The Antidote to Mean Girls

postermeangirlsThe other night, I wrote about how the answer to life’s pain/suffering/uncertainty is to rest in the awareness that everything’s okay.

The following morning, I was given the opportunity to translate that into a real life situation with a friend of mine and in doing so, remind myself.

Isn’t it beautiful how so often we find ourselves telling people in our lives exactly what we ourselves need to hear?

So, here’s the story.

Kaia is in third grade and some of the girls in her class seemed to have suddenly learned that it can be fun to exclude some of the other girls.

I first discovered this when I found out Kaia had not been invited to the birthday party of a girl she had previously spent a lot of time with.  I wrote about that experience on the LA Moms Blog.

The long and the short of it?  I felt a lot of pain around the whole thing.  Kaia couldn’t have cared less.

When I brought it up with my ex-husband, he looked at me like I had three heads.   He reminded me that our kids had learned in preschool that it was fine to exclude people and fine to be excluded.  It’s all okay.

Oh, right, now I remember.  That’s why I loved that school so much.  The unconditioning.  I chose it because when I showed up there for a tour, half of the kids were running around naked and playing in the mud.  Perfect.

Unfortunately for my friend, she didn’t have any of that unconditioning.  Her kid went to a traditional preschool where all the kids kept their clothes on and were made to take turns, share and be polite.  And, she herself had experienced generations of conditioning, none of which had yet to be unraveled.

So, when she found out her daughter was being excluded, she immediately decided something was wrong.

And, wanted to fix it.

But, how do you fix it when your child is being excluded?  Well, naturally, you try to help your child figure out what they are doing that’s causing the exclusion.

Right, that’s the conditioned reaction.  That was my immediate reaction too when I first heard my daughter was being excluded.

Except that, here’s the problems with that natural reaction:

#1:  You can’t fix it.

#2:  If you try to fix it, you make it worse.

#3:  By trying to fix it, your child inherits the conditioning that tells her that if she’s being excluded, there must be something wrong with her.  And, she begins to believe that if she can just change something about herself so that she fits in she won’t be excluded.

And well, we know where that leads, don’t we?

To feelings that we’re not good enough as we are. To low self-esteem.  To trying to please other people to feel good inside.  Eventually, to sex, drugs and alcohol to dull the pain.

So, what’s the unconditioned response look like that can break these patterns?

Let it be.  Teach your kid that it’s fine to be excluded.  Help her to focus on the people she enjoys spending time with who enjoy spending time with her instead of on the kids who don’t want her around.

Above all, help her understand it’s not personal.

She’s not being excluded because there’s something wrong with her.  She’s being excluded because not everyone is a match with everyone else.

And, that’s okay.

She needs to focus her attention on and hang out with the kids she does fit with and not worry about the rest.

What a gift to give your daughter.  The gift of being able to be herself without worrying what other people think.

Yes, for a mommy who does care what other people think, this can be incredibly difficult.  But, what an opportunity to let go of everything we once thought was important and find what really matters.

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  1. Sarah RobinsonMonday, December 8, 2008 at 11:59 am 

    Wow Alexis. This post really struck home for me. First because it was in third grade that I started experiencing the “exclusion” and the conditioning of “what had I done wrong” caused endless stress for me. What a gift you are to your daughter. Second, because my son was “excluded” from a party on Saturday. He did not give it a thought and, I am proud to say, I wondered what was wrong with THEM for not inviting my fabulous son (I AM a mom after all:)!) Third, there are some girls who grow up to be women who still think it is fun to exclude other women just because they can. Your “unconditioning” is so helpful to the little girl in all of us who can get our feelings hurt when that happens in life and in business. Thank you for that beautiful reminder.

    Sarah Robinson

  2. Ann VertelMonday, December 8, 2008 at 1:53 pm 

    Hi Alexis,
    Great post! My daughter and I are reading “Queen Bees and Wannabees” together (the book Mean Girls was based on). When she told me she was being bullied in school I asked her how she was handling that. She said, “Oh, I just get over it ’cause I’ve got a life to live.” I couldn’t have been more proud or more impressed. Thanks for the reminder for ME today!
    Warm regards,
    Ann Vertel

  3. Julie PippertMonday, December 8, 2008 at 8:01 pm 

    My daughter plays daily with a neighborhood child & they do have an…ahem…volatile (?) dynamic. When it came to birthday party time, she could only invite 7 children (all I could afford) and this girl wasn’t one. I told her I would respect that, but she could NOT use it as a “rub it in” thing and had to be “humble” about party and not brag on it, especially in front of others, especially ones not invited. I am “conditioned” mightily and have felt pressure where we live now b/c it is a VERY “conditioned” community (thanks for giving me the language!) so husband and I have felt very troubled about not including this child. But we have kept quiet and respected daughter’s choice, now I fear we’ve made her feel bad about it.

    She plays with and is “friends” with this child by situation not by choice but often ends up troubled by interactions with the other child.

    Nothing wrong with either child—just the dynamic.

    So I want to respect and reinforce this idea that it’s okay to choose to be with those you prefer—and she made good choices.

    What do you advise? I’m torn.

    Thanks for this great post!

  4. R MartinTuesday, December 9, 2008 at 2:45 am 

    My darling daughter-
    What fabulous advice for one of the loves of my life….
    I grew up thinking that it always mattered what people thought….I’m so proud that Kaia is learning this lesson now instead of much, much later

    I keep trying to teach it to Nan…..

    May you all always be true to yourself and it’s a wonderful thing NOT to be like everyone else!
    I love you all

  5. Sarah AuerswaldTuesday, December 9, 2008 at 5:11 am 

    I like this. It’s great to remember there are alternatives to the way I’ve always thought about something.

  6. Ann VertelMonday, November 9, 2009 at 12:10 pm 

    Hi Alexis,
    Great post! My daughter and I are reading “Queen Bees and Wannabees” together (the book Mean Girls was based on). When she told me she was being bullied in school I asked her how she was handling that. She said, “Oh, I just get over it 'cause I've got a life to live.” I couldn't have been more proud or more impressed. Thanks for the reminder for ME today!
    Warm regards,
    Ann Vertel

  7. AnonymousFriday, March 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm 

    Thanks to Ann Vertel’s re-surfacing of this post, I just saw this comment Sarah – 2 years later! Thank you for sharing this. These last two years for me have had me living this lesson again and again as I’ve stepped more into the truth of who I am, which has taken me farther and farther outside of the mainstream paradigm. It’s been quite the journey of “unconditioning” that’s for sure. Love.

  8. AnonymousFriday, March 4, 2011 at 2:55 pm 

    Ann, thank you for resurfacing this post. You are right, it’s a goodie and it was perfect for me to re-read it right now. Love.

  9. AnonymousFriday, March 4, 2011 at 2:57 pm 

    Julie I wonder what has come of this now, 2 years later. I have found that my daughter has a volatile relationship with a girl in our new neighborhood and she has chosen not to spend time with her – I honor this decision. I did have to have a talk w/ the gals mom about it and share that the girls are just not a match and that’s okay. What has transpired for you?

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