(Part 1 of 2) I remember walking into the cafeteria of my new school and it was like someone punched me in the stomach. I was in sixth grade. My family had just moved from Virginia to Ohio. At first, I attended the local Catholic school. Within the first two months, I was begging my parents to go to the public school because the girls were so mean. And when I look back, wow, they were cruel. My maiden name is Ackerman. They’d call me “Lisa Acneman” as sixth grade brought with it oily skin and some breakouts. When my parents discerned that I would change schools, I felt relieved. I won’t even tell you about the last day at school there when all the girls knew I was leaving.
Off to public school I went. But soon I was to find out that it didn’t matter whether I went to parochial or public school.
Instantly a group of girls took me in. They invited me to sit at their lunch table. Little did I know that they had kicked another girl off the table so I could sit with them. I was so grateful to have friends. I was a bit naïve. Maybe that’s because I grew up in a home where we were all out for each other and my assumption going “out into the world” was that everyone was like that, too.
Then one day, I walked into the cafeteria. I nearly dropped my brown paper lunch bag. I looked at the table where I had been sitting for the last week. My first week at school. I counted the number of girls at the table – eight. Eight was the maximum number of people who could sit at one table. The two girls who were the “leaders” looked at me, whispered to the other girls at the table, and everyone turned around to laugh at me.
My heart sank. I actually went up to the table and feebly asked, “Is there space for me here?” Hoping maybe I was wrong, that it wasn’t as it seemed. I couldn’t feel my feet beneath me. I felt dizzy. I swear my heart was going to jump out of my chest.
I can’t remember what they said, but I must have gotten the picture because I turned and I quickly looked around for a place to sit. It was a small cafeteria and soon someone would notice me. I didn’t want anyone to look at me. My ears were ringing, my hands were clammy, my heart was beating so fast. I felt the eight girls’ snickering whispers like daggers in my back. There was no “physical fight” or blow up so the teachers on lunch duty were none the wiser. I saw a table with no one at it. So I sat down. I wanted to cry. But I didn’t.
This is where I sat for two months. Alone. By myself.
Once, a male teacher came up to me after whispering to another teacher, with a sympathetic, pleading look on his face and asked me something I can’t remember now. But I didn’t see him as a resource.
I know that eventually I sat somewhere with some group. For the next two years that we lived in Ohio, I had some good experiences. I still have a friend from there who is one of my best friends. But the two girls continued to be bullies. Yes, that’s what I can call it now as I understand as a psychotherapist and adult what was really going on. They were the kind of “friend” who would invite you over and you’d feel like “Oh good! We are friends again!” Only to have them talk about you or put you down.
We have all had experiences like this where other girls have been mean to us. Just the other day, another mom friend of mine told me that she waved to two moms talking and they looked at her and laughed. It happens in childhood. It can happen between adult women.
As a psychotherapist, I intimately know that when someone hurts others it’s because they are hurting. I have counseled both the bully and the one being bullied.
I know, too, from counseling parents how, when our children’s lives eclipse our own, we remember (consciously or unconsciously in our body’s cellular memory) our own experiences of hurt, rejection, and betrayal. And those old experiences, though healed, come back up and make us tender.
I had an opportunity this last week to feel such tenderness. I’ll share that story in a moment.
But first, I want to share this – the “triumph”: what came out of my experiences with “mean girls”? This is what happens when we have parents who support us, who help us to rise out of adversity:
I became an includer. I became someone who sees the outsider and looks to include people. I became someone who is good at bringing people in, making them feel a part of things. When I am standing there talking with a group of other parents at my children’s activities, I notice the person who is new or who might feel left out. And I make space for them to come join us.
I became an includer with my own inner world of feelings and experiences. I learned through years and years of mindfulness and compassion practices how to create space to “include everything” and how to abide with whatever is arising. Even the nasty, hard-to-look-at, shameful parts. I practiced forgiveness. Those two bullies? I forgave them (they didn’t ask for my forgiveness). Other people who have hurt me? Other people I have hurt? I’m working on receiving forgiveness and extending forgiveness to others. Nothing excluded from forgiveness. Everything included.
I became an includer in my work. As a Somatic Experiencing Psychotherapist, Leadership Coach, and Integrative Coach, I can hold space for someone to include it all – to hold the parts of them they might have abandoned, ignored, tried to keep quiet, kicked to the curb. I can abide with a client as they learn that excluding anything creates more suffering and including facilitates healing and integration. True freedom.
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I became an includer as a parent. As parents, Brian and I are about modeling compassion and empathy to our children. We try and create “abiding space” for our children to mindfully name and express whatever is happening within them. On the good days, I can say, “I’ll abide with you. I’ll be with you in this.” And of course there are days when I am short and I snap at them. And then we begin again. We come back together and include even THAT in our human and imperfect way of being family.
And our family has become includers. We are about community and creating space for people – in our home, in our lives, in our hearts – for adults and children to feel loved and included just as they are. We talk about politics and cultural issues. We seek to “widen the table” to include others, especially those who are marginalized or who are often excluded in our culture.
Through gentleness, compassion, and mindful attention, these early experiences of rejection, betrayal, and hurt transformed me. Through loving attention, through learning to include it all with mindfulness and compassion, I and lots of Grace transformed these hurtful experiences and others into compassionate, inclusive arms to hold, words to speak, hands to give, and presence to offer.
And…they still make me tender. And that’s good, even holy. Because they open me to see the hurt in others and be tender with them.
It makes me really tender when it’s about my own daughter. It challenges, brings up and, offers an opportunity for deepening my practice of mindfulness and compassion…for opening my heart even wider.
Like this week, when my daughter came home from pre-k and told me about an experience at school with a little girl.
“It starts early,” a friend said to me.
And my heart breaks. My daughter is four. The details aren’t mine to share. But my heart was breaking. I talked with a few other moms. God, am I grateful to be alongside other moms who are includers – in our circle of moms and in the lives of our children. I talked with Brian. And, most importantly, I talked with my daughter. My dear, four year old daughter.
The details are my daughter’s to share someday. When my daughter or son – your daughter or son – is looking back on her childhood, we want them to tell their own story and for it to be one of how we as their parents walked alongside our them – how we empowered them. And they grew to have the emotional resilience to RISE.
I hope all our children will someday share stories like:
~ “My parents would just listen to me. One parent would stroked my hair, as they lingered with me and I shared what was happening and how I felt.”
~ “My parents wouldn’t jump in and try to fix it. They wouldn’t freak out and panic out of their own fears, hurts, and unconscious baggage they were holding. They would sit with me and ask me for my ideas and what I needed. They would wait and listen – listen to what’s said and unsaid, creating safe space for me to navigate the inner landscape of my own feelings and heart so that the right actions for me to take would arise from within me.”
~ “My parents would advocate for and alongside me in situations that required adult intervention. They wouldn’t act out of fear or anger. They would wait and discern and pray and watch.”
~ “My parents weren’t about ‘sweeping me up and saving me.’ They were about empowering me. They knew when to step in front of me and be the “protective parent bear.” And they knew when to sit behind me or alongside me, abiding with me.”
~ “I learned to say, “THAT’S NOT OK!” and “Stop” and “I am walking away now.”
~ “I learned how to see clearly. I learned to not think there was something wrong with ME. I learned to not turn on myself but rather have regard for myself.”
~ “I learned to name with compassion – for myself and others – what is happening. I learned to name it, state it, and own my response.”
~ “I learned ways of working through difficulties with other girls, boys, women, and men in ways that honor and regard another person’s body, feelings, experiences, and needs.”
~ “I learned to find my tribe of true friends. I learned to ask for help. I learned to be with others who uplift and honor each other.”
~ “I learned to speak up. I learned to speak up for myself and for others in the face of injustice – on the playground, in the hallways between classes in middle school, or in international peace negotiations.”
~ “I learned to be an includer. I learned to mindfully abide with whatever I am experiencing within my own inner landscape. And from such a place of inclusion, I learned to include and walk beside others.”
This is what I am modeling to my daughter and son. This is the space I am creating for them. Not perfectly. But, my God, as best as I can. I know other parents who believe the same thing. I am blessed to be around other parents who want this for our community. They want this for our world. They want this for our children and THEIR children.
I know you want to model this to your child, too. YOU are this sacred space for your child. And I know you are doing it the best you can.
Because this is how we heal the ‘mean girls’ culture: we hold, we include, we love, we empower, and we regard our girls. And we model this in how we treat other women.
If you are a parent to a daughter or son, no matter the age, can you imagine your child telling such a story? Can you imagine creating the space for her to share, to abide with her, and to empower her? Can you imagine raising a generation who include?
Can you imagine we ALL model being an includer and resolving conflicts or hurts or insecurities with regard and compassion?
Can you imagine how this would impact our world if we raise children who know how to name what is happening within them and a situation, who know how to speak up in the face of injustice, who believe in their innate goodness, and who INCLUDE rather than exclude because they have an inner confidence and have been raised to listen to the wisdom of their inner voice?
We HAVE to imagine it and create it — for us, for our children, and for our world.
Please share with all of us your wisdom, your questions, your ideas of transforming our culture to raise includers… so that we no longer have schools, playgrounds, or workplaces that exclude but rather are filled with compassionate, confident includers.
Wow… thanks for sharing your story. I had a similar one in the cafeteria growing up, except they saved a seat for me and when I sat down they all got up and left in a mass exodus. That hurt for a long time.
My daughter is too small yet for bullies, but my son (3) has just found his first in an older boy down the street from us. So as I try to deal with that this post has been a great help… because yes I want to empower him, not save him. And I want him to grow up and still be kind to others. 🙂
I am sorry you experienced this. I know it sticks with us for a while…maybe forever — as it transforms us. I would imagine it opens you to see the suffering of others and to respond with tenderness. I hear you about your son. I have written a few posts about boys. I know the desire to want to go in and “save him” — and some times, we do sweep in as Mama Bear. I’m trying, too, to empower my children — to give them the skills they need to be resilient and to learn, over time, how to respond with compassion for themselves and others. I’m glad you visited. Thank you for spreading this message.
I feel the same way when girls do that to me put I do not won’t to hurt them even that they hurt me
a good read last year & even a better read this year!
Thank you for this fabulous article. What moved me to comment is that your last name is my maiden name McCrohan. It is not very often I come across another McCrohan. Wondering where you are from. And I too am a writer!
I read this and cried! I felt for most of my childhood that I was bullied by not just girls but boys too. I was called names and left out of many things because I had a deformity which left my teeth without enamel so I was often the subject of ridicule. I spent much of my childhood alone in my own world. Had few friends. Started to doubt my own self worth. I had no self esteem. To this day, I have problems with that. I’ve managed to overcome a lot of this but it still haunts me! I find myself thinking about stupid things that happened to me many years ago. My family was not much help really. I have tried to correct some of my negative traits myself with some success but not always. It is something I forever will deal with I’m afraid! Children can really be mean. I wish that was not so.
My boss is a bully. I understand that the bully is hurting, but no matter how I try to serve, stand up for myself, remind her what’s right/wrong, she befriends me and then bullies me again. Time after time.
Dana, this is so wrong. I know. I hear you. This happens in the workplace. Please, Dana, come talk to me if you need it. I have Ask Lisa Consults and Compassion Coaching. It’s not good for you to be in this situation that isn’t changing. Here is the link to services: https://www.lisamccrohan.com/services/
This article is still circulating on Facebook. There is such an important message within it. Girl on girl bullying is so pervasive in the workplace it is shocking. I work in a professional organization staffed by men and women with advanced degrees. The treatment of women toward other women meets every definition of bullying I’ve ever read. We have an office mean girl (with a PhD) who does the equivalent of “you can’t sit at the lunch table unless you’re invited” daily. It’s so immature it’s comical to me. All the other staff members who are invited to sit at the table never say anything to include those left out. They’re followers, and afraid of being excluded next time. I’ve reached a comfort level with myself over the years and have learned to ignore it (I’m forever excluded. Literally, I’ve never been invited.) I’m continually surprised at how this behavior is tolerated by everyone else. I think middle school hierarchies are a part of adult life.
one of the proudest moments of my parental life, was when other students of my oldest son, who was attending parochial High School, told me a story that he had not shared with me. He wasn’t a prideful or boastful kind of person. He was gentle, compassionate and empathetic, always. One day while walking through the gym at school, he saw a group of students male and female, a large group of a hundred or more students encircling another young man who was beating his head against the bleachers that had been folded up against the wall. Some were laughing, taunting and jeering at the student. He was not popular or athletic, and was probably considered a nerd. My son didn’t hesitate, he went downstairs to the gym floor, made his way through the circle of students, put his arm around the young man, and walked him out of the group. It’s important to know, just how shy my son was. He was a popular boy, very athletic and liked by boys and girls alike in all types of groups. For the rest of his high school years, they were friends and he ate lunch with all of my son’s friends. He became accepted by others by proxy. It’s when you hear stories like this about your children that you know they’ll be okay in this world, and they’ll be responsible citizens, neighbors, and friends.
Dana….one thing to remember is that even though you say she “befriends” you she really is not your friend. She is your boss. Sounds like you now seem to understand that she is going to continue being that way……I know it hurts but since you know she is going to continue being a bully why not take it with a grain of salt so to speak….after all, it really isn’t about you…..she is the one with the problem. I know it might make it difficult but doesn’t SHE have a boss? Maybe you should start taking notes, recordings maybe and show HER boss. This kind of behavior is not acceptable in the workplace and she really needs to be stopped. Laws indicate you cannot be punished and she is not allowed to take it out on you for talking to her boss or someone that is over her. Sorry you have to go through this ……………..
My name is Dana as well i have a boss that is,half my age..sounds just like this she’s horrible ..she has no personal skills she’s a ring leader…Her boss is uneducated and has no business being in the position she’s in…It’s the mean girl thing. She ignores me; thinks of me as invisible…does not speak..when I have mentioned this to her boss she says .o she’s that way with everyone..just wrong.
Dana, I’m so sorry you are experiencing this. It’s not right. Know that I’m praying for you. You deserve to be seen and to be regarded. Lisa
I skimmed this because I couldn’t bear to read it word for word but it really resonated. I was excluded all through late elementary and what would now be called “Middle School” (grades 4-8 in a private school). It started because I was skipped ahead a grade (by a well meaning school psychologist). Although I was verbally precocious and very big for my age I was socially very immature and socially inept (I was an “adored” only child) and the more I was bullied and excluded the more socially inept I became. Everything I did to make things better (new clothes, new hairstyles, feigned interests) just made things worse. My mother was no help. She was exasperated because I wasn’t interested in my schoolwork and told me that whatever was going on socially wasn’t important and that I should ignore it. The bullying took the form of nobody sitting with me and then someone commenting on it and making faces, and a lot of gaslighting (my bringing in a photograph and someone telling me it was hers, followed by everyone siding with the lying girl). I don’t want to share the heartbreaking story of how this really busted me – for a while. But I will say that I chose a different path from yours as an adult. I made a conscious decision never to have children. I am 69 and can truly say that no adult has ever been cruel to me the way those 4-8th grade girls were. If an adult has been cruel to me, it has always been because they were angry at me and/or we were having a quarrel that I was aware we were having. Gratuitous cruelty for fun, no, I have never experienced that from an adult. When I grew up, I knew I could cope with a lot of things, but reliving grades 4-8 through a daughter was not one of them. I had almost no contact with anyone under 21 between the ages of 21 and 65 and this was by choice (I have almost no blood family through whom I would have contact with this age group). I now tutor some Latino children, which I find rewarding. They don’t “trigger” any memories because they are so different from the kids I was at school with. Finally, in recent years I have felt vindicated because the problem of school bullying is taken seriously. For years I was basically just told “get over it”, so I never did.
Dana, I have worked for numerous bully bosses and I ended up leaving every one of those jobs because I didn’t have the skills to handle it – I couldn’t “raise” her to be better person and boss, and I couldn’t “soothe” or “condition” myself to remain in those circumstances. And of course when I left a job it just cemented in the bully boss’s eyes that I wasn’t worth anything in the first place. I ended up with zero self-confidence even though I knew my work was good and my work ethic was beyond reproach. I know these people are sick and have some cross to bear that I know nothing about but I no longer have the energy to fight their fight for them and to remain a battering board for their nastiness. I will never understand the amount of wasted time and energy these women expend – if they channeled that into their businesses and championed the women who work for them they’d be so much more successful. I now work alone, from my home – I’ve given up ever having a decent income or benefits for the freedom of working away from a toxic environment that constantly belittled me and ate away at my confidence.
SueD – good for you! Life is too short to deal with that kind of poison on a daily basis. I know from experience how much energy it takes out of you every day – people like your boss (and my old boss) thrive on that kind of drama and actually get energized from it, while your energy slowly gets drained away. You will never change someone like that, no matter how much you want to. By walking away, you are saying to yourself “I love you” <3 Keep saying it!
Laurie. This is extraordinary! “By walking away you are saying I love you to yourself!” Yes!
Is no one noticing that Sue D. has actually resigned herself to low income with no benefits and working alone! “I now work alone …I’ve given up ever having a decent income or benefits”. How can this outcome be enough….I’m going to say , Hey Sue, you deserve more! Maybe being an includer for you will mean bringing other people into the work you do, or finding a coach who will help you create the life you want!! You do not have to settle for this…
I so know what you mean. I was at my job just so 14 years and well I’m now I a ding lawsuit against the doctor I worked for. I’ve not been the only one that has had ‘that’ sticks dirty end but so far the only one that has fought back legally. They did offer a very small amount to settle out of court which I have rejected and countered the offer. Waiting to see what will yet happen. I am standing up for myself and for those who couldn’t or didn’t. I hope the end result is that she (the doctor) will treat employees with more respect than I was treated with.
I have been in this position! I worked for a bully who was actually in an ethics position and her position motivated 2 female coworkers to back her… when in reality she lied to me about multiple things, lied to others about me, all while neglecting the work & expecting me to pick up the slack. Even when I complained to her boss & HR, they did little to help me even when her behavior escalated… I eventually filed a lengthy complaint but they told me they had no policy/process to deal with the situation. I eventually gave up & quit. Sadly enough, I was the 2nd person to quit because of her, the 1st person gave up 20+ years of seniority to get away from her.
Why does corporate America support these people? Toxic work environments inhibit efficiency and teamwork. Once management start to penalize these actions it will help all workers to be safe.
Thank you Lisa for this I lived this same life and in about 4th grade my daughter also did up till the end of 6th grade now in 7th is a Very Good Includer.She has always been one but after being EXCLUDED for so long she befriended EVERYONE or trys some times she is still turned on but now she walks away Saying “THERE LOSS”! SHE’S the one who sent me this so Thank You again you Touched a Almost 13yr old!an I still to this day deal with it also at 43yrs old but because of my Beautiful baby girl I look at things different an an deal different!
Ante, that’s lovely that your beautiful almost-13-year-old daughter sent this to you! Yes, because of my beautiful children, I look at this differently, too. You sound like an incredible mom, Ante! Love to you gals, Lisa
Loved your article. Wish I could make every child feel included. Have always taught my children to include others. When they tell me there is a new kid…I always ask them if they included them..asked them to play at recess. Recently I had volunteered at my daughter’s midle school to monitor the cafeteria….teachers has a luncheon that day. My heart broke for the ones that I saw all sitting by themselves. I wanted to go hug them and tell all the other kids to sit with them. But I knew that would only make it worse at that moment. I wish you could just make some kids see the future and show them that it’s never going to matter who’s cooler than the others in the end.
read Mother Daughter Revolution and you will understand WHY girls and women are like this…it’s cultural and it’s up to us to change that culture…although it’s a very big feat….we can do it one school, one community at a time i believe.
Chris. Awesome resource! Thanks so much! You’ve got it – one person. One school, one community at a time. That’s what I’m trying to do, too!
Wow I’m 11 and I get bullied all the time and my best friends talk about me all the time thanks for sharing your story
Emma. That’s not okay that you are being bullied all the time. Do your parents know? Does your school guidance counselor know? Please let me know. I’m so glad you reached out. You don’t have to and shouldn’t live like this. I’d imagine you are a lovely girl with spirit in her. I want school to be an experience for you where you feel encouraged and your light is seen.
Hey Emma my daughter is 11 also and this past year she was baker acted for her remark to a teacher stating she felt like killing herself sometimes. It really made me mad that my daughter was taken away from us her loving family that she never spent more than a night away from us she was at the mental hospital for 3 full days. This all started with three years of bullying. You try by working with the teachers who do their best but baker acting my child doesn’t make it better for the kids being bullied. I am trying to find her a better school but any school has bullies both of my girls are older souls more mature for their age because they have witnessed life more than a lot of kids their age. I have diabetes and they have seen me go through lots of seizures caused by low blood sugars also had one several years ago while I was driving thank god we are all ok. My younger daughter loves music plays a cello and a trumpet. My older daughter is into drawing . So I know about bullying and how it affects you. I was diagnosed with diabetes since I was 6 I am 50 now diabetes in kids was not as common as it is today sad to say kids thought they would get my disease if they got close to me .
Wow I’m 11 elementary school 5th grade about to go in middle school and I get bullied all the time and my best friends talk about me all the time thanks for sharing your story
My kids, a son and a daughter dealt with bullying. We had many long talks about personal power and how we choose to respond instead of react. We also practiced “killing them with kindness” because when you return kindness for meanness it shows the bully to the world.
I have a teenage stepson and we are dealing with hurtful words and judgments being made towards him from his team members, the most unfortunate part is some of the parents just think it’s ok because they are boys and some parents are just as guilty of letting it happen and and playing a role to it behind the scenes fueling the small fire I will say. It can be frustrating and you as a parent feel your being made a joke of for wanting to find resolution to the issue.
Rita. It really drives me nuts that people say “Oh they are just being boys.” I’m sorry that your son and your family is going through this. Please know that I am here to talk.
I found my best friend when in grade 7 the entire school waited outside to learn what class they were in. One girl stood alone in the groups of children. We walked over and asked if she would like to stand with us… 31 years later that girl is one of the few school friends that I am still friends with. I hope with all my heart that my two little girls are both includers and included.
Thank you for sharing, I know your post will touch so many people.
I am a high school teacher, and I assigned a persuasive speech in a communications class. One student spoke to persuade the class to take their part in stopping bullying. He shared a compelling story about another person who was bullied so relentlessly that they took their own life. The whole room was still as he spoke. At the end, a student raised her hand and said, “have you ever been bullied?” He said yes and then what happened next still brings tears to my eyes. The student who asked him the question stood up and said, “I would like to apologize on behalf of whomever did that to you. You are a good person who is very smart and funny, and no one should ever be treated that way.” Then, the rest of the class started chiming in and apologizing to him, too. I learned a big lesson that day. Young people learn more from one another than we can ever advise or inform them as adults. Lisa, you are so right about guiding our children to be inclusive, and staying out of the middle of their challenges. When they feel empowered like that, they make awesome choices all on their own.
Lisa, My God, I am so very grateful you commented and shared this story. Tears are welling up in my eyes. Tears of such amazement at the empathy and courage of your students. Tears of gratitude for you — for you holding such a space, for you recognizing as an educator that there is such a need for this space within our school day. YOU as the adult created this space – for this deep connection and healing to happen. You empowered them (and so did their parents, coaches, and other adults in their lives in order for them to arrive at that moment and be able to connect with each other). YES – when they are empowered and SEEN and regarded…”they make awesome choices all on their own,” as you so beautifully say. I bow to you as such an educator. I am sharing this on Facebook because the world needs to read your words. Blessings, Lisa
Thank you for writing this important message we all need to hear. Boys need to hear your message as much as girls do. I hope parents of boys will read this too.
Amy. Yes, this can apply to boys as well. I’ve written a few posts about boys in the past. As I had a boy first, I encountered issues with boys first. This is my first time dealing with something about my daughter and the dynamics between girls. As a therapist, I’m keenly aware of the differences between girls and boys as well as the similarities – like we all want to be regarded and to belong. I do hope parents of boys read this as well! Thank you for sharing this message, Amy.
Thank you Lisa for this post. I came upon your blog and look forward to reading more of your insights. I work with a summer teen girl leadership program, http://www.girlsleadmn.org and I find that the topic of diversity and sterotyping is one that we have huge discussions around and lots of insight by the girls how sterotyping can lead to bullying. I also work with youth on developing their strengths. By building strengths, confidence and self awareness in themselves they can become leaders. In saying all that, my son came home last night bruised from a classmate that attacked him. I listened to him empathetically. I know the part that my son has played in the past with the boy that attacked him. My son has been unkind to this boy in the past. Today he was apprehensive about going to school and seeing this boy. We talked about strategies and responses to the boy incase he was confronted again. I believe making children aware that you have the power to be assertive with others and confidence in yourself is one way to stop the meanness in their lives.
Kathy, what you do is amazing!!!!! I am so grateful for your presence in the world and what you are doing for teen girls! You are changing lives, big time!!! You are right on – by building one’s strengths and confidence in themselves (along with self-awareness), they become leaders.
I HEAR you about your son. You LISTENED to him. You empowered him by talking to him about the choices he has and the power he has to be assertive. Would you keep me posted on how things go with your son? You can email me. Blessings, Lisa
Kathy, I clicked through and checked out the camp you are involved with. Sounds amazing!
Good luck navigating bullies and parenting, as you can plainly see out here, you are not alone.
Love this! It does start early! I started something with my daughter to help her with this kind of stuff. We have a journal. I write to her and she writes back to me. The only rule: we don’t ever have to speak about what we write if we don’t want to. The bonus? Someday she will look back on years of conversations with her mother. We don’t do it every night, just every so often. It is a great treasure.
Kay, What a lovely idea! I’m so glad you shared this with me and the readers here. A friend who has boys told me about this practice years ago – way before my son could read or write – and I always tucked it away as an idea to do when my son was able to do it. We have since started it as well. I love your rule – you never have to speak about what’s written if you don’t want to. How lovely you are offering this to your daughter. Thank you, Kay!
Yes,the picking and the bullying does start early. My great nephew was in Kindergarden not too long after school first started. and one of the little Rascist Jr.Nazis told him that “Nobody had to play with any brown boys!”He is a beautiful caramel color,because his Grandfather was African-American<His Mother had always said"No whining, no tattling, and deal with it yourself…"I am of the opinion that this should have been a case for adult intervention, as they are only 5, but that would have been a good time to sort out some very nasty prejudices,and maybe to stop them cold at a reasonably early age.
I think that in some way we have all experienced bullying growing up. I certainly have.
I too experienced bullying as an adult as well, I was a single parent raising a daughter when the time came for her to enter kindgergarten and beyond, I decided to place her in our catholic parish school from K-8. I was the topic of gossip and ignored for many years while she attended this sacred place I had felt at peace. At the time I had her baptized and where she received her first communion, our priest took me under his wing and then the news of his terminal cancer diagnosis crushed me.
I persevered and was steadfast during our tenure, I volunteered in the classroom, attended every school and sport function and procured for their auction, it was the 8th grade year that I was finally recognized as a stand up parent and volunteer. I had been questioning my faith as a Catholic, 40+ years as a parishioner at the same place of worship. I now have been and accepted by a dear friend and Jesuit priest. Fast forward to my second daughter, her junior year of (Catholic) high school, I was bullied and be-rated by the vice principle. At the end of that school year I made an appointment with the dean of students and made them very aware that there is a very serious issue of bullying occurring within the confines of their walls, which is supposed to teach and show inclusive, compassion, community and spiritual growth amongst the staff, educators and students. I was fully ready to remove her and move her to another school for her senior year. I shared with the dean, a very close friend who is a leadership trainer, key note speaker and kindness advocate. Ironically, the dean was very aware of what had been occurring throughout the confines of the school; it turned out that he had heard of my friend and had him come to the school to spread the message of kindness, leadership and a movement to end bullying. I introduced him to the students, teachers and faculty with applause; the moral to my story is, I am an “includer” and have been my whole existence, my daughter’s are selfless women and for that I am proud. We have to keep the conversation going and end bullying, your piece on your experience moved me beyond emotion. I will share this with many as “every one has a story” and can change the mindset of those that continue to bully. Many blessings.
PS: If you are interested, my friend Houston’s website is: http://www.houstonkraft.com
He is on youtube as well; http://www.houstonkraft.com/videos/
Houston has spoken to hundreds of youth and with the help of people like you, we will have our voices heard as well as those who have stories and are experiencing bullying.
I’m so grateful that you shared this with me. You have had some really trying experiences. You speak of adult bullying – yes, yes, it happens as adults, too. It sounds like you have transformed these experiences for both you and your daughters — and out of these experiences you have been a presence for others. I am moved, too, by the people who have taken you “under their wing” and supported you. We ALL need this — people who are willing to stand alongside us and advocate for us. I am going to check out Houston’s website. Thank you so much for passing it along. Many blessings to you and your family. May you continue to support and empower people through your presence and compassionate living. Love, Lisa
Thank you for this article, the truths and the hope.
I too lived most of my life on the outside of “them”. I too stood outside of the lunch table with all the girls bunched together so I could not sit down, forced to sit alone at an empty table until they convinced a mentally challenged child to sit with me and kiss and hug me. This happened over and over in different ways throughout childhood, till I checked out completely. Until about 5 years ago, at age 34, I found my tribe… I heard the call faintly in the distance and ran full force into women’s empowerment circles and red tents.fully immersed in shamanic training and self empowerment, I feel at home and “in”wherever I go.
And now my daughter is turning 7 and here we are…experiences are stacking up for her that are feeling to me, like what happened to me. She is in a very very small rural school and is the only girl in her class. The grades are combined pre k & k, 1&2, 3&4, and 5&6. Al of the girls in her combined class of 1&2, are all paired up in two’s. It’s really painful for me to watch her navigate this, although she seems to be steering her ship well…..
And so it goes.
I am so moved by your comment. So so grateful. I can sooo see how you’d check out. I am holding that young girl with such tenderness. I am sooooo grateful that you FOUND YOUR TRIBE. No matter how long it took — you have it now! We need the presence of others in our lives — we need that circle. The language you use is so lovely to describe it — “I ran full force into women’s empowerment circles and re tents, fully immersed in shamanic training and self emmpowerment.” There is deeeeep healing here. You are an inspiration, Heather. You have transformed your suffering. You are a presence for your daughter, Heather. You will not let her “check out” as you had to. You’ll advocate for her. You’ll build her up. You’ll empower her with drums and help her to find her community, too. Would you please keep me posted? Lisa
This is a hard place to navigate. I too continue to walk with my kids through difficult relational circumstances.
I have found that you can be an includer but still looked upon as an excluder. Perspective, expectations, personality are different from person to person.
Yes, finding our tribe can be a challenge but when we do land among kindred spirits we know.
These are the places I pray my kids find. Relationships that you find safety in. A place to bear your soul, a place of loyalty, a place where your ideas can be challenged in love, a place that does not just tickle your ears but a truth in love that can bring transformation. These types of relationships take time to find. Holding ones heart with kindness, gentleness, loyalty, sacredness takes much life learning. Of course i would rather my kids not experience rejection nor any kind of pain. Maybe the pain is a part of finding the love to extend. Isn’t that how we know?
Oh yes yes yes. Your words are poetry, daisy. I too desire this for my children. For now I am that “soft sacred place to land.” And it sounds like you and I are working toward building those sacred spaces and friendships and places outside of us too. I desire this for all our children. Blessings to you, Lisa
Read John Taylor Gatto’s books. Kids act like this because they feel insecure because schools are set up poorly… The school SYSTEM is set up poorly, & not for the benefit of kids. Read Gatto & John Holt’s books. Gatto is now a friend to us. We pulled our kids out of school. They’re doing better now. School systems aren’t the only way to learn. There will always be mean people in them because kids feel trapped & insecure, so like animals, they form packs & attack outsiders. They wouldn’t have to form such pseudo families if they could feel secure.
Yes. Barbara. You are right on. Our systems need changing. Lisa
I don’t know what psychotherapy training teaches people, but mean girls are not mean “because they are hurting” and they do not deserve our sympathy. How is it that they are still mean in their thirties, forties, fifties, right up til the rest of the planet is lucky they left? Thy are. It is a fact. One mean girl I know attempted to play that card publicly and tell everyone what an awful childhood she had. She has been in therapy for years. Eventually, Karma or God or whatever gave her a terrible autoimmune disorder. She is still mean! She uses her illness as a sympathy card to manipulate people and skirt responsibilities. And she is still a mean girl. Another mean girl, My paternal grandmother, was hateful and rude her entire life. I have no idea why people kissed up to her and she always got what she wanted. She abused my grandfather, who doted on her completely, and passed away one month after she died- still hateful! Look, mean people are not going to change, and sympathy for them is unhealthy. I lime the general gist of your article, but do not be inclusive to narcissistic sociopaths, whether it’s a mediacally accepted condition or not it is real and the people who exhibit the traits are not hurting, they are dangerous.
I hear the hurt that has been done to you. I hear the pain. I hear it in so many of these comments and the emails I have received.
I am finding – in my own life, in my own personal experiences, in my meditation path, and in my work with others – that there can be compassion AND boundaries. There can be forgiveness AND protecting ourselves.
First we have to feel safe.
We have to begin the long journey of turning inward and learning to have compassion for our own selves – ALL the parts of ourselves (shame, grief, anger, rage, etc etc).
As we do so — as we practice this “radical acceptance” (term from Tara Brach), such compassion for our own selves PROMPTS us to care for ourselves with good boundaries, with making decisions that will protect us and our dear ones.
And then…then…compassion begins to flow from us. We begin to see very clearly how someone who is hurting someone else is SUFFERING. They are hurting. People do not hurt others unless they are hurting themselves. This does not mean we excuse it. AT ALL. This does not mean they aren’t accountable for their actions. It means that we can begin to see beneath the layers of cruelty and hurt they have caused, and see that they too are hurting. And we begin to see how we might respond with compassion.
This sounds so strange in the abstract. When we begin this path, we feel what I am talking about here. I have not “arrived”/like I am enlightened. I have only seen this and experienced this in profoundly healing ways in my own life. And I accompany others on their own unique journey on this path.
Blessings to you,
I unfortunately learned first hand what it’s like to be excluded by my own sister and sister in laws, they use to ignore me at family events and quietly whisper together then make snarky comments to me, trying to belittle and bring me down. For many years I carried this sorrow around. I realize though that God doesn’t want me to carry that around, but to use the hard lessons for others good. I seek out those that appear lonely, I reach out to others now and make a point to notice the little acts of kindness. Everyone deserves to be included and loved. In His presence we always are!
Heather, I am so so sorry that you had those experiences. It’s terrible – beyond words – to experience exclusion. It hurts to the very core of who we are. I HEAR YOU ABOUT HOW YOU carried those sorrows around for a long time. And then by GRACE you realized that the Divine doesn’t want you to carry them! YES – to use these experiences in a way that make your heart tender and about loving others. I am so grateful that you have transformed these experiences — turned them into opportunities now where you SEE others, you include others, and you pass on kindness. YES – everyone deserves to be included and loved. This, I believe, is what we all desire. It’s a basic, human NEED. Blessings to you, Heather, for sharing this with us. Lisa
My 14 year old made this video a few months ago. So proud of her. I was always an includer, too. 🙂
Oh Toni, You daughter is so brave! She speaks her truth! She is an inspiration for her generation. I am delighted you shared this with is!
Your daughter’s video brought tears to my eyes. This is where adults normally say “she’s going to grow up to do great things.” But she is already doing great things. You should both be so very proud.
Thanks for sharing.
What a beautiful response! Yes, Toni, your daughter is already doing amazing things!! Thank you so much for sharing.
Toni – You must be so proud of your daughter! She seems to have such a level head at the young age of 14. I’m not sure I did at that age. I was still experiencing the pains of exclusion that began in 7th grade and came out of the blue from the person I least expected it from – my neighbor and best friend since first grade. She paired up with another neighborhood girl who lived about four blocks away and together they tormented me about everything, using the close personal knowledge my best friend had about me for fuel. Because we were all from the same neighborhood, that meant I was tormented from the time I got to the bus stop in the morning until I walked in my door every afternoon. I wish I’d had the confidence I see in your daughter. Maybe I would have been able to deal with it then; instead, at the age of 59 (just days shy of 60), I still feel the betrayal and the knots in my stomach I felt back then, even though the friendship was re established in my 10th grade year. My friend and I never talked about that time. I spent my freshman year of high school in a private school and once I returned to public school the next year, it was as if all the tormenting had never happened – or at least that’s the way she acted. For me, though, it was always in the back of my mind – “what did I do that made her turn on me like that?”
I can say that I learned to be “inclusive” from that experience, though. I never wanted anyone, ever, to experience those feelings of smallness and inadequacy I had. Yes, the emotional pain is still there but I had a moment of clarity about four years ago and took the steps to find someone to talk to. I highly recommend that to anyone experiencing this and other issues that can affect your self-perception.
Lisa, thank you for this post. It’s so timely and important. I hope and pray that my five young granddaughters – and my baby grandson – grow up with the tools in place to deal with this better than I did. They all have good parents who try to teach them to be “inclusive” and not “exclusive.” They’re well on their way.
Gratitude and joy that young folk are stepping up and speaking out with such courage and kindness. Well done. ❤️
…In gratitude to Toni’s daughter.
And many others.
Your daughter is only 14? What a wise, courageous young woman. Such a powerful, yet simple message and it must be shared over and over again.
This is great! Thank you for sharing!♡
Wow! Thank you so much for sharing your daughters video. She is truly beautiful, inside and out.
My mom just shared this with me because i was at school and ALOT and when i say alot i mean it but yeah ALOT of gorls are mean to me and can just be like that and now im happy that i heard this and gratefull for my mom like always but even more than ever and ik it still hirts deep inside and i can feel it right now but i wont forget this thanks for sharing with me
Teaching kids social skills like respect, warmth, kindness, responsibility compassion, and INCLUSION are so important to a well-rounded education. We don’t want to send our sweet innocents to school and learn that it is a hostile and alienating environment where they feel vulnerable and isolated. We adults have our work cut out for us to eradicate bullying; it certainly hasn’t happened yet but with continued education and articles like this that shine a light on the problem there is hope. Thank you for sharing your experience!
Elena, YES – teaching social skills is paramount. Creating an educational setting/environment where the teacher is nourished and resourced is paramount. I have seen that when educators (and parents) are nourished, they “pass on” that nourishment to children – in the way they look at a child, the way they can be patient and “see beyond” the behavior, and the way they regard a child. IT’s beautiful when we see this. It’s a model, it’s a sign of hope, for our educational system. Blessings to you, Elena, for seeing this!!!! Lisa
Yes, in a crazy way, we can sometimes be thankful for the hurts we had as a child because God uses them for good, as you have in your career, parenting, and this post.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
JG. Yes, it can sound counter intuitive, but gratitude can arise out of some really hurtful times. I have seen this in my own life. Though I wish them on no one, what has come out of painful experiences in my own life have made me who I am today. And I am grateful for the big, loving, inclusive heart of mine. I am grateful for yours, too! Lisa
Will never forget when I was in elementary school and asked two girls who were in girl scouts about how to join. They told me that you had to be invited AND that your mother had to be involved, they knew my mother worked. Obviously they didn’t invite me. That was 65 years ago.
I had a similar experience. My mother asked the leader if I could join and she said the same thing to her. Of course my mother worked so I couldn’t join. This happened 45 years ago.
Thank you for this post that it looks like I am reading a year after you wrote it! I had a similar experience growing up always feeling excluded, left out, and picked on by other girls so much so I began to feel more comfortable with boys my age than girls even through college. As a wife and mother I still strugggle with being excluded from other women who I thought were my friends. I don’t have guy friends anymore since being married so I have to work on women friendships more. I have three little girls and a baby boy. I actually feel like I am struggling with as a mom to show my girls how to not be the mean girl, which I never was. When I talk to my oldest daughter she just tells me “well I just wanted to play by myself” or “I don’t like that girl.” And struggling learning how to deal with that with her.
Yes, I wrote this a year ago but I shared it again on my Facebook page — and it’s gone all over the world now. It’s a timely message, one that our world needs to address. We are in a time of making some BIG shifts in our world. The tides are changing.
Ohhhh Natalie, I so so hear you — struggling with being excluded from other women. I hear you about not having guy friends anymore. That has shifted for me, too. Having three little girls and a baby (boy!), you are doing so much! Yes, you need community. You need like-hearted souls around you. You need a tribe.
In working with your girls (and all our boys, too), when one says, “I don’t like that girl”….take it back to what the REAL issue is: help her to focus on connecting to HER inner world — what she is feeling — and to make sense of it, TEND to what is happening within her. You could say something like, “Tell me about it (you not liking her)”. This invites connection.
You could then say, “It sounds like you are feeling frustrated. Can you tell me about that?” (or “left out” or “scared” or “angry” or “upset”). Help her to NAME what she is feeling. In order to do so, she learns to “go within herself” and “check and see” what she is feeling. She learns to give voice to what she is feeling.
OFTEN it is about POWER…and feeling POWERLESS. So we exclude, we reject, we turn away from.
Giving your daughters space to feel heard, to feel connected, to feel understood and regarded by you (primarily), and then give voice to what she is feeling WILL GO A LOOOONG way in shifting “mean girl” behavior.
Would you keep me posted?
Lisa, bravo! I have a 3 yearold daughter. She has already felt devistation of not being included. I love my child and I regret my own moments of meanness and hate beyond measure the moments where it was also done to me. That being said I have been on both sides of the coin neither are what I want for my child.i hope to teach what you also have come to understand.
Annette, I soooo remember this starting early. I feel for you and every mom – all of us wanting to raise compassionate children. It sounds like you truly are on the road to modeling for your daughter how to work with bullying and how to also not bully. I have found that when we FIRST focus on connecting with our children and creating space and radical acceptance of all that they are experiencing (thoughts, emotions, sensations), we truly are paving the way for a compassionate world. Keep me posted, Annette, on how things are going for you! YOU are sacred space for your daughter! Love, Lisa
Lisa, I thought a long time about what I would type to you here and about whether or not you would even see my reply. Ultimately, it came down to how much what you’ve said here has touched me. Your quote about including, loving, empowering, regarding. It resonates with me beyond words. I endured mean girls, still endure mean women and am now watching my two pre-teen daughters endure those people as well. It’s torture to see them live through it and to now be in the role of mother and not be able to just step in and stop it! I have to let them be who they are, stand up for themselves and to experience life. It’s necessary and I know that. But,man, it’s hard!!!! After reading this post I’m so profoundly touched by how what YOU said is EXACTLY how I feel. A woman I don’t know, sharing my thoughts and feelings about our little girls. I’ve ALWAYS told my girls to be that friend that includes. To be that friend that stands up for the other kids. And (maybe I said it wrong to them but I’m so passionate about it)….to NEVER be a mean girl. And to NEVER break someone else’s spirit, even if it’s the “cool” thing to do. I’ve rambled now..but thank you. Thank you for this post. At 36 years old I’m sitting here feeling like that 12 year old that felt so alone. I feel better now though. Thank you!!
Yes, I am seeing your comment. I wrote an email to you, too. First, thank you for your kind words — that this post deeply touched you.
I hear you about enduring “mean girls” AND women….and how heart-breaking it is to be a mom of pre-teen daughters. YOU DO something about their experiences of bullies (or whatever else they encounter) by being a SAFE SPACE for them — a soft place for them to land, as one of my friends says. YOU being present to them with compassion and a true desire to “abide with” and listen and “be alongside” IS HUGE. IT IS MONUMENTAL. IT IS FOUNDATIONAL.
YOU are honoring your daughters’ spirits, Sally. You SEE them.
I too can feel like that middle school girl at times. I do know that those experiences and others have influenced some deeeep wiring within me. They were formative. BUT when I feel that sense of aloneness – I DO NOT TRY AND GET RID OF IT SO QUICKLY. I hold it close to me. I am tender with it. I breathe with it. I let it soften me and open me to something bigger than myself. I let it take me deep into my own inner wisdom and the Divine within.
Know that I am holding very closely what you have shared here and I am grateful for your such sharing. Do keep me posted. Email me and let me know how it is in these tween years and what rises up for you as a mom and in your memory and in your heart. Blessings, Lisa
What a wonderful and timely post. I am the troop leader for my daughters 3rd grade Brownie troop and some of our girls are starting to struggle with mean girl issues. Can you recommend a short age appropriate video I can share with the girls about becoming includers? Discouraged with what comes up in a “nice girl video” search. Definitely NOT the kind of videos I had in mind! TIA
Here is a video about passing on kindness. It is general – not specifically about bullying etc – but it is about how we can pass on kindness — not meanness…and it all starts with one person. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nwAYpLVyeFU
If you DO find resources (videos, etc) please do pass them on to me! I’d love to share them with more folks! Lisa
Please help me and tell me what to do if one thinks their daughter is somewhat of a “mean girl.” I model kindness and compassion in every chance I get. We talk about it and….. She has ONE FRIEND. I worry she may push her away because of the way she treats her…… I am having a really hard time. I was so excluded and made fun of as a kid. And now I worry my daughter, who is not doing anything to anyone but the way she talks about people…. And how she treats and talks about her BEST FRIEND. Please offer any advice.
Dear friend, I hear the desire in you to “make things right” wit your daughter…and to support her in her flourishing. First, see one of my comments below — CONNECTION is everything. When a child feels connected (to her own inner landscape, to those she cares for), she is going to naturally be kind. It’s just who we are. When someone feels threatened (emotionally, psychologically), she is going to “attack”. Help your daughter feel safe — help her to turn inward and identify what she is feeling (powerless, imposed on, frustrated). Help her to name her feelings within the SAFE SPACE of being with you. Communicate that you SEE her and you are ABOUT her and giving her space to share with you how she is feeling. THIS IS HUGE! I do consult with parents on things exactly like this. You can look at my Compassion Coaching. It could be A session — just to clarify/come up with ideas specifically for you and your daughter and supporting her wellbeing and development. Keep me posted. Lisa
My daughter started middle school 3 weeks ago knowing no one. Everyday I pray she finds a quality friend. No such luck. She comes home everyday saying various “groups” of girls that she tries to befriend simply ignore her and give her dirty looks. It’s all I can do from going to school during lunch and confronting them. I won’t of course. But my heart aches as each day I see my little girl feel less and less confident in the wonderful girl she is. I will do my best to teach her to be an include herself. Thanks for the post.
YOU hold your daughter with such regard. TALK to her. TALK to the administration. YES – she needs a friend – one friend – to walk beside. YOU can teach her to honor/”include” what is happening WITHIN her – her thoughts, feelings, sensations – as she navigates these waters. Be sacred space for her to come to. PLEASE keep me posted. Let me know how the next few weeks go.
Thank you Lisa, you have given words to my inner struggle in a way I could have never done on my own. Reading your childhood story brought up an overwhelming amount of emotion for me as I begin to relive all my own similar experiences throughout middle school and eventually dropping out of high school. My single parent mother and I never had a close relationship and we could never see eye to eye. She could not see the pain I went through everyday when she sent me off to school. Unfortunately I became a “mean” girl as my own self defense towards the cruelty I was exposed to. Only now as a sahm of a four year old girl and two boys am I learning to break down the walls I built up because I need her to not feel my repeated hurts. Break down the walls with my husband, siblings (also victims/perpetrators of mean girl syndrome) and hope to evolve into a similar mold of what you became. Thank you for giving me a direction to head towards and an opportunity to recognize and heal.
Thanks for sharing, I have experiences as a non English speaking immigrant coming to a new country, new town, new school! Being teased for my out dated old clothes, looks, hair etc…! Not comprehending the teacher’s instructions, therefore causing the whole class to laugh at my disobedience or disruption, and being punished for it! Getting into fights just by standing in the wrong place that some one else deemed was their spot. As well as being of small stature and therefore an easy target for everyone who wanted to feel big and powerful!
I am so thankful that my granddaughter is an includer. She is always looking for the underdog or those that are not being included. She has always been this way and she is 11. She was in a pageant at school and all the girls were getting flowers and goodie bags. When she noticed that there was one girl in her class that did not receive anything, she gave her one of her long stemmed chocolate roses. She said “I had 2 and she didn’t have any”. She is always sharing with others. God has truly blessed this child. Grammy Ann
HI EVERYONE! There have been thousands of people viewing this post and the “backend” of my website isn’t cooperating in terms of capacity! I’ll get back to everyone’s comments and “approve” and “reply” soon! If you want to email me, please do so: lmccrohan at gmail dot com My techy gurus are working hard at restoring the site! Please be patient! Blessings, Lisa
You only touched on it briefly but any tips or scripts for teaching forgiveness? Aside from modeling it that is.
You got it right on, sister, about modeling forgiveness! One big way I model it is — when i lose it or whatever, I ALWAYS say, “Ok, let’s have a redo. Let’s begin again. I’m sorry. Let’s regroup.” And we come back together. Model it in how you talk to your own self! Model it in how you regard your dear ones.
I teach a forgiveness workshop every December at Georgetown University where I work (part-time now. I needed to be more present for my family!). Forgiveness is a HUUUUUGE/nonlinear “journey.” Here are a few posts that might be helpful for exploring forgiveness.
If you are interested, we could have a consult about teaching forgiveness. I do often do one-time consults with parents/educators on a specific topic. We could get specific about what you are looking for. I could share with you the meditation that I lead at Gtown each year. Just email me
Good article. But it would have been a great article if it would have included boys.
Ahhh, this one was about girls! Here’s one about our boys: http://barefootbarn.com/2015/08/messages-of-compassion-our-children-can-give-to-their-classmates/
Your post really resounded with me as both a mother and a preschool teacher where I observe daily the interactions between young children who are already at age 3 and 4 learning about power in relationships. As an educator my philosophy is to promote kindness, respect, compassion and fairness as priorities for children’s learning, and I observe beautiful examples of inclusion and kindness as day. As a mother of 2 teenagers – 1 boy and 1 girl, I am heartened to see that the things we, like you as a family have discussed and modelled for years about inclusion are evident in their relationships and interactions – when they intentionally talk with a new child at school, when they notice and stand up for ‘meanness’ or discrimination. It is so important that we work with children as early as possible to create a world where less children (and adults) will suffer as a result of ‘meaness’. Thank you. Vanna
We need people like you in preschool!!! We need moms like you!!! What a presence you have with our youngest children in school. YES – promoting kindness, respect, compassion and fairness are things that our schools need to MAKE TIME FOR. It starts with resourcing our teachers, ensuring they aren’t hurried, they are regarded by administration, and nourished. I am so glad you are in our world making it a more compassionate place. Blessings Lisa
This is such a powerful article Lisa and thank you for sharing it.
I was also bullied as a child and young adult in high school. I was the “fair-weather friend”. I was painfully shy and easily won which I think was part of the reason I was so easy to pick on. I was raised to be agreeable, to turn the other cheek (a principle I believe in still, but with a little more maturity and wisdom). I was taught to “be myself” and not “ignore” people who were ugly to me. I was taught to be discreet, polite and not make waves. I discovered that children don’t really care that you are being true to yourself as long as they’re getting what they want out of you while it suits them. In high school, still painfully shy and completely naive, I became the victim of some teenage boys whose bullying was of a sexual nature and I think I missed more school days out of stress-related illness than is good for academic success. It didn’t help that my father had behaved inappropriately towards me as a child either. My self-esteem was extremely low. I suffered from anxiety and depression until quite recently.
When I had my daughter, I was determined that she would be different to me – she is. Not just because I’ve given her freedom to express herself appropriately and sheltered her less than I was, but because she just seems to have been born with more gumption than I have (even as an adult who has learned to stand up for herself). She is allergic to “female politics” and won’t get drawn into the “mean girls'” games. She has never been nasty to a soul, honest yes, but tactful. It is a joy to see how loved she is by her friends and respected as well. She puts little stock in people who play mindgames and treats everyone the same way.
As for me, I am older and wiser and a little bolder. By God’s Grace I have found healing for the past and have forgiven those who wronged me. It is possible for a woman to be bold and still be a lady. To speak up for herself but still be gentle. I’m still learning…
OH Anne, YOU have transformed these early experiences into YOU BEING SACRED SPACE for your daughter. You have obviously been a deeeply nourishing presence to her. I SO hear you about the messages girls receive early on — to be polite, etc. I HEAR in your story, too, how a girl couldn’t just be shy and it be ok. My heart aches for that girl in you — in soooo many who are girls right now. BUT you have taught your daughter something different. You are giving her the message that her VOICE matters and to speak up.
YES – we can BE BOLD and speak the truth with regard to OURselves AND others.
I hear you, too, the silence of early sexual trauma, the disregard that often happens to girls (sexual or not)….the the “unhealthy masculine” power that is about domination — ENOUGH. This world is rising up to say ENOUGH.
YOU are part of this revolution by regarding your daughter and giving her a VOICE.
THANK YOU for what you are doing – in your home and for our world. You and your daughter are making this a more compassionate world.
I don’t want to miss the line you wrote: “By God’s grace I have found healing for the past and have forgiven those who wronged me.” THAT is not easy. It is not a linear track. I KNOW it takes time and time and time…it takes sitting with what has hurt, it takes recognizing and holding the anger within us/the rage…it takes going within ourselves AND reaching out to the Divine.
Blessings to you,
My daughter is three in October and already experiencing the ‘mean girl’ culture. I’m devastated for her, she’s a smart girl and to have a nearly 3 year old cry and ask why those girls are so mean is heartbreaking. At this age is it best to remove my daughter from the situation altogether or just be there for her with it all? One of the girls is very nice to her when she’s the only other option to play with but very mean to her when there are others around. It’s so confusing for my daughter! Thank you for posting xx
This is just what I needed. My daughter has been going through this recently. The entire first two weeks of school….she sat by herself and was shunned by girls she has been attending school with since kindergarten. And it followed on the heels of a summer where I left messages asking if parents to get our children together…no calls returned. She is in 6th grade. Funny, I find the same issues in the parents. No one says anything to my husband and I at school events. Not even hello. We can transfer her to a different district, and we have seriously considered it. Why? My husband went to school there and she already has friends there. It seems that sometimes, small towns should learn to accept people who did not grow up there. It is so hard to see her so sad all the time.
Oh Dotti, I am so so sorry you have experienced the hurt of such exclusion. My heart is aching for your daughter, too, where she has felt shunned. Please know that I am holding what you have shared with me, with us, here. I am praying for you all. THIS IS NOT RIGHT. Yes, small towns can be difficult to navigate in. I hear you. Please talk to the administration at school. Please share with them what your daughter has been experiencing. Demand that they be a sacred, caring space. Keep me posted. Lisa
My question is how to get your girl to not be the mean girl!! My older daughter is so sweet, but my younger daughter is just mean. She is not very social in big groups, but when with her sister or with a friend, she can just be really mean. I tell her all the time to be nice, but it seems she does not even care to be nice and she told me her body just feels mean. How do I work with that? Yikes!! She just turned 4.
Liz, I have no expertise or education with which to advise you, but the last thing you said raised a flag for me. My sister was often “mean” or crabby in her childhood, and my parents eventually realized that she physically didn’t feel good. She turned out to be lactose intolerant. After this was addressed, it really helped her behavior. My husband & I are dealing with similar issues with our daughter – more at home than with friends, but still – and we are investigating whether there is a physical issue that could be tripping her up, so to speak, and making it hard to be the best version of herself. There might be, and there might not be, but if there is, I sure do want to address it now while she’s young, and give her the best chance for success. Just food for thought. Best wishes to you – I hope you get good opportunities to come alongside her and help her grow.
Hi Kate. I’m glad you shared your story. It’s important to explore medical issues that could influence behaviors and mood. Excellent point.
Until we regard every other being as one with ourselves, we will not be whole, healed and empowered, nor will there be peace in our minds and hearts. Your work and the insights you speak of here are balm for many wounds experienced by women and girls the world over, and I thank you for your outstanding work. Every woman needs to remember who she is at the core – a life giver, nurturer and empowerer – and make it a priority to model inclusivity if we are to change the course of this earth boat at this time in history.
Ohhh Joanna, AMEN. Serious. Amen. You have said it. YES. “…Every woman needs to remember who she is at the core”. AND we need to be the constant mirrors to our girls (and our boys) of their innate goodness, who they are at the core, until they see that reflection and EMBODY it themselves. YES, Joanna. And..you saying “your work and the insights you speak of here are balm for many wounds” — oh Joanna, this is what I am called to be. Healing balm. Thank you for seeing this. Blessings, Lisa
I also feel it’s important to teach this to all children- boys and girls – to define who ‘they are and be their own person’ vs. becoming a follower. This holds much strength and resistance in these situations that can arise with bullying.
This was such a good article. Even in the “Christian Schools” girls are taught to exclude and be condescending as though other people have no value. Then they get older get into positions of leadership and never lead anyone to the Lord. Why? no one wants to hear what the mean girls have to say. I have also seen this in the public schools and then those girls get leader ship positions at work. They are just as cruel in the workplace and the organization pays sick time through the ying yang. Why? no one wants to work with the mean girls. It is a very vicious cycle for organizations to over come.
Yes, Paula, there is a lot of cruelty in this world. Women are often regarded as “aggressive” when in fact they are being assertive. LEADERSHIP and women can be a realllllly interesting combo. I strive as a leader (as a mom, teacher, and where I work at Georgetown University leading faculty and staff in compassion and mindfulness-focused workshops) that includes, that is about SHARED power, and that is about abundance rather than scarcity. I do believe that one person and then another one person and then another can transform our world. Blessings to you, Lisa
Friends, here is my response to so much of what we are hearing here in your stories. How do we respond to such cruelty? In our schools, our world? Here is the beginning of a response:
We like to think of this type of behavior as reserved for girls but it applies, and increasingly so, to boys. As schools work through anti-bullying campaigns, the behaviour just becomes less noticeable (i.e. no fight = no problem). Thanks for the uplifting message. It will help me help my son.
My daughter has been ostracized and excluded throughout middle school and religious school. As she began her ‘practice day’ for her freshman year of high school, I reminded her to be open minded about her classmates from middle school and those from elementary school she hasn’t seen since 5th grade. I told her that everyone was starting over, in a way, and maybe people would be a little different. Not one person spoke to her on the school bus. Everyone walked past her without looking, and spoke only to their friends. It’s going to be a long four years on that bus, but I’ve now told her to read or listen to music, and concentrate on meeting people in classes and clubs. No includes on that bus, for sure.
My oldest daughter who is now 10 was bullied 4 years ago in school (emotional and physical) and administration was very passive about the persistent events even though they wanted to appear to be doing something. Another parent we knew had even taken their child out of the school for being directly physically threatened by another child without any admin. action. We ended up home schooling for 1 year and then placing her in another near by neighborhood school and have had a great experience. We also put her in martial arts and she has really excelled. I would say that part of it was her personality from the outset – my daughter is a really nice person who didn’t really understand why people wouldn’t be nice to her (sounds simple right?). However, the other part was the absolutely egregious way that administration handled these events at this school. Her new school approached bullying and stuff like this MUCH differently. http://www.pbis.org has many links to programs that have been very effectively implemented at their new school. I also feel that kids need coaching at home, too, to reinforce and conversations about how to be a good person in the world. This world is so ‘me’ focused at times. I have taught my kids to look for an opportunity everyday to help someone or go out of their way to do something kind for someone that isn’t necessarily their ‘friend’. ‘Do a good turn’ so to speak and told them stories of the difference these acts have made in people’s lives.
I have 2 sons and 1 daughter. This is appropriate for boys as well. My oldest son was horribly bullied and even when that was happening he befriended other boys who were being bullied. Now as a sophomore in high school, he seeks out people who are struggling, invites kids who never get invited anywhere to our house for bonfires etc. He has lost friends over this. Friends who he is OK to give up bc he realizes they pick on these kids and intentionally leave them out etc. All of our children need to be includers:)
Thank you for all you have written here. As a parent of a 6th grade girl, I find this very valuable. Luckily I have an “includer” child. She is very empathetic and will stick up for anyone. Over the years as issues would arise, we talk and have a game plan with at least 3 options. I have always told her that there is never just one way to deal with things. This way she was guided at a young age to always continue to try to find a couple of things that might work in certain situations or at least know she wasn’t “stuck” with just 1 way to do things or react to things. It has opened up her way of thinking and given herself patience to think instead of react instantly. Now, at 6th grade, and last year, we work on understanding the difference between having control over a situation and not having control – and knowing the difference – similar to the Serenity Prayer. Having positive role models at these ages is so important. Many times I would ask questions of older neighborhood girls in front of my daughter on how they handle certain situations at school. They would answer to me but it obviously would be for my daughter’s benefit. She looked up to these girls and listened to their thoughts. Now, she feels comfortable asking them herself as she maneuvers through the middle school years. There is so much we can do as parents to guide – and then….let them fly. That line of guiding and flying is a hard one to cross. Baby steps at first for both children AND parents. You have more patience than I do for the “mean girls”. I do think that some of them are hurting but some of them as just mean and entitled girls used to getting their way. The damage they do to others outweighs my sympathy. I suppose that’s why you are the expert!! I think we all have a role to do here. I appreciate you and your article.
Beautiful post. Thank you for sharing your message of love and inclusion.
I too have felt the sting of meanness and deliberate exclusion, even as a grown woman. It always makes me feel a little sorry for those mean people even underneath my own hurt – they’re surely unhappy inside.
Hi Lisa, I have 2 small daughters and I don’t look forward to the days when they may come home hurt. I was just wondering if you have any book recommendations for raising inclusive and accepting daughters and how to approach those situations if and when they come. Id like my daughters to remember me in the ways the others above remembered their mom…as just being good at listening when it was needed and stepping in when it was necessary. Thank you for writing about a subject that can be very difficult to discuss!
It’s so interesting how we can vividly remember feeling left out as children. As hard as those times were it is probably why my husband jokes that I see lost, lonely or detached people like I’m in the movie Matrix. And it’s true, other things blur and I see the woman, man or child in the crowd instantly who is busying themselves so as not to be noticed – noticed because they are disconnected. I’m glad I have that gift now and hope and pray I am passing that example onto my daughter. Thank you for a clearer way to approach this, it will help me next time my daughter struggles.
Thank you for this. Overall Sissy is outgoing and is friendly and always introduces herself and her friends to every new or shy children in our homeschool groups. Church seems to be her struggle, shocked, me too. Church,youth group to be exact. She does not fit in, she trys to join in conversations and she is just brushed aside. More often than not she is left feeling rejected. I try to make excusses ,but this is church, you know GOd’s people are to love one another. She is loved by adults and has joined the adult choir, she is learning to interpret sign. A pastor gave me another way to look at this.. You can’t put a square peg in a round hold and We have done a wonderful job teaching her to show compassion to others, and to be the individual God made. He just may be saving her from the influence that comes from the teen years and sometimes it is not a positive experience. We are keeping her surrounded by love and supportive friends and she is growing and thinking of missions.
Spot on article. I went to a Catholic school in Obio as well so I can totally relate to your story. This is something that I’m trying to teach all of my kids. I also have become an includer. I’m not perfect at it but I try really hard. And yes, it totally carries over into the adult world. Very sad when you see it happen at all. Thank you!
Rita, thank you for your support! I’m glad that this article resonated with you. You did Catholic school in Ohio too, huh?! Thank goodness there are people like you out in the world being includers!!! I’m not perfect either. Blessings to you, Lisa
Unfortunately my eldest began experiencing the mean girl attitude in kinder and even more unfortunate is that when I attempted to help her navigate the situation the mothers of the mean girls treated me in the same way. It was a traumatic situation and yes I pulled my girl from that school and we have yet to encounter the same venom in our current school, however, they do exist. We speak daily about being your own person, following your heart when you know you’re right and “they” are wrong, treating others the way you wish to be treated and spreading love (shining your light) at all times. I wish I could bounce back from that experience with as much grace as she has; oh how our girls can teach us too!
Kathy. You are such an amazing mom and presence for your daughter! I’m sorry that you both experienced “mean girls” (mom and daughter). It sounds like the two of you really worked together and you advocated for your daughter. I would bet she feels very supported and SEEN by you. Way to go, mom. I hear you about the VENOM in our schools – that’s a perfect word for it. I love how the two of you speak every day about following her heart and how to treat both herself and others. Blessings to you and your daughter – and yes! – tell her to keep shining her light — as you are doing! Love, Lisa
Man oh man. I’ve had those same experiences… And.. My (fortunately and unfortunately) 13 year old daughter has not yet… She is at the point in life where she is trying to find her way. Stand out, and blend in. Eat and not be eaten… And…I can’t quite get her to be An includer.. She’s not a mean girl.. But since she hasn’t had any real damage done to her (yet) she doesn’t FEEELL that same angst for those going through it. She helps out the extreme cases and stands up to true bullies… But because she’s trying to keep her own head above water, I feel that she doesn’t include the way I would like her to… In our kids lives today, they are plugged in 24/7. Always trying to fit in. Seeing what they weren’t invited to on Instagram. Who rode the bus home with whom. They don’t get the same recharge that we got from 3:30 pm until the next day. It’s real time. All the time. Trying to get the most likes, shares, and favorites… It’s exhausting… Anyways.. All of that isn’t here nor there. I’m wondering if you have any advise on motivating her to get uncomfortable in helping others? She just hasn’t felt what we have.. So her sympathy/empathy isn’t the same….does that make sense?
April, this makes total sense. I’m so glad you shared this with me. I hear you — your daughter is trying to find her own way. Being 13 is tough. It’s all about group mentality — AND finding her own voice within it all. No on really wants to stand out in middle school! Yes, raising children now is a lot different than years ago. Always plugged in “in real time.” You bring up an excellent point – they don’t get the same recharge we did from 3:30 until the next day. It sounds like you are a lovely presence for your daughter. It sounds like she feels supported and seen by you. I know she hasn’t had the same experiences and you want her to be more of an includer, but this is about relationship building and mutual understanding between you two. It’s about talking with each other and creating that “safe space” to share (AND to listen — on both parts). If you’d like support in that — that’s what I do! Email me for a consultation/coaching. Some times it is just a session to feel equipped with support, practices, and ideas to navigate the particular waters you are in. You can email me on my contact form or lisa (at) barefootbarn (dot) com
I happened across this after reading your blog. It is very important to be inclusive, but also to accept yourself, as confidence brings more positives, inclusive energy to you. This was pretty brave to me. The tie-in is that people who might not normally include her, are naturally drawn to her bravery – and they want to be included in her world.
BK. YES! I teach mindfulness and am a student (always a student) of meditation and yoga. I have learned, too that “inclusion” is ALL about (and starts with) including one’s own inner world — all the emotions, sensations, thoughts, etc that arise within us — and radically abiding with them with tenderness. THIS is the foundation of bravery and confidence — able to navigate those inner waters of emotions, a willingness to traverse one’s inner landscape — this is the bravery and confidence with which you speak of — this radical accepting of self! You are wise and right on, BK! Love, Lisa
Thanks to all for your insight on this topic. The first time I experienced bullying was from a teacher toward my son back in the 80’s. The next time was from school administrators toward me and my then middle school daughter. It was eye-opening to say the least. I have found it is small-minded people in what they consider to be positions of power that utilize these tactics.
I have always stressed with my children and now my grandchildren the importance of empathy in life and relationships. To treat others as you expect to be treated always. I now find however, we lack tools for dealing with the bullys who seem to be everywhere! Itused to be easy enough to stay away from those who had a mean agenda but it is rampant thee days.
My grandaughter’s kindergarten included a mean girl and I was dumbfounded that they are starting so young. At such a young age this child had to have learned this behavior at home. Not eough parents are teaching/modeling kindness, empathy and inclusion anymore….and teachers don’t seem to notice!
This child is again in my grandaughter’s class and we are so far just keeping an eye on the situation. She is friends with my grandaughter but does not want her to play with other kids or include others in their play. Last year she controlled another little girl not to play with other kids but that child is in a different class this year…ugh….shouldn’t childhood be uncomplicated?!!!
Ann, oohhhh to read about your granddaughter’s classmate — we so have to model this — as educators, as parents, as grandparents. It sure sounds like you are modeling to your granddaughter how to navigate in these waters. Your loving presence is sooooo soooo needed in her life! Love to you, Ann!
Thank you for your story. I went to private school K-12 and never really felt bullied until high school. When I started high school, there was a particularly obnoxious group of guys one year ahead of me who would cruelly taunt me. They made high school horrible. I hated it. I came home the very first day crying to my mom. Instead of sticking by my side, many of my girl friends instead initiated relationships with these same boys, making things all the worse for me. My Sophomore year, I met my friend Tammy, who struggled with weight issues like I did. She was a Godsend! We shared our struggle and our faith and more importantly, I had someone to help me through all the teasing and heartache. My senior year was a solace to an otherwise horrible high school experience as those boys graduated and went out into the world. In college, I met so many wonderful people. Somehow the difference between high school and a four year university made a world of difference in how others were treated.
Recently my husband and I began pursing adoption and had to undertake a home study. During our many hours of meetings, I had to recount my horrible high school experience to a social worker. As a much older person now, I realized how lucky I am to have coped with such an awful high school experience. I am thankful to those people, like my friend Tammy, that made it tolerable. Now, as an elementary school teacher, I do my best to educate my fifth graders on the dangers of bulling and the necessity of kindness. I also sell jewelry on the side and love our anti-bullying pieces that benefit the Kind Campaign. And so, this year I started out the year by talking about inclusion while wearing my bracelet saying, “You can sit with us.” I have two new kids to our school and so far they and their parents are very please with their transition. I hope that every little action of kindness can make our kids feel more included at school, so that they’ll never know the harsh reality of being bullied.
I was bullied in 3rd grade. New school. Lasted through 9th grade. Scars are still there and I tear up every time I think about it. As an adult, I am like you. I include everyone. I am a friend to all, have all sorts of people in my life and I wirk hard to make everyone feel welcome. One of the ways I have dealt with the painful memories is by becoming the president of my high school’s foundation. As far as parenting. My girls now go to the same school where I was bullied. It’s easier for them because they started in kindergarten. That doesn’t mean they don’t see cruelty or aren’t bullied. My mantra: be kind and remember how it feeld when someone excludes you or is mean to you. Always treat others how you want to be treated. I’d like to think.it’s working. There’s that and a lot of love.
my dear friend sent me this article to read and I am so happy that she did. As a mother of two daughters (17 and 12) I have dealt with “mean girls” for most of their lives. Especially with my older one. She was always inclusive. Not once has she ever had a single function that everyone wasn’t included in. Ive always insisted on this explaining how horrible it feels to be left out. I would love to tell you that it was reciprocated. Sadly, I cant. time and time again, my daughter has been left out by the very same girls that spent many many nights in my home. (over the course of years!) My daughter has found new groups of friends in high school and things are great….for a while and then the same thing starts happening again. She invites and includes and champions for the underdog and then thanks to social media finds out that there was a big party and she wasnt invited. Most recently, they all went to a football game. After the game the masses went to eat. not one person invited my daughter. not even the girl she drove there because she didnt have a ride. They left her there standing alone. I cant tell you how many times I have looked into my daughters red rimmed eyes and feel my heart crack. Ive been paralyzed with fear that this constant bullying would change who she was. Yet, somehow, she is still one of the kindest, most compassionate people I know. I pray that someday soon she will find that person who appreciates, loves, and treats her the way she deserves to be treated.
Thank you for your insight. I will pass this article along.
Dear soul sister, you are raising incredible daughters. It breaks my heart to hear these stories of how people can be and how they can treat each other. I know that by us modeling to them and continuing to be a sacred space for them to come to, we are resourcing our girls to encounter whatever comes their way. I would love to hear how college is for your girls. You will have to keep me posted.
thank you so much. I certainly will
Stand in confidence. Love, Accept and BE Good & True to yourself. Learn & identify negative people. Radiate kindness, peace & joy. Give selflessly to others. Listen. Live with integrity.
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Ghandi
After raising two daughters, and being one of three girls myself, I strongly believe that the “includers” come from strong, confident women who do not feel the need to group up on or belittle other females. Wish we could take every adult mean girl click and wave a magic wand…perhaps then there would be hope moving forward for them to “get it” so their daughters would not be damaged in this way. I have seen that even the nicest little girl will be forever changed by age 10-11 if her female role model behaves in a way that is the opposite of inclusion and common human compassion.
Lisa, can you recommend any books for parents of bullies? Or books for young kids about a bully who becomes an includer? I’ve been struggling for a couple of years with my daughter who has become a bit of a menace at her preschool. There’s precious little written about this topic from the point of view of the bully who needs help learning appropriate social behaviour. Ironically, the “us versus them” style of educating victims of bullying is making the problem worse for me to try to navigate. You should write a book about this topic!
For the little ones — there is a great book about filling each person’s bucket with kindness. But really it sounds like coaching could be supportive to you. We could talk about specific practices for you and your daughter. Check out my compassion coaching. I’d love to work with you! Yes – I should write a book on this!!!
Thank you for sharing this! When I was in the 5th or 6th grade, I remember several girls, my “friends”, signing a note saying they didn’t want to be my friends anymore. I don’t know that bullying was talked about as much 25 years ago but it certainly happened. It was a difficult time but I definitely saw who my friends were. I do frequently worry about leaving people out, which I’m sure stems from this and other past experiences.
This issue is something I worry about so much with raising my 3 yr old daughter. Not only that she may be hurt by other “mean girls” but more importantly that doesn’t become one. I’ve already seen this exclusive behaviour in younger girls that I’ve observed in various settings and it frightens me! I do not want my daughter to be that way. I pray that I will be an adequate example of inclusion, love and kindness so that she will avoid that behavior.
Loved this! I have sought, with an uphill battle after a divorce from her narcissistic father, openness and compassion from my daughter. I had a super conservative patient of mine read me the riot act for being a divorcee (I am a Christian, and thank God for the strength in this regularly!). In another part of the conversation, I don’t even know what made me say this specifically, but I said, “well, I just tell my daughter ‘treat everyone equally, with love and compassion. I will keep you out of unsafe situations, so until you are given a very good reason otherwise – and it has to be cleared by me the reason for not “including” – treat everyone with love’.” He said, with a pointed finger, “that’s what’s wrong with you liberals! You think everyone is equal!”. I said, “well, yes. And my conversations with my four year old certainly do not stray from that concept at all.” With that being said, I am not assertive at all. So I wrestle with how to teach that it’s okay to say “no”. But I rejoice when I see tenderness from the situation I am in. And suffice it to say that I will drive a (safe-looking) drug addict to a seedy part of town (thinking I am surely helping them somehow), but struggle to contain myself when I see a four year old little girl dismiss my daughter! I hold back, though, with chagrin, and we talk about that, too, if she brings it up.
I love, love LOVE THIS. Strangely I was “popular” however in being so, was stuck sucking up to the mean girls. I hated high school…and when I tell people that they are shocked! What?! The captain of the cheerleaders hated high school. Yes.
I would love to re-post this article on my website, with your permission, of course.
Please email me and let me know if that’s ok. Thank you, J
Yes, please repost. Let’s get this word out! I hear you, too – funny enough in high school (back then to Virginia) I was in a popular crowd and because of these middle school experiences I was conscious of including others. Yes! Please – share!
I’m curious as to whether the tendencies toward cruel behaviour is directly related to the institutionalized/school environment. We’re talking about a place they spend the majority of the time that separates them from their loved ones, where they are essentially raised in a culture of competition, lack of authentic adult guidance/true mentorship in their values from a place of bondedness and belongingness, where they are subjected to having to having to negate their emotions and feelings and replace their true selves with fitting the mould dictated by an authority figure. The way children are behaving sounds similar to behaviour you’d see in a prison. And schools resemble prisons, to some degree, if we can be honest with ourselves. So when in this environment, they have their core “fight or flight” brain activated in such a way that they would be on defence and forced to use coping strategies to compensate for their feelings of vulnerability in a space that doesn’t support them in feeling secure.
With home learning, there isn’t a need to create such policies or mandates surrounding “inclusivity” because children generally aren’t put in “Lord of the Flies”-like situations on a day-to-day basis where they feel insecure, so the natural human tendencies towards gentleness and inclusion can blossom. Food for thought.
Rachelle, you bring up excellent points. Being raised in a culture of competition and lack of true belonging (being truly seen) — as you describe here — is so very degrading and harmful to a person’s sense of well-being and self. I have worked in prisons. I have also worked in schools. I have heard parents, too, and how we talk to our children. The whole DISregard of children needs to stop. I completely agree with you — when anyone is forced to use coping strategies when they don’t feel safe, we can hurt each other. Whether our children are at home, in school, on their sports teams or other activities, we need to encourage the adults in their lives to e voices of encouragement and regard. Hands down. Thank you, Rachelle, for bringing this up. Blessings, Lisa
thanks from this grandmother of 5 for all your thoughts. Children have a pretty hard time, don’t they?
I retired from the principalship of an elementary school. I saw both sides of the girl situations during my tenure. I also saw the bullying boys. love, carole
Carole. Yes, I can imagine what you saw over the course of your educational profession! I’d imagine you imparted a lot of wisdom – to students, parents. Yes boy bullying happens, too. I’ll have to write about raising our boys as well. Thank you for being here, Carole.
This comment is likely TMI for most readers but I was having a difficult time paring it down, sorry, move to the next comment if you are short on time….
I was always very self critical. By nature, I wanted perfection especially from myself. I am an artist and that could be why I try harder to be better every time I pick up a pencil, but it transfers through every part of my life, I will be honest it is a very dominate trait. I have sometimes tried to override my perfectionist nature with conscious determination, tried to not care that things were less than exactly as I wanted them – I failed miserably. I need to find a way to make my need for perfection to work for me rather than against me. By the way I haven’t found it.
I loved this article on bullying.
Elementary school was not a great time for me, I wasn’t the pretty one or the tough one or the athletic one or even the smart one. Boy, I wished I could be any one of those. Teachers were scary and often bullied kids without repercussions, that would not be the case today but back then, everyone looked the other way. I could list quite a few teachers that said very mean things to my parents on interview days and mom simply took it. It was not her nature to buck authority and indeed school had that in days past. I think though from those mean comments came a very determined little girl to prove the mean people wrong and rub it in their face. I will never let them see me hurt or discouraged, they were wrong.
I was average looking with a baby pudgy face. I was below average in height, and average for weight for most of my elementary years until I turned 14. I hit a growth spurt so painful I thought something was terribly wrong with me. It was over soon though, within a year I went from being 5′-ish to 5’8″ Ouch. I was very self conscious, awkward, gangly even and taller than a lot of the boys my age. The only good side was that I was ok at the centre position on the basketball court, not in talent but because I towered over most of the other players on our team and most other teams. I had surgery on my foot at this same time because I had a bunion and toe bones growing sideways that I could on some days not even walk. Recovery was long and difficult. My sister and mom came to me one day and said everyone was talking about me. Was I really a joke because it took so long to heal – 6 months. Say “what”? They broke my foot, reshaped my bones and realigned them so I could walk. What kind of timeline for recovery does the students, “aka un-qualified doctors”, in my high school think that takes? I judgement is a learned vehicle for the purpose of either building a person up or tearing them down. It just seemed one more nail in a very sturdy built coffin of bullying.
Of course my own critical nature saw my amazon size as a nightmare I could never wake up from. Kids were cruel and only reinforced my own negative feelings toward this new look. It didn’t help when I went to see my only living Grandma that she told me with me being so tall and not being a pencil in size that I would never find a husband. I was 16 and devastated, those words have stuck with me to this day. Luckily visiting my Grandmother was very rare but things like that really stuck out. (Just to emphasize, I was about a size 6 which is the equivalent of about a 4 today. – I was by no means heavy.) I look back on this today and see my grandmother as somewhat of a bully. She had her favourite grandchildren, the ones she saw my often and where her own daughters children as opposed to us fathered by my dad, her son. She criticized just about everything, so I really should have let it go but it came at such a pivotal time in my teen years.
I wanted more than anything to be short, no matter how many pairs of pants I would have to hem or cupboards I would need a chair to reach. I was very much a bully to myself. You cannot live up to an ideal if you cannot accept reality and nothing was going to change my height. Just to add insult to injury the eighties were not a a good time for fashion if you were taller than 5’4″. Remember “stirrup pants” actually pants of any kind, you can’t lengthen pants to a 33″ or 34″ inseam if they are only 30″? Times have changed significantly but too late for my high school and post secondary years.
I wanted a best friend, but wanted to have her all to myself, I didn’t want to have to share her with others on the off chance she would like them better and dump me. I never thought it was a case of not being inclusive, since I didn’t want to sit at that group table. I felt lost in those situations. The etiquette and popularity to say the right things, or at least what others wanted to hear, wear the coolest clothes (impossible), and do whatever it took to stay in that coveted “cool kid” persona was simply too much pressure. I would rather be alone and draw. I even went so far as to un-include myself for fear of messing up in those situations. Of course, I don’t know I would have messed up, but it was easier to not try. After years of self bullying and self loathing, which is still a continual thing. My grandmother was wrong, my husband of nearly 24 years loves me much more than I love me, I am tall and people tell me I am thin, my baby face isn’t so baby anymore but the upside to a baby face early in life if a youthful face in your mid to late 40’s. I have 5 amazing kids and I am a talented artist with repeat clients and referrals. My social life however is pretty scarce, a product of my memories and experiences.
Don’t feel, and you won’t get hurt.
I worry though, that now when I watch my kids go through their trials that I am not guiding them to make better decisions but that I am taking them down that self loathing road I have traveled. Fierce mom protector, but closed to the outside world. Not really letting anyone inside my very small circle, not being inclusive. I counsel them to include, and not leave people out, that they would feel very sad to be the one left out and yet when they are I want to wrap them in protection and take them away from the pain.
I too is an 80’s girl and went through the same thing. With 3 kids my oldest almost 16 is a little artist and quiet and wishes she had at least one good friend. Something I still wish I had at times. But I gave my too much that every friend even two ex husbands took advantage of my heart and kindness and was always the patient and quiet one that always said okay, sure, that’s fine, I don’t care ect. I didnt have a voice bc I allowed my kids father take it from me and my innocence. Which wasnt good for me and it was very abusive and he was on drugs. So even in my 20’s and a single mom of 3. I never found my voice then who I thought were my friends. The ones I would help watch their kids and do things for them. I was always one to please and give. It was just a little over a year ago that I learned to find my voice and the realization that I was allowing myself to be mistreated for 20 years total from my kids father. As it’s true you can divorce but when you have kids they dont go awayn even though they are no part of the kids life. That same man learned how to control me in a way. Bc I wanted the kids to have their dad. Something I never had. So I know how my kids feel as I have a great relationship. But he didn’t and is not able to have a relationship with them. Anyways. Im still working through many things, many many things on my own. Having my girls being teenagers hit me hard and the interest about boys. Just thinking about a boy being cute. Made me so scared and took me back to when I was 16 and how their father was my first boyfriend and the hell he put ne through that I kept to myself and never talked about it till it all came rushing me full of memories and images in my mind that I’ve kept inside. It broke me and woke me up and I had a huge wake up call about how I need to stop him from controlling me and I had closed myself off about 3 yrs ago fromffriend’s bc I was just allowing them to use me as a baby sitter and letting “friends” stay with me bc I was trying to help them and they just used me up. Living off a single mom. Many friends did this and when I wasnt needes any more I never heard back and they never wanted to visit. But I’ve learned a lot since then and I still don’t have any friends bc truly it hurts less and I have put all my time into my kids all 16 yrs and helping all those I did I hope they at least pay it forward and I’ve been focussing me on me and finding my happiness bc I am so use to always trying to please and make everyone happy and Im not happy with myself. But I’ve always instilled in my kids to be kind to everyone and to have a voice and always know to speak up for themselves and school is their priority and to enjoy these years. Whether it be with friends or drawing. It’s about having fun and my girls know I was young and I missed out on my my youth years big time. They know boys definitely shouldn’t be a huge thing in their years right now and they have tough thick skin im sure bc their father’s choices and what he has caused and they have a special needs little brother and I have brought them around many walks of life to be sure they never teased as I use to work with mental disabled adults and helped the elderlym plus having a special needs brother. They know better and they arent ashamed of growing up with just me and a low income. Now im disabled so it’s even harder after an accident on my way to work. But they know god made everyone special and they should be treated as that special. Sorry I went on and got away. Im sure its bc I don’t talk to many ppl lol but glad to know Im not alone in the same situation and in my mid 30’s. It is much harder being a teen. Im getting a triple wammy. But double with girls. Both girls being the completely opposite night and day. Thank you for sharing. As Im now working on me and seeing your post helps me. Thx from Florida
While I think many of us (if not all), either as children ourselves, and/or as parents have seen such situations as the one you write about. I have taught my children, the more, the merrier. No such thing as two’s company and three is a crowd. Both my husband and I have had groups of friends that we merged together. And, in turn, our friends have done the same. I guess we relate to those very similar to ourselves. I would consider myself an includer, and have really preached that to my children. However, I think that a lot of the exclusion that we see may actually begin with the parent. I am amazed at how many parents will do what they can so their child is with another particular child. They have absolutely no regard for others, and it probably stems from some type of insecurity on their part.
Thank you for sharing this information. I’ve always encouraged my daughter to be an includer. I really struggle with how to help her when that isn’t reciprocated. She will invite people to her parties and then find out that she isn’t invited in return even though she is a friend of that person. I try to help by saying that there are many factors that go into deciding how many people to invite, eg; cost, space , etc. she is very understanding but I still feel like she is hurt. Do you have advice for discussing when including people doesn’t get reciprocated? Thank you, Karen
Karen, I’m reading your post and I’m sitting here thinking about what a lovely mom you are — to see your daughter, to be about her. As a therapist, even this little blurb you’ve written indicates to me that your daughter trusts you and comes to you about things — in her own way. Karen, focus on your connection with her. Focus on nourishing her, talking with her with regard, and helping her to ask critical questions — like “how does this make me feel? How do I want to honor myself and have respect for myself? What creative ideas do I have?” By aligning with her and walking beside her, you are deeeeeeply resourcing her and sending her the message that she truly matters. Karen, we can go deeper. Please consider an Ask Lisa Consult if this advice resonates with you and you’d like a nourishing and safe place to further explore this. It’s exactly why I created the offering. https://www.lisamccrohan.com/services/ask-lisa-consult/
Many blessings, Lisa
Very powerful post. My girls have been left out, bullied and not included when we moved from one state to another. It taught them how they did not want to feel /be treated. We have includers over here 🙂
Lisa this is wonderful. Thank you for sharing. I was instantly pulled to this story because of the word-includer. I read a book called Strength Finder by Tom Rath and took the strength test. His belief is to focus on honing in on what you’re good at and not focusig so much attention to your weaknesses…as that would improve when building upon your strengths. One of my strengths is…includer. I couldn’t wrap my mind around it initially. And then memories of being the new girl several times in schools and befriending the new girls all came back. I know the feeling of being left put and I didn’t want anyone to feel that. My mom had a big piece of shaping that part of me. And majority of my closest friends are includers. I’m sharing your story with my mom as a thank you to her. Thanks again for sharing!
Oh I know the book, Strength Finder! Yes – includer!!! And what a tribute to your mom. My mom, too, had such an influence on me and my sense of self. You are encouraging me to thank my mom, too. Thank you, Erica! Blessings to you and your mom. Lisa
Hi! Thank you so much for sharing this. I remember being sick and vomiting on my desk, but refusing to go home (instead having my mother bring me a new shirt) because sometimes if I was absent, I wouldn’t have any friends when I came back to school. I spent most of my elementary years feeling very sad because I was bullied for being chubby. It caused serious emotional damage. When you talk about feeling tender as your children go through this, it resonates with me. It’s so hard not too put your feelings on them and let their situation be different. It so hard to hope that their experiences won’t be the same because the fear takes over. One thing I’m doing differently than my parents is raising my girls to be best friends. Even though there is a three year age difference, they aren’t aloud to exclude each other from playdates and experiences. Everyone is important. Include everyone in everything. Also, I think it’s important to teach belief that people have good intentions. I hope we can all work together make kind girls.
My husband and I live in Baja, Mexico, and our oldest (very white) son was bullied when we first moved here. I’m an author and have a children’s book called Pete and His Gigantic Feet all about bullying and friendship, if you’re interested.
I’m so sorry that happened to your son when you all moved to Baja, MX. I have lived in Guatemala and El Salvador. I have much to share about my experiences there. Most of them very positive. But I experienced a type of “guacking” that I’ve never experienced before as a woman. YES – please – can you send me a link to your book??? I’d love to read it and share it with folks. People are looking for resources, Carrie. If you have any that you can pass along my way, please do. Let’s share them, including your book. Lisa
Oh my goodness, you described my seventh grade year when I moved from Texas to Ohio in 1962. Here it is, 53+ years later and I still remember every incident and every horrible feeling. (I would cry myself to sleep at night, and begged my mom to find me a different school. She didn’t. I was supposed to tough it out, I guess.) Unfortunately, as I got older and my social standing inched up through high school, I became a mean girl myself. Eventually, I was called out on it in college, and was ashamed of myself. That’s when the real work started to become a person of heart. I hope as a parent of a daughter and a son, now grown, I helped them to not be bullied or bullies.
Oh Katherine, Thank you for bringing this up. We can experience such exclusion that we end up doing the same to others when we come into a sense of “power.” I hear you about the “real work” of then becoming a person of heart, as you say. Thank you for sharing this, Katherine, and admitting what can often happen. Blessings to you and your grown children. Lisa
I love your message! I am a retired principal, and a mom to a second grade girl. I talk to her about the fact that the “mean girl” culture was one of the most difficult parts of my job, because I witnessed the deep pain it caused. The cafeteria is notoriously gut wrenching. I have always been a proponent of the inclusion message…at home and in my career. One small thing that I do each day is to write a note to my daughter on an index card, and include it in her lunch box. It takes so little time, and it is a great way for her to practice her reading skills, but more importantly to feel our connection during that often scary half hour. I often end the note with a reminder for her to look around, and look for someone who might need a smile or a friend, and reach out to them. Include them. It’s just so important…
Sarah, what an incredible presence you are for your daughter — for her to feel your connection, for her to “sink into” and literally feel connected to you. AND for her to look around and see if someone else needs to feel included. THANK YOU for the work you have done as a principal and continue to do with your daughter! Love, Lisa
“It happens in childhood. It can happen between adult women.”
Absolutely! And of course, between genders.
Hi Lisa–great article. For this and many other reasons I’ve started a program called Girl Smarts for our 4th and 5th grade girls. It helps empower them and give them tools to support their ability to stand up and stand out in support of themselves and other girls. We’re now in about 15 different public schools and over 1500 girls have gone through the program. We’re helping parents, schools and society raise “includers” and it is a wonderful thing to watch. You can read about it at girlsmarts.com
Dianna, can you send me a link? Can you email me? i’d really love to share your work.
This type of behaviour goes on between adults as well…especially in churches…..coming from an outside family or church can really be difficult…established church members are not welcoming of what they term “outsiders”…if we adults can’t be includers what can we expect of our children….Church of all places you would never expect this to happen…
Dody, I hear you about churches. I feel really lucky that the church I belonged to in Boston and now here in Frederick are both really inclusive. It’s amazing what has been done in the name of religion over the centuries. I’m about changing that. Lisa
I know what you mean. Some churches aren’t like that. Some are friendly up front, but my efforts to form any relationship of depth was lost.
My daughter was raised to be an includer & advocate for herself & those around her. Unfortunately, she has to be careful, because she says it will look like she is the mean girl if she stands up to the meanest of girls. Her peers accept the mean girl as just being sassy & think my daughter is mean for distancing herself. You can’t win sometimes.
Awesome article that I will share with parents!
Thank you so much for this blog post. My daughter is also 4 years old, and has been encountering her first traumatic experiences with “mean girls.” Who knew that they existed in preschool?! Her teachers are amazing and have spoken with me about what has been happening and how they have been working with my daughter, trying to help her to have a voice and sticking up for herself. But I have been weeping over it all week. Like you said, I’m sure it is drumming up some of the pain from my past experiences. I thought I had at least until my daughter was in high school before I would have to encounter this, but lo and behold, here we are. Thank you for your encouragement and teaching in how to empower our girls and be a sacred space for them. I have been wrestling in my mind with the question of whether or not I should pull her out of school. But your post has encouraged me with the truth – while I cannot control what happens to my daughter, I can be a loving and accepting place for her. I can teach her to be with all the different parts of herself and all of her emotions. I can advocate for her and teach her to have a voice. And I can use all of these hard things as teachers, to show us how to have empathy and compassion towards others. Thank you!
I am so grateful this popped up on my FB feed. As many women here have stated I too endured some pain from kids I considered my friends. I don’t think you ever truly forget that kind of pain in fact I still have a note that was written to me in 6th grade. You might wonder why I still have it and I did too for a long time until I realized I used it to build myself up – to give me strength- to force myself to realize that I am better than what others think of me. It sounds weird but I will be forever grateful for my experience because it among other things formed the person I am today. It taught me to be an includer and to seek out and appreciate the uniqueness in all of us. By opening my heart and mind it has given me the most amazing friendships. True and lasting friendships. It has given me a unique perspective to guide my own children. I shared that note with them just the other day. I shared how it made me feel. I am hoping the take away was empathy for others so they never participate in that behavior and if they are on the receiving end that they know they have a safe place to come and that they too will survive.I now have my own daughter and see some of the same traits in her that my tormentor had. She has that same magnetic personality that people are drawn to and many want to be her friend. From an early age I have taught her that with this gift comes a great responsibility. That it has a lot of power. Other kids will follow what she does. I have taught her what a good friend looks like and have modeled that for her with my own beautiful friendships. She has a friend that would be deemed a “mean girl” that hurt another one of her friends and we have had many conversations on friendships and if this friendship is worth having. Is she someone who builds you up or brings you down? She also experienced some meanness directed at her last year. She came to me to talk it through and to find some solutions – after many tears and problem solving conversations she decided she wanted to handle it herself. She stood up for herself and basically told the other girl you can’t treat me this way and if you do this is not a friendship I want. She is only in fourth grade but so far she has shown great maturity in her relationships and handling difficult situations. She has chosen some really good kids to be friends with. She has also naturally been an includer. She is the child that seeks out the new kid to make them feel welcome. By no means is she a perfect child but I am proud of the way she has handled herself so far. It is a very fine line we walk and I am terrified as to what is coming with puberty and middle school in our near future. All I can hope is that we have laid a good foundation and have created a safe place to be our true selves. Thank you again for this post. It has validated what I am trying to do with my own kids. You have created a place where we can share our thoughts and learnings – a place where we can learn and grow together.
When I was in school there was several people who made fun of me and back then I would of helped anyone out I then looked at my life and asked what am I getting by being nice to people who are so mean to me so I decided that I didn’t care anymore I have been pushed to my limit so I started sticking up for myself and I wonder why I never did it sooner I know have a daughter who is struggling in school with kids but I tell her to be the better person its hard when its your own child that is going through it but most important is the fact parents don’t see anything wrong with it at all but when it comes that there child was the one that made that person commit suicide then would that wake them up? Probably not its a shame people don’t care
Amazing blog/read for me. I totally understand from growing up being that lonely girl and it has helped me for the better for my kids. Not just my teenage daughter’s which are the opposite. One is one way and the other has been that mean girl in the past and Im just one that is huge with being an includer. This age is very hard for girls. Im just glad and will continue to work with my younger daughter. My special needs son deals with the same problem as well. Teased and doing the right thing bless his soul. He is a teenager as well but very developmentally delayed so he deals with a lot of the mean girls and boys. But I talk to them all the time and remind them to always include and let the words of the mean girls slide off their back and turn it into a positive. It’s definitely not easy for kids and as a single disabled mother I just make sure we have a strong relationship with the 4 of us and do thr best I can. Thank you again for sharing this. Shows me Im doing the right thing to the best of my knowledge and I have an amazing relationship with them and I always reassure them Im always here for them for anything they need or need to talk no matter what if us about and I will do my best to help with anything that comes their way. Im thankful that they do for the most part. Still working with my almost 14 yr old daughter on many tasks but it’s getting so much better.
Thank you so much for sharing.
I am really glad that one of my friends posted the link to this on her FB wall, because it has made me realise a lot of things that I should start doing and should encourage my two daughters to hopefully consider doing the same.
We were all bullied (and I still was until a few years ago by some moms at the Catholic school my youngest attends). My youngest also had to deal with bullying because she decided to be good friends with another girl being bullied for years by this girl (whose mom was part of the group of bully moms), who tried to befriend my daughter, but my husband and I told her to stay away from this girl and her cohort. This girl would act all nice to my daughter’s friend and bullied her, yet had always gotten away with it.
Thank you for writing this post. You’re a godsend.
With kind regards from sunny England, UK 🙂 xx
this really hits home for me. i was tormented mercilessly by the girls (and boys, to some extent) throughout parochial grade school because of my differences (eczema, asthma, chronically ill, working class parents); barbs and outcasting lasted until i graduated HS. those years were miserable for me; what i have come to realize though, is that it made me a very empathic, sensitive and inclusive person. i learned to not care what others had to say about me. i learned how to be independent, and to continue to march to my own drumming. i have often wondered how my daughter (currently 3.5 yo) can become the same type of individual *without* having to undergo the same trials. now i know. thank you so very much for posting.
One of my best friends called me “inclusive” a few weeks ago. I wasn’t sure what she meant.
After reading this article, I think I am. And I like to think I am working my way toward being an “includer.” It’s not easy. It’s not always fun. But it is always, always, always worth it.
If I don’t love you, it’s because I don’t know you well enough. For the record, I haven’t always been this way and I have a LONG ways to go. I am 29, with no kids.
I wrote this piece about my own nine-year-old daughter who has been recognized several times as an “includer”and I like to think my own experiences of being excluded helped to shape the way I’m choosing to raise my children. Thank you for your thoughtful post http://www.latenightplays.com/blog/come-sit-beside-me
Oh Louise. What a beautiful post. Thank you for sharing. Yes – someone to just sit by us. Your daughter was/is so wise to see the need for this and respond. I’m glad you posted — I loved learning more about your beautiful writing. I’m glad you are here and we can connect now! I look forward to reading more of your posts. Love, Lisa
Hi Lisa….I’m so glad we’ve connected, too. I love your mindset and feel we come from similar schools of thought re: raising our next generation. Looking forward to reading more and connecting more. xo (and thank you for your kind words, means so much to me!)
I am thankful I had parents who taught us to find the other children who were left out and befriend them. I developed a lot of wonderful friendships that way.
Such an excellent read! Thank you for sharing. I have the same tenderness for including and being included. Raising my precious baby girls to have gentle hearts and praying they will always be as sensitive to others as they are as tiny, little ones. Thank you, again!
Oh my, I wish I had read this years ago. I too am an includer and know the feeling of being the new girl in school and the struggles and rewards of being an includer. May we empower our “girls” young and old to be strong, bold and beautiful.. To all the bully’s out there, you are loved, you just need an includer to show you. Thanks so much for this article.
I really appreciated your article. Never is bullying and being mean appropriate. I also like how you commented on how we need to not ‘save the day’ as adults but instead empower them. I believe that elementary/middle school years are so important in learning social connections/interaction with other girls. There are still boundaries of not being best friends with every person and not including everyone in every situation and so there will be times our children will feel not included. I believe that this is important and helps them realize the world has not fallen apart when this happens. It is important for us as parents to remember that it is not helpful to ‘react’ when our daughters are not included or put our own history/feelings on them. This does not help them. Exclusion can help a child understand how another person feels and build empathy. It can be healthy. But please hear me say that bullying and being mean is never appropriate and not ever to be used for any learning experience. I’m so sorry to hear that you experienced such difficult years as a child with other children that were either not learning well from their parents or were so insecure with themselves that they did not follow healthy social connections or were so much of a follower that they had not found their backbone yet to disagree with the ring leader. I’m so glad you found healing through it to become an amazing includer. You are living a story of grace and character.
This was my life from my earliest memory of grade 3 all through till the end of grade 12. It never dawned on me that the ones treating me so horribly weren’t my friends, I practically begged for their sick jokes and treatment. As a mother of a beautiful daughter who is 18, my greatest accomplishment is having raised her to be an including, caring human being who also knows that she is worthy of true friendships and that treating another person cruelly to boost your own esteem is not acceptable. I have faith that she would step up, if she witnesses this sort of behaviour, she would step up and do the right thing. As an educator, I am very sensitive to “mean girls” and am constantly stepping in to remind girls that “No, we want to play with each other, you can’t join in” and all the ways young girls find to exclude and hurt others is more hurtful than they could imagine. I have had the opportunity to speak to teens whom I’ve bluntly told that had all the social media been available when I was growing up, which magnifies the bullying a million times, I can say with little doubt, that I would not be alive today…..
It was one line. One quiet line, that just obliterated me with the mind-boggling amount of innate respect the author has for her daughter.
> The details aren’t mine to share. <
Pause and sit with that one, world.
What else can I say? (That hasn't already been said)
This is very, very good.
I know this is an old post, but I’m just seeing it today and wanted to thank you for it. In high school I was bullied my junior and senior year and it affects me to this day. In fact just reading about your experience created a physical response for me. I can’t imagine seeing my children go through it. Thanks for raising an includer.
Emily, this story has brought up a lot in folks — it has made us recall our own encounters with bullying. I am so sorry you had an experience of bullying. I so hear you. I’m
Glad you are here and thank you for sharing. I hope these wounds have healed within you.
Thank you for this powerful message. Powerfully yet tenderly written.
Thank you, Cheri. That was my hope — powerful and tender. Blessings, Lisa
Thanks for sharing your story! It’s true that most of us have stories of being bullied and that yes, it even continues into adulthood sometimes. I love that you are an includer and are so mindful. What important skills to pass onto your children and into the world. I wrote about my daughters experience with someone – a boy – being mean to her on my site Rudey’s Room: http://rudeysroom.com/2015/10/01/kids-will-be-kids-is-an-outdated-way-to-deal-with-bullying/
this was a hard read; imagining my sweet girl going through this makes me want to cry and throw up at the same time; but I’m glad she’s an includer; last year, she ran her second 5K (she’s 9) and had a running buddy (all the girls do); there was a little girl who was struggling a bit and Erin went back for her, had her run with them; she’s welcoming, compassionate, kind; and she, too, learned to stand up for herself at 4 years old; it does start early but it can stop early too if you teach them that they get to pick their friends, not the other way around; I told her that Mommy is only friends with people who are nice and she gets to decide, not be ‘picked’ but to pick based on kindness.
Becky, what a beautiful mom you are! Yes, teaching compassion includes caring for ourselves and regarding ourselves! I love how your dear daughter supported the girl who was struggling while running. Yes, we need to stick up for ourselves, those who are vulnerable, and each other. I love how you told her your process for choosing friends. Beautiful, Becky! Love, Lisa
Wow, Lisa, thank you for such a compliment! My sweet Erin really is a gem! She invited 16 girls to her sleepover for her birthday in a few weeks because she didn’t want to make anyone feel excluded. I told her we’d make it work with whoever can come. She’s an old soul and deeply compassionate; sometimes I worry she’s being left out but thankfully she’s comfortable in her own skin and marches to her own drum. We also have pets so both of my kids are deeply in tune with their feelings and taking care of them! Thanks so much again, I’m glad we can create a climate of acceptance and kindness for our kids. People always say “why bring kids into this horrible world” but my answer is to bring more GOOD into the world. If we raise our children to be kind and thoughtful, we can create more good and make it not so horrible.
Lisa, I know a wonderful young mother who is beside herself because her 9 year old daughter is a “mean girl.” The mother models inclusiveness more then anyone I’ve known and has spoken to her daughter directly about the hurtfulness of her behavior. The daughter simply doesn’t care. The child utilizes her social power and her peers are afraid of her. When this child walks into the room, all eyes are on her and she is emboldened. There is an antisocial feel to this young girl’s behavior. Mom’s efforts at modeling inclusiveness are not enough. Your suggestions?
I’m not an expert but I’d get her to see a child psychologist right away; if she does present antisocial tendencies, it could escalate quickly. That sounds very scary. At 9, she may not pose a threat but as she gets older, she could to her peers and her family. A trained professional can get her the help she needs and see if there is an underlying issue. Best of luck! We all want what’s best for our children and OTHERS’ children, too!
Anita, would you please email me offline? Just go to the “contact” page and then we can talk. I can help!
–Thank you for sharing this most personal, painful story.
I felt my chest tighten as I read your words, my breath quicken.
I so much longed for the MEAN GIRLS to change, be nice, let you in!
Most of us can understand ‘exclusion’ in one way or another…
and it’s called “BULLYING,” ….it’s intolerable, changes us, makes us feel less.
I hope some of the mean girls are reading this!!
xx from MN.
Thank you so very much for sharing your story and these very insightful ways to handle the situation. I had a similar situation, but magnified by the fact that it was at boarding school. Oh. My. God. I still look back on my time at boarding school as The Worst Time Of My Life. It was even worse than when I got a divorce. It was that painful.
Yes, I made some good friends there. It wasn’t all bad. In fact, there weren’t even that many catty girls. But having to LIVE with them, there was no escape except on the too rare home leaves…all because my parents didn’t want to send us to the local public schools. I swore then I’d never send my kids to boarding school, and I haven’t. Empowering our daughters. What a wonderful concept that will stand them in good stead all through their lives. Thank you for this.
Being included does make the person feel special and pass on the feeling. We moved to Minnesota when I was in third grade, I sat in the classroom at my desk while everyone else greeted their friends after summer. The few girls I had met from my neighborhood weren’t in my class. Two girls stood near me talking and kept looking at me, I felt horrible. The two girls eventually came over to me and introduced themselves, it felt wonderful and we became good friends. I made up my mind to do that for someone else when I had the chance just because of what they had did. We moved again when I was in fifth grade and I attended a small Christian school. I thought more people would be welcoming or would be just as welcoming because it was a Christian school after all, but I sat on the swings the entire time. At one point one of the teachers I had already met brought over another girl who was in my class. She was nice and polite enough, but as soon as the introductions were over she ran off to play with her friends without inviting me. I felt horrible. I eventually made friends, but at the beginning it was only other new kid. On one hand I had friends, but on the other I wasn’t friends with anyone who knew the school and wasn’t accepted as part of the school. Once I had been there for a while I was determined to welcome knew students and befriend them because I knew how I had felt at that school with no friends among current attenders and I had the memory of the two girls who talked to me at the last school I was knew at. They made me feel welcome and I wanted to pass on the feeling. Then those kids welcomed new kids the next year and it kept spreading and other kids started welcoming kids. All because two girls welcomed me at a different school.
So I think if we start it with one child it will spread. It did in my case.
I was always a shy kid in school… never really included in any groups, though I did have a couple friends. I would hear that people thought I was stuck up because I didn’t talk to them but I really was just so unsure of myself and felt nervous around others. Thankfully I have grown out of that for the most part… however now I find myself in the situation of having a (5 yr old) daughter with life threatening food allergies. Contact, airborne and ingestion. It is SO hard to be inclusive when we have to exclude ourselves from so many activities. People don’t realize the dangers of picnics, birthday parties, Sunday school, movie theaters, playgrounds, etc for kids with severe food allergies. Even a tiny little smear of peanut butter on the picnic table that my daughter accidentally touches could put her in the hospital. It is a scary way to live. We can’t attend wedding receptions or family get togethers because it is so severe. Having kids over or going on play dates… nonexistent except for a few who understand and are willing to wash hands and avoid allergen foods. While I agree with and appreciate your message… I find myself saddened that it isn’t so simple in our situation (not that it’s simple in the first place!). I do try to educate and advocate for my daughter, but some people just don’t get it (no matter how many times I explain). Sometimes I’d like to just crawl in a peanut and egg free hole. :-/
Ohhh yes, Devon, I’d believe how hard it is. One of my best friends has something similar with one of her children. This blog post is about more than just “being inclusive” with our children and playdates, etc. It’s about the skillful practice of being “inclusive” with our inner world of sensations, thoughts, and emotions. It’s learning to befriend all the “parts” of ourselves that we often push away or wish were different. Like that part of you that’d like to crawl in a peanut- and egg-free hole — I HEAR YOU! Yes, loving and giving space for that part of you, too. It tells the story of how hard and exhausting it is living with allergies and feeling misunderstood, too. “Tending and befriending” ourselves is one of the hardest and yet most liberating practices. I hope this post supports you and radically loving and nourishing ALL that is within you.
Blessings to you, Lisa
Devon: I’m sure it’s very tough, with such life-threatening allergies! I can only imagine! Maybe you could start a group to educate other moms on this type of thing? Invite moms and kids over; the kids can play and you can maybe share with the moms your struggles with allergies. It’s all about education and I think all moms can relate to protecting their kids! OR maybe ask your school if you can do an assembly of sorts? And educate them? Bring in an allergist? Just an idea. All children have the right to be safe! <3 hugs
My son didn’t go to day care so he was basically thrown to the wolves when he started PreK. He eventually liked going but as he got older, he started getting bullied by much bigger kids because they wanted to be friends with him but only knew how to be aggressive, and not ‘friendly’. We had many long talks about how to deal with those kinds of kids, and then it started being girls who were bullies because we didn’t go the same church as everyone else. Fortunately, he had a little posse that helped him get out of those entanglements, but it was very frustrating. He’s now in his mid teens and has learned how his sense of humor and often caustic tongue can make the aggressors back off. I was always an includer, because I wanted him to see that not every ‘goofy’ kid is really goofy. Sometimes they just need a friend.
Maude, it sounds like you have really accompanied/been alongside your son. It’s always so good to hear from parents with children who are older than mine. You have such wisdom! It sounds like you helped him navigate the experiences that he encountered. Thank you for being the mom you are! Lisa
I was a bully/mean girl growing up; I never felt bad about it, or even gave it a second thought, until God blessed me with two daughters who are now bullied. Their experiences have made me see the error of my ways and have forced me to grow as a woman. It’s hard for me to watch them suffer, but I know that God is preparing them for something, in allowing them to go through this. This was a wonderful article, thank you!
Tiffany, I’m so grateful for your honesty. I am sorry that your girls are experiencing bullying. I’m so glad they have you in order to be behind them and guiding them. Please let me know how things go the rest of this school year and summer. I’m praying for your girls.
I had a very long conversation last night with my almost 12 year old about this. She’s experienced it in a place we thought would be relatively safe. It was so heartbreaking to me because she’s such a sweet girl and is naturally an includer. Her rain is to close up and withdraw. What also breaks my heart is how she’s learned to protect herself. When she enters a situation in which she doesn’t know anyone, she looks mean, like she’s gonna bite someone’s head off. I know that’s not who she is. One of her good friends was totally unapproachable when we first met her. I encouraged my girl to say hi to her because she looked like age was scared. They really hit it off.
My 5 year old in pre-k also experienced it this year. Her reaction is to lash out, to be mean back. I’ve tried to help her see how it feels to be left out but she’s not getting it yet. She loves everyone and when someone hurts her I think it really surprises her.
Something I’m trying to remember to do now is remind my girls to look for someone who is by themselves and may need a friend.
Nikki, thank you for sharing. You are doing such a lovely job of SEEING your girls. I love how you are reminding your girls to look for someone who may be by themselves and need a friend. I hear you about your 12 year old “looking mean” and protecting herself. That’s okay! She is learning her way of setting boundaries and protecting her integrity. This is healthy and something we want to instill in our children. You might talk with her about what she needs to feel protected/resourced when she goes into a new situation — like what would most benefit and support her. Keep me posted! Love, Lisa
I grew up with a group of “mean girls”, too. In my case, the mean girls were my 3 older sisters, who were 2, 9, and 13 years older than me. I was around 4 years old when it first started. They were cruel, selfish, and spiteful. They went into a bedroom to “talk girl-talk” and locked the door behind them, leaving me crying outside the door. I was always told “you’re too little”, “we’ll tell you when you’re older”, “let the ‘big girls’ play”, etc, yet there was only 2 years difference between my and my next oldest sister. Worst of all, my mother, father, grandparents, aunt, etc enabled/encouraged this behavior. Rather than addressing it and trying to stop it, I was told to “stop being a baby”, “go play in traffic”, “take a long walk off a short pier”, “go play by yourself”, “leave the ‘big girls’ alone”, etc. This basically sent the signal that it was ok to treat me badly, and that I had no right to be upset about it, so the abuse never stopped.
When I wanted to play, my sister and cousin (1 year older) would offer to play “hide and seek” and I would have to be “it”. I’d search and search for them. I finally went next door to my aunt’s house and she would say they weren’t there, but I could hear them laughing in the other room. I went home in tears. My parents never stood up for me, never felt bad about this treatment, and no one ever cared about my feelings. I was told to “stop being a cry-baby”.
Many times, my family would “tell secrets” to my sister, who was 2 years older than me, before they put us to bed. It didn’t take long for me to figure out that the secret was that they were going to have pizza. My sister was supposed to pretend she was asleep and then in 15 or 20 minutes, when they thought I was asleep, they would come in and get her and they’d all have pizza. I cried myself to sleep when they did this, but no one ever cared that I felt excluded, unloved, unwanted; no one came in to get me. I’d see the pizza box in the garbage the next morning. Once in a while, I’d get up and go into the living room, acting as if I had woken up (because I wanted pizza too), but they continued their secret pizza nights for a long time. I never figured out why they waited, until after I went to bed, to order pizza; all I knew was that they deliberately excluded me and it hurt.
I don’t know how a little kid could have possibly done anything that would make her family treat her this way, but I can say that they continued excluding me, right into adulthood. The only way I could stop it, and avoid the hurt they continued to inflict, was to walk away from them. Funny, my sisters post all sorts of sayings on Facebook, decrying bullying, yet that’s exactly what they’ve done to me. They just don’t see it.
Reading your experience, Kris B, hurt my heart. I am so sorry for the pain you suffered needlessly all those years. It was wrong. It was NOT you. There is nothing a little child could have done to “earn” or otherwise “deserve” being treated this way. I am so very sorry. I’m glad you had the strength and courage to finally walk away. There is nothing wrong with doing that. Some families, or family members, or toxic. It is all right to draw a line and refuse to continue to be mistreated.
When my daughter was in kindergarten she had a teacher who abused the black children in the class. There was a little girl he especially went after, but he was horrible to the boys too. My daughter was friends with the girl and would get in the car every afternoon and burst into tears because of what was happening. We brought our children up to respect authority so I had a dilemma on my hands. What he was doing was evil, but my daughter could not directly challenge him without getting into trouble. We talked about ideas for how she could help and decided one day (after he’d embarrassed her friend in front of the class and encouraged the class to laugh and mock her) that when stuff like that happened, my daughter was to quietly go to the girl and just stand beside her with her hand on her back so the friend would know she was not alone. As much as possible, she was going to try to sit beside her, so she could be close by when it happened. That empowered my daughter because she felt like she could do something to help the situation, but wouldn’t get her in trouble with authority. However, the abuse was so bad in the classroom my daughter still cried every day when I picked her up. It was time for adult intervention. The friend invited my daughter to a birthday party so I was able to finally figure out who her father was. He was a single parent, raising his daughter on his own. I told him what was happening. Together we went to the principal and brought charges against the teacher. It was a red tape nightmare, but we were able to get him fired by the end of the year. I still wince when I realize my daughter was only 5 years old when she was dealing with what should have been a trusted adult abusing and bullying other 5 year olds, apparently motivated by the color of their skin. He was modeling that racist behavior and teaching the other children to do the same. Horrifying that he ever taught! When we first met him, he was so kind to my daughter we liked him, but my kid was a sweet, well-behaved blue-eyed blond. I bet he never dreamed we’d be the ones to get him fired.
I’m still in school, right now I am in a small school that fits me perfectly. I am included, actually everyone is included, in my class anyway, not in the whole school from what I hear. But I wanted to share my personal story with you.
When I was little I got bullied by boys as well as girls, there was these group of girls who would make a game of running away from me every time I neared them, they would whisper as they saw me noticing them and then they would shout “code red” and run, other groups of girls would stare at me awkwardly when I aproached and altough they would let me stay, they wouldn’t actually include me in their conversations which would hurt me all the more.
On the other hand boys thought, as any boy of that age would, that girls where “yuki” but there were a couple of them who would make a point of using desinfectant every time they had to touch MY notebooks or just avoided touching them directly, this didn’t happen to other girls, and it wasn’t like I was messy, dirty or anything, I never understood why they did it.
The teachers wouldn’t notice, at least I don’t remember them doing anything. At home I wouldn’t say anything because I thought it was all my fault somehow. I would cry myself to sleep dreading the prospect of going to school the next day and sometimes I would hide in the toilets during recess.
Finally before finishing elementary school I made a great excuse for my parents to change me to another school without me betraying my secret, I just said I had grown tierd of my school and wanted to meet new people, it was the perfect opportunity for a fresh start, I thought, I thought it was my fault and I was going to make sure not to make the same mistakes. It took me a lot of time to realize I had been bullied, not until I started in my new school and got myself a group of real friends did I realise that I had been bullied during all those years.
My problem was that I had no one because I didn’t understand my situation, even though it seems obvious now, I didn’t get it and maybe my bullies weren’t even concious of how much they were hurting me, they just made up a game at my expense without thinking of the consequences.
The last day of elementary school many cried because some kids were changing schools too, I cried of happiness at the prospect of this new school and because of the utter lack of tears shed for me leaving.
Caroline, how are you doing??? I’m so sorry this has happened to you. It’s not your fault. How is this new school year going?
Caroline, I’m so sorry that happened to you. You did nothing wrong and you did not deserve it. I’m glad you are now in a school where you are embraced and celebrated.
Thank you for sharing this with that specific title. I often explain this “mean girl” thing to my husband who has shared 50/50 custody of his now 9 year old daughter. We are a blended family with 2 girls ages 6 and 9. We married in July. I cannot tell you how many late night talks I’ve had with him about “not raising mean girls.” I think that a lot of parents overlook the signs of mean girl tendencies in their daughters. And worse, the girls are sometimes coached to be a mean girl by their parents (though the parents don’t realize what they are creating). It’s a huge problem that continues to get worse. I was appalled by the mean girls when I was in school. That is when I became an includer. My friends were mean girls and my twin sister was too. Eventually, I found myself with no friends because I often stood up for the girls they bullied. It’s sad. My step daughter is what I call a “passive aggressive mean girl.” I am still in the phase of building our relationship so I struggle with correcting her as it always ends in her crying in her closet no matter how gentle my approach. My 6 year old daughter is now a completely different child after being subjected to this passive aggressive mean girl crap. It is an understatement that families such as mine need guidance in these sensitive matters.
Thank you so much for sharing part of your story here with us. First, congratulations on your new marriage! Blended families are no joke — they are tough. You are trying to go about your everyday life while building a relationship with your “new” child(ren). With your stepdaughter — you are so wise to bring gentleness into building a relationship with her. It sounds like this is all new for her, too, and she could use your kind and loving presence. Modeling “presence” to her goes a long way. Having her just “beside you” and demonstrating love to her can be the soothing balm she needs. There is a beautiful phrase “connect before correct.” I think of it all the time. She may feel ashamed and also confused/not knowing how to deal with/tend to the feelings inside of her. Your acceptance of her and connection with her will create a safe space for you.
Have you checked out my Compassion Coaching offer? It’s a great way to get personal support/guidance for parenting challenges. Here is the link: https://www.lisamccrohan.com/services/compassion-coaching/
Keep me posted. I’m here for you!
Thank you! Although I KNOW I’m not alone in dealing with this same issue with my daughters, at times it feels as if I am. It saddens me that anyone has to experience such treatment. I tell my girls I can’t explain why people do the mean things they do so we must use the bad experience as a lesson. Together we no longer search for an answer but we grow and learn instead!
Amy. You are so right on. “We grow and learn” instead. This is beautiful and empowering to your girls. Blessings, Lisa
As an adult, I am still struggling to find a group of “includer” moms that are like me. I suffered this lonely road as a kid so I made my kids extra sensitive about always including everyone. As they head off to school, I always tell them to look for the person who needs a friend today. Thanks for sharing!
Oh Andrea. I so hear you. Finding a group of other soulful women is everything! What a presence you are for your children. I really pray that you find your tribe. Stay in touch with me. Let’s keep encouraging each other.
Hi Lisa. How true in all what you say. As a child I didn’t experience. Now as an adult, am facing this with my daughter’s school with the parents. My daughter too is experiencing. It’s so sad and upsetting to see her go through. Lots of parents say that this school is the worst set of parents around who treat each other in this manner. The sad part is I feel my daughter is getting bullied but she doesn’t talk about it. There is no way I can comfort her. The only reason we are sticking around is cos of the curriculum. It hurts so much to just drop and fetch my child from school everyday. I just try to do mechanically without looking around too much. Every individual if they can strive to be polite and considerate this world will be a nice place
Nus. What love you have for your daughter. I would encourage you to focus on what you CAN do — and what you ARE doing already to love and nourish your daughter. I would imagine you are a lovely presence for her. Keep me posted.
Interesting timing. I just posted this a few days ago:
Thanks To The Mean Girls
My daughter grew up in a church full of mean girls. I’m sure most people didn’t think they were mean, but they weren’t on the receiving end of their casual cruelty. You know how a group can somehow choose that one child to pick on? My daughter was the one. She wasn’t weak willed, or slow-witted, or unlovely, she was just the chosen one. It just killed me to see her try, and try again, dancing around the circle of Tweens or teens at church, hoping they would hear her or acknowledge her existence. And no, I’m not imagining things. Since then one of the girls has come to her to ask for her forgiveness for being too afraid to go against the group, even though she liked her, personally.
My daughter watched as they made play dates without her. She saw the photos on their walls of countless camping trips she was never included in. She watched as groups of friends went past the house on their way to see the Christmas lights, night after night.
Of course, I went to the Elders of the church to see what could be done. Time after time they gave us lists of her personal flaws to work on. And we did. It kept happening. And we’d go back. And they’d tell us another reason why their children didn’t have to accept her.
I stuck it out for 16 years. The one thing I wanted for her was to have friends when she grew up that she had known all of her life, something I never had. I regret now that I waited so long to get her out of there. It finally came down to a question of, when did they have to start acting like Christians, instead of beating down a peer for no reason?Now they all have what I wanted for her. They’ve grown up and live in the same town, and go to the same church. They married boys they went to kindergarten with, and their children, no doubt, are best friends. And what does my daughter have instead?
You won’t believe it. She has an iron clad confidence, forged by constant rejection. She has the greatest compassion I have ever seen. She risks losing all the friends she has to befriend someone who is downtrodden. She didn’t get pregnant before she got married. She didn’t cheat on her husband with a married man. She went to school and worked and overcame a devastating childhood, already made hard enough by being the only child of a single mother, living at the poverty level. She rose and overcame and she shines. Everyone she knows adores her, even if she doesn’t see it. She is the kind of friend who will leave a party, because your night turned out badly. She tells her friends the truth, even when it is hard, and she is unflinchingly loyal.
She is my hero.
And though she never got what I wanted for her, she got so much better than I dreamed. She got herself. And you mean girls who never gave her a chance will never get the chance and honor of knowing her now.
So thank you. I really thank you.
Ohhhhh my goodness, crystal. This brings tears to my eyes. Ohhhh my god. You and your daughter are amazing. Being amazing! Ohhh what you have gone through – the two of you. And here is an incredible story of how you saw your daughter through. And how your disgusted is now such an incredible woman. You two overcame such obstacles. I am so deeply touched that you shared this story. You both are amazing women. Lisa
I’m so happy I found this article. I have unfortunately, been the victim in a serious case of bullying done single handedly by another girl who would find others to help her even if they once were my friend. So, I not only experienced being bullied but also, betrayal by girls who I thought were my very best friends. The bully was insanely cruel to me as she stalked me for over a year. I now know that one of my besties was disclosing to the bully where and what I was always doing. I could have been changing in the girls locking room for CC practice or I could have been riding my horse, out to lunch with my mom, swim team, etc this bully hounded me night and day with physical threats along with verbal abuse trying to break the string girl that I was…I never understood why. It was all confusing to me at the time. The only way I got away from her abuse was the fact that we moved. Thankfully, I always had a strong family and a very strong Mother by my side. If I did not have such an amazing family, I just can’t imagine…..
Thank you for sharing. I was very blessed and don’t really remember having many mean girls/boys in my life.
But now that Im a mum, everything seems so hard. I have 3 little girls ( 6, 4 and 3 years old) and sometimes is so hard when they come home and say that the friend they always play with didn’t want to play with them. I try to explain that some days people just want to do something else, and that is fine. As long as they don’t treat you badly. However, my oldest, has this friend that she Loves, and they have been best friend. But for the past 8 months she has been that so often to my little girls, every other day she says she doesn’t like her anymore and doesn’t want to be her friend, it breaks my heart when my little one says her friend didn’t even say hi or smile to her when she said hi with a smile, or when she says she doesn’t want to play with her anymore, and she cries because they are no longer friends. My child is very outgoing and plays with all the other kids and is super talkative and friendly, but this thing with this specific friend really bothers me. I try to say to her to walk away and play with other kids, and she can still love her friend even if from far away, but we should be around people that are mean to us.
But few days after the little girls is all smile and friendly again, it is a constant up and down and this affect my child as she gets very upset when her friend pushes her away…i just don’t know what to do. I want her to know that she should be kind to people and be there for friends even if they have a bad day…but sometimes I think it is so unfair…she is just 6years old and she can’t understand why some days things are good and other are not. Would appreciate any advice in how to deal with it.
My mother always told me that I was excluded only because I wasn’t friendly enough. “If you would be nicer to those girls, they would be nicer to you.” Of course I knew this was ridiculous, but instead of being too hurt about it I enjoyed watching all the social machinations from my solitude. I was an introvert anyway (and quite smart and independent, and the mean girls were pretty stupid) so being alone didn’t really bother me. I enjoy it still.
I married another smart, independent introvert, and of course our children are much like us. From the very beginning, as early as first grade, when they mentioned being excluded we would analyze the social behavior together — exactly like we were scientists observing the fight for dominance within pack of animals. As we moved into the world of high level youth orchestra the jockeying got worse, and the parents (not only the moms, either) were heavily involved. Being able to identify and joke about these vicious social behaviors was what kept us sane and happy. It put us voluntarily on the outside of the observation window, and made the kids feel that we were above all that.
My goal was not only to protect our kids’ feelings, but to help them want to seek out new friends based on mutual interests, not on who was socially desirable. This turned out to make them desirable as friends, as well as being immune to mean people.
I am so glad someone shared your article on Facebook!! It is great and it is just too bad that those who should read it probably never will. I am sure I dealt with bullying in school as I do remember an older girl walking me home to protect me from a “mean girl”! But back then there was not much attention paid to situations like that. Then my own daughter went through it in high school and it was horrible. High school girls can just be so terribly mean! But she was always the one who would include everyone as she would say I know what it is like to be excluded and she is still like that to this day. But now it is my turn again as I have been bullied in the workplace for five years to the point where I am being treated for stress and depression and I have been forced to walk away from a very lengthy career and have lost everything – my financial security, my health, my self esteem, self confidence and my friends!! Bullying at whatever age needs to stop! It can destroy people and their families and people need to stand up for others and protect them and bullies need to be held accountable!
A friend posted this on Facebook… such a powerful – empowering – message, Lisa! I hae been mocked for being ‘different’ — by girls/children, Christian and non-Christian, progressive and conservative, etc. etc… throughout elementary, jr. high, high school, college, and yes as an adult as we all likely have. The gift has been that I came to embrace my ‘differentness’ – in living consciously and respectfully of others — and it assists me – of course – in my work as a massage and energy therapist. I observe how each of my daughters deals differently with being ‘different’ in our small rural town and extended region… Your article is most timely, even though it is a few years old, particularly in our current cultural and political time of crisis. Namaste; thank you for sharing your words and wisdom.
Joanne, thank you for your words. I am so sorry you experienced bullying. You are right – it’s in every “group.” I am so grateful you “get” the message in this post — that, although we wouldn’t go looking for these experiences again, these trying times helped us to embrace US more….and then to share that love with the world. Thank you for doing the work you are doing — of raising your lovely daughters as well as being a massage and energy therapist. We are so on the same wave length, Joanne. Sending abundant blessings to you, Lisa
Great article. I was wondering from your years of experience in counseling bullies, what do you find is the most common reason given for why they bully.
I have my thoughts from working in child welfare for numerous years but I was curious to know what you hear in regards to that As I work with young children I find it helpful to help them understand the why behind things so that they are not blaming themselves
Leesa, First, thank you for the work you do (or did) with child welfare. I worked for Catholic Charities for many years and we worked a lot with child welfare. I always regarded the counselors I met with child welfare. Oh Leesa, as you know, too, there are so many reasons why someone bullies. The one being bullied needs love and needs connection. As a psychotherapist working with trauma and attachment, I see bullying as a desire for connection. And how they GET that connection needs to be guided. Lisa
I watched my daughter negotiate mean girls after being kicked out of the group by the queen Bee. I never knew all of her pain until after she survived it all. Living in a small town, as well as being a teacher to the mean girls’ children, gives me pause as I watch their children begin the journey. The mother of my daughter wishes that those mean girls feel my pain as their beautiful little daughters begin the negotiation of peers. The loving part of me cannot wish that horrible emotional turmoil on those innocent babies. I really only wish those women know the forever pain and damage they incurred.
This is exactly what I was seeking! What I’m seeking is seeking me right? Thank you so so much for sharing – as an adult who is experiencing a challenging situation similar to what you describe but with adults this has made me see the light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you!!
Bullying needs to stop. Applies not only to boy and girls that are bullied; but also to men and women. Treat others the way you would like to be treated. Takes a long time to regain confidence, self-esteem, and the ability to trust when others treat you so badly.
Excellent, Lisa. This is far more subtle and widespread than parents realize. I’m a long-time preschool teacher (over 30 years), and I see this begin as early as four-years-old. Kindness and acceptance is a natural part of my curriculum, and children’ nature. At every juncture, big or small, I intervene. Not always in a big way or a strong way, but just what is needed; a hug, listening ears, a firm voice, role playing. On and on. I have always thought that character is the best thing I can leave with my preschoolers.
Thank you for this. I just moved to new town and am starting all over again to build friendships, in my 40s. I feel, most often, like I am wading through the sharky waters of high school. It is hard. And I am having to be intentional about teaching my toddlers (I started late!) to be includers, by practicing that myself in a place where I don’t feel that I belong. This is an encouraging reminder for me. I will not give up or give in.
Terese. It can be really hard to move to a new town. I am praying that you meet some beautiful soul firends.
Wow! What a powerful post. We HAD to share this with our school community. You come from such an amazing perspective. This speaks to hold space for our children and ourselves. Thank you for the insight to extend compassion, not just for our girls but for our boys, AND to be aware of ourselves as women and men who are being looked up to.
Ana, I am so grateful you shared it with your All Things Sprout community! Thank you so very much. Yes – girls AND boys…and we as parents who they are looking up to! You are right on! Thank you for the work you do, Ana! Blessings, Lisa
Thank you for sharing, Being a mom of 2 girls has its challenges I have raised my girls to stand up for themselves and stand up for those who can not stand up for themselves. If you ask adult or peer they will exclaim how sweet my girls are, yet there are those peers and adults that take advantage of my girls sweetness. I believe it starts with the Adult parent especially those who believe their daughters are gold, when sorry to tell you when you’re not around your daughter is a bronze at her best. I have away of volunteering and getting the advantage of watching these kids in real time, seeing their true colors and I watch my daughters too. I catch those moments when my girl could have been a nicer person and I use it to teach them explain to them a better way to handle what just happened. I SO WISH OTHER PARENTS did this, so many times I have watched these so called Golden girls/kids be hateful disrespectful mean right in front of their parents and their moms say nothing and the act continues. I am so tired of these moms who themselves are nice to their friends and let their daughters become carbon copies of themselves. I tell my daughters be a better person than I am. I point out how if people could take the time to access a situation and make better choices life could be better for everyone. My oldest is on the Autism spectrum so she has always have been a step behind the in crowd, my youngest is right in the middle of the fun crowd and I remind her hey that girl is right there where your sister was ask her to join in and it has made her such a better person for having a big sister with a disability. I know nobody’s perfect but when you walk around like you and your kid are so nice; sorry but usually it’s your kid who is the meanest or the one that is mean first. Teach your kid to look at things from every side, not just your own.
Hi Lisa, how do you speak to your child if she is being the “mean girl”? I have tried several ways but have not seen change in her behavior.
(I mistakenly posted this as a “reply” to one of the comment. I am reposting. )
Sally.thats s good question. And it deserves more than a short comment response. The bottom line is that you want to get to the “need” that is beneath the behavior. Why is she being mean? What is she feeling underneath the meanness? Show her regard. Show her compassion. Have a true desire to hear her, she her, and understand her.
If you’d like, you might want to check out Compassion Coaching that I offer. Sitting with parents and really exploring the particulars of what is going on in their family is what I love to do.
I raised two girls 3 years apart. One was a “mean girl” and the youngest was the “includer”.
I’m so proud of my daughter. She started kindergarten this year. Her teachers can’t get enough of telling me how wonderful she is in the classroom. They said when they get a new student she is the first one to welcome them and she “takes them under her wing”. Once she got to pick a surprise for being star student of the day. Then another girl got her shirt ripped by another little ” mean girl”, and she gave her her surprise to make her feel better.
Although I’ve raised my daughters to be kind, and to not say something if they don’t have anything nice to say, my 12yo daughter is becoming more and more of a bully. Spreading rumors of what she may or may not have actually witnessed, rather than going to a teacher; lying; ganging up on kids who don’t share the same interests; arguing with her 13yo sister over computer usage turns; and sometimes even getting into physical fights. She also refuses to do (school)work she considers “beneath” her (ie, reviewing material previously taught).
I’ve tried talking with her, grounding her from an assortment of items & activities, assigning extra chores, making her write apologies (even if she doesn’t give them to the person/people). I’ve even enlisted help from the school counselor, principals, and a local mental health facility to get ideas & support. Honestly, nothing is really working. I have no idea how to get her to be kinder & more inclusive?
This is difficult. I so hear you. The tween and teenage years can be really hard. I can sense your love for your daughter. HOW to be with her deserves more than a response to a comment. Please consider Compassion Coaching. (Just clock above). Your presence, your regard for her and your time will serve to nourish and support her. I am behind you. I can feel the desire you have to help and love your daughter. We often need others around us to support us as parents. Please reach out to me. Lisa
I applaud your candor. I’m sure your daughter will eventually hear you. Good luck!!!!!
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I’m in my mid 20’s and I feel just the way you did in 6th grade. I work with mostly women at a restaurant who treat me like a weird outsider just because I haven’t been friends with them for years. One employee even called me socially awkward in front of everyone just to make me feel even worse and boy was that embarrassing. However, reading your experiences somehow brings comfort to mine. So thank you!
I had the same experience with girls in a school I went to throughout k-12th grade, they were mean and nasty to me for 12 years. I tried to practice inclusion when new girls came to our school. There was one instance I remember vividly that I befriended a new girl and within a month, the meangirls had co-opted her and she would no longer speak to me. It was painful, another time I had a crush on a boy and the meangirls (one of whom I went to church with), warned this boy away from me, she made some nasty comments about me that my sister overheard. It broke my heart and dismayed men that even then that people were so sheeple-like and took their social cues from the people around them.
You are correct mean girls turn into mean women and they create the same hateful havoc in our adult lives. The same holds true that no one holds them accountable as adults for their hatefulness and bad behavior, which dismays me even more as an adult.
My boys had the same experience I had in school, only they went to Christian schools for most of their educations. I thank you so much for writing this, although it brought back the anxiety and anger I had when I was a kid, I appreciate your sharing it with others to make them aware.
I can only hope that people look around them and practice inclusion and standing up for the targets of mean girls and holding mean girl women accountable for their behavior.
This is beautiful. So empowering– and I truly love that you have included the transition into womanhood and motherhood where unfortunately the bullies or “mean girls” can still be there– but as you said your tribe is there too and it took me a while too to rid myself of the toxic relationships and to accept what that might look like. I too am an psychotherapist–practicing the skills of DBT and Mindfulness– it is something that I try to impress upon my daughter (8) and her close friends… thank you for a wonderful article.
Lisa – I’m so glad I found your site. Just yesterday I wrote a blog post about the same topic. I will check in often. Thanks
Thank you for this article, I saw it by chance after a friend liked it on Facebook. I am from the UK and changed schools at 11 to a fee paying all girls school. To say I hated every minute is not much of an understatement, twenty years on I still bare many scars. I was in a particularly small year at a school that was known for its small classes, so a rumour could start at form time and by break time everyone took it as gospel. The one thing the mean girls spread to anybody new starting was ‘nobody is friends with F…’, which means even now my full name is left as something I cannot abide. However, like yourself I am an includer, I write about my experiences and talk about them so others can too. We need to spread more empathy and understanding not hate, jealousy and envy.
Lisa, I ran across this from my cousin, who is a mom to my eight-year-old goddaughter who had her first recent brush with mean girls. As a 28-year-old woman who is an unfortunate veteran of this situation you’ve captured it all and I am so touched that you “get it.” So many people think that nonverbal exclusion is not legit — to the point where teachers ignore it or don’t even notice it as you pointed out. I am still dealing with some of the things that were said and done to me with my therapist… but I’m lucky enough now to be surrounded by friends who would do as much for me as I’d do for them. Thank you for this. Thank you for speaking out. Thank you for helping to foster a culture of inclusion so that hopefully my goddaughter won’t have to suffer as I did. And thank you for understanding how hard it is, even years later.
My daughter is 11 and says she feels excluded st school. If she walks up to a group of girls who are talking, they stop and look at her like she has 10 heads. Or if classmates are playing a game at recess, they put the game away instead of asking her to play. We moved here 4 years ago and she has never truly felt like she belongs or found a true friend to stand by her. It’s heartbreaking for her and for me to watch.
Unfortunately, it’s usually the mothers who are encouraging and supporting the mean girl culture. They tout the “coolness factor” and try to reinforce the exclusivity of cliques. The only way this can change is if the culture at home is changed in some way. It’s very deeply rooted in some women. So sad but the scary part is that some of these women actually enjoy seeing and hearing about how their daughters are hurting other girls.
I heard a story one time that is the flip-side of what you are describing. It is a beautiful story told by a woman in her 50’s. Like you, she had moved to a new place as a young teenager and was feeling all the feelings of apprehension and loneliness you describe. She had attended church in her new town the Sunday before she started school. She walked into the cafeteria, new and lost, wanting to just get through the lunch hour and started looking around for a corner to hide in. She was amazed to hear someone hollering her name! She looked around and there at a table with friends was a girl she had met at church on Sunday. This girl was literally jumping up and down, waving and hollering to get her attention. She walked over to the table, a place was cleared for her and her new friend introduced her to everyone saying “this is my new friend”. She was adopted into the group and her first day at school changed from terrifying to delightful. The interesting thing is that this woman remembers that experience like it was yesterday and feels very emotional about it still. The impact of one person doing one kind, friendly thing can be profound.
Ohhhh my gosh. What a beautiful, redeeming story!!!! I am so glad that you shared this, dear Sara!!! We need more stories like this. Thank you. Thank you.
I grew up in the early 60s in a saml rural area and no one made fun of or neglected anyone else. Our parents raised us not to be mean. I had happy college years; first time excluded as an adult when moved to where everyone knew everyone……I was never accepted by most of the coworkers; the outsider.The small town factor applies; outsiders are not welcome. I do not believe that mean girls are mean bc they are hurting inside. Some are raised to be mean by mothers and others love excluding the newbie. Now I am being bullied in a nonprofit by the leader who is abupt and sharp with me; not with others. She is obese and perhaps jealous of me; she is used to being the boss. Perhaps she suffers herself but she is this way only w me. I will quit asap bc this is ego busting for me. She is from a town where women rule and are bossy and mean! She gets by with it here; she is either jealous of me or just realizes that I have a sensitive nature. By allowing her to diss me I am feeling less. Whatever a person’s problems, there is no excuse for this. For my own sake, I need out of this toxic woman’s reach. Some people are just mean, whether they have problems or not; it’s their ego. I only will associate w kind people and not subject myself to this. Do not excuse the bulliers; I’ve known many. There is no excuse for it; we all hurt but to bully is evil and I will not feel sorry for those who bully; I will stand up for myself when I can and avoid the others.
There is always a reason for behavior. “Mean” little girls are just little girls with their own struggles. They have not been nurtured, shown compassion, empathy…. Had someone hold and stroke their hair as they share their feelings…. It’s a sad cycle…. Parenting education is the root. Many parents have no idea how different their childhood was until they have kids and meet other parents… Their is always a reason for behavior…. I cringe when my mother comes out of my mouth.
I am over 50 years old & to this day I have trust issues with women because of grade school & jr high bullies. I spent my entire school years trying to prove that I was as good as the ‘poor little rich girls’ who saw fit to make fun of my clothes, hair & anything else they decided upon for the day. Most, if not all of my stupid mistakes through life were made because I was always trying to fit in & be accepted by someone. The ‘mean girl’ treatment has stayed with me forever. I prefer hermit status over social situations. Only through God’s Grace have I been blessed with a wonderful husband. Together we raised two beautiful strong girls who are now great moms to our grandchildren.
Thank you for sharing this about mean girls! Right now I have a 13 yr old that has been mistreated by two “friends” for about 3 years. I wanted to step in & tell her she couldn’t be friends with them anymore but she just couldn’t see how they were mistreating her. She finally realized how they were using her as a door mat. She realized she didn’t have to put up with their excluding her on purpose. It has hurt for both of us but she now has made some real friends that I think will be good for her.
Being overweight all my life, I have dealt with a number of bullies. So all this brings up the hurt I experienced as a child & teen & even adult. I’m here for her & she helps me too!
We remind each other how beautiful we are inside & out!
I read your article to her & she & I shared a good cry. I think some of your comments helped her to realize the wonderful person she is as an includer!
Thank you again!
Donna!!! Ohhh I am so deeply loved by the loving and encouraging presence you are to your daughter. You are alongside her helping her to navigate these rough waters of the tween and teen years. I am so so so glad she found new friends who are includers like her! You are raising an incredible young lady! Please keep me posted. Tell your daughter I believe in her!!!
I spent most of my life being the “weird one,” for a variety of reasons. I am a little different, but I was made even more different by my childhood situation. I became a reader very young, and that made me even more different. In college in my thirties I came across an essay by C.S. Lewis called “The Inner Ring.” I recommend it to everyone, the bullies and the bullied, because it brings a high perspective on the problem of human relationships — what is not a real friendship and what can cement a real friendship. My mother and I both taught this essay in Freshman English classes and NEVER met a student it didn’t resonate with.
I love being an includer and I love being included! I’ve never been in a clique or a special group so I always tried to create my own groups of friends who didn’t seem to have their own home. In return, I am part of many groups and always try to include everyone. Recently I started a networking group so other women could have the same support system! I guess I just love all people, weird, smart, funny, quiet. Everyone has something to offer if you let them!
My daughter is just finishing up her 6th grade year. It is so hard to watch what these girls do. Victoria has no friends at school. Have you ever seen an entire grade play red rover? It’s such a fun game. Victoria decided to try to join in, not one single person would hold her hand so she could play too. Another time she was reading a book under the shade tree on the playground, several of her classmates were making flower chains, she say down to join them and as she say down every single one of them got up and walked away leaving her sitting there alone. These are kids she has gone to school with since kindergarten.
Great article! There is so much richness in inclusiveness… my heart is particularly tender towards the poor kids I see with their bad haircuts and non-trendy clothes trying to “pass” with their excluding trendy little peers. I am also tender towards my granddaughters, tears my heart out.
Learn to defend people who are being bullied. This is the best way to stop bullying. It is cowards who shrink back and watch someone else being abused.
Having raised four daughters I can appreciate what you have said in this article.It was very beneficial info .
All children want friends. This is universal. It is traumatic for a child to enter the school system and be rejected by the other kids, never have anyone to sit with, never get invited to anyone’s home after school. No child should have to go through this. It causes self hatred, anxiety and low self esteem. Although I don’t homeschool myself, I can understand why many parents do.
How do you feel about Talent Shows, cheerleading, and beauty pageants in elementary school? I feel that they do more harm than good, making girls feel excluded or not good enough. They also form cliques. I’m kinda okay with the Talent show, but think it should be changed up to be called a variety show, so that more could participate.
I believe it starts with the family culture, but once your child is with “non-includers” from an including family it can be really hard to break your child out of that. I remember last year my child became good friends with a non-includer. This girl was stuck like glue to my child at school, but the moment they were somewhere else where this girl had “other” friends she would ignore my child. I think girls love that feeling of power–having a person stuck like glue to them, and then ditching them. Anyway, at one point I asked the mom of this child if she could PLEASE encourage her daughter to include one other girl who was being excluded at lunch. The mom said it wasn’t her job to teach her child to include others and that they should work it out themselves. I prayed to God that this family would move and then they did and I was VERY thankful.
My daughter just finished her 8th grade year at the same middle school I attended as a young girl / teen. And, sadly, she’s experiencing much of the same exclusive, mean girl mentality that I did at her age from her classmates. The great thing is that my daughter is a strong, confident young lady who does not seek the validation of her peers and therefore doesn’t let her effect her as it did me. But I believe part of that confidence comes from her relationship with her Dad & I … we’ve tried to empower her on how to deal with situations as they arise & we’ve had to step in at times when we felt we needed to … we’re raising a very intelligent and independent young woman who will find success in life not by how popular she is but by her moral character & compass … her compassion for & inclusion of others – those less fortunate – those kids sitting alone in the lunch room etc. I’m proud of how she chooses to stand for what she believes, to not try to or care to “fit in” with THAT group – “the cool kids”, “the populars” … but to forge her own path & befriend other young ladies who see the world as she does 🙂 a world of co-existing & of inclusivity!!!!
My daughter has just been through a similar thing at the local Catholic school. She also begged to go to the public school. I could see what was happening and the ‘relational aggression’ between the girls, but apparently no one at the school could! Leaving her out, snide looks and comments, it was really hurtful and is the crux of issues between girls. It represents a disturbing type of bulllying that is often not recognized and I urge parents to be really aware of this type of behaviour.
She said to me ‘mum, I would rather they hit me than do this other stuff!’. Such a powerful statement from an eight year old. She is much happier now, where the atmosphere appears more chaotic and full on but is more honest I think which allows her to handle any issues.
Ok, this is a good article for the kids who have been bullied, but what about the kids who are bullies? We all know the reason kids are bullies is because they have their own insecurities and worries so they are masking them with meanness. I wish there were more articles about how to prevent the bullying rather than how to deal with being bullied.
I had a horrific time in schools, Elementary through Senior Year. I was a Target, for sure. I was shy,smart, a redhead w freckles, poor, awkward, had older parents and was Jewish. I was one-a-kind, in Jr and Sr high. I begged to be transferred, from one LA school to another. I can’t really say one was really better than another.
The gangs and bullies were ruthless. They’d threaten me to give them money, that I didn’t have. My lunch tray was knocked out of my hands and sack lunch was thrown away(yes, I had both, in hopes of getting to eat something), as well as gum dropped into my hair, by the “Popular Girls”.
My text books were stolen and sold. I was pushed down the stairs, my head was banged in my locker, spitballs were always in my hair and I was dangled over the balcony, when I had nothing to give the gangs.
They threatened to killed my family, then shoot me, if I told anyone.(yes, they showed me the gun).
I still told my mom, but my grandma said,”If you don’t go looking for trouble, you won’t find it”.(My grandma was born in 1911).
I survived by eating snack/lunch on the balcony or finding I teacher to help during break times. I became the teachers pet. I had 1 friend in each of the 4 schools I went too.
I now have 2 daughters(and an older stepson). I teach them to be includers, be kind, empathetic, and to care.
My 11yr old is a leader, high achievers, mathematician, gymnast, artistic, though not always kind.
My 5yr old is sweet and loving. She has my caring personality.
My 21 yr old stepson was a bit of a bully, in school, caused by loss and challenges. He’s an amazing caring and wonderful young man now!
They all have their own deck of cards.
My school life helped made me into the empathetic giver I am. There’s always something good that comes out of such bad!
I’m sorry for what you went through but how wonderful that you are using your painful experiences to help others! My daughter suffered from mean girls at her school and church and it is heartbreaking to watch, and I have personally witnessed that mean girls grow up to be mean women
Dana, this is so sadly true. It’s heartbreaking to see our lives ones experiencing this. I’m praying your daughter finds her voice…
OMGoodness, my heart broke for your 6th grade self! It breaks for the little ones now. I remember all too well…but also I have 2 truly sweet, loving little grand daughters 6 and 8. They’re both only children, so I really pray that they always act with (and are always treated with) kindness…
This resonates with me deeply. We moved to another state several years ago and my oldest daughter and I have both struggled to fit in. That doesn’t stop me from constantly talking to my girls about what I call intentional inclusion. It’s active; not passive. In fact, I wish our anti-bullying programs would include this in their programs because ultimately this is what it comes down to – inclusion.
My one issue that I feel quite sensitive to is the use of the word “tribe.” I find that many adult women are using this term. To me it sounds (feels) exclusive and that there is no more room. It feels the opposite of inclusive. I know that it’s not your intention and likely not the intention of others, however, I do think words matter and can have un-intended consequences. Just my two cents.
Thanks again for sharing your story and being vulnerable.
Thanks for sharing your story! It is heartbreaking. I have kids going through this at school and even with some extended family members. Sometimes is hard to find the correct words to comfort them. It is very painful when it happens between kids but is even more devastating when an adult does it to another adult or even a kid like in our case.