It starts with one brave parent.
One brave parent who stops making excuses. One brave parent who raises her daughters up by not accepting their excuses for putting others down.
I talked to a friend of mine the other night who told me a heart wrenching story about how her 7th-grade daughter was ostracized at school for (*gasp) accepting an invitation to the middle school dance. Unbeknownst to her the boy was “verbally taken” and therefore off-limits. As a result, her daughter was persona non gratis. She could clear a lunch table just by sitting down. She was tagged and treated as an anathema.
If you feel like you’ve heard this story before, maybe it’s because it sounds too much like a remake of “Mean Girls” – except it’s not playing on Broadway; it’s playing out in middle schools across the country. New cast of characters, same brutal behaviors.
However, as much as the girls’ behavior upsets 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.”
It was “just a misunderstanding” that your daughter led a brigade of minions to isolate a girl for the “crime” of becoming friends with a boy? Let’s not be naive. This was no misunderstanding.
It was brave of my friend to call. And I hope her friend changes gears and starts looking for her own medal of bravery as well. It takes real courage to admit that your daughter could be THE Regina George of her middle school.
To be clear, I do not believe that one isolated incident does a mean girl make. There’s a real difference between a child who makes a bad judgment call, and another child who systematically torments someone. However, the more excuses we make for our children – the more we overlook the “isolated” incident – the more likely they feel free to engage in those negative behaviors again. And again. And again.
Moms, let’s be brave. Take a moment to close your eyes, and see a young girl sitting alone at the lunch table. She’s blinking back tears as she bravely eats a sandwich alone. Imagine it’s your child. Cast your eyes across the cafeteria. See another girl. See the pleasure in her eyes as she laughs at the girl who is alone. Notice her triumphant smile as the other students follow her every lead to isolate her former friend. Now imagine THIS girl is your little girl.
Through no fault or virtue of our own, we could have either girl in that scenario. Let’s not be so naive that we fail to see that our own kids can make poor decisions and end up part of the Queen-Bee and Wannabee posse.
And, if a mom is brave enough to call you about her hurt daughter, have the decency to AVOID THESE EXCUSES AT ALL COSTS.
- 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.”
- My daughter said it really wasn’t that big of a deal, and really, shouldn’t the girls work it out on their own? Well, maybe. But that’s not why that mom is calling. She doesn’t want you to work it out. She wants you to know what is happening. And if a friend is brave enough to call and tell you something difficult to hear about your own child, listen. And after you listen, be strong enough to consider that your daughter may be at fault. And, if so, be brave enough to be the parent who does not turn a blind eye to the drama; call your daughters out and guide them back to the choices that reflect your family’s values of kindness and compassion.
- It’s not my daughter’s fault that your daughter is so sensitive. C’mon, now. I know you weren’t going to say this. You weren’t going to blame the victim. You were NOT GOING TO BLAME THE VICTIM.
- It wasn’t really my daughter being mean, it was her friends. Unfortunately, there is no “innocent bystander” excuse anymore. School yourself and your girls in the four kinds of roles people play in crisis: (1) the victim, (2) the perpetrator, (3) the bystander, and (4) the upstander. In times of crisis, the perpetrators and the bystanders are equally responsible for what happens to the victim. The “upstander” is the person who rejects the behavior and forges a better path. Brainstorm with your daughter some other choices she might make.
- Girls will be girls. This phrase should be abolished. \We should never use this excuse for bad behavior. Essentially we are perpetuating the myth that girls are irrational, back-biting creatures. You don’t believe that. You wouldn’t be reading this article this far if you believed that our daughters were stereotypical players in the drama of middle school and beyond.
Back to my friend’s daughter at the lunch table. She came home heartbroken, but she will be okay. Fortunately, she had other friends to support her. Unfortunately, not every girl who is treated poorly by her friends will have that kind of a happy ending.
Let’s put our radar on alert, Moms. Stop making excuses for our girls. Be brave enough to address their choices, and lead them in a new direction. Let’s start raising them up by not accepting excuses for putting others down.
It starts with one brave parent. And it could be you … whether or not you wear pink on Wednesdays.