by Jennifer Dyer
Now that eldest has reached the fourth grade, we are dealing with more “mean girl” talk than ever before. Almost every day she comes home and relays a story about someone saying something irritable or snarky to another classmate. Sometimes, it is directed to her.
During one of these discussions, I shook my head. “It makes me so sad you are dealing with this, and it will probably get worse over the next few years.”
“This is the age when kids change a lot and their lives sometimes feel out of control. In order to feel more in control, sometimes people lash out verbally at others.”
We went on to talk about a girl who had hurt her feelings that day. While I acknowledged eldest’s emotional pain, I urged her to look at the other angles of the situation. “Why do you think she would say something like that? Do you think she felt threatened? Do you think she might feel like you don’t like her enough, so she is trying to show that her feelings aren’t hurt even though they really are?”
She tilted her head at my convoluted explanation. “But it was mean.”
“Yes, but we never know what is going on with her otherwise, in the other areas of her life. Maybe her home life is a big mess, so she is acting out, trying to work out her frustration.”
A few days later, eldest came home with another report. “You were right about that girl. She has all kinds of problems. She said none of us could imagine what she has been through.”
I asked, “Did you tell her she was right, that none of you could imagine what she feels like, but that you would be there to listen if she needed it?”
I could see her mind working that one over. “Hmmm… No, she announced that and ran away.”
A few days later she came home and reported more of the story. The girl had opened up to some of the other girls and began to share her feelings. Some of the rude sarcasm has faded and the girl is trying harder to be friends rather than get into fights. She is working with the girls rather than against them, so to speak. Eldest and some of the other girls have tried to reach out to her in kindness and compassion.
Sadly, bullying and rudeness don’t always have such an easy solution, but I’m so glad compassion toward others has helped to solve a lot of issues at my daughter’s school. This instance was not the only one that my daughter has reported. Each time, I commiserate or even relate a similar instance from my own childhood, but then we go on to discuss why the people might act that way. We focus on compassion and even pray for that person. Each time, my daughter has come home later to report that things have smoothed over with the different girls. Fortunately, I am not the only mother working on this attitude with their kids. Compassion and understanding seems to be a dominant trait in this grade. That makes a huge difference.
Tween and teen years are so stressful! If more kids were able to give each other grace, I wonder if the years would be just a bit less tumultuous…
Happy days, my friends!