Saturday, September 12, 2009

Mean Girls (and Boys)

The part of school which has always scared me the most is not the threat of getting bad grades. It's not the scary teachers or the complex math problems. It has always been people who are mean.

And, not much has changed after 25 years. Only now, I'm scared of people being mean to my kids.

We just finished our third week of school. Our kids are adjusting just fine, but I don't know how I'm doing. I am a little sad about all the rules, no doubt as a reaction to people in the community who freak out about kids' public safety. So, I can't come up to school at recess, I can't be in the classroom to watch my child except 20 minutes once every two weeks, and when I come up for lunch I can't eat anything off my child's lunch tray.

Those rules are frustrating, but I understand why they are in place and I admit that it's better to be too cautious than too permissive. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure, right?

But, one adjustment I can't get past is how some kids are so mean to each other. I know that not everyone is nice in this world, and everything is not sunshine and rainbows and unicorns. But, for goodness sakes, why can't a kid's childhood school time be immune from nasty comments, at least from their peers?

My younger son, Linus, was having a really hard time adjusting to the new school. I told him, why don't you invite a boy from your class to come over to play at our house? So, the next day, he asked Brad* if he'd like to come over to our house to play. Brad responded, "Why would I want to do that?" And yesterday, I had to pick up my older son Charlie Brown early because he was feeling sick. He went back to his classroom to get something he forgot and bumped into two kids (one who is a friend and one who he doesn't know) in the hall. He said to one, "Guess what? I am going home." The friend said, "Why?" so Charlie Brown said, "I'm sick." and the other kid - the one he doesn't know - said, "Then why are you talking to us? Geez. Get lost!"

I know that kids aren't inherently mean; they learn mean behavior from people who are mean to them, or by watching other people be mean to each other. I'm sure these meanie kids have parents or siblings who use unfriendly language to each other and to them. That fact alone makes me so very sad. But, just like they learn it from home, they also probably learn it from other kids in their neighborhood or class. Which is why I am SO NERVOUS about my kids being infected by these schoolmates of theirs. Texan Papa and I have worked really hard all these years to teach our kids that they should be kind to one another and never talk in a way that they wouldn't want to be spoken to. Is it really so much to expect the school to teach the same principles? I know they won't base their behavioral expectations on Christian ethics but I think the Golden Rule has kinda transcended religion and become part of all mankind's view of common human decency.

I would love to see our public school start a campaign about "Bee-ing Nice" maybe with a Bee as a mascot or something. Maybe recognize one student each week who is especially helpful or courteous and put their picture on a bulletin board in the hall, saying "Something to Buzz About". While I'm sure our public school doesn't openly condone rude behavior, I don't really think they are emphasizing the importance of kindness. It's in the little things: saying "Yes?" instead of "What?" when someone is getting their attention; remembering to say "Thank You"; offering to help instead of waiting to be asked. When I suggested this, Texan Papa just rolled his eyes and said, "When our kids hear someone being mean to them, just tell our kids to say, 'Please don't talk to me like that.' That's enough for them."

See? Women are all about the relationships. Men are all about not talking. I am so onto him.

*Brad is not this kid's real name.


Bridgett said...

Last year Sophia came home and said Miss Anne was angry because somebody wrote a mean note about another girl in class. My first two questions:
"Did you write the mean note?"
"Was the mean note about you?"

It was no on both accounts--and she hadn't seen the note nor knew who wrote it. My relief was greater than I thought it would be. I don't want a bully but I also don't want a target. I worry.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

It's no fun, that's for sure!

Wendy said...

This scares me a lot, too. Dolly is a very energetic & okay, I'll just say it... HYPER kid. There are at least three girls in her class/grade that are trying to stake their claim as the popular girl already. Complete with "only certain people are good enough to play with me at recess" and obviously ostracizing everyone else. Dolly is just all, "let's all play together!" and the friendly peacemaker. These girls are turds. That is a Texan word.

I remember once making an effort to hang out with those ostracizing girls at recess. And at the ripe old age of 10 had already figured out that they were boring, vapid, air heads. They still are today. I was in a group of ragtag misfits - all the girls who didn't belong anywhere else. We were the accepting group, where all the new girls hung out until they figured out where they were going to end up. I'm still in touch with all those girls, and we're all good people, raising good kids.

Dolly said she mainly just plays with one girl now, and that girl's older sister at recess. I don't know how to tell her that is okay. She has to learn it on her own.

I'm lucky that Cowboy lets things roll right off of him like water off a duck's back. His attitude is mainly, "um, I know I'm okay, so if you don't like me, you're the one with a problem!"

McVal said...

Kid ARE mean! Middle school was the worst! Girls form cliques (I mean, it's great if you're IN one...), boys get into fights. My boy started a few himself... When he was 3, we discovered he had a condition where patches of his hair falls out. Alopecia areata. It comes and goes... literally. weird stuff.
The kids that have known him all his life, don't care and don't say anything. but new kids would. If someone said something to slight him because of it, he'd fight them in middle school.
Eventually he calmed down about it and from then on told new people that either a bird ate it off or he was having cancer treatments. Weird sense of humor, that one...

Foursons said...

I think you make a very valid point. Kids can be horrible to each other. My youngest was bullied for most of the year in a PRIVATE school. He eventually got kicked out because of his behavior and my son became a different child. He was happy, smiling, talking. Completely different!

StaceyC4 said...

My son's school is all about respecting one another and the kids do get recognition when they are caught being nice and respectful. It is a nice thing. Unfortunately, there are always going to be mean kids no matter how much the school gets involved to the contrary. We just need to be there to love on our kids when they get home. I've even witnessed mean kids at church! And their parents are Sunday school teachers and pastors!! It's just everywhere.

The Nice One said...

it's a sad reality. I see that at work. but the truth is, I see much more "niceness" than I do mean-ness. I see far more children being kind and helpful to my students with disabilities (even the student with autism who may scream at them not to look at him) than I do nastiness. perhaps it's a sign of our school district doing "something right" with all of our antibullying programs and friendship building programs....?!

Vicki said...

That just breaks my heart. How sad it is. and the worst part is we can do everything right and raise our kids perfectly, and they can still end up with a low self-esteem because of the bullies at school. It just isn't right. It is enough to make you want to homeschool.

Elise said...

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Anna See said...

This is so tough. My sons feels it the most at this stage. He doesn't understand trash talking and it really gets him down.

I know it will be heck for my daughter, too, when the queen bees come out.

Doesn't it break your heart?

theycallmejane said...

It is so disheartening to hear that there are "mean boys," too. I knew about the mean girls (my oldest is experiencing that now and of course, we saw the movie!) but I have two adorable little boys, as well. Everytime my daughter tells me the latest drama and who was mean to whom I thank God that the boys will avoid all this. Looks like I was wrong.

Michelle said...

My kids school in Colorado was pretty good about this. They had the three B's with a bee mascot. They also had a class called Assets run by a counselor that taught morals, conflict resolution, bullying proofing, etc. I thought it was a very inovative program.

Christine said...

Well You know this is a favorite topic on my site, it is just hard to raise middle school/junior high kids. They have to learn how to find their own way. Just be their to help support and guide them til they can figure out their own support system of kids. Thank goodness it is a little easier in high school and non-existant in college.

Jennifer said...

See I think kids are inherently mean, a sinful nature and all of that, but I do agree that it is taught as well. If they aren't taught respect and empathy at home then they aren't going to display it at school or anywhere else.

You know I've already had this problem in Pre-K and I'm sure it will just get worse when she starts real school. I think all we can do is teach our kids the right way to behave, console them when someone is mean, teach them coping techniquest and pray that they can be an example to a kid that may not have one.

I think that is the same thing I mentioned when you were worried about public school. Try not to worry about the examples your kids see everyday and take comfort in the example they present. You never know who they might reach. I think that is what we all have to hope for.

Household6 said...

My kids are not school age just yet.. but I worry about other kids being mean to them ALREADY. I must be doomed to a long life of misery because I know my kids will get picked on eventually. hahaha!
Maybe by the time they are in school there will be that awesome mascot "the bee" in place and being nice will be "cool". Wishful thinking!

Visiting from SITS!

BTW. I think mean kids grow up to be mean adults. I'm almost 30 and just wrote a blog about "mean girls". haha. Does it ever end?

Pamela M. Kramer said...

You have a great idea there. Have you thought about talking to the principal?

Qtpies7 said...

I just wrote a post about men not thinking like women, lol.
I homeschool, and a lot of the reasoning is that little kids shouldn't HAVE to learn to deal with mean kids yet. Yes, they will have to learn one day, but they shouldn't have to before they are ready to do it.
I had to take a middle schooler out of school because of a teacher, even after we decided that he wasn't allowed in her class, they put him in it 3 more times. Hoping I wouldn't find out??? I don't know, but I took him out because he had a nervous breakdown over it last year. I'm not about to let that happen again.