Someone out there is raising the mean girls. I don’t want any part of that action.

by CountryFriedMama on October 13, 2010

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A Facebook friend posted this link recently to a New York Times article about mean-girlism moving down to the early elementary years.  The article was full of teachers and authors sharing examples of littler and littler mean girls, and of moms lamenting the behavior of other people’s daughters.

None of the moms expressed any concern that their own daughters were less than sweet.  No one was quoted as saying, “You know, my four-year-old is suddenly calling her sister names and telling us she wants another family.  I think she is learning that words can hurt, and I’m afraid she might like that power.”

Nobody said that.  They all said other people’s children, though, are getting meaner.

A friend snapped this photo of Miss D. at a birthday party over the weekend.

Would you want to mess with this child?

Miss D. is a wonderful girl.  She is funny and curious and smart and quite often, she is sweet.  Lately, though, we’re hearing some things out of her mouth that have us a bit worried we might be raising the mean girl.  She doesn’t make fun of people.  This isn’t about I have something better than what you have and so I can’t play with you, which seems to have been the crux of what the New York Times article discussed.  (Lord knows, if she ever starts playing that game, she is likely to lose.  Quickly.)

But we’re having frequent conversations about hurtful words and behavior.  I told Miss D. recently that I want her to be the kind of girl who makes other people feel good, to which Country-Fried Daddy muttered, “But not too good” in his I’m-totally-going-to-be-the-dad-who-scares-boyfriends-away tone.  In pursuit of making others feel good (but not too good), we’re reviving the mitzvah tree.

“Mitzvah” is a Hebrew word that means an act of kindness or a good deed.  Miss D.’s teacher last year made each child a “mitzvah tree,” and every week we had to send in a “mitzvah banana” with one of Miss D.’s good deeds of the week written on it.  At the end of the year, the whole tree came home with all of Miss D.’s good banana deeds taped to the leaves.  Her teacher included a couple of empty leaves for us to fill with future fruit, which I had fully planned to do.  You’ll be shocked to know, though, that the mitzvah tree has been collecting dust on Miss D.’s dresser.

Until yesterday.  Miss D. now has an assignment for two good banana deeds a day, and this time around, we’re skipping the Miss-D.-cleaned-up-her-room bananas we made week after week last year.  Our current project is for words and actions that make other people feel good.  The recipe for these bananas is quite specific.

We’re on day three, and so far, so good.  We talk on the way to school about what she can say to friends to make them feel good.  We brainstorm things she can do at home that will garner bananas.

I hope it’s working.

But just in case, I ordered every single book mentioned in The New York Times article.  Because someone is raising the mean girls, and I really don’t want to be part of that group.

What do you do to teach kindness?  Does it involve fruit trees, or are there other options I can try?

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October 13, 2010 at 4:15 pm

My kid was bullied last year, at age 4. And then, she joined in with the bully, or risk getting bullied worse. I marched her to the girl’s house whose feelings she hurt and made her apologize in front of the girl’s mom. She won’t forget that — no mean girls in THIS house, if I can help it.

Awesome post.


Country Granny October 13, 2010 at 4:16 pm

I’m not worried. Miss D’s first and most important teachers — you and CFD — do not model “mean” behavior and you continue to work hard to make sure she doesn’t have self-esteem issues. Peer pressure is powerful but the antidote is positve self esteem. And I’m convinced you will make sure she continues to feel very good about herself and her choices.


Steel Magnolia October 13, 2010 at 9:06 pm

I had my own run in with this kind of thing ( But I agree that putting stress on kindess is really important. Here’s hoping that it takes hold in these itty bitty brains.


Twitter: objectivityrach
October 16, 2010 at 9:05 pm

Great post – it is so important that we are all aware – and seeking out even – what our own children’s shortcomings are and working on them in a constructive manner. Because one thing is certain: all of our kids have them.

I noticed one of Ali’s friends going through a phase of “I do xx better than you do”, and it sickened me. But, sure enough, a couple of weeks later, I heard the very same words coming out of Ali’s mouth. So we’ve talked quite a bit about how that’s not sweet or wise to say things like that – that we should encourage other people instead.

Thanks for sharing what you’re doing to combat it!


Ellen October 17, 2010 at 6:34 am

This is something on my mind lately, with all the news about bullying. Sabrina is mostly nice to other kids…and SO mean, at times, to her brother. Max may have his challenges but he’s pretty good at dealing with her. So I guess, in effect, maybe this is not so bad because she’s taught him to stand up for himself! Or else I’m in serious denial.

I love that mitzvah tree idea SOOOO much I am literally cutting and pasting the explanation and mailing it to Sabrina’ teacher!!!


Terri K (@tkharmonic) October 19, 2010 at 7:08 am

I’m raising a boy so he probably won’t be a mean girl, but he is VERY competitive and just hates, hates, hates to lose. After a long stretch where everything he didn’t win at ended in pouting, tears or temper, I lost my own and finally told him that every single time he won anything there was some other kid that lost that felt just as bad and I didn’t know why anyone would even want to play with him if he made them feel bad for winning and losing.

I try very hard to make my son think about how other people feel, good, bad and other, and I hope it works.


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