We had a first time experience at the park last week. Brielle encountered mean girls. It become a teachable parenting moment, but I did have to grit my teeth and swallow some words I wanted to say.
I took all three kids to play one day at Southlake’s Bicentennial Park. It is a great park where lots of stay at home Moms in the area take their children to play during the day. My twins usually run off and play together and Brielle finds a new friend to play with at the playground. I like the fact that the park is completely enclosed and you can see all areas of the park from any spot- which is amazing because it is a large park.
On this particular day, I sat in front of the large playground equipment where Brielle wandered off to play and the twins sat down together in the sandbox. I got on my phone to send a message. I kept glancing up to make sure the twins were still ok. I knew Brielle was in front of me talking to some girls, but I wasn’t paying too much attention. A few minutes later another Mother came up to me and said “I think your daughter is crying behind the slide because some girls were mean to her”. She then went on to explain that Brielle has started to play with them and they (these 2 girls who were also 4 years old) turned to Brielle and said something along the lines of “we don’t like you and we don’t want to play with you”. She explained they did the same to her daughter earlier. She said it was the way that they said it that made it even meaner.
Now let me explain something about Brielle. She doesn’t get her feelings hurt easily. I have seen her argue with friends and that’s fine, as they learn conflict resolution skills naturally. However, another child being blatantly mean is another story. She does not cry often. Especially when it’s about friends or out playing. I knew these girls HAD to be pretty mean to her in order for her to act this way.
I went right over to her and got down on her level. I asked her what the girls had said. I told her I was sad this happened and I was disappointed these girls acted that way. It became a teachable moment as we then chatted about how we treat other kids, whether they are our friends or not. We treat others with kindness. If we don’t want to play with someone, that’s ok, we can say it nicely. However, it’s always nicest to include others in playtime, especially if they are all alone. She clearly understood this and then went on to say “well, they just don’t know me”. I smiled and said “yes, you are exactly right and when other kids take the time to get to know you then they have always liked playing with you.” She agreed and that made her happy. About 5 minutes later the other sweet girl who had been rejected by these mean girls came over to Brielle and asked her to play. The two sweet girls ran off and played happily for the next hour or so.
Brielle’s new friend needed to take a bathroom break. I then observed Brielle approach these mean girls once again and ask them to play while her friend was away. I was within ear shot of the conversation this time. I was appalled as this little 4 year old girl responded by saying “no, we don’t want to play with you EVER, we don’t like you”. It wasn’t only what she said, but it also was how she said it. She was snarky, mean, and straight up rude.
Thankfully Brielle’s new sweet and adorable friend returned moments later and they ran off to play.
What really got to me was that the mothers of both of these two rude girls were standing right next to their girls as they were being mean to Brielle and did not intervene. They didn’t correct the girls or at least tell them to be a little nicer. Based on the way that these women were dressed with their high end strollers and handbags, these women were most likely educated, came from decent backgrounds, and absolutely knew their daughters were behaving badly. I think a bum a the street would know that this sort of bad behavior is not OK. Of course I had some words I wanted to say, but I didn’t. It was not the right time in front of all the kids, and there wasn’t a place or way to take up a conversation away from the kids ears.
I started wondering why these women would allow their girls to act like this. Obviously it is a pattern of behavior if they can do this three times to two different girls within an hour and half. Based on the way she spoke to Brielle my guess is that this girls has past experience acting and talking this way to other small children. Why would a parent allow this? Maybe they think it’s cool to have the “mean girl”. The movie Mean Girls came out years back and since then I have noticed a phenomenon where people, especially women, think it’s ok for their girls to be mean if that means they will rise in popularity. Mean girls are the one who are feared, most popular, and the other girls want to be like them according the premise of the movie. However, there is something from the movie and real life that women need to remember; These mean girls eventually turn on one another and end up with no friends at all.
It is up to parents, especially Moms to teach their daughters how to NOT be mean girls. This means treating others, even others we don’t even know yet, with kindness. A good philosophy to live by “if you can’t say anything nice then don’t say anything at all”. We, as Moms, also need to teach our girls to be inclusive. Stop excluding other girls. We have all been the odd one out at one point in our lives or another (not invited to a party or picked last for the team) and it feels awful. Remember how that feels. If your child experiences this awful feeling of rejection, then use that moment in their lives to teach them that WE don’t want to treat others this way, as we know how awful it feels. We want to include others and treat them with kindness, thoughtfulness, and just plain old good manners.