Saturday, May 29, 2010

She Was A Mean Girl

I think I've shared enough on this blog that it's pretty clear that I am pretty passionate about raising children who are kind, compassionate- not bullies, not mean kids. Yesterday, we had a fantastic learning opportunity for Teagan. She had a bad, bad day at school. There is a new kid at school for the summer. This child also happens to be the son of a friend of mine who also happens to be the new (and popular) cook for the school. Yesterday was this boy's second day at the school. The night before, Teagan and I talked about ways that she can help him feel welcome, ways that she can be a friend. She has shown before that she can be a great helper and friend in this capacity- she's been given the "job" of helping new kids or kids who need a little help before. When I dropped her off in the morning, Lori and I talked with her again about being a helper to make this boy feel welcome, to be his friend, etc. We shared examples of things she could do to be kind and friendly. Teagan seemed very eager to be a helper, to be a friend. Apparently, she wasn't. At her first opportunity to be in a small group with this boy (her, him, one other girl)... she says (within earshot of the director of the school), "Wouldn't it be AWFUL to be new in a school and not have ANY friends?" She said this to the other girl, with her back purposefully turned to the boy. She made other similar comments and her tone was snooty, condescending. Lori called her aside and spoke to her about it- telling her that she wasn't being a friend, she wasn't helping him feel welcome. Lori was met with attitude that made it clear that this was exactly Teagan's intent. And this went on all morning. She needled him, talked down to him, basically bullied him. Then came the big explosion- they were lining up and Teagan's job was to be The Caboose (end of the line). This boy came and got in line behind her and she FLIPPED OUT. She starts screaming at him and pointing her finger in his face. Lori was right there and intervened immediately. First- major props to this boy because he really let it all slide (according to Lori). Personally, my temper would have pointed me towards retaliation. He kept his cool or was oblivious to her barbs. Second- I love our preschool because Lori and the teachers are right on my girl when they need to be. Lori let me know what was going on, partnered with me, handled it. To complicate matters- Teagan also had another big lying incident in the afternoon. Jeff was picking her up early because Grandma was in town for a visit and we wanted her to have some time with Grandma. Teagan used the early pick up and the teachers' varied lunch hours to her advantage when she told her teacher that the other teacher (who was at lunch) had said she could pick something form the Treasure Box. She was believed- and this teacher hadn't yet been filled in by Lori on how Teagan's day had gone (ironically, Lori was on the phone with me at that time, filling me in on Teagan's morning)- and she got to pick a prize from the Box. Jeff is such an awesome dad. When he found out about the Treasure box debacle (Lori told me about it about an hour after it happened), he took her back to school and had her return the Treasure to the Box and she had to apologize to her teachers. Jeff also talked with her about being mean to the new boy. The first good sign- instead of denying that anything happened (her typical MO), she immediately started crying and apologizing. They had a nice talk about being kind- especially when there are opportunities to help someone. But here's the thing... this situation was SO unlike her... but also... SO fitting of her potential... her attitude... sigh... I felt like I really had to do something to really reinforce at home that her behavior, her meanness, wasn't acceptable. After talking to Christy about all of it to get some insight and talk it all through, I decided that there were many opportunities for natural consequences and one potential for a mom & dad enforced consequence. She had to go to bed without her 2 little stuffed animals that she has recently become attached to. As I explained to her, there was someone at school today who wanted to have a friend and instead was treated meanly. Now she's going to be wanting her stuffed animal friends at a time when she really wants a friend- and she won't have them. It was a hard day. Oh- when I first came home, I went to her room where she was getting dressed so we could take Grandma out to dinner, I knelt down in front of her, I looked her in the eye and said, "I know you had a rough, terrible day today and I want you to know that I love you. I am disappointed in your choices today and we will talk about it later, but I want you to know that I love you no matter what and I'm sorry you had a bad day." And I held her. And it was good. There have been tears and hurt feelings and shock and disappointment and attempts at turning things around. I feel like Jeff and Lori and I handled things well and that this was a learning opportunity and that Teagan has learned a lesson. She might not have learned about kindness but she definitely learned that this team is watching out for her and will be on her when she screws up. I also think I demonstrated that, even when in trouble, Mommy and Daddy are a soft place to fall and I hope the message came through that we love her no matter what. Ironically, I was just having a conversation with a mom earlier this week who has a daughter who is about middle school age and has become the victim of mean girls. A "leader of the pack" found a way to exclude this girl and, seemingly, the mom was part of it, too (even though the mom had been very involved in this girl's life for many years). So the subject of mean girls and kindness was already in my heart, on my mind. It scares me to see my daughter displaying behaviors that could turn her into a Mean Girl. I have a feeling the next couple of years are going to be very defining for my little girl. How about you? How do you handle it when your child is the mean kid? How about when your child is the one who is excluded or bullied? Photobucket

16 comments:

Kori said...

I wish I had something helpful to say, Liz. I will say, though, that knowing that you have backup, that everyone is on the same page, is huge-and I really admire your ability to let her know how much you still love her; that will serve her well.

Mellodee said...

Oh brother! All the world seems divided into 3 kinds of kids: the "mean" kids, their "victims", and the kids who somehow manage to stay above the whole thing. It happened to me, it happened to my daughter and is happening to my granddaughter (victims all). What seems so unfortunate about bullies and meanies, is that no one has come up with a way to stop this dynamic from happening at all. Anquished mothers don't know how to help their victimized kids, clueless moms have no idea that their little "darling" is really a closet Attilla the Hun! And the parents of the uninvolved kids just sit back and count their blessings.

It seems to me to be some sort of rite of passage in a way. It happens too often for this behavior to be considered unusual. Sadly, that doesn't mean we shouldn't keep trying to help our kids not to be either mean kids OR victims.

Its a sucky thing to go through! No matter what kind of kid you have.

Frau said...

Wow great time work and unfortunate lesson learned on Teagan part. But she is a good girl, I doubt this will ever happen again. Great Job!

Katina said...

Teachable moments! They way you show your daughter not to be a Mean girl is to do just what you are doing teach, teach and love.

Garret of Jim and Garret said...

Wow, that parenting stuff seems way hard. ;-)

Sarah said...

Liz, you know from my FB and my blogs that my oldest daughter has stuggled with being a victim of mean girls lately. And while I believe (horribly) that my middle daughter has the potential to become a mean girl (did I really just say that??), I don't have experience with having my girl be the mean one.

As a mother of the "victim", I must say, I'm thrilled to see you taking it so seriously! If the parents of all of the mean girls would take so much of this to heart and take action, I truly believe that perhaps it wouldn't be such a big problem. Kuddos!!!!

With your love and guidance, I'm sure Teagan will learn from this and you will all be able to move forward.

Joanie M said...

Oh, I sure hope Teagan learned her lesson. There will come a time when she'll be on the receiving end of a mean person.

I think you handled that beautifully. I like that you, Jeff and the teachers and director are working as a team on this. There's nothing worse than a parent who thinks their child can do no wrong and always puts the blame on someone else (we had neighbors from hell behind us who were like that... they had no idea their kids were manipulative and mean... or that they learned it from their parents!)

I'm curious where the behavior came from! Maybe she got it from another kid at school or the neighborhood? You and Jeff are the polar opposite of mean!

Mary said...

My daughter is frequently the target of the mean girls. They call her "stupid," they make fun of her when her issues cause her to make bad behavioral choices. When I was at the school for a special parent day, the class played "seven up" and I almost cried when no one picked her until the teacher enforced the "you have to pick someone who hasn't been picked yet" rule. It was so painful and reminiscent of the way I was treated in school. I am delighted with the way you handled the situation, Liz. I wish other parents of mean kids would do the same thing. We need to teach our kids compassion, and that's not easy to do. When the parents don't have any either, it can't develop.

Shell said...

The stuffed animal thing was brilliant. A very good way to illustrate your point!

Katherine said...

At the moment, we haven't had to deal with this. But I look at my three year old, who is loud and rough and tumble, and I'm sure it is coming.

My oldest is usually the child who is excluded, because he is so shy and quiet. We're working hard on developing more assertiveness, but it is hard.

noexcuses said...

Great topic to discuss! I work at a middle school where this type of behavior is quite frequent, with both girls and boys. We take bullying very seriously and have an open door policy for kids to come in and fill out a report when they have been a victim. The parties involved are brought in to speak with their counselor (and sometimes the principal) where everyone has an opportunity to speak. Records are kept, should a second offense occur. I get very frustrated when parents are involved (I just want to smack them - what a poor example they are setting for their children)!

I think you are very fortunate to have so many "eyes" helping out. Those eyes will come in handy later on.

You're a great mom, especially since you care so much!

C. Beth said...

Liz, I know it must have been a really hard day for you. I'm sorry! It sounds like you handled it really well. Great job, Mama. :)

I think the kids who are more likely to become "mean kids" are the ones whose parents make excuses for them. "Well, are you sure he didn't say something mean to her?" "Oh, I'm sure it wasn't that bad." "They're kids; they need to work things out between themselves." Etc.... I'm not saying Teagan will never be mean again; that would be silly. But I somehow doubt she'll be a "mean girl" when she has you and Jeff at home to love her, to show her the right way, and to refuse to make excuses when she goes the wrong way!

Beth said...

I think you handled it beautifully! So wonderful that you have a team protecting and molding your precious girl's character!

Jason, as himself said...

Parenting is so darn hard! But it sounds like you are doing an extraordinary job.

Flartus said...

Ugh--you and Jeff really earned your parenting badges this week. That's a tough one..of course, I don't have any advice. But I do admire the way you create natural consequences that (hopefully) make sense to the little one.

Power on, Mama. Hey, I sent my sis-in-law a Mom's day card this month that she loved. It said "Behind every great kid is a mom who's sure she's screwing it all up." So, you know, you're not alone!

Lola said...

I haven't read the other comments about this yet- but just catching up since I didn't get a chance to read this before. I had tears in my eyes from recognition as I read it. My 3.5 yr old is so incredibly sweet- but can also be a total terror and just downright mean. Preschool has both helped and hurt in this development- but like you said, lots of learning opportunities. In my own life, having been both the giver and taker of this type of behavior- I can look back and know how bad it felt and how terrible it was to hand any of it out. I'll do my best to instill the best qualities in my kids by showing them the bad consequences of my own actions. And appropriately punishing their own (Loved what you did with T's stuffed animals- a perfect example for her to understand).