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When Mean Girls Are Too Close To Home

When Mean Girls Are Too Close To Home

By Kelcey Kintner

As an adult – you don’t know what it’s like to really want to rumble with a 10-year-old until that 10-year-old is mean to your kid.

This year we entered mean girl territory. First one of my daughters dealt with a not-so-nice girl at school who created an exclusive group at recess – a group to which my daughter was denied access.

And then both of my older daughters (currently 8 and 10) dealt with mean girls in our neighborhood. For awhile, they were the popular “it” girls in the hood and then they were frozen out.

They would watch all their former friends play outside, skipping from one house to the next while they were in some kind of unexplainable exile. No one knocked on our door anymore. No more buzzing texts. Just anguish. One afternoon, my daughters were heartbroken as they watched all the other girls swimming next door together.

And as a parent, I did not take it well.

I guess because I remember this all too well. I remember being the one who was “out.” The one who was ignored and never invited. And I also remember, at other times, being the one who felt mighty and strong, deciding who was cool and who was not. The whole thing made me nauseous and now my own children were immersed in it.

When you are dealing with issues like this, many well meaning people will say, “Wait until middle school. It gets even worse!” And I’m sure they are right. But when you feel like you are sinking on the Titantic, it doesn’t make you feel better if someone says, “You think things are bad now – wait, until you hit the icy ocean water. That’s when hypothermia will set in!”

At school, the mean girl issue was much simpler. The teacher shut down the exclusive recess club, the girl’s grandmother intervened and the situation has greatly improved. But our neighborhood is tougher. Some parents don’t want to get involved in their children’s behavior – choosing to let kids work it out themselves.

Children do need to fight their own battles but I also think as a parent, it’s up to me to guide them in these younger years. I don’t think children are miraculously born with compassion and kindness (heck, we adults are still working on these skills!). Kids need to be taught how their actions can positively and negatively affect other people. How a kind word or invite can make all the difference in someone’s day.

Because the neighborhood situation is so in our faces, I kept my daughters busy with activities away from home. I also set up a playdate with a new girl that moved in around the corner. I told my daughters that we would focus on spending time with positive, nice people. They couldn’t control the actions of those mean girls but they could control how they handled it.

I’m sure years from now, my daughters will have long forgiven the girls who swam and laughed that sunny afternoon while they watched sadly from our windows. I probably won’t. Because that’s how motherhood goes.

At one point during all of this, my daughter said to me, “I would never treat anyone this way.”

I realized these painful experiences are teaching my children true compassion. Compassion for what it feels like to be the outcast. I hope they remember this feeling when they are once again the ones on top of the social food chain.

And maybe we don’t have to accept that kids can be just cruel. Maybe we can guide them – just a bit – to their more compassionate selves.

Kelcey Kintner
About the Author

Kelcey Kintner

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog 

Kelcey Kintner, an award winning journalist and freelance writer, is a fashion critic for US Weekly, created the humor blog The Mama Bird Diaries and writes for the Huffington Post. You can follow her @mamabirddiaries or on Facebook. She’s still trying to fit 5 kids on a Vespa. 

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  • Karen

    January 12, 2015 at 11:47 pm

    Thanks for this.

  • Nancy

    January 13, 2015 at 6:54 am

    Needed to read this more than you know! We have been dealing with the mean girls with our 11 year old since the start of the school year. Lots of tears and frustrations (from both myself and my daughter) but you are right….there’s a silver lining in all of this. If this is what it takes to teach my daughter how NOT to treat people then we will bumble our way through it. Good luck to you and your daughters, as well!

  • MR

    January 13, 2015 at 11:16 am

    I dealt with more than my fair share of mean girls growing up. Some were particularly vicious. As an adult now, what I remember most about that time is that my family made it ok. For example, these two girls who had previously been my best friends suddenly turned on me for seemingly no reason. They ignored me, started spreading rumors and name calling, sent me threatening letters, and started prank calling our house. They weren’t very good at prank calling, so it was obvious who it was. I remember being really upset at first, and then my sister said, “Wait a minute, I’ll take this next one.” When she answered the phone, she said, “Hello, Heaven, God speaking. May I help you?” They were very confused and asked if I was there, and she replied, “Oh no, she isn’t scheduled to be here for YEARS and YEARS!” By the time she hung up I was laughing and had an idea for the next call. That’s what I remember most about that – huddling around the phone with my family laughing and trying to come up with something equally funny to prank them back. Of course, then they ordered 15 pizzas to be delivered to my house and my mom was PISSED and they got into big trouble because the poor pizza company lost out on all that money. My mother remembers that whole time differently, of course. She remembers how upset I was and me crying a lot (the prank calling was really the least of what they did), whereas I pretty much only remember my family rescuing me and teaching me how to respond. It was pretty awful to go through back then, but I am a better person for it. I don’t tolerate that kind of behavior. In high school, I was the person willing to stand up to the popular kids who were picking on the poor kids for no other reason than that they could, because I knew what it was like to be picked on, and I knew that it didn’t matter if none of the kids at my school liked me, so I wasn’t afraid of the popular kids. I ran into one of my classmates years later and she thanked me for standing up for her and always being nice to her. It is sad that I was one of the few who were nice to her, but I credit my mean girl experiences with helping me realize how that felt and allowing me to get over the normal teenage tendency to pick on the weak to feel strong. The mean girl behavior still baffles me honestly, especially since I still see it happen in grown women. Some days I worry how I will get my daughters through this, but I remember my experiences and know that my daughters are not necessarily doomed to repeat them. And, no matter what, I will do my best to be there for them like my family was for me.

  • Maggie

    January 13, 2015 at 1:29 pm

    This is going on everywhere, sadly, even in gr.2. One day they are all friends and the next day there is exclusive clubs and whispering and laughing at the “outcast” girl. I hate it, and as a Mom who has dealt with the daily tears and heartbreak, trying to forgive and forget when they decide she is allowed back in the circle is very hard. And I keep hearing from other Moms that I have 10 more years of this to come!

  • Gail

    January 13, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Although it doesn’t really get better as you get older, I think it does get easier to deal with. I mean, I’m 26 and sometimes I see pictures of my friends hanging out without me on social media, and it still hurts. As a 9-year-old, you just feel the hurt, but as an adult, you start to add in some logic about how they didn’t purposefully exclude you, and if they did, you should really stop thinking of them as friends. It’s easier as an adult because the circle of people you know isn’t restricted so much to the people in your neighborhood or school; you can make new friends in all different areas of your life. I don’t have any advice on how to deal with the pain of being cut out as a child; I’d just treat it with ice cream and movie marathons.

  • E

    January 13, 2015 at 11:40 pm

    It sucks, plain and simple. I think the strategy of making friends with the new girl is a good one. I always try to steer my girls towards friends who are kind, and reinforce messages about how to treat people. I’m happy to say that they are totally immune to mean girls bc they see them as people they don’t want to hang out with anyway. Some social dynamics are particularly toxic and I’m so sorry you have to live right on the same block as these mean girls. 🙁

  • Leigh Ann

    January 13, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    This must be so tough to deal with. I too remember those feelings, and I’m not looking forward to the day when my girls inevitable experience them as well.

  • S

    January 21, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    This happens to boys as well. We did the same thing, got busy and made new friends. We talked about good friends and not good friends. I thought it was wrong for my child to be the victim of a dominating child who bullies adults. The exclusion was part of the domination. We disengaged from the is hard as they live right near us.