Don’t judge the mama of the mean girl. Or maybe I just mean don’t judge me.
I was always a firm believer in the apple and the tree, but I’ve learned that sometimes a damn pear falls out and you’re left wondering where the heck it came from. At least, that’s what I found myself thinking when I realized I had a little mean girl of my own. As for the tree, I have a “save the whales, recycle everything, carry the spider out of the house” type of personality. I may not be a pleasant peach before 9 a.m. — all my social skills seem to be suspended until about 11 a.m. — but never can I remember having been outright mean. So what branch did this little Regina fall from?
I’d agree that there are certainly cases where the behavior is learned — they are watching us even when we are completely sure they’re not — but what about when it’s innate? To be fair, she’s still young, so I’ve got time to pour some kind into her, but it’s definitely given me a new perspective on all the little girls I’ve covered with the blanketed judgment of “she’s probably just as mean as her mother.” If you’ve ever come across a mini vixen, I’m sure you know exactly what I’m talking about, but as you witness them in action, here are a few things to keep in mind:
It isn’t always the mom.
I’ve always imagined the moms of means girls to be statuesque pillars of pretty, with their hair hot off the press, makeup on like a Kardashian, sipping a latte delicately through their gel manicure so as to not spill on their Gucci jumpsuit, and not at all someone I would confront about their daughter’s behavior.
In my years as the mama of little girls of my own, though, I’ve learned two things: My imagination can be a little out of hand, and you can’t judge a “mean girl mama” by her style choices. Most moms are a lot more approachable than I ever thought they would be. I’m not a fan of having to talk through any conflict, but I accept that when you have kids, it’s pretty much inevitable. While I’ve run across an uncomfortable convo or two, a lot of them were not as dramatic as I expected, given the assumptions I’ve made base on my impression of their mini-me. You don’t have to become best friends, but it’s not a terrible idea to get comfortable with the moms of kids that spend time around yours. If a conversation is necessary, it makes it a little less awkward.
The mom may not even know.
We live in a world where moms are pulled in a million directions and it can be tough to catch every curveball our kids throw. Teachers only call you when it’s big. The older kids get, the more time they spend away from our umbrella. Not to mention that their persona may be a complete 180 from the little people we know within the walls of our homes. And a lot of other parents simply have a “don’t want to get involved” attitude. I’m totally guilty myself. No wonder there’s so much that slips through the cracks and under the radar.
That’s why the idea of a village is so important. If you see mean girl behavior, call it out! Let the mother know what’s going on, because she may not even have a clue. She may assume her little girl is following right along with the manners and kindness she’s been taught and may have no idea of the verbal assaults going on in the hallways, on the playgrounds, on school buses, and at extracurricular activities. I’m very aware of my mean girl, but some moms would be absolutely shocked if they heard their child was tormenting someone. Don’t let it go unchecked by thinking she knows.
There may be something else going on.
I always tell my kids “happy people don’t hurt people” and I encourage them to look behind someone’s actions with compassion and understanding that the child may be hurting in some way and blah blah blah blah blah. Most of the time, they just roll their eyes and bait me for secret tips on retaliation. I know the advice is pretty much over their head right now, but I don’t think any parent should have trouble with the concept, even though it may be a challenging perspective in the moment when you hear someone has targeted your child.
If a kid’s behavior seems a little malicious, there’s a good chance that someone in their world isn’t treating them very well — maybe a neighborhood kid, someone they play a sport with, an older sibling, or even an adult like the bus driver, a coach, a teacher, or a parent figure (we like to assume they’re all nice, but the truth is that’s not always the case). Mean begets mean and hurt begets hurt. It’s important to speak up, not only so the parents have the chance to address the behavior, but also so they can have the opportunity to look into the cause as well. Kids don’t always make the most effective advocates for themselves, but a lot of times there’s a set of adult eyes somewhere. Say something.
Bottom line: Talk to the mom. You might learn she’s just as nasty as her daughter, but you also may find that she’s a lot like you — doing the best she can, trying to navigate the impossible task of being a mother — and you may give her a little info that just might help her curb the monster. Either way, at least you’ll know. Confrontation doesn’t have to mean conflict, or so I tell myself. I definitely don’t look forward to anyone bringing things to my attention. Just like any parent, I get tired of putting out fires, but I want to know. And I’d bet that there’s a lot of other moms out there who feel the same way.
So, save the judgment and help a mama out instead.