Recently a blog post by a woman named Lisa Jo Baker blew up my news feed. It was titled, "What I Want My Daughter to Know About Mean Girls."
I loved it! I really did. It was beautiful, heartfelt writing about how to teach her daughters to deal with mean girls. But it got me to thinking...
We all want to protect our daughters from mean girls, but mean girls come from somewhere, right? Who are these mean girls? Where did they come from? Why are they like that? I'm no expert, but thinking back to my life experiences and stories shared with friends, I have come to a few conclusions:
1. Mean girls often, but not always, are the popular kids in school.
2. Mean girls, often, but not always, come from mean mommies.
3. Mean girls are mean because it gives them power over others and attention.
Before you get all, "I was popular in high school and I wasn't mean!" on me, hold your horses. I said, often, not always.
Let's think about this. Think about the mean girls you knew. Were they popular? Most of the ones I know were. I was in an awkward position in high school. I was semi-popular. I grew up in a small community, played three sports, and was in a lot of clubs. People knew who I was. I was a cheerleader. That can often make a big difference in the popularity race. I also was "friends" with all the popular girls. Except that I wasn't. I was friends with one or two of the popular girls, but always associated with them. They were friends with me when it was convenient to them--when they needed something creative and artsy done, when they needed someone who could talk to the other athletes who hated the cheerleaders, or even better, when they needed my parents to do something. They would invite me places, or pose in pictures with me during those times. The rest of the year, they talked about me behind my back to each other and the rest of the school, and always had something to say about my clothes or who I was/was not dating. They knew what to do to get what they wanted while maintaining what they thought was power over me. My secret weapon? I didn't care. I didn't like them and never pretended that I did. If I wanted my parents to do what they were asking, I'd ask my parents. If I didn't, I tell them my parents said no. The athletes they wanted me to talk to when they wanted something didn't like them and wouldn't have done it anyway. I didn't care. I was involved in enough things that I was never one who was tortured and if I had been the one chosen for torture, I would have made a big stink about it. They were too smart to choose me.
What about the mean people who aren't popular or have a lot of friends? There are those people, but I think they are mean because they have been burned by someone else who is popular.
Mean girls come from mean mommies. I know, I just made someone really angry, but think about it. How often do you talk hurtfully about someone else when you are with your friends? How often do you comment on someone's wardrobe, or can you believe she let her kid do so-and-so, or mention how many bottles of wine she had in her cart at the grocery store? How often do you have these conversations in groups of other women? Are your children within hearing distance? Children are very observant. Growing up, I watched people all the time. I still do. Those mean girls, their mommas would sit at our practices or slumber parties and talk trash about everyone who wasn't there, or even the kids whose parents weren't there. It takes a special kind of woman to talk hatefully about a child. Where do you think these mean girls pick up on this stuff? It doesn't come from thin air. Your kids (and my kids) see YOU do it. Then, they take those skills they've acquired from Mommy and her friends and apply it to get what they want. When it works, they try it again, and again until your daughter is the mean girl. They learn this stuff from somewhere, and I'm convinced (maybe I'm wrong) that they learn it from us.
Let me be the first to say that I'm sure I have hurt people and I know I can be mean. We are all sinners by nature. It is easy to fall into gossip--I'm the world's worst. But gossip turns into meanness with our intentions. Are you trying to belittle someone? Do you make comments to make yourself look better than them? Are you trying to hurt someone? Do you want other people to think that you have more money, or run faster, or weigh less, or have a nicer home/car/clothes than someone else? Are you trying to make your children appear better than someone else's child? "I know your son scored a three on FCAT this year...that's so great! My daughter scored a four." What are your intentions? For myself, I am often oblivious that I am hurting someone. I am not the kind of person who intentionally hurts others. I'm just not. I'm sensitive to those things because I often find myself on the receiving end of it. I hurt others unintentionally--foot-in-mouth disease, if you will. But I know a lot people who take pride in knowing they are better than someone else. And from what I gather, a lot of those people were raised that way. Their parents wanted them to have better things than other people so their kids could be the best. We all want our kids to have the things they want and to have nice things. It comes with being a parent, but what is in our hearts when we buy our daughters the $100 American Girl doll? Is it because she wants the doll and it is good quality so it will last for a while? Or are we buying the doll because her other friends don't have one so she'll be the only one with an expensive doll?
Mean girls and mean mommies are mean because it gives them power over others and attention. When a mean girl hurts someone else, they have power over that person's heart. Often, people bow down to the mean girls because they don't want to be hurt again. They have power. They also get attention when they belittle someone. When you tell someone how much better you are at something than they are, you bring attention to yourself. All of a sudden people are noticing your nice car that is better than Jennifer's, or how much faster you are when you run--poor Miranda has to walk. You bring positive attention to yourself and negative attention to someone else. You are lifted above them. It is nice to feel like we are good at something and it is alright to be proud of what you've gotten with your hard work. The thing that is hard for me to sometimes remember is that no one cares how fast I run or how cool my minivan is, but if my child mimics my behavior and hurts someone else, I'm accountable to God and the world for her actions. My pride has hurt someone else.
How can we best teach our daughters about mean girls? Explain to them why mean girls are mean.
How can we prevent our daughters from becoming mean girls? Don't be one.