Am I raising a mean girl?


One of my besties emailed this article to me.  It’s about what makes a mean girl.  As the mother of three girls, I could be concerned about any of them becoming a mean girl.  I read it and agreed with most of what the author wrote…

…and then I didn’t agree so much.

From the article:
“When there are girls and they’re being mean to one another, get involved…Go to the park where they play and jump into that play and lead it for a little while so that all the girls feel safer and they’re having fun so you’re not directing it. You’re just jumping in and leading fun.”

I emailed my bestie my thoughts on mean girls and this article:

Yeah – I don’t know if I’m going to go that far. I like to play on the playground because I like swings, but I don’t see myself directing everyone’s play time.  It just feels like a little much.

Also, the article says labeling mean girls is bad because we are doing the same thing we are trying to avoid. The alternative is trying to figure out why they are a mean girl.  Is this every adult’s responsibility now?  Honestly, I’m going to worry about my kids first and if there is a girl terrorizing them, I’m not going to advise them to, “Go be her friend even though she’s treating you like sh*t.  It’s your job to figure out why she was traumatized and behaves like a mean girl.”

Every kid deserves love, but I’m not going to ask my daughters to go out of their way to help the mean girl.

My bestie said she was the victim of a mean girl in middle school. Fast forward 20 years and she worries about her daughter’s potential to become a mean girl because she’s super social.  She said, “My daughter is so friendly, I fear that she will take her popularity and turn it around mean-girl style.  I want her to stand up to mean girls, not become one or be a victim. I liked how the article talked about teaching empathy and the importance of modeling (i.e. don’t be a gossip!).”

And then it clicked for me.

My bestie is the complete opposite of a gossip.  I have never seen her talk trash about anyone… ever (and we’ve been friends for nearly 20 years).  It’s such an admirable quality.

I have heard my bestie talk about her mom the same way too. Her mom never says anything bad about anyone, even when she has good reason to, and now my bestie doesn’t say anything bad about anyone ever… I think this could be a generational thing.

In my next “mean girl” email to my bestie I said:

Your daughter is a social butterfly (seriously, she makes friends with EVERYONE while my girls hide behind my legs) and I see no reason why she would turn her socializing super power into something bad.

I think part of the reason I’m not concerned about this is because I wasn’t overtly bullied or victimized in middle/high school. Not for lack of trying though!  I remember a girl trying to spread a rumor about me in middle school but I was like, “Are you kidding?” and made nothing of it (the ol’ ignore them and they go away advice).  The rumor went away before it could really take off (that I stuffed my bra – puh-lease).  In middle/high school I felt very sure of myself, it wasn’t until my early 20s that I questioned myself and my self-esteem tanked for a while.  By then, I wasn’t going to fall prey to a mean girl because who has mean girls in their 20s?  Well, I guess people who keep up with their high school groups/cliques?

I think our kids will see how we interact with them.  We do not treat them punitively, so they are not going to get the idea to treat people harshly from us.

I felt like I had a parenting win the other day. I heard my 2-year old crying and when I approached her I saw big sister quietly saying sorry next to her.  I asked what happened and big sister hesitated to talk.  I kept saying, “Tell me what’s going on?”  (For some reason my hubby and I never assume or say, “What did YOU do?” accusingly.  I don’t want to jump to conclusions, and honestly I don’t care. I just want to know what happened so I can figure out how to fix it.)  After a few seconds, big sister said, “I accidentally bit her.”  My best guess is they were rough housing and I think little sister fell off the couch into big sister’s open mouth (stranger things have happened).

Big sister to mama: “I was afraid to tell you.”

Mama: “I’m not mad at you and you do not ever need to worry about me being mad.  I just want to know what happened.”

It was a total Hallmark moment.  I felt really good letting my daughter know she’s not going to be in trouble, she just needs to communicate what happened, and she did.  Score 1 for this mama!

I hope this lays the foundation for when my kids are teenagers and need to call me for a ride from a party because there’s drinking/drugs there and she wants to go home. I won’t be upset, I just want her to reach out to me and feel comfortable about doing so. 

I guess we all have our concerns for our girls, but becoming a mean girl just isn’t one of them. Having a daughter who loves people doesn’t mean she’ll eventually use it to terrorize her peers.  Moreover, I think our girls see us as really good examples of female bonding and friendship.  For sure, my girls will know female friendship is tantamount to lifelong love and support.  We are their role models and having good girlfriends as grown-ups will help them establish good friendships too.

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