2 days into the new school year and my youngest has already had to deal with 7th grade (a.k.a. the birthing ground for mean) girls, who seem to be prepping themselves to be catty women when they grow up (if ever), and it's breaking my heart.
Unfortunately, it's easy for us parents to say things like, "they're just jealous" and "because the new boy talked to you at lunch, first" or "they see you as a threat" because we've ALL been there, right?!?
Aaaaaand, therein lies the rub.
You see, my kids have a real hard time understanding (or even believing) that their parents may or may not have dealt with mean behavior, at some point in our lives, and that at least one other person in the bathroom/class room/gym/hallway/lunchroom imagined it to be really funny, at the time, too.
In this case, calling your name out loud, turning their backs and then giggling their little fool heads off or just walking into a room...
[cue: giggling little fools]
...then casually glancing down at yourself, wondering if you've mistakenly put your pants on backwards or something and, well, as if being 12 years-old wasn't difficult enough, right?!?
So, having lived through a couple of mean moments (or twenty) of their own (dammit), I asked my two oldest girls (they are 19 and 17) and my son (he's 14) for their thoughts on dealing with mean girls (or boys) from a teen's point of view.
Because I am very open-minded, not to mention they are MUCH smarter than me, like that!
Do not feed into their toxic bullshakalaka (the g-rated version of b.s. that my 17 year-old prefers to use, often): okay, so this is really my most favorite and heavily-relied upon parenting tip -- in this case, my middle girl totally agrees with me, just this one time -- do NOT feed the little trolls!!!
Just walk away, with confidence and maybe even a little swagger, then fling your really long (or, in my case, pretend) hair...from left to right...in an uncaring "you guys don't deserve ANY of this awesome" attitude.
(Note: our current situation involves girls who have turned into what I call "sometimes friends" or "bfs's" who come sniffing around only when it's convenient for them -- like when there is no one else to sit with on the bleachers or every OTHER lunch table was full and they're NOT speaking to ANY of them, for whatever reason, anyway -- which will hurt, no matter your swagger, but I try to reassure my kids that those are the sort of friends a person can probably do without.)
Do not give them the satisfaction of responding to their bullshakalaka with anger, just smile and walk away, they hate that: my oldest (she's 19) was constantly harassed by "boys" for being "too quiet" or "too nice" and "let's tease her, she won't do anything", however, they really do seem to HATE IT when you :-) and then just walk away.
See also: "You guys don't deserve ANY of this awesome" etc...
Or, confuse them with reason, they really Hate, HAte, HATe, HATE THAT, TOO: a much bulkier teenager threatened my son with "kicking his effing ass" for no discernible reason other than he "felt like kicking someone's effing ass" and continued to drop the eff-bomb, like candy from a broke-ass pinata.
My son responded, in a very calm voice, "Look, if I bother you THAT much, why don't you quit putting up with me and just leave?!?"
[the sound of crickets, chirping]
So, the dude left, but not before dropping a few more effing-eff-bombs.
(I know, I know, this doesn't always work: however, encouraging kids to NOT be the one to start a fight is a good thing. On the other hand, there are times when you have to learn how to defend yourself, in this case, confusing your opponent with run on sentences is way better.)
Sticking up for the OTHER guy or discouraging meanness isn't always easy: this is something that all three of my teens have admitted, at one time or twenty, to both me and my husband.
Being harassed in public is embarrassing enough; having SOMEONE ELSE stick up for you, and then getting themselves caught up in all the bullshakalaka, can be really awkward.
(This is where I would definitely interject: unless someone is getting hurt and/or the meanness gets out of hand and an adult needs to get involved, STAT!!!)
Sometimes it's better to wait and then seek out the person, later: giving them (and you) the chance to decompress from all the bullshakalaka, then see if they are okay or if they would like to talk about it, better out than in!!!
(Note: our family makes a lot of references to movies, especially when dealing with heavy teenage sort of stuff, most especially Shrekisms.)
The simple act of letting them know that they are NOT alone can do wonders for a person's psyche and can also be a great opportunity to make a new friend.
Our best advice? Surround yourself with people who are like you: see previous paragraph.
Look, I get that these are still children we're talking about and that their meanness may or may not be coming from a much deeper, darker place that neither you or I can even begin to understand.
These are also someone else's daughters (and sons).
Right now?!? My inner-12-year-old is just DYING to fling the bullshakalaka right back at their giggling little fool heads and, well, did I mention that my kids are WAY smarter than me?!?
[daaaaaang, there are a whole lot of crickets around here]
Stupid mean girls, dumbass mean boys.
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