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?