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Little Girls Learn to Be Mean…


My granddaughter is 17-years-old and a new, high school senior. Just a few years ago she was teased and came home from school sobbing. I couldn’t help but wonder where fifth-grade little girls learned to be so mean, and if those same girls are as cruel, now that they’re nearly adults?

While I can’t control a group of teenage bullies, I can help my smart, independent girl manage how she reacts to their cruelty. My concern is that she isn’t mature enough to understand the importance of her reactions.

Forty-two-years-ago I was 17, the wife of a sailor and the mother of a brand new, chubby baby girl. Becoming a wife was exciting; moving from the suburbs of Philadelphia to Chicago was an adventure and becoming a Mom was life altering, but none of it matured me.

My grandmother told me you’re mature when you’ve learned to respond to unpleasant things appropriately. I know the exact minute that happened for me.

It was in the maternity ward at the North Chicago Naval Medical Center. The woman in the bed across from me was chatting with her friends. She looked over at me and said, loud enough for me to hear, “Some babies are so ugly, and their mothers are so dumb, you just don’t know what to say to them.” They all looked over at me and laughed. One was a nurse who was supposed to be taking care of me.

It was so tough not to cry in front of them. Instead I smiled and said, “I can’t imagine what could have hurt some women so deeply that they can’t help but lash out and hurt others. I feel sorry for them. I hope your baby girl grows up never having to experience the pain caused by such sad, mean women.” They all huddled and snickered.

I walked my beautiful baby back to the nursery and went into the bathroom and buried my face in a towel and cried. That day I decided I would always respond to mean people with kindness, or I wouldn’t respond to them at all.

She called me dumb.

I was always a straight A honors student, but I was more committed than ever to continuing my education, and I would keep going until there was nothing left to learn. That woman has no idea how much her inexcusable behavior changed me for the better that day. I can only hope she eventually matured, but I doubt it. Sadly, little girls usually learn to bully from the significant women in their lives, and the cycle of bad behavior is continued. I’ve often thought of, and worried about, that baby girl born the same day as my daughter. Did she learn to bully from her mother?

My granddaughter will be fine. She has strong role models. My wish is for her to enjoy being young for as long as possible and that she’s always kind, especially to those who need it most.





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Doreen McGettigan, President of Intrepid Marketing Inc., consults and coaches about writing, publishing and marketing. She is an award-winning blogger, ghostwriter, speaker and a best-selling author of The Stranger in My Recliner and The Bristol boyz Stomp.

Doreen is on the board of Family Promise; a former board member of The Press Club of Pa.—affiliated with the National Press Club—and a volunteer for SCORE where she presents seminars on creative marketing to small business owners.

She’s a fierce advocate for the elderly and all victims of crime and a former board member of the Network of Victims Assistance (NOVA), Pennsylvania’s largest, comprehensive victim service organization. Doreen works to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, suicide and homelessness.

Doreen lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband John. They have five grown children, two more in heaven, and 13 grandchildren… their own little cult. Their lives are never boring.

8 thoughts on “Little Girls Learn to Be Mean…”

  1. Thank you for this article it reminds me that there are lots of women out there who are also trying to instill strength and kindness in the young girls/women in their lives. I have a 17 year old senior who has been the victim of mean girl antics. As her mom, it is my responsibility to keep her emotionally lifted as well as provide her with strategies for coping with such individuals. I know she’ll be fine but it’s hard to see the person you love the most in the world struggling to navigate unkind behavior.

  2. What happened to you goes beyond anything I can imagine! You’re with your precious, newborn baby girl, one of the most special times in your life… I’m at a loss for words other than I wish I could have put my arms around you at that moment in time. Your bravery, in so many situations you’ve encountered, continues to elevate you in my eyes. Your comment back to them was so gracious. I don’t think I could have taken such a high road. Much love, Brenda

  3. My first thought was to say, “I’m so sorry that happened to you,” but your graciousness was something we can all learn from. And the way you used that situation to strengthen and temper yourself, like fine steel, is impressive, especially at that age! Your daughter and grand-daughter are blessed to have you in their lives. And Now I feel that blessing, too. Thank you.

  4. So hard to see our teen grandkids face unkind classmates. You have such a powerful life-altering story to share with your granddaughter . It is so important for us to let our grandkids know what our life was like and what values we cherish. it is an important part of the legacy we leave them.
    meanwhile, down with the bullies!

  5. I have my theories, and in the same way I try to relate the human body to our ancient ancestral inheritances, I relate the human mind to them as well. If you picture a group of cave women, who need to get impregnated by a man in order to pass on their genes. They don’t want to put themselves in an advantageous position via violence, because most childbearing women would have a baby on her breast and one on her hip. If she gets hurt, her children will die. So she does it by somehow denigrating the other women and making herself look better. The men fight for the right to hook up with the best gals, but they don’t have babies to breast feed and carry around.

  6. I would love to live in a world where bullying never existed or would end, but sadly, I don’t think that will ever happen. What I do believe is that for every person to takes the high road and teaches the high road we become better as a society. So, yes, let’s teach our youngsters to reply with kindness as often and as possible as we can.

  7. I agree. Being mean is not natural. It’s learned. I hate it. I hate that kids do it. And I really hate when adults STILL do it. But being the target does strengthen our resolve to be kind. Thanks for sharing this, D.

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