We’re all familiar with “mean girl” bullying – the subtle put-downs, gossiping and condescending glances that are the hallmarks. Unfortunately I’m not referring to teens, I’m talking about the moms.
I was having a conversation with a friend the other day (let’s call her Ms. C) and she was relating how upset she was over some comments made by another “friend” regarding her tennis ability. Seems this “friend” felt the need to point out that she was surprised Ms. C wasn’t better at her game given how often she plays. She then went on to complain to Ms. C that their instructor was adding more players to their group and she was upset that these less-than-stellar players would be playing with them.
Sound like a bunch of high school cheerleaders? You betcha. And of course I wouldn’t be surprised if this woman’s daughter was saying the exact same thing about her fellow cheerleaders at school. The old saying “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree” couldn’t be more accurate when it comes to mean-girl bullying.
Whether it’s about a girl’s fashion choices, physical appearance, amount of money or status her family has, religious beliefs or sexual orientation, there’s always something the mean girls can find to attack in not-so-subtle ways.
I’ve learned this first-hand over the past year or so. After a nasty divorce from an emotionally and verbally abusive man who has made it his mission to spread inaccuracies in a seemingly rational manner, I’ve learned that people love juicy gossip and will draw conclusions without questioning facts. This has led to some women in my very small town to make some pretty nasty comments to my face and behind my back. My 9 year-old has witnessed this and it upsets her greatly. Personally, I’ve developed a thick skin (usually) but I worry how the children of these women will treat my daughter now that school has begun.
How can we expect teenage girls to have tolerance for people’s differences when their parents, for whatever reason, are the role models for this behavior? Whether it’s out of envy, boredom, jealousy, bigotry or just plain stupidity, these girls are learning that the best way to make themselves feel better is to diminish everyone around them.
So how do we teach our girls to stand-up against this behavior? Once again, I guess the answer starts at home. We need to choose to eliminate “toxic” people from our circle of friends. If someone isn’t going to support us and make us feel good about ourselves then they have no purpose in our lives. If we hear gossip from a friend, we need to question the motive and understand that we never know the entire story (what goes on behind closed doors and all that.) And, when someone is being insulted or put down, it’s our job to question the “mean-girl”and not be a silent witness.
If mean-girl behavior can be learned so can strength of character.