Helping to Create “Mean Girls”

Several conversations recently came together for me, into a shocking insight.  Now that I have had time to think about it, it is not shocking at all, of course; like so many things.

I was part of several conversations about children (boys) and gun play.  This subject never goes away, and may be a topic for another stream of thought.  Gun violence in this country is a real thing, and effects children and families, but, in this case,  this thread led to something else.

The other thing that never goes away, even in preschool (!!!!) is that of “mean girls”; that is, “social aggression” (as it is called in the literature).  How it appears: boys get mad and punch each other, girls are mean, and the “meanness” just flows in and out, and around, and remains a continual sore in the hearts of these girls.  Not all girls “do” social aggression, some just stay out of it, but, for the ones who do, what fuels it?

For those of us who do preschool, and parents of girls, we know that “talking it out” or asking them to “just walk away” rarely (never?) helps.

What Lynn * said, in one of many follow-up conversations: “Isn’t it strange that physical aggression is (generally) not modeled to these boys, but social aggression is modeled for these girls?” (This seems to be true in the community in which I work; other communities model different things.)  Lynn also said: “Can’t you remember every mean thing that was ever said to you?  I can.”  I can, too.

So, boys play gun play, and punch each other, but there seems to be little lasting damage, and they go back to playing; “getting it out”, or expressing their frontal lobe limits and going on; their dads are not shooting anyone, or punching anyone.

Girls, however, can often hear grown women criticizing each other.  Often.  In my family, it was sarcastically called: “helpful criticism”: “She really shouldn’t wear that color.”; “She should know better than to put on a bathing suit.”; “Does she call that decorating for Christmas?”  So many of us have made comments like this in private, in front of our children.

There is a story I read years ago, on the Internet, in which a mother made such a comment about another mother (something like: “Oh, let’s not have the meeting at her house, it’s always filthy!”) and her child, in the car, started to cry.  “I am sad that you hate yourself, Mom!” The mother is flabbergasted, and asks the child for clarification.  “You said that people who say mean things always feel badly about themselves!”  Um, yea.

So, how much of a stretch is it to go from saying those things in private, to saying them to someone’s face: “I hate you, and you can never come to my birthday party.”  Ow!!!  How could that EVER be okay to say?  And yet, somehow, it is.  And the hurt lingers, and poisons our children and their friends.

So, as in everything else, we have to look at, watch, and listen to ourselves first.

Ow.  And then cut it out.

*Lynn Miller, as very wise person.1-girls-fighting



Giving comfort, escaping shame


If you have not read the work of Brene Brown, or seen her TED talk, please do.

If you haven’t noticed yet, parenting pushes all of your buttons; especially the buttons you didn’t know that you had. 🙂 Of course, it is very hard to reflect on your childhood and the assumptions in your family, but it is part of the work, I think, of parenting.

One comment that I hear often from parents is: “I don’t want to be THAT PARENT!‘” I think this comes from our past, and that we can mean different things by it. What is our biggest fear as a parent? And where does that come from?

Our children are more resilient than we can imagine, and, if we are honest with them, the way Brene Brown describes being honest in this video, your children will stay in relationship and learn something about what to do with their own shame.

(She describes the difference between shame and guilt this way: “Guilt is when you know that you did something “bad”; shame is when you believe that you are bad. Shame leads to bad outcomes on every level.)

So, whatever you fear, please face your fear, or you can pass on your shame to the next generation.

if you are afraid for your child not to be pleased or entertained, to be angry, or to stand your ground, your child may feel unable to cope with difficulty.

If you are afraid of a child who is “spoiled”, you might be too strict, and fail to express your empathy, leaving your child anxious.

If you are afraid that your child is not learning enough, you may keep them too busy, and not give them enough time to discover on their own.

If you are uncomfortable with structure, you may leave your children hanging about what to expect.

If you are afraid that they will get emotionally or physically hurt, you may not let them explore relationships and environments on their own. We learn best when the learning is our own discovery!

Cultivating Your Child’s Character

Interesting Powerpoint on developing character in young children. One important point, “decision fatigue”: that is, the truth that the more choices we have to make, the worse job we do. So, much of character development is fostering positive habits. Mary


It was a pleasure spending the evening with an engaged group of parents to think about what we each want our Character Legacy to be and how to practically go about passing that on to our children.  If your parenting partner was unable to attend or if you would like to participate at home, please feel free to email me and I’d be happy to send along the Cultivating Character Worksheet Packet to you.  Please keep me posted on your discoveries!

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Flipping your lid, and what to do when others do
Lovely post on the painful ebb and flow of a tantrum. I especially like how she talks through her thinking, particularly the fun of having spectators and how one is tempted to give in to any requests during the tantrum (“I want to walk now!”), only to have it backfire.
Those of you who have taken our Positive Discipline class, remember “the brain in the palm of your hand” which we call “flipping our lids”?

You can only reconnect once the other person is calm, and back in their frontal lobe. Anything else just escalates the tantrum or teaches your child that everything is always negotiable, which has the potential of extending every tantrum.

The downside is, you will spend a lot of time, at first, picking your child up and carrying them home or moving away from the event to a quiet spot to wait them out. If the tantrum is about separation, you even have to just leave them at school or wherever. That is a bad feeling, but you can’t help your child feel good about your leaving by not leaving. Well, you can, but not if you don’t want to have your child be with you every minute until they are 16.

Eventually, they will have learned that there is no upside to the tantrum; this is a life long learning gift.

I recently had an adult tantrum (blush). I was feeling overwhelmed and helpless, and took it out on my husband. Fortunately, this is not his first rodeo, and we have talked through what to do when this happens. So he stopped what he was doing, and asked, calmly: “What can I do to help?” After I shouted a few ideas, I realized that there was nothing humanly possible that he could do, so I had to calm down. And I did. Then I apologized. Several times. He did not send me to my room alone or tell me to “be nice”, or threaten to take away my TV time. He also did not try to do any of my unhelpful suggestions. He stayed calm, waited me out and hugged me afterwards, and acted like I was not crazy. He didn’t rat me out to the kids, later, either.

My favorite adult tantrum story: #2 son and I got in a yelling match. He got tired of it and got in his car and drove away. Drove away, so unfair! So I called him and he answered, calmly, and I said: “Name, this is your mom!” “Hi mom”, he sighed. “Where are you?” “Boston.” “Boston??? Are you Name Name?” “No, I am Name Othername. Mom?” “Sorry, wrong Name. Call your mother!”