more excuses we make for our children, the more likely they are to do it again. And again. And again.
I read somewhere once that children need to be raised not managed. This is so true. If you hear yourself uttering one of these phrases below, ask yourself, is this how I really want my child to act?
Then take a moment to close your eyes, and imagine it’s your child, your little girl. How would you want another parent to respond? How would you feel if your child was ostracized, and one of the following was the excuses you received:
5. Your daughter doesn’t seem to be interested in being part of the group anymore, so my daughter and the rest of the girls just don’t talk to her as much. Not everyone has to be best friends. Oh, the classic passive aggressive “it’s not me it’s you” defense. That will work well when she grows up and is expected to actually get along with people “outside of her group.”
4. My daughter said it really wasn’t that big of a deal, and really, shouldn’t the girls work it out on their own? What if the police said that to Charlie Manson’s cult? “I know Charlie is a little crazy, but really, can’t you guys just figure out how to get along with him?” Seriously, when did we get so lazy as parents that we can’t take 15 minutes to talk to our kids about the difference between wrong and right? Why will we drive them hours across state lines to sports tournaments but we can’t spend ten minutes to sort out bad behavior. Yes, kids need to learn to work it out, but there are also times when parents need to step in and course correct. All it takes is one parent to be brave enough to actually, well, parent their kid, and it can make a huge difference.
3. It’s not my daughter’s fault that your daughter is so sensitive. Seriously? There are millions of documented incidents of girls out-and-out traumatizing other girls — some of which are supposed to be their best friends! Don’t automatically blame the other girl. Make your daughter take at least a small portion of responsibility. Reflecting on one’s behavior and understanding your role in a situation is a pretty important life skill.
2. It wasn’t really my daughter being mean, it was her friends. The innocent bystander excuse. Lovely. Because as long as you don’t participate, you’re not really doing anything wrong.
1. Girls will be girls. This is the one that really gets my pants on fire. Since the dawn of time we have been saying girls will be girls. As women, are we not tired of this? As parents, haven’t we all had enough? Wouldn’t it be nice to take the negative connotation off of this phrase and turn it into a positive? This phrase should be abolished. Sometimes a girl just is actually mean, but most mean girls are created, not born that way. We should never use this excuse for bad behavior.
My friend’s daughter will be okay. Fortunately she had other friends to fall back on, and she learned a tough lesson early on in life; but that doesn’t mean every girl treated poorly will have that happy ending.
Let’s stop making excuses for our girls. Let’s start raising them up by not accepting excuses for putting others down.
It starts with one brave parent.
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