To Moms of Mean Girls

 Posted by on May 30, 2013  Add comments  Tagged with:
May 302013

Syndicated on

Every time I walk into my kids’ school, and smell that school smell that cannot really be described (it’s sort of a combination of athletic shoes, day-old pizza, floor polish, and puberty), I’m immediately transported back to 1983, when I was a gangly kid with enormous brown eyes, stringy hair, and feet and teeth that I hadn’t quite grown into yet. I always say that the worst thing about having a child in public school is reliving your childhood traumas – only now, they’re a million times worse because they’re happening to your kid. Your baby.

Today is my oldest daughter’s last day of 5th grade, and she’s come through elementary school reasonably unscathed, though she’s certainly had her share of ups and downs. She’s a beautiful and graceful ballet dancer, but she seems to have inherited my unfortunate lack of ability, and general disinterest in sports, so she was frequently mocked by overly competitive, testosterone-charged boys in P.E. whenever she messed up. This is almost expected because sports are EVERYTHING! (Please read this with the heavy dose of sarcasm intended).

I lived through this too, and while I’m not happy that my child has to suffer the same fate because of her athletically challenged genes, I’m bothered far more by the cruelty she’s endured at the hands of other girls. You know, the girls who pushed her into her locker, and threw her stuff on the floor when she was in the lunch line. The girls who lead her to believe they were going to invite her to party, so she waited and waited for an invitation that never came. (The next day, they made sure to talk about how, like, totally amazing the party was, right in front of her, just to rub it in). There was the girl who wrote on my daughter’s arms and clothing with permanent marker, and ate off her tray in the lunchroom, and let’s not forget the girl who shoved her out of her seat on the bus. Of course, there is also the group of girls who judged and nitpicked and criticized, and basically made her feel like a loser.

Every time my daughter came home upset because another girl was mean to her at school, I would ask my mom friends, “WHY? Why do they do this to her?” The most common response was, “That’s just how girls are. They’re mean.”

Most of us have dealt with girls like this at some point in our lives, and what’s really sad is that we have to deal with adults like this, too. Those mean girls grow up to be women, who then have daughters of their own, and the cycle continues. I once read an article that posited that the so-called “Mommy wars” don’t really exist – they’re simply a creation of the media. I would have to disagree, because I see battles being fought every day. Women who have children criticize those who don’t for being “selfish.” Women who breastfeed/cloth diaper/babywear/co-sleep/you-name-it judge those who can’t, or don’t want to do any of those things, and vice versa. Of course, we all know about the ongoing battle over working versus staying home.

Another perfect example is how, whenever I write about this topic, certain readers who homeschool rebuke me for letting my daughter go to public school. I once received an email letting me know that public school is “evil,” and I’m doing my child a terrible disservice in letting her be brainwashed by the government.

See? Grown women are mean to each other, too. We just have different methods to our meanness.

When my child is picked on in school, my first instinct, as her mother, is to march down there and rattle some cages, because I too suffered at the hands of the “popular” girls in school, and watching my child endure the same treatment makes me absolutely livid. The big difference between me then, and me now, is that I’m no longer afraid to speak my mind because I’m not in the throes of crippling adolescent self-consciousness. Even so, it simply would not be appropriate for me to confront the mean girls because they are children, and I’m an adult. Instead, I’d like to say a few things to their mothers:

Your daughters are watching you. They look to you as an example of how to be a woman, so when you stand around in packs in order to whisper, and gossip, and cut other women down, don’t think they don’t notice. Remember, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Children have to be raised. They can’t simply be allowed to grow up. You owe it to your child, and the rest of the world, to teach her right from wrong. It’s right to be kind and compassionate, responsible and conscientious, thankful and generous and loyal. It’s wrong to be hateful and dishonest and duplicitous. These traits will not win your daughter any true friends….only followers. And they will only follow her out of fear.

It’s difficult for all of us to hear criticism of our children, and I’m sure it’s not easy to learn that your child is a bully. Believe me, I get it. Your first instinct is to defend your kid because she’s your baby and you love her. But you must understand that the kid she picks on is someone’s baby too, and that child probably goes home every day and sobs because she feels worthless and inferior, and every day at school is a nightmare. Imagine how you would feel in her shoes. Or in her mother’s shoes. If you find out that your daughter is a mean girl, PLEASE don’t make excuses for her behavior, because guess what? She’s not perfect, and neither are you. Kids make mistakes, and sometimes they need consequences in order to learn from them. That’s where you come in.

As a woman, and as a mother, you would probably agree that the support and validation of other women is important to you. Naturally, we all want to feel like we belong, that we’re OK, and that we’re not alone. Our daughters, who are small and fragile, need this even more. If your daughter is a mean girl, in spite of how she appears, or what she says or does, she probably needs this most of all. So, tell her that you love her. Tell her that she’s beautiful, special, and important, and please, for her own good, tell her that her behavior is wrong, and she needs to make it right.

Children do as you do – not as you say. Even if you tell your daughter to be kind, you must lead by example. You must be a person who goes out of her way to include that other mom who is hanging back, shy and uncertain, on the sidelines. Instead of joining in the gossip, be a person who looks for the good in others. Be a loyal friend, defend the underdog, give to the less fortunate, support those in crisis, be slow to judge and quick to empathize, keep your word, and tell the truth. Show your daughter that this is what a real woman does.

In spite of the title, this post isn’t really just for moms of mean girls. It’s for all of us, because we ALL fail at these things – myself included. We’re human, and we want to fit in, and it’s much easier to follow the crowd than to stand out. I’m just as guilty as anyone else of being judgmental and critical and sometimes mean – if not necessarily out loud, then certainly in my head – and it occurred to me today that my daughter probably overhears me griping to my husband about another mom, or sees me roll my eyes behind someone’s back, and she thinks that kind of behavior is O.K.

It’s not.

I don’t ever want to be the mother of a mean girl. I don’t think anyone does, so let’s not accept that this is “just how girls are.” Let’s help them make a change.

It starts with us.


  32 Responses to “To Moms of Mean Girls”

  1. Heather,

    This was a very courageous post to write. THANK YOU for writing it. We all need a reminder that we’re not in anyone else’s shoes but our own. Judging other is is hurtful to them and us. Name calling and belittling others is wrong.

    I don’t want to be mean and I don’t want to raise a mean girl, either.

    Thanks for the reminder it’s starts with us.

  2. Thank you for this beautiful post, Heather. You have given all of us so much to think about. I am in tears thinking of my own daughter, who will start public kindergarten in the fall. I hope that I have given her a good foundation, so that she will be a kind, compassionate friend to others. And I hope that the moms of her future classmates have taught their children to do the same. I am so sorry that Bee had these terrible experiences with “mean girls”. I am certain that you are doing your best to help her handle these situations with grace, but it is still hard (and so unfair!) no matter what age you are. I pray that she has a better year next year. ((Hugs))

  3. This stuff just makes my blood boil. I have worked as an elementary school counselor for 26 years. I think most moms don’t know that their child is a bully, nor do I think teachers always know. Here’s the deal: Kids know they are being mean, so they are sneaky and fly “under the radar”. Often they are the students who are admired by teachers, because they “do what they are supposed to do” when adults are watching, and they may even be considered leaders. Victims are afraid of retaliation, as are witnesses to the bullying. I always try to make EVERYONE responsible – the bully, the victim, and the witness. Giving bullies the opportunity to make amends is powerful. I tell them that if I found out from another party that they bullied, they will be in “double trouble”. If a victim or a witness doesn’t come forth, they are responsible for allowing the behavior to continue. Giving kids strategies for dealing with bullies is important, too. Believe me, I know how powerful the fear of retaliation can be, and I don’t mean to make this sound easy, because it’s not. It’s all about creating an atmosphere in which everyone works together to make everyone feel valued and welcome. I recently saw a picture of a girl wearing clothing that was popular among kids in the early 80’s, items that are certainly NOT considered cool now. Her mom made her wear that stuff because she had teased other girls about their clothes. Now THAT is a cool mom.

    • I read that story too. And you’re right, kids do fear retaliation. I know Bee does, but she does usually tell me when stuff happens at school, and I tell her teachers, and disciplinary action is taken, though it’s not always severe enough, in my opinion. The bullying seems to be cyclical, too. The bullies back off for awhile, and then when it seems like everyone has forgotten their past behavior, they start back up again. It’s very frustrating.

    • Making everyone responsible is irresponsible IMO. You shouldn’t punish the person who is being bullied.

    • I can’t agree with making the victim responsible. I’ve been a victim both in elementary school and again with someone taking advantage of me sexually and I can tell you right now if people had blamed me for ‘letting it continue’ I literally would have killed myself. I was in such a volatile state to begin with I used to pretend I was ill or physically hurt myself just so I could stay home from school. Imagine if a counselor like you had dealt with me! I was so close to killing myself more than one time I’m sure that would have put me over the edge. Think carefully before you blame a victim who probably already hates life.

      • I don’t think my comments give the complete picture about how I deal with children, and I understand Karen’s and Annalyn’s responses. Annalyn, I am so sorry for your experiences! I did say “It’s all about creating an atmosphere in which everyone works together to make everyone feel valued and welcome”. I also used the term “double trouble”, but I can’t think of a time I had the need to use “punishment”. This is not a black and white issue whereby I barrel in and hurl accusations and levy punishments. Students know I love them and care about them, and I work at creating that relationship whereby they all buy into working on the problem as a team. I have earned a respectable reputation for being perceptive and for developing relationships with children and adults of all ages. (I know that this response sounds defensive, but I felt the need to clarify because my comment did not really communicate my approach very well.)

    • MimiLou,
      I saw that news story as well, linked to a parenting website a link to read from time to time. There were several hundred comments, and I had to stop myself from reading all of them. It was truly horrifying to see how many women declared this mom unfit because of her punishment choice. One went so far as to accuse the mom of “destroying her daughter’s soul”. It is to women like these that I think Heather wanted to send her message. Unfortunately, I’m afraid that the women I know who are “mean girls” would never read a blog about being content in your present circumstances. They’re too busy looking down their noses.

  4. Heather–
    I love your blog for many reasons, your honesty being a main one. My daughters are still toddlers, and this was such a good reminder to me to treat people the way I want my kids to treat others. You are a wonderful mother.

  5. AMEN! I have two boys, and we experience some of the same bullying and mean behavior from other boys. It is so very painful as a parent to watch your child go through it, knowing that there is truly a limited amount you can do to stop it. Schools say they are “anti-bullying zones”, but enforcing it is another story. Thank you for writing about such a painful topic.

  6. I am sorry that your daughter is the victim of a bully. I know, I was bullied a lot. I went to a very small public school and I sucked my thumb. Even the teachers were mean to me because I sucked my thumb. They made me sit in the back of the room, behind the teacher’s desk, so no one would have to look at me. I still remember Mrs. Simon, my 5th grade teacher telling me how ugly my mouth was going to be because I was going to have buck teeth…She made me sit behind her and told me I was too ugly to be seen in public.
    I do not have any advice for you really. You are giving your daughter far more support than I got from my parents. They did nothing as they agreed with the teacher. My heart still breaks when I write this, I am a grandmother now, 61 years old. I remember it like yesterday.
    I know that you and your husband will go to the limit for your daughter. She is in my prayers.
    Thanks for sharing your story. Women need to stop trying to bring other women down, we need to support each other in this world. I wish it would be different, but I do not see that happening in my life time. I wish that people would stop trying to be ‘better’ than each other.

  7. Heather, Thank you for this post. It challenges me and sobers me. You are so right that being a mean girl does not end when you graduate high school (even though life is so much better once you don’t have to encounter the hatefulness every single day). I still want to cry when I remember things that happened to me in high school and that was almost twenty years ago.

    Bee is such a precious girl, made by a loving Creator. I pray she will emerge from high school a strong, self-confident young woman, just like her Mama.

  8. You are so right that this…and it just makes me mad that Bee has to endure this. In my opinion, bright, pretty girls who can communicate easily with guys are an automatic target. Competitiveness for guys’ attention is already at work at this age. As one who went through this, too, I remember thinking that if I could just get through school, the adult world would be kinder. Unfortunately, I realized that adult ladies will also fall back on those passive-aggressive skills that worked for them in the “pack” mentality of adolescence. Thank you for this eloquent post and for the reminder that we all need to be good examples for the impressionable young ladies around us. This is one of your best posts ever, in my opinion. Bee is fortunate to have such a strong and courageous mom.

  9. One of the best pieces you’ve ever written. Loved it!

  10. Let us remember too though, to give grace to the mean girl. She is a child too and still learning her own path. I’m not saying every mean girl is a nice girl deep down, but it’s something to think about. I’m sorry your daughter has been treated poorly. Hugs to her (and to you). xx

    • My daughter is in fourth grade this year, and we’ve had a lot of drama to deal with. Sometimes she was coming home crying and miserable because one girl was mean to her, and sometimes she’d come home crying because another girl was crying because she thought my daughter had been mean to her. None of it was ever as serious as what it seems Bee was going thru, but it did seem as though this was the first year that girls really started figuring out interpersonal relationships with each other and most of them (including my daughter) didn’t handle it well. They’ve learned a lot, and thank goodness that her school was incredibly proactive and responsive – I felt like they cared about all the girls, and went above and beyond to make “bullying” something that wasn’t tolerated. Everything from not allowing “clubs” to be formed, to creating “chit chat lunch groups” with volunteering college students to encourage the formation of friendships. The point I’m trying to make is that there have been times this year when my daughter was the victim and I’m sure there were times when there were times when she was the mean girl. But she’s learned a lot more this year than just multiplication and latin root words, she’s learned about standing up for herself, about not hurting others feelings, about apologizing when you screw up, and forgiving others when they do. She’s made some good friends this year, and as rough as it was – I think it was worth it.

  11. It breaks my heart that kids still have to go through this. I was bullied and teased all the way through school, up until my first day of senior year when I stood up for myself. It took that long to gain confidence in myself. I think kids are getting “meaner” by the year. I have a grown son that went through this and I have a toddler that my husband and I will have to see through this as well. It looks to me that you are great parents of great kids and I pray that this situation gets better!

  12. Your post touched home with me. I was bullied my entire life in school. I, too, was not athletic. I was not popular. I was quite shy and quiet. The bullying was worse when I entered middle and high school. I never could stick up for myself, it seemed. I had a girl in high school tell me she just couldn’t stand my face. I was the one that was nominated for an office my senior year, went out in the hall while they voted by counting hands and then when I came back in, my name had no marks beside it for any votes. They just enjoyed being mean to me for no reason in particular. My daughter was born in 86. She was a beauty and popular from the moment she walked down those halls for the first time in kindergarten. Later a cheerleader and one who never knew what it was to be bullied. I was grateful but I also saw a lack of empathy in her toward others who were not so lucky. In 98 my son was born and with a birth defect. His life was not to be so lucky. From the time that boy entered daycare, he was bullied. He had to wear glasses at 6 months and they pulled at them and broke them and made fun of him. At 3 an older boy in daycare slammed his fingers in the bathroom door on purpose and cut them off. When he went to school for the first time, the bullying intensified because he was different and not like everyone else. As a parent, I rallied for him and had teacher and administrative meetings. Truly, a blind eye seemed to be turned to bullying in our school system, regardless of my complaints. A bully moved in across the street and picked on my son relentlessly. I will say this. My daughter, who had never been bullied in her life, suddenly sat up and took notice of this abuse done to her little brother who never asked for any of it. She became a champion for him and a defender. As a parent, it warmed my heart to see her stick up for her brother. My son is now 15 and going into high school next year. I worry for him. On the way home from the last day of school he looked at me and said, “you know mom, I’ve been thinking about how to handle bullies in high school.” I looked at him, curious of what he was about to say. He said, “I think I am going to just laugh along with them and make jokes when they start up on me. I heard that this is a good way to handle bullies.” It’s sad that before he even goes into HS, he has to start thinking about how to handle the situation before it happens. I keep hoping one of these days that teachers and administrators and other adults will sit up and take notice of bullying and mean kids and actually do something constructive about it. Sorry this was so long. I had so much more to say and add to this but it’d be a novel if I did.

  13. Bravo Heather! Thank you for writing this wonderful post.

    I remember being bullied in comprehensive school because I was from the south of England and had a different accent to the children in the north of England school I attended. My parents and the school were involved, but nothing was solved until the bullies left school at 16 and I continued my advanced schooling for another 2 years. I wouldn’t say that it ruined my school years as I had a couple of close friends who stuck up for me, but it was certainly not the school experience I would have liked to have and was upsetting and hurtful for a self-conscious and extremely shy girl.

    Your children are lucky to have you as their mother!

  14. Well stated…I have two daughters, and one is disabled. I worry about them. I know first hand how bullying feels. Thank you for writing such a wonderful post!

  15. Heather,
    Your post reminded me of a a letter I posted on my blog recently. I thought it was beautiful and forgive me for the length of this comment but I really wanted to share it with you.

    I think we all have an Adam in our past. It’s important that we all teach our children to be accepting and compassionate towards others. Every child should read the letter that Glennon Melton wrote to her son.

    For Adam
    By Glennon Melton

    Dear Chase,

    Hey, baby.

    Tomorrow is a big day. Third Grade – wow.

    Chase – When I was in third grade, there was a little boy in my class named Adam.

    Adam looked a little different and he wore funny clothes and sometimes he even smelled a little bit. Adam didn’t smile. He hung his head low and he never looked at anyone at all. Adam never did his homework. I don’t think his parents reminded him like yours do. The other kids teased Adam a lot. Whenever they did, his head hung lower and lower and lower. I never teased him, but I never told the other kids to stop, either.

    And I never talked to Adam, not once. I never invited him to sit next to me at lunch, or to play with me at recess. Instead, he sat and played by himself. He must have been very lonely.

    I still think about Adam every day. I wonder if Adam remembers me? Probably not. I bet if I’d asked him to play, just once, he’d still remember me.

    I think that God puts people in our lives as gifts to us. The children in your class this year, they are some of God’s gifts to you.
    So please treat each one like a gift from God. Every single one.

    Baby, if you see a child being left out, or hurt, or teased, a part of your heart will hurt a little. Your daddy and I want you to trust that heart-ache. Your whole life, we want you to notice and trust your heart-ache. That heart ache is called compassion, and it is God’s signal to you to do something. It is God saying, Chase! Wake up! One of my babies is hurting! Do something to help! Whenever you feel compassion – be thrilled! It means God is speaking to you, and that is magic. It means He trusts you and needs you.

    Sometimes the magic of compassion will make you step into the middle of a bad situation right away.

    Compassion might lead you to tell a teaser to stop it and then ask the teased kid to play. You might invite a left-out kid to sit next to you at lunch. You might choose a kid for your team first who usually gets chosen last. These things will be hard to do, but you can do hard things.

    Sometimes you will feel compassion but you won’t step in right away. That’s okay, too. You might choose instead to tell your teacher and then tell us. We are on your team – we are on your whole class’s team. Asking for help for someone who is hurting is not tattling, it is doing the right thing. If someone in your class needs help, please tell me, baby. We will make a plan to help together.

    When God speaks to you by making your heart hurt for another, by giving you compassion, just do something. Please do not ignore God whispering to you. I so wish I had not ignored God when He spoke to me about Adam. I remember Him trying, I remember feeling compassion, but I chose fear over compassion. I wish I hadn’t. Adam could have used a friend and I could have, too.

    Chase – We do not care if you are the smartest or fastest or coolest or funniest. There will be lots of contests at school, and we don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if you get straight As. We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for kickball at recess. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or not. We don’t care if you have the best clothes or most Pokemon cards or coolest gadgets. We just don’t care.

    We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.

    We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.

    Kind people are brave people. Brave is not a feeling that you should wait for. It is a decision. It is a decision that compassion is more important than fear, than fitting in, than following the crowd.

    Trust me, baby, it is. It is more important.

    Don’t try to be the best this year, honey.

    Just be grateful and kind and brave. That’s all you ever need to be.

    Take care of those classmates of yours, and your teacher, too. You Belong to Each Other. You are one lucky boy . . . with all of these new gifts to unwrap this year.

    I love you so much that my heart might explode.

    Enjoy and cherish your gifts.

    And thank you for being my favorite gift of all time.




    To read more of Glennon’s words, check out - all are welcomed.

  16. In my experience mean girls grow up and continue their mean girl ways in the workplace. I was subjected to some mean girl tactics by two of my “adult” female coworkers in Feb. I have another coworker who constantly bullies and abuses others and her behavior is known and allowed by supervisors and management.

    It makes for a very frustrating and unpleasant work environment.

    • I also work with many adult mean girls at my work place and management seems to encourage this high school behavior and even reward it. I have been picked on and bullied my entire life even though I have always been very kind to others and I now have to take anti anxiety meds just to get through work each day. It’s horrible.

  17. Amen! My daughter is only two and I’m already dreading the mean girls.

  18. You are a fantastic mother and strong in your convictions. I frequently come to your blog to read about the wonderful foundation that you have established with your children and the values your are instilling. Thank you for being courageous in speaking up for what is right.

  19. Heather,
    When we were children this behavior was allowed and brushed off with the “kids will be kids” excuse. This isn’t the case anymore. There are more and more laws being enacted that require administration to promote kind and positive behavior in school. There are even states, such as mine, that are now requiring it and have a set protocol for dealing with children that repeat negative behavior after being reprimanded. It is true that in the adult world people are not always kind or compassionate, but that is not a lesson that I feel our children should learn by how they are treated by their peers. Schools are meant to provide a basis of education for our children, not teach them that it’s ok to hurt others with little consequence. Your instinct to protect is right and the administration should back you up 100%. From what you’ve written here, your daughter is a remarkable child, so just follow your instincts, because these formitative years is where she might learn to doubt herself and allow fear to creep in.

  20. ROCK ON my altruistic fantabulous sister! Mean girls sadden me!!

  21. I can relate to not being athletic. I was always the one who ran the wrong way with the ball or got hit in the head with a ball during gym class. In Jr high, they would have the boys sit on the side lines while the girls played. The boys would always say horrible things. More than once I was bullied within clear sight and ear shot of the teachers and they did nothing. I think the teachers were afraid of the bullies too. I’m praying that things will get better for Bee…she seems like such a beautiful, smart girl. It’s baffling as to why anyone would want to bully her.

  22. In my humble opinion there is no cure for meanness. I have a boss who is incredibly mean; in fact she’s come under the scrutiny of our HR department (a consulting labor law lawyer is involved) because of her threatening and bullying patterns of behavior to most of her direct reports and even a few people outside her department. Mothers of mean girls beware: you are doing them no favor by allowing them to wallow in meanness. The woman is in her 60s and this is how I described her to the lawyer, “A mean 12 year old girl”. Sad. Very, very sad.

  23. I was a girl that was picked on and bullied in school, and today (I’m 35 and a mother now) I still think back to how my mom was everything for me back then. Everyday that I came home crying and hurt, she listened to me, reassured me, told me all of the wonderful things about me and she asked me what I wanted her to do to help. I remember that that was so important to me…I was in middle school and she made sure not to just act on her own on my behalf, but she asked my opinion and we really talked about what was going on and what the best way to handle it was. I can only now imagine how incredibly difficult that was for her – to not just jump in the car and go knock some heads together. But I was her priority, and she made sure I knew it. I have respected her for that ever since. I hope that I am as intuitive as a mother as she was!

  24. Heather, u rock!!
    Each word you have written is like what has been going on in my mind for around an mm year or so…. how simply you did write it. I wish everyone or say more people thought the way you do…

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



error: Copy and paste is disabled. Please use the print icon to the left to print posts for personal use.