Monday Morning Moment – a ‘Mean Girl’ Culture – Modeling Inclusion and Resilience for our Daughters

Photo Credit: Mean Girls Film, The Daily Targum

When we think mean girls, the 2004 film Mean Girls probably comes to mind. Such a classic story of teen drama, it has also been adapted to the stage as a Broadway play. The expression mean girls brings to mind girls, in middle school and through college, who will do whatever it takes to be most popular in their school or circle.

I’m not sure girls intend to be mean…it just happens in the climb to the top. Others get pushed down in the process.

Growing up, my experience with mean girls was fairly limited. We had a neighbor girl who for a season chose me to be her bullying target. We never came to blows (the one fight I decided to finish – she would have laid me out if it had happened – was aborted when my mom providentially came home from work early that day. In high school, she and I (Gail was her name) actually became good friends.

I do remember early in middle school getting in trouble for talking in class. One of the really popular girls had asked me about an assignment, but the teacher only saw me answering her. In an attempt to use me as an example, the teacher shamed me in front of the class. The girl who triggered the situation just sat there and smiled as others snickered. It was on me that I talked…and it taught me a big lesson.

In high school, I was fairly nerdy. A few of us outsiders hung together happily for those four years. The exclusivity and cliquishness of the really popular girls didn’t really affect me…until Senior year. At that time, I was dating one of the football players which drew me into the popular girl circles…superficially. I was voted to be secretary of the Senior class as well as being chosen as my class representative to the Homecoming court. Later I would find out these two things came my way because one of the uber-popular girls had campaigned for me so that another popular girl she was at odds with wouldn’t get those honors. Sigh… A little story from my high school years. It worked well for me…but it gave me a view inside a mean girls world.

Our daughter saw the Mean Girls movie while she was in college. She was that girl new to American culture having grown up in Africa. Fortunately, she like her mama didn’t personally experience much of that exclusive girls’ clique shtick.

As moms, we can help our daughters (and sons) to overcome the sort of insecurity and identity politic that goes into becoming mean girls/guys. On the flip side, we can also guide them through the experience of being hurt by such a tribal situation. Lastly, we can model and mentor our children to be includers rather than excluders.

Photo Credit: LibQuotes

This week I discovered a 2-part piece on raising includers. Written by therapist Lisa McCrohan, the coaching article was helpful in confronting the whole mean girl phenomenon.

Raising Girls Who Are “Includers” Instead of “Mean Girls” (Part 1) – Lisa McCrohan

I Was That New Kid Sitting Alone at the Lunch Table (Part 2) – Lisa McCrohan

Photo Credit: Lisa McCrohan

In brief, here is a summary of her counsel:

I want to talk straight with you. It’s time now to make a difference in your child’s life, in your community, and in our world.  We can create a more compassionate world – starting within our homes.

Here are six ways we can help our children rise with resilience, feel connected, and believe that they matter — and prevent bullying:

1. Get off our phones.

2.  Be present.

3.  Keep reflecting our children’s light and their goodness. – “We are the ones who have to send them the message that they belong, they matter, and they are loved. Always.”

4.  Teach our children responsibility. 

5.  Teach our children to be the one who risks kindness. – “We can model this. In your family, make this a motto: be the first one to be kind… The ‘first one to be kind’ is the leader. A strong, effective leader. Others will follow suit. Let’s teach our children the skills of empathy and courage to stand up for what is right.”

6.  We have to own our stuff to heal. – Lisa McCrohan

McCrohan gives much more commentary in her articles so read them in full when you have the time.

Her point #6 reminded me of a time when our children were in a small American school overseas. Our youngest has some learning issues as did the daughter of another mom in the school. One day I was subbing in her daughter’s class, and the mom just happened to come to the door during a math quiz. I had just walked away from her daughter’s desk after helping her get back on track with a complicated problem, and when the mom showed up, her daughter had begun to cry. For years after that, her mom and I had a strained relationship. She had made an assumption that I had left her daughter without the help she needed…which was not true. Our children struggled with some of the same learning issues, and we could have been such a support to each other, but…it wasn’t meant to be. Somewhere along the way, that mom had her own “stuff to heal”. It still bothers me today. That we couldn’t be friends because of a misunderstanding.

Was that mean girl stuff? No,but I do think those of us who tend to wall ourselves off from others or who have to be “the best, most popular” have some sort of wound that needs healing…before we pass it along to our children.

Anyway, ’nuff said. Our kids have been raised to be inclusive almost to a fault. Are they inclusive? No…not always, but neither am I. Still, understanding the value of “drawing circles” that welcome others in is a strong foundation on which we build relationships.

[If you have mean girls stories, either on the receiving end or that of being the one bullying, I’d love for you to share your experiences, counsel, etc. in Comments below.]

YouTube Video – Mean Girls – Best Scenes (Warning: some language)

Inner Circles – the Mad Pursuit of Position, Power, Prominence, and Plenty – Deb Mills

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