Girls can be very mean. This is not a new concept.
I bet if you polled every woman on this earth, they can recall at least one time in their life that another female has isolated them, gossiped about them or was just flat out mean to them.
That being said, when it came time to parent my daughter against the female bullies of the world - I went back to my own life experience.
I never stand up to them. I never speak up for myself. I know what they are doing. I hear their unkindness. I watch the manipulation. But I usually remain silent. I have always been of the belief that what goes around comes around and that one day they would learn their lesson. I just never figured it was my job to teach the lesson or be a part of it in anyway.
Although I may completely aware of the gossip or the bullying being committed against me - I just stay silent. I may stop talking to you or avoid you at all costs. But I have always chosen to never confront it. Why bother?
So in the past this is how I have counseled my daughter.
Pretend like you don't care.
Don't let them know they hurt you.
Stay away from them.
Don't be unkind in return.
Just don't worry about it.
I have said all of those things to her. And being the trusting soul she is - she did each of those things over and over.
But it never solved her problem. It never stopped them from ganging up. It never stopped the nastiness. But more than anything -
It never made her feel better and made her feel worse about herself.
Now that she has entered the realm of middle school - this "mean girl" attitude seems to be very prevalent. It also appears that once again she has become a target of bullying.
The good news is she tells me everything. She isn't trying to hide it from me. She knows what they are doing and she is very forthcoming with it. She always has been. So the evil doings of the bullies have never been a secret.
The bad news?
Well - my advice isn't working.
She has tried on more than one occasion to turn the other cheek.
To pretend to not care.
But unfortunately, this seems to only be making matters worse.
This reaction only leads the mean girls to think that she is a doormat. Someone they can bulldoze right over and not have any regard about her feelings.
And as for her feelings?
Well - pretending not to care - is just that. Pretending.
She does care.
No one likes to have people be cruel and bossy to them. No one likes to be treated disrespectfully.
This morning I realized that I have parented her incorrectly.
From the very beginning, I should have reminded her to have self-respect. To protect her dignity. To walk with her head held high and to never think twice about calling someone out on a cruel remark or action. To put the blame where it belongs and let the bully own their behavior.
I have trained her to be tolerant of behavior that is unacceptable.
I have allowed her to carry the negative energy that the bully hurls at her.
I am angry with myself for it.
So this morning I told her the story of when I was bullied as a girl. The things that were done. The things that were said. The injustices that plagued me.
And how I did nothing.
In fact - I did worse than nothing.
I let them win.
I quit and walked away.
I didn't stand up for myself.
I told her that there hasn't been a day in my life since that I didn't regret that choice. How I wish I could go back and do it all again. I'd do it differently. I'd let them know that I wasn't backing down. I'd let them know I wasn't someone to mess with.
That incident has lived within me my whole life. I've carried it with me for decades. And every time I am met with an occasion to deal with a bully - (Because those mean girls just grow up. They are still out there bullying as adults.) I still don't stand up for myself. I still fall victim.
I don't want my daughter to repeat my behavior.
I want her to be confident. I want her to love herself. I want her to know that those girls only have the power she allows them to have.
This morning I gave her permission to take away their power. To shut them down at the first sign of mistreatment. To speak up for herself.
That her voice is important.
Her voice is crucial.
I told her that if she allowed them to bully her - she was giving them permission to bully someone else at another time and place.
I told her not to be silent anymore.
Not to turn and walk away.
I told her to stand toe to toe.
Face to face.
Look them in the eye and say the words needed to defend herself.
Take back any power she has given them in her silence.
They may not stop harassing her.
In fact she may not change one thing about those girls' behavior.
But what she will change is the most important thing...
She will change how she feels about herself.
And ultimately that is all that matters.
“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us most. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?' Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in all of us. And when we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
~ Maryanne Williamson