We are our own worst enemy: Or so the news media say. This is overblown (cat fights sell), but even the most outrageous positions often have basis in fact, however misunderstood or manipulated. Women tearing down women is no exception. And it starts in school.
IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES …
The playground: Where all parents’ best intentions for their children’s self-esteem go to die. Whether of the bully or the bullied, self-esteem twists and warps amid the monkey-bars, swing sets, and jump ropes of American playgrounds. Girls can be particularly vicious in this spawning ground for mean girls.
I was bullied mercilessly in elementary school not on the playground, but on the school bus. My brothers and I were Jack Skellington skinny and buck-toothed, ripe for the torturing. Some of the bullies were boys, but led by girls. Interestingly, the bullying ended when the bus rolled into the school yard. At school, I was insulated by my small posse of friends.
Sadly, some in my group flirted with the idea of bullying younger kids, and some actually engaged in subtler forms. I never did. I simply could not inflict the same pain on others I had endured only hours earlier and would endure hours later on the dreaded school bus. However, I did stand by and let it happen. I told myself I did not have the power to stop it, but that was a lie. I felt guilty – I was! I wished my friends had experienced what I had. Then they wouldn’t do what they were doing. Right?
… UNTIL SOMEONE GETS HURT
Today the stakes are so much higher. Hardly a day goes by without hearing about the suicide of a tween or teenager taunted to the point of taking her own life. This has to stop. But how?
How do we save the lives of the bullied? Raise girls impervious to the sneers and jeers of insecure mean girls? How do we create a safety net for these girls?
How do we save the souls of the bullies? If only the mean girls could experience what it was really like to walk in the bullied’s shoes. How can we make that happen? How do we shake them by the hearts, unlock their empathy, demand they take responsibility for their insidious actions?
How do we nip this ugliness in the bud before it grows into the cat fights we see in high school, college, and even in the workplace?
ARE WE PERPETUATING THE PROBLEM?
Here’s something to consider: Do we, as Moms, so fear our daughters being bullied that we tolerate mean girl behavior? Do we feel it’s either/or, and we would prefer they be the bully versus the bullied?
Raising my daughter, I struggled with this.
Bullying has become so toxic, resource abound, including strong social media and traditional media campaigns and websites devoted to stopping bullying. Even the government is involved. Let’s get educated and get our girls off on the right foot with each other and themselves.