Friday, April 23, 2010

So are mean girls a product of nature or nurture?

This evening, Katie sadly recounted a tale to me that plays out everyday in every school around this country and probably the world....two girls excluding a third in a mean way. Katie was the odd man out this time and it was the first time that this has happened to her or I should say it was the first time that she expressed it to me.

What is it about girls and meanness? Do they have to go hand in hand? Of course I was once a young girl and I remember being in the same position. Both on the receiving end and to my own shame, I also remember excluding others in order to fit into a clique of girls. This is her first taste of what she will find to be the unfortunate rite of passage for most, if not all girls. Why must we be this mean? Friends tell me about their children's experiences, some of which are horrifying! These acts run the gamut from the childish one that my daughter just experienced, to the pointing out of physical differences, such as children pulling on the outside of their eyes to make them look like the eyes of my beautiful children, while yelling "chink, chink", all the way up to physical and mental torture of even greater lengths. One of my co-workers children just experienced extreme cyber bullying in the fifth grade. It was actually pulled off at this tender age in a pathological fashion to cover the crime. That is just crazy to me!

Are we pre-programmed as females to perpetrate these acts of hurt upon each other or are they a learned behavior passed down from mom to daughter, sister to sister or from older girl to younger girl? It may even be that girls overhear and see the mean words and acts that occur between and behind the backs of grown women. Adults have become overly loose about allowing children to hear "adult" talk and their children have become witness to their mean and petty behavior.

Why then, does it seem to be more prevalent within the ranks of girls? Boys are not quite as concerned as girls are about the "fitting in" equation is my guess. I think that goes to lack of self esteem that girls feel and that subject is much bigger than this forum, at least for now. It does seem though that girls are being raised to be clones of each other and not themselves...a huge problem.

Since the day that the children each came into our lives, I have made it my personal agenda to not speak of peoples differences to or in front of my children. I know for a fact that I have become more sensitive in this regard since we are raising two children of a different race than we are, thus making us a multi-racial family. I do not discuss weight or physical attributes in any way shape or form and yet, my daughter has asked me if she can remove her glasses before school since she would be "prettier" without them. I remind her how beautiful she is, both inside and out and that is she did not wear her glasses she could not see all of the wonderful people and surroundings in her life. She then put those glasses right back on her face. Why are children expressing these thoughts at the ages of 4 and 5? Am I out of touch or is this just as shocking to you as well?

Thankfully, Katie seemed to accept my remedy for the situation that she experienced. After telling me that her two girlfriends on the playground at school did not want to play with her and kept running away, I told her that if they chose not to play with her that it was their choice, although not a very good one. She should seek out children that DID want to play with her and I reminded her how many children in her class would fit that bill. My "beautiful on the inside and out" daughter smiled at me and said "I try to be nice to everyone and sometimes if I hurt someones feelings it is because I do not mean it and then I say I am sorry." My girl is not perfect just as her mama is not but beneath that sweet exterior is an even sweeter soul.
Courtesy of nature and nurture.


oh and one more thing...wouldn't the world be a lot better place if we all took Katie's advice and carried it out?

I refuse to raise a mean about you?


Donna said...

It always surprised (and delighted) me that boys don't do this. Seems like three boys can happily play together without feeling the overwhelming need to evict one from the group.

I hope I can do the right things to help my girls resist the urge to do this to other girls and not take it too personally when it happens to them. But I'm kinda worried that it's just part of who and what girls are. Sadly, many of them don't outgrow it even after then grow up and have kids of their own!

Our Blog: Double Happiness!

Love Letters To China said...

First off.... that little girl of yours is GORGEOUS!!! I love the photo. My kind of shot!

Second, as I was reading your post I became very sick inside. As you know, my Natalie has experienced what you describe. I never thought in a million years we would have to be discussing these topics with our girls. Why is this world so centered on looks instead of what's inside. Natalie has experienced the same problem at school with one of her best friends. When she tries to play with her and another girl, they just run away from her. It saddens me because I know this makes my girl feel rejected. As always, you have used such gentle, loving words to help Katie deal with such horrendous issues. Your little one has such a sweet soul. Any child that doesn't want to play with her is sorely missing out.


Invisible Hands said...

Sadly, I see big girls who have never grown up and are living vicariously through their 4yo dds. I think alot of it comes from the mothers and what their expectations are. I have heard a mother tell her young daughter what she needed to do in order to be "popular". So crazy.

Shari McConahay said...

Its very sad to think what our girls will go through. I dread to think of Chianna's future if (or when) she runs into mean girls. I remember having arguments with my girl friends all the time and as I got older ended up with a lot more male friends that girl friends because of the cattiness. The best that we can do is raise them the best way we know how and prepare them the best we can for what's to come.


Gail said...

These kinds of situations literally make me sick to my stomach. Katie is just way too young to go through something like this. Your words that you used to help her deal with it couldn't have been more perfect or appropriate, Lori.

And the image of your beautiful girl is truly stunning!

Lori Guth said...

Unfortunately, boys do do this. We've been dealing with verbal bullying for a few years now and it's finally come to a head recently. It's heartbreaking when your child comes home in tears almost everyday because the other children are so nasty. In the past we have tried to teach our son (10) how to get along better or to find other friends but recently it got so bad that we had to have the school officials step in. The teachers tried to help but they didn't see everything. The main issue with our son is that he doesn't do the same sports that the other boys do.. He's not good at soccer, football and baseball. But he is very good at sailing and TaeKwonDo. The other boys don't understand.


Tammie said...

My heart aches for all the little girls who go through this. Erin had a similar situation in preschool. Those same girls who were so mean to her? They learned it from their mothers - the same ones who looked at me & walked away because being an older mother, I couldn't possibly have anything to offer them. Of course, at my "advanced age," I had no problems with it. Thankfully, those girls all go to a different school than Erin.

When it was happening to Erin, I did my best to help her understand that not everyone in the world is nice & that she should look for other friends. Thankfully my girl listened. I believe that this situation helped make Erin more empathetic to other children.

I'm sorry that Katie Starr is having this problem. She truly is a gentle, sweet soul, & anyone would be blessed by her friendship.

M3 said...

Oh this kind of thing makes my heart ache. I think you're right, the best thing we can do is build our girls' self esteem and confidence and teach them how to be nice to others.

Huge hugs!

recoveryagent2 said...

Lori, I was watching a doctor on TV the other talking about teenagers and plastic surgery, how parents (ususally moms) were allowing this on their young daughters...know what the #1 surgery they were getting was, not boobs, noses, or butts but rather Asian Eyes.
Just about blew me off the couch.
I don't like mean kids although they all have a moment or two. You "done good" with our sweet girl and she will a fantastic woman.

Missy said...

You are raising an amazing, beautiful, self-confident young lady! She should be SO proud of herself. I just did a post about some of these issues and my fifth grader is on video speaking about how it makes her feel when children pull at their eyes. Maybe you and Katie can watch these videos together...she may be a bit young, but it is so important for these girls to stand tall and proud.
Keep up the great work with your beautiful girl. SWEET girls WILL prevail in the end!

Mary McG in TN said...

This is the time of year when the children at school are so tired of each other and are waiting for summer break. This IN NO WAY excuses the actions of the 'mean girls'. Teachers dread this time of year! (constantly soothing hurt feelings) This happens with all ages and classes of children. I am sure that the next day she was right back with her friends and all was well. But it still breaks your heart.

I understand her sometimes aversion to wearing her glasses. Please take a look at the pictures that you have posted. I am not being mean - just are you sending a message with your pictures?

Katie will be strong and overcome any all adversities because she has fantastic parents who are guiding her. She will excell in whatever she chooses to do. Keep up the great parenting.

Life with JJ, Starr and Spice said...

I appreciate all of the dialogue that this has brought up.

Mary, I must address your comment about Katie's glasses. If you look at the photos on my blog over time you will see many more with her glasses on than with them off. The ones with them off are times when I have asked her to remove them as I get too much glare when they are on and I cannot see her eyes through them at all. It is an issue when you take pictures of children with glasses. It is just like brushing your hair or putting your make up on. I just want to be able to see her whole face in a photo without a big patch of glare looking back at me.

I try to be thoughtful in most things that I do and this is even an area I have thought long and hard about. I am teaching Katie that he value lies more in her spirit than on her exterior. The glasses just get in the way sometimes, it is as simple as that.

I do appreciate the feedback though.

Tammie said...


I've worn glasses since I was 2 years old & really don't know life any differently. Back when I was Katie Starr's age (& even older in fact) I really disliked my glasses. It took me time but I came to understand that they are part of who am if I want to see life around me. Perhaps one day contacts will be in Katie Starr's future. Or perhaps, like me, they won't.

I can remember my parents & even professional photographers telling me to take off my glasses. The reason? Glare & not being able to see my eyes. This is one of the unfortunates about having to wear glasses. As you know yourself, there are very few pics of me wearing glasses.

Alyson and Ford said...

Little girls do this at times and I don't believe it is always due to a meanness of intent; it is immaturity and selfishness that can be changed, that can be "out grown". You gave some wise words which hopefully the other girls will hear soon too. I know there are "mean" children, but this situation happens with plenty of "good" girls and is situational and temporary. You handled it very well. Thank you.

Alyzabeth's Mommy

Anonymous said...

We were just having this very discussion today. Upon occasion I feel myself to be in the definite minority raising our children to be polite, and then wonder if I've ill-equipped them to deal with 'real life' situations. AH, but then I'm reminded that at the end of the day, we will answer for how we raised our children. Children and families of like mind find each other, and the beauty of life continues on.
Take extra good care,