Mean girls

November 20th, 2013
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It seems to be a long standing truth in society that females can be difficult: catty, mean, moody, dramatic. I actually think males can be difficult in their own way, but by and large, this is how the stereotype goes.

Olivia seems to have come upon a "mean girl" phase at school. To be honest, she has never been a sweet, pliant, people-pleasing child. She is stubborn and willful and knows what she wants, for better and for worse!

There is a girl who I"ll call A. Apparently, the two have not gotten along all quarter since school started, and the drama has intensified to the point where Olivia came home from school saying, "A called me ugly. I don't like her."

At school the next day I saw A, who is to my mind, a pretty, sweet, likable kid. A tattled to me, "Olivia is mean to me."

I looked at my kid. "Is this true?"

Olivia looked straight at A and said, "You called me ugly!"

A retorted, "You said I'm not the boss of you!"

Evil stares. Did I really just witness this silly exchange?

Sometimes in the parallel universe that lives in my head I imagine what adult life would be like if grown ups talked to each other like this. It's amusing. No wait. It happens, but with different words. *sigh*

Now it's my obligation to mitigate this. I really don't know what to say. I talked about how not to name call, and how they shouldn't be mean to each other. I said if you don't like each other then don't talk to each other, but it's not necessary to verbally poke at each other.

Later in the week, I asked the teacher what's the story on that. "Different personalities. Not everyone is going to like each other, right? They have to learn to tolerate."

The tension is so great that the two girls had to be separated in the seating chart and can't even look at each other without creating some kind of fuss.

Ridiculous! I can't believe this is happening at age six!

Six! I think I have hard days at work but I guess Olivia does in her own way.

Any suggestions on how I should handle it or should I just ride it out and let the girls figure out how to live with tolerance?

8 Responses to “Mean girls”

  1. greenthumb:

    It sounds as though you and Olivia have discussed this, and that the teacher is aware of it. Yes, it's tough to be a parent at times like this, but if it's any consolation, it's better to know than find out later. Keeping the lines of communication open with your child will always pay dividends. Maybe there's some subtle modeling you can think of? With the holidays approaching, you may be cut off in traffic or for a parking space (sigh) … maybe use that occasion to spell out what you're thinking vs. how you're acting? Like, "gosh, this person is frustrating me, but if I let it get to me, that only makes my frustration last longer."

    At this moment, though, if you trust Olivia's teacher's pedagogy and outlook overall, perhaps ask him/her for suggestions on whether to discuss specifically at home or whether to leave it be. His/her point about building an ability to tolerate is well-taken. Maybe a quiet chat with your neighborhood children's librarian (or at school) for an age-appropriate book that is subtle but effective in exploring tolerance? I think she may be too young for Paper Clips (documentary you can borrow from Netflix, etc.) but you might want to check that out yourself. At the least, it will be something she'd appreciate in a few years. From the wells of sadness, it is a positive story of what kids can accomplish. :)


  2. busterb:

    Of course it happens in adult life. Look at the House of Representatives. Sometimes I think those "adults" act much like kids who don't want to eat their veggies. They sit and pout at the table till bedtime and still nothing gets done.


  3. RedZone:

    I remember when I was in grade school there was this one girl that people would pick on. I was just wondering if this is just one on one or a group creating an outcast? Or do these young ladies have their own cliques? I would monitor this very closely as it only would take for her to be "mean" to the wrong girl and be pummeled in the process. Also are they monitored while they are not in the classroom?


  4. Diane Ako:

    Hi everyone, Thanks so much for the really insightful comments and feedback! I appreciate and will try that. Just another way it really "takes a village" to raise a child, huh? As I crowdsource parenting advice! :)


  5. zzzzzz:

    You don't necessarily need to address this issue directly. You probably already model the behavior you'd like her to exhibit, e.g., being polite and respectful even in unpleasant situations, and teach her solid values overall, so perhaps this is an occasion when you can, to some extent, trust your overall teaching of values, and let her find her own way.

    IOW, bury your head in the sand.


  6. Ken Conklin:

    Greenthumb's idea about talking with a librarian in the children's section is very good. There's a wonderful, large section of the Kane'ohe library filled with children's books; and there's at least one librarian who spends full time in that section; and there's also a weekly story time (as I found out when about 30 moms and their kids nearly trampled me on their way out as I was going in). But greenthumb's selection of tolerance as the topic might not be the one to ask about, because that word might be taken to refer to racial or religious or cultural tolerance. So you need to explain the situation, that you're looking for a book with lots of pictures and easy words that tells a story about two 5-7 year old kids who start out not liking each other, or maybe even fighting; but who end up making friends and sharing some fun times. I would guess that a professional librarian would eagerly and happily help you, because this is precisely the sort of topic students of elementary education or library science study in college when they take courses in "kiddie lit."


  7. greenthumb:

    Hi, Diane and Ken C. if you are still reading … to clarify, I really did mean to ask a librarian for suggestions of stories about big-picture tolerance. Sure, ask also for a story that's more on point with the current situation, but I do think there are also age-appropriate stories about cultural, religious and/or ethnic tolerance. This is one of those messages that parents would want to be established with early, before it comes up on the playground. And yes, librarians are a wonderful and often underused resource.


  8. Diane Ako:

    Hi greenthumb, I am still reading and i appreciate the suggestion!


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