My daughter had her first legit encounter with mean girls last week. Apparently, there was a group of girls talking about her in the bathroom. Another friend overheard and told her about what the girls were saying. She was crushed. She came home and cried in my lap for a long time. When I asked her what hurt the most, she said it was the fact that she thought those girls were her friends. To know they were talking badly about her to others was shockingly painful.
As my daughter calmed down, I decided to seize the teachable moment. I said, “Now that you know about what those mean girls did, you have a choice to make. When you see them at school tomorrow, you get to decide if you will respond with kindness or choose to be mean back. What do you think you’ll do?” With the innocence of a hurt child, she wiped her eyes and said, “Mom, can’t I just be mean this one time? I’m so angry and my feelings are so hurt. I just want to be mean back.” I tried to hold my teary smile back. “I totally understand how you feel. When someone hurts us, it’s normal to want to hurt back, but it won’t make you feel the way you think it will. And then you’re acting just like they did and nothing gets better.”
Famous for Our Kindness
We continued to strategize on the different ways my daughter could choose to respond to the girls. In an effort to speak her language and appeal to her heart, I offered this suggestion, “What if you became famous for your kindness? What if you were known at your school as the girl who was nice, even when people weren’t nice to her? How cool would that be?” Her face lit up. “Yeah, mom, I like that idea! I could become famous for how I treat other people, even when they are mean to me. I’m gonna say ‘hi’ to the girls tomorrow and see if they want to play with me at recess.” She hugged my neck and took her backpack to her room. My mama-heart almost burst.
What if fame was propelled by kindness? What if those who responded in compassion and empathy were the ones who got the biggest platform instead of the mean girls? I get that we need to teach our kids to stand up for themselves and not give in to bullies. As the sister of a child with a very noticeable physical difference, that is a conversation my daughter is often a part of as well. If any of my kids see someone being picked on or messed with, they know what to do.
But mean girls are everywhere. My sweet baby girl will have to deal them for the rest of her life. My hope is that this idea of “fame by kindness” will stick with her as she encounters pushback and betrayal and disappointment in the years to come. I have no doubt our world would be a better place if kindness was calling the shots.