My daughter has experienced her fair share of mean girls in her short 7-and-a-half years of life. (When you’re seven, the half is of the utmost importance.)
On the most horrifying and memorable occasion, my daughter had a little girl at school exclude her from playing with her group of friends. The little girl then went on to scream hateful things and yell mean names two inches from my daughter’s face.
I know my child is not the only person to ever feel personally victimized by the Regina George’s of the kid world. It’s really nothing new. There were mean kids when I was growing up too. But something happened after the incident that really got me thinking.
A couple of months after my daughter was picked on, I saw the mother and her child on a field trip at my daughter’s school. The mom and I made small talk and were chatting. (At that point, my daughter no longer played with the little girl. We both had moved on from what had happened. I am a full believer in second chances, and I believe that ALL children make mistakes but that does not define them or their parents as people.)
However, something the mother confessed stopped me in my tracks.
The mom told me with a huge smirky grin on her face that she had to go into school AGAIN on Monday morning because her daughter was a part of a “mean girl clique”. She gleamed as she told me the teachers were at their wits end trying to break the clique apart.
What irked me the most was that the mom was laughing and bragging about the whole thing. She appeared to be proud that her child was in the cool clique of bullying little girls.
I could hardly believe what I was hearing. And then I realized that the culture of unkindness, all too often, starts at home. Children are learning to be socially aware, and they look to the adults in their life to learn these social cues. So how can a child be expected to exhibit kindness when it is not reinforced or expected by the parents?
Fellow mamas, we HAVE to stop being okay with unkindness in our children. We need to not laugh off mean girl cliques, even if they’re just happening among little kids. We must encourage the next generation to be the much needed voice of the underdog. We can’t sit back ignoring the bullying issue out of fear that our own children will be the subject of exclusion or we make the detrimental mistake of failing to teach our kids the importance of standing up for others.
As disappointed as I was about the incident that happened to my daughter, I can now reflect on it with a fresh mind. I am now focused on encouraging my children to practice inclusion. I will do my very best to teach my kids to invest in friendships with the lonely children who have no friends. I will instill in them how valuable it is to cultivate friendships with people who are different from them. My children will grow up not fearing diversity, but knowing that diversity adds beauty and sparkle to life.
Can I guarantee that my kids wont ever say or do anything mean? No. Of course not. My kids aren’t perfect, and I’m not naïve enough to say or think that my kids won’t ever do something. (Mom karma anyone?)
But what I can guarantee is this: if I ever discovered that my children were acting hateful or being mean to those around them I would absolutely, without a shadow of a doubt, do everything in my power to nip it in the bud.
Ultimately, kindness starts at home. Children are keen observers. They notice our actions, they hear our words. Children soak up and absorb our behaviors. Because of this, we need to do our best to take notice of situations where we can extend kindness to those around us. So let’s put an end to the mean kid cliques. Let’s all make a pact to band together and empower the next generation to shower the world with kindness.