Question: How do you turn the mean comments into learning opportunities for your daughters? (Submitted by my friend Anne who has two daughters of her own.)
(Also, I’m not sure how good I am at life advice but I will give it a try.)
Oh my. This is a tough one because this is something we are just getting into. Some days it feels as though our girls can’t even say anything nice to each other so I’m not sure how well they are going to do navigating the rest of the world.
Usually, when people are being mean, I throw out platitudes like: We don’t lift ourselves up by putting others down. But it’s so true and is something I firmly believe in, so it is one of the major messages I am repeatedly shoving down my daughters throats: when you put other people down you make yourself look worse and people will be disappointed in you. (Mostly, your mother will be disappointed in you which still holds a modicum of power and I’m going to use that power for as long as it lasts.)
When it happens at school I always ask them how they felt about what was said and why they think it was said. What do they think that kids home life is like? There was one little girl at my daughters’ school who was a known thief. Like, everyone knew it! What was going on in this kids life that she was stealing from other kids – kids who thought she was their friend? Her parents seemed like really nice people to me, but obviously this kid was working through something and the result was that this little girl had very few friends. (The other result was: don’t bring your stuff to school. Not really fair when all you want in this world is to show your friends all your freaking Shopkins, but if you want to keep them, keep them at home.) This girl used to often come up to me and tell me all the awful things Moira was doing. I guess that was how she dealt with other kids not liking her for being a thief.
Another thing I tell me girls: when kids say mean things it says a lot more about them than it does about you. You can’t force anyone to like you – and if they don’t it is obviously their problem because my girls are the best girls in the world. (#mombias)
Thankfully none of my girls have had a major blowout with a friend yet. So far Moira is so sweet and kind everyone still loves her – but she hates it when people are mean to her friends and she will be quick to defend them – quicker than she is defending herself. Fionnuala comes home crying a lot about injustices (perceived or otherwise) and so I’m usually having these conversations with her.
But the biggest messages I’m trying to teach them is that they need to stand up for themselves. If some kid is being mean, they need to say something – either to a teacher or to me.
When they go low, we go high. (Thanks Michelle Obama.) However, sometimes you just have to cut someone out of your life before you punch them in the face. Unless they are your sister, then I don’t care how hard it is “not to hit her.” At least the headbutting-out-of-frustration stage has ended.
(At lunch today I asked my girls to answer this question and their advice was to walk away or just ignore the other person. “Don’t engage,” Moira said. I’m not sure how well that works in most situations but it is often better to cool off before doing or saying something, and I’m proud of my girls for how they handle most things.)