Meanwhile, back at the ranch

Oh. Um, hi. How are you? I’m, uh, perfectly fine and ready to point to the nearest shiny object to distract you from yesterday’s post. Yes. (Not that I didn’t appreciate both the space to get that out and the really kind emails I received, but now I’d like to go back to to sublimating my “issues”—please use heavy air quotes when reading that—and doing really meaningful things like pondering whether I really need avocados when they cost $1.50 each.)

During a conversation with a friend yesterday I mentioned falling asleep at the kitchen table one night and she interrupted me to ask if PERHAPS I was a bit exhausted? (She didn’t even call me a dumbass, which I thought was sweet.) And yes, I think some of my recent difficulty can be attributed to the fact that school starts promptly at the buttcrack of dawn. I am not unwell! I am just SLEEPY!

And oh, look, I just saw something shiny over there, and it is my daughter’s brain.

I think I mentioned once before that Chickadee seemed to be having a bit of trouble settling in socially at school, but last week was a marked improvement over the week before. She has friends! Nice ones, it sounds like! There is one name I hear more than any other, but also a satellite group of other girls who seem to be her compadres. I’m sure it’s not easy to be the New Kid, and this is a very different school than their old one, so there really aren’t words to describe how proud I am of her for working through this.

The thing is, Chickadee is finding her friends, but she’s also being picked on.

Now, I remember childhood pretty clearly. I know that kids are, by and large, mean little shits with mob mentality unless they have some people in their lives who are making it crystal clear that WE ARE GOING TO BE NICE. At this school, I suspect there is a much larger segment of the population who don’t have that kind of support, and so the faction of “mean kids” is a lot bigger than we are used to.

Furthermore, there is no end of reasons to pick on Chickie. She’s new. She wears glasses. She’s smart and given to acting like she knows everything. She has a funny accent (according to the locals). Plus—and I say this with love in my heart, truly I do—she’s not exactly a stranger to being a little shit, herself. I adore my child but I KNOW MY CHILD and I do not mean to suggest that I think she’s 100% blameless, here. I think it’s highly probable that she has provoked some of these kids (intentionally or not) or just been irritating in some way.

I don’t think my child is an angel. But I do think she deserves a school experience free of bullying.

To the school’s credit, it sounds like the zero-tolerance for bullying policy is well enforced, at least when a kid is caught. But kids are sneaky and about half of what Chickadee is reporting to me seems to be flying under the radar. I’m in touch with her teacher and we’re working on some of this together and I know we’ll figure it out.

It’s worth mentioning that I’m dealing with a confounding factor here, too, which is that Chickadee—and I have NO IDEA where she gets this from—is, shall we say, given to hyperbole. Yesterday she tearfully related the tale of one of the Mean Girls pushing her down when she dared interrupt a dialog going on between said Mean Girl and her (Chickadee’s) newfound best bud. Oh, the perpetrator was immediately disciplined, but poor Chickie fell down and it hurt her feelings, too! Well, I talked to the teacher and found out that actually, the Mean Girl put her hands on Chickadee and was immediately disciplined. There was no pushing. There was no falling down. But Chickadee did collect an Oscar nomination for Most Tearful Retelling Of A Fictitious Injury. (Sadly, she didn’t win. But it’s an honor just to be nominated.)

So. It’s rather like navigating through a minefield, this. I need to honor what my child is feeling, and help her deal with it, but I also need to ferret out the truth and not go running to the school in indignation every time there’s supposedly a problem.

I am conscious of the futility in counseling my child about how to react when she is dealt an injustice. For one thing, it does hurt, no matter how many ways you can rationalize why it shouldn’t. And I don’t want to minimize or dismiss that. For another, telling a child not to be bothered by something that would still bother most adults is just adding insult to injury, I think. And lastly, I don’t know that there IS an answer, and if there is, I’m pretty sure I don’t know it.

So I take it in bite-sized pieces and pray a lot.

When Chickadee came home and reported that one of the Mean Girls called her “Bug Eyes,” I considered this carefully before responding, “Oh, poor Mean Girl.”

“What do you mean, Mama?” Her eyes were wide. Why was I siding with HER?

“Oh, well, I just feel sorry for her. I mean, she’s not very creative, is she? ‘Bug Eyes’ is the best she can do? I’ve known stumps that can do better.”

Chickadee giggled, and the uniting code of nerds was established. When all else fails, remember that you’re smarter than your attacker.

When Chickadee asked if I was bullied as a child and what my parents told me, I trotted out the tried and true “they’re just jealous” line and immediately followed it with, “You know, I think that’s a load of crap.” Again I was faced with the round eyes. “I mean, I don’t know why they pick on you, honey, but I do know that most of the time mean kids just pick on other kids because they’re mean and they think the other kids are weird. I doubt it’s a jealousy thing. I am never going to tell you that, because I don’t think it’s true.” Score one for Mom; she was clearly impressed that not all adults had sworn to uphold the “they’re just jealous” line.

Then we moved on to how to react. So far, she is reporting “just walking away,” which in general I think is a good strategy. But she brought up the whole “just ignore them” thing and we talked about that, too. And I told her the truth: in general, I think if you can TRULY ignore this stuff, that’s a great strategy. But bullies, like hyenas, can smell fear. And if you’re TRYING to ignore them but you’re clearly bothered (and I have played poker with this child and I am here to tell you that her face is an open book), it doesn’t work. They’re still getting the reaction they want.

[Someday, when she’s older, I’ll tell her the greatest piece of advice I ever received. It’s completely cold-blooded and that is, of course, why it’s so stunning. If someone is making your life miserable and they’re not in a position of power over you (this means it doesn’t work for bosses or teachers or such), you survive it by simply killing them. Not for real (obviously!), but in your mind. Kill them in your mind. Just—POOF—make them gone. It can’t be done in anger or as a revenge fantasy or anything, either. Just a simple removal of their existence from your reality. You can’t be bothered by someone who doesn’t matter or exist. I love this method but I do think she’s a bit young for it yet.]

So we talked about other alternatives, and I made it VERY CLEAR that the consequences will be swift and severe if I find out that she’s been rotten back to these kids. I’m sure the temptation is strong (and just to clarify, if this goes on and on and on I MIGHT sanction a bit of dirty pool on her end as a LAST RESORT, but that’s a trump card I expect we’ll never have to play), I told her, but once she sinks to their level she’s lost. “In fact,” I said with a small grin, “what do you think would happen if they were being mean to you and you were just SWEET AS PIE back to them?”

“What do you mean?” she asked, clearly wondering if I’d finally lost it.

“Oh, I don’t know. What if Mean Girl said ‘You’re ugly!’ and you smiled and said, ‘You’re looking very pretty today. I love that shirt!’?”

“I think… that would confuse her,” she said. I nodded. Her face lit up. “Oh, I bet that would drive her NUTS!”

“Mmmmm,” I offered, cementing my position as having left the ammunition out but not having actually sanctioned its use. I have to be a little tricky, you know.

The hardest part, for me, was when she told me that she “hardly ever” raises her hand in class, anymore, because she doesn’t want to get teased for being a teacher’s pet on top of everything else. That was when my heart broke into a thousand pieces and I had to give her a stern talk about remembering who she is and not letting anyone take that away from her.

And also that if I find out she’s playing dumb she’s gonna have to deal with ME and I can be a LOT MEANER than the bullies. She nodded rather more than I would’ve liked, as if there was no need to tell HER about how mean I am (ha!), but she did give me an extra-tight hug afterwards.

In conclusion: Mean people suck. Hmph.


  1. Jen

    This is such great advice. With your permission, I am going to keep this post to refer back to when my children come up against bullies. They haven’t yet, but when they do I will now be prepared and armed.
    Also, I agree the “they’re just jealous” line is complete bunk.

  2. Chelle

    Ahhh, I remember those days. I was once a skinny, “bug-eyed” little girl who moved to a new school and was picked on mercilessly for many years…and by girls who were my so-called friends. I never have really found out the secret for dealing with the “Mean Girls” and I’m not sure there is one. Even into my adult years, I have experienced this type of mean-spiritedness anytime I stood up for myself when not siding with / agreeing with a “friend.” It’s hard, but I think it would be harder still to exist without truly knowing yourself and without respecting those girls that you consider your friends. All you can do is be yourself and hope that you find friends along the way who like you just as you are.

    I do like your strategy, Mir, and plan to mentally “kill” anyone who disrespects me in the future!

  3. Yan

    could not say it better myself….

  4. Jenn

    You? Are awesome. I wish that I had been able to deal with bullying when I was a kid. As it was, I just worried myself (literaly) sick and spent a lot of time out of school. Why didn’t I tell my parents? Why didn’t I tell a teacher? Things were a lot different back then, I guess. Bullying wasn’t really talked about in schools.

    I remember playing stupid in high school to try to fit in. I would like to be able to go back in time and kick my high-school self in the ass.

  5. Leandra

    Ugh! I hate this kind of crap and dread it when Punkin has to go through it. My mom just bought me a book that was on really deep discount at Borders called “The Girl Wars.” She thought I might be interested because of some things that happened to me in my formative years. Haven’t read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

    And kudos to you for not trotting out the “they’re just jealous” line. That’s the one I got but I could never figure it out because there was no need to be jealous of me. I was not rich, I wasn’t super popular. I was smart, but that was it. But I do think these mean girls sense *something* in their prey, soemthing they themselves lack and that brings on the attack mode. Your plan of battle is perfect! Confuse the heck out of ’em!

  6. Colleen

    Just want to let you know you’re one great Momma!

  7. writtenwyrdd

    My school years were difficult because we moved several times and I was the New Kid a lot. I hear you on everything you said. Smart, looked “dorky”, new, and shy as all get out. This is a bad combination, chum to the sharks.

    Sounds like you gave your child the ammo she needs to work it out gracefully. But it is still difficult and emotionally painful, so it’s a good thing she has you in her corner!

  8. pam


  9. Jenny

    Chickadee reminds me a lot of me when I was that age (because I’m brilliant, you see, and also — the tales I could spin!). I survived by learning to fly under the radar myself and became pretty quiet and less likely to raise my hand or speak out in class (though I discovered once I got to college and law school that the impulse was only buried, not obliterated). Your advice sounds brilliant, and it sounds like she is rather GIFTED herself. It sounds like you’re approaching this exactly the right way, and if she’s amassing a core group of nice friends already that is more than half the battle.

  10. Anne Glamore

    As the mom of 2 boys who are WAY dramatic and one who is pretty truthful, I’ve decided to listen seriously to the story the first time and say “Let me think about that.”

    I’ve found that 99% of the time it doesn’t come up again– the child just wants to be heard.

    The 1% it does, we sit down and discuss options.

    Of course I have only boys; your mileage may vary.

  11. Rachel May

    I’m positively DROOLING over you right now. Mentally, I’m hopping up and down and pointing and yelling “I WANNA BE LIKE HER WHEN I GROW UP!!!!”

    It’s a good thing we’re both married and that it would be illegal anyway, because I think I’m falling in love with you a little bit.

  12. Fold My Laundry Please

    I “ignored” bullying all through high school and all it did was fill me with repressed resentment. I can’t even think of high school now without getting a sour taste in my mouth! I wish I had known about zapping those people out of existence!

  13. Stacey

    Good Mommying! Now, take care of yourself too. There’s no way with all the changes going on in your life that you wouldn’t be down. You’ve given up almost everything in your life besides your children and Otto–yes, the most important things, but still…It’s going to take a while to adjust and feel good about where you’re at. Add sleep deprivation, friend deprivation as well as stretching everything in you to help your children adjust, and it’s going to take a while to get your equilibrium back. Good luck. I know you’re going to be doing great down the road.

  14. Mimipz5wjj

    I can so clearly remember being “chickadee” in school. And I can remember the day I chose not to raise my hand in school… I felt awful about it.

    Great advice. I love reading what “those who have gone before” do as I know I’ll be dishing out the advice (or trying hard not to lecture) when the boys are older!

  15. RuthWells

    I think you deserve avocados at ANY price!

  16. janet

    Great answers, Mir.

    Let me just add that girls totally suck. I know. I was/am one and I HAVE one. Wait till you get to middle school. There’s a great book, though, that gave me some answers for my daughter and the mean-girl syndrome: “Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence” by Rosalind Wiseman. It actually is the basis for that Lindsay Lohan movie “Mean Girls.”

    I used some of the techniques to unlock my daughter’s buttoned-up mouth. She spilled things I never thought I’d hear.

    And yeah, I want to be you when I grow up, too.

  17. Shalee

    Yes, mean kids suck. And they’re usually not jealous one iota when they’re being rotten. They usually want control because they lack control where it really counts – with themselves and with their parents.

    But you, Mir? You have done more than just give the best mommying advice ever; you’ve given her the gift of validation by letting your daughter know that she can approach you about anything and she will still be loved and accepted. You’ve shown her that life isn’t fair, you don’t have all the answers, you had to deal with teh same sort of idiocy in school. But you’ve also shown her that you won’t let others keep you from being you and that you can be the better person even if the opponent is horrid. Maybe you can remind her that there will always be number of hum-drum bullies in this world, but there will only be ONE Chickadee.

    I think you deserve those avocados even if they are a buck fifty a piece. Consider it your reward for a job well done today.

  18. Aimee

    Ask not for whom the bell tolls — it tolls for that stupid “They’re just jealous” line.

    You are THE AWESOME, Miss Mir. And with your guidance as a mom, Chickadee is a force to be reckoned with.

    And… mmmm. Avocados. $1.50 apiece for creamy avocado-y goodness is a small price to pay. I say buy ’em!

  19. Pamela

    You are a wise mum. Keep it up! Your girl will pick up the graciousness and the self-control from you (instead of retaliation with physical force to the bullies in the school). Keeping the conversation going with her can let her know that you care and you are on top of all issues, she can lean on your for advise (strong motherhood bonding created!)
    Do continue to encourage her to raise her hand to ask questions let her not be influenced by her peer pressure. One thing for sure, your girl is tougher than you thought. She did not cried even in such circumstances.

  20. Patricia

    All bullies suck, no matter the age or the influence in your life. But that’s not my point.
    I have no Southern accent. It is probably the one great regret of my life. I gave it up because of the mean kids. You see when I was 12 I moved from the deep South (TN) to South NY (also known as South Florida). No one in my class was actually FROM Florida, but the kids from New York and New Jersey were ruthless about my accent. (Please understand that despite being called stupid because of my drawl, I graduated in the top of my class. I excelled far above any of the kids who teased me.) But I’d come home crying everyday about something I thought was a problem.
    What’s noteworthy is that my mother was going through the exact same problem in her job. She was being teased and she was an adult — teased by ADULTS. Bullies shockingly don’t go away — which I have to say was the most depressing thing I learned through that. I learned much about handling it from my mother — she used the “kill them with kindness” approach and it failed. She used the “make them laugh” approach and it mildly succeeded. But it took me years (and a little age) to understand the approach that worked best “Tell them to go to Hell so sweetly and kindly that they look forward to the trip.” My mother is the master of this. She has the ability to look at a bully and reduce them to mush with a look and a “Bless your heart” smile. I love her for that. I took the “get rid of the offending accent as best you can” approach. It neither stopped the teasing (the bullies just moved on the next weird thing about me) and I truly wish I’d never tried so hard to fit in with that group. Alas, I grew, they didn’t. The rest is history.

    I’m sorry this is long — but I agree; it isn’t jealousy that seems to motivate the bully. I believe there are some people in this world who think that the only way to be better is by pushing those around them down. This is their grab at attention and frankly, this is their only 15 minutes. I truly wish that I could tell my 12 year old self that those kids peaked in jr. high and just wait. Today I deal with another bully. I have ‘killed’ her as completely as you describe (which is a feat considering she’s my mother in law). I hear in my head often the line from American President, “Your 15 minutes is up, sir.” And it helps — ok, so it also helps to know in my heart that she will die someday too — but I try not to say that outloud too much.

  21. Holly

    I have a couple points to make on this;
    1. I had to deal with mean girls too, only in highschool and the first time I walked by them and pretended they didn’t exist worked like a charm. They never bothered me again, although you are right, you do have to OWN it.

    2. I think mean girls pick on other girls not because they’re jealous, but because their insecure. I really do believe that people pick on others to make themselves feel better.

    Poor Chickadee, she’ll get through it. Mean people suck, mean girls suck especially.

  22. Melisa

    Thanks to Janet for the book recommendation. My oldest just started middle school. Our school has a zero-tolerance bullying policy too, (With pep rallies! And rubber bracelets!) but as you said, Mir, I think some of it goes unnoticed. Great advice!

  23. Wendy

    Are you taking adoption applications?

  24. Sherry

    When my oldest was small and got picked on about his scrawniness and his glasses, I told him that when people said mean things to him just look them in the eye and say, “So?”

    It worked. (Thank goodness.) He is now has contacts and is six feet tall.

  25. Sophie

    I’m with Jen; I’m saving this post for the inevitability that my daughter will go through this, too.

    “When all else fails, remember that you’re smarter than your attacker.” HA – LOL! You gave me that very same bit of advice once about a troll, and I still surely do appreciate it.

  26. Susan

    You are such a great mom! What an awesome conversation between you two.

    To this day, I love “killing (mean) people with kindness.” I almost find it challenging; I mean, I think it’s partly a control issue on my part. I find ways to make annoying people NOT think they’re getting the best of me. At work, I’m often complimented on my ability to get along with others. What I don’t have the heart to tell them is that it’s really just a sick mind game I’m playing (and winning). :D

    Gosh, that sounded really evil. I swear I’m at least 85% genuinely nice. ;-)


  27. The Other Leanne

    Two words that haunt me still: “Four Eyes.”

    Your advice to Chickadee is perfect, and just what I was going to suggest! Yes, kill them with kindness. Confuse and disarm them. Steal their power. It is mental Tae Kwon Do!

    And, sadly, it is what these Mean Kids need to hear most; that they are pretty, that they are smart, that they are worthy of kindness. If they heard that more often, they might not be so mean.

  28. Burgh Baby's Mom

    I was Chickadee a couple (er–twenty some) years ago. We moved from a school district with a great Gifted and Talented program where I was able to find my niche to a school district where I was my own Reading class and by Gifted Program they meant “create assignments (such as crossword puzzles based on our Geography lesson) for the rest of the class”. Needless to say, that didn’t lead to any nominations for Most Popular. My parents? Not at all equipped to help me through the torture. You? Doing a fantastic job.

  29. ZooMom

    Take it from an expert: Go To Sleep. Life is unmanagable when you’re tired! BTW, great job parenting!

  30. Delton

    Very well handled. The whole situation just blows. I HATE that our kids will have to suffer through a lot of the same injustices that we did. I like the bits of advice you gave her, and how you told her the truth instead of just reciting the standard answers. I’ll definitely remember the “just kill them in your mind” approach as mine get a little older.

  31. ScottsdaleGirl

    First: Avocados are always worth it.

    Second: You said exactly what my mother always told me. “remember who you are”. Best. Advice. Evah.

  32. Stephanie Chance

    My daughter is in the same class with her second cousin, born one day apart. One day she came home to report that some boys had been picking on him, and SHE told them to leave him alone. The following week, my mother-in-law told me that her sister (the second cousin’s grandmother) told her that he said some boys were picking on her, and HE told them to leave her alone! I don’t know who the true rescuer was, or if they were both rescuers in different situations, but I am not particularly worried about any of them being bullied. Her first cousin is in the class down the hall, and they all go to recess together. They are as different as night and day (my baby does sports and her girl cousin does dance), but they are truly a force not to be messed with. Not to mention that a horde of aunts and uncles and cousins will descend upon any parent unfortunate enough to have a child make the mistake of hurting any of them.

  33. Jen

    Last week, those people I told you about? Dead. I killed them dead. Just the way you described it. I didn’t think of it in those terms. I just quietly removed them.

    I love that.

    But killing them with kindness is also brilliant.

  34. lou

    Fabulous post!

    I recall an experience in grade school where I was being picked on by some older kids. My mother always said to “Kill them with kindness”- just like you said- it confuses them.

    I brought some suckers to school for a holiday and shared them with those bullies. The bullying stopped dead right there. They were confuzzled into submission- and my lunchtable had a peaceful existance from there on out.

    Love that you laid bear the jealousy line.

    Oh, and don’t forget to teach her how to throw a right hook, just in case :-) There are soem skills every girl should have :-)

  35. Stephanie Chance

    Ok, so you don’t belong to a clan that will start a feud if you so much as look at any of them funny. Here’s what I do if somebody hurts my baby’s feelings. First I ask her who is this person who hurt her feelings, and what is it that gives that person the power to hurt her feelings. Is s/he smarter than you are, prettier than you are? In what way is that person better than you are that gives them the authority to pass judgment on you? This usually sparks a good discussion about what makes a person worthwhile. Then I tell her about somebody hurting my feelings and how I dealt with it. It could be a person at work calling me stupid or being rude. I am a big fan of the ‘whatever.’ If someone tells me I’m ugly and my mama dresses me funny, I decide whether that person’s opinion is important to me, and if it’s not, which is usually the case, I say ‘whatever’ and go on. The person’s attack has no power if you don’t give it power.

    There was a girl in high school who threatened to beat me up every day, for whatever reason, I still do not know. I never even knew her name. I thought she was ridiculous, and I would smile and wave and say, “Hello, how are you doing today?” whenever she would snarl some insult at me. This infuriated her, but she never bothered me, I guess because, like a dog, she couldn’t smell the fear. She was a lot larger than I was, and I had never been in a fight (still haven’t), but I reassured myself that I could probably run faster than she could. I would not recommend that today because some kid would probably pull out a gun and shoot you instead of lose any time trying to decide why you weren’t terrified of him.

  36. Amy

    I stumbled onto the best bully advice in elementary school. It’s simply to call them on their bad behavior and it’s even more effective if there’s an audience.

    In 4th grade I stood up to the girl who had tormented me on and off for 2 years. I’d finally had it and the meek little girl that I was, looked her in the eye and with a very full voice, told her the truth. I told her she was mean and mean people rarely had many friends and that some day someone was going to be just as mean to her and make her feel bad and I hoped I was there to see it. Her jaw dropped, she had nothing to say and from that day forward she never bothered me again.

    Deep down everyone wants to be liked, even bullies.

    This even works well with adult bullies, especially those who have some measure of power over you like a boss.

    I once pointed out to a boss (in a very calm respectful manner) that she tended to hit me in the arm (with the back of her hand in a playful manner) when I disagreed with her and that she did it harder when I didn’t change my opinion to agree with hers. I didn’t tell her she was mean but still pointing out bad behavior got me the same result.

    Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with high school girls, that’s a whole other breed of meanness and pretending you could care less is the only thing that will make them move on to other prey.

  37. liz

    I did something similar with my ex-husband who was abusive. I’d just look him in the eye and take whatever he was dishing out, rather than fight with him. Drove him crazy that I wouldn’t let it get to me, and I think that it was physically safer for me. (That marriage? Yeah, lasted three months.)

  38. Heather S.

    This was an absolutely wonderful post and some of the ammo you “put out there” just might work I hope it does….she is a smart little gal and I bet she will come out on the other side better than the bully does. Cause you can’t fight an unarmed person in a battle of wits you know ;) ;).

  39. StephLove

    Both my kids are horrible sleepers (I was up four times with the toddler last night and once with the 6 year old) so I know how rotten the world can seem when you’re not getting enough sleep. Can you grab a nap while the kids are at school?

    I have been hearing so many stories like yours from moms and dads with elementary-school girls. And I witnessed it first-hand among the girls in my son’s NURSERY SCHOOL. I could not believe it starts so young. Makes me scared for when my own little girl is in school. Good luck to Chickadee!

    p.s. Buy the avocados.

  40. Lucinda

    Seriously awesome post. I wish my mom had been so great as you are when I was a kid being bullied. She was absolutely no help. I too am tucking this post in my back pocket of tricks to use when my kids are older. Thanks!

  41. Marie

    Well done Mir !! When my son comes home with his tale of being bullyed the Momma bear in me wants to defend her cub. But then I think I need to teach him how to deal with things like this.

  42. saucygrrl

    I’d like to add how impressed I am that your kids actually Come To You and tell you what’s going on. I never had that relationship with my parents. Having been the new girl once or twice I just kindda sucked it up by myself. You should feel very proud that your kids have faith in you.

    I bought TWO avacados last night and you would be shocked at the price of avacados in MA these days, but tomorrow is my birthday and I’m having guacamole damnit (and therefore you should too)!

  43. Heidi

    I hear you on the lack of sleep thing–I get totally whacked out.

    And I’m here to register my vote on the avacados; buy them! Why, just last night I whipped one up in the blender with sweet chile sauce, garlic black pepper, lime juice and olive oil to make a fabulous salad dressing. Avacados. Mmmm.

  44. Lily

    I take the same approach as Sherry. It is the simple “So?” response to name-calling or mean comments. It takes practice not to respond with anything else, so my kiddo and I role-play.

    I also enforce that he needs to step in if he sees a bully picking on a kid smaller than him. Just because he is not a target doesn’t mean he should stay out of it, although if it escalates into something physical then that’s when to signal for help from an adult. There is no honor in being a bully, nor is it any more honorable to stand by and watch a bully tear someone up because they look, talk, or act differently.

    There is power in numbers – the more children willing to call it as unacceptable the better because as we all have noticed, a lot of it goes undetected by any of the authority figures. Some of her pals will catch on and follow similar suit, some prefer to follow the bully. That right there has the added bonus of helping her filter who has the makings of a quality, trustworthy friend.

  45. Crisanne

    I agree with all others that you have given your daughter fantastic advice that will carry her through many years.

    I wanted to say-as a former junior high teacher-I commend you for being honest with yourself about your daughter and her propensity to exaggerate the truth. I can’t tell you how many irrate parents I’ve dealt with who were lying to themselves about their own kids-not just about bullying, but on many issues. Yes, listen to your kids, but don’t go apeshit crazy on a teacher when there might possibly be some other explanation.

    I’ve probably told you this before, but my best defense against bullies was having friends outside of school. This might be in the neighborhood or at church or wherever. Then all she isn’t putting all her worth (friend-wise) in the people at school.

  46. BOSSY

    Bossy’s defense against Bullies, “Your behavior is so kindergarten.”

  47. Libby

    I am usually a lurker but I wanted to say that this was a most excellent post. I am also filing it for future use with my little girl (she is 5, I hope I don’t need it anytime soon).

    I had a pretty bully-less school experience (perhaps because it happened in another country? don’t know) but I always knew I could tell my mom anything and she would never undermine my feelings(to this day) and she gives pretty good advise too. That is invaluable. So, no that you want any validation, but you are doing a good thing there with the little Chickadee.

    And good avocados cure a multitude of evils and are worth every penny. Here in Texas they are 2 for a dollar. Send you some?

  48. Djurdjica

    This comment might end up ignored, but I’m too tempted to place it anyway. It’s got more to do with the earlier post about education than this one, though. I’ve just sat through this documentary and found it amazing and very revealing.
    Who Controls Our Children ? (Public Education Dumb Down Kids Deliberately)

    Other than that, I’m a long-time lurker, first time commenter, ha. I love your humor and reading about the shenanigans of your cool, smart, outspoken kids. I love the humanity and warmth of what you express. Be well, keep on writing. :)

  49. Jen

    Well, I’m just glad that Chickie has such a great mum! I know what you’re going through – we moved from France to the UK when my daughter was nearly 8. She wore glasses and she didn’t even speak English properly. And although most of the little girls in her class were really sweet, there was one kid, a very pretty, blonde, blue-eyed, clever, innocent-looking MONSTER who decided to start with “the French are stupid”, ending the next year with the repeated question “are you a virgin?” (AT AGE NINE!). Thank goodness that school had a zero tolerance policy because I daren’t think what would have happened otherwise. Yes, I do know what you are going through, and you and Chickie will get through it just fine, I know it. In the meantime, I’m thinking of you….

  50. Manic Mommy

    While “they’re just jealous” may be a crock how ’bout “they’re just insecure”? Good for you for taking the high road when you know you want to squash anyone who would dare touch your child’s feelings.

    Your description of Chickadee reminded me very much of Harry Potter’s Hermione. If you haven’t yet, perhaps the two of you could start the series together. She’s a strong, smart, female role model.

  51. jess

    Get the avocados. From the sounds of things and, having read some past posts, you could definitely use the end result!


  52. Cassie

    I LOVE the idea of “killing” them with kindness. It teaches her a very valuable social skill early, that even if you dislike someone with every ounce of your soul, as soon as you drop to their level you’re no better than them.

    I was also told (when I was a teenager) that the rule of thumb is that you can only hate 3 people in your entire life, so you better save it for the people who are really WORTH hating. I think that this advice stuck to me like glue, when I realized that my whole life was being spent focusing on grudges. (I think this is very similar to your zapping idea) Remind Chickadee that this girl doesn’t really matter and will probably spend her life serving french fries to Chickadee while she is saving the world with her amazing mind.

    I love how you’re dealing with the rude comments like “four eyes.” Turning them into “wow, she’s not very smart, is she?” is such a good way to boost Chickie’s confidence while getting her to look past the comment. It reminds her how smart she is, and that kids often just say stuff without even thinking.


  53. Susan

    BTW… I commented earlier, but just thought I’d mention an awesome program that is at my son’s middle school called Safe School Ambassadors. (

    It’s a nationwide program that is producing great results; it’s helping to cut down on bullying and also bring students closer together. It’s a student-governed program, and typically, the students chosen are natural “leaders” who have a strong social influence. It’s also a “secretive” thing; in other words, the students don’t know who the SSAs are, so that when someone steps in and stops bullying or makes someone feel accepted, no one knows if they’re just doing it out of the goodness of their hearts, or if they’re doing it because they’re in the program. (My son is one of them–that’s how I know. ;-) )

    Anyway — to the commenters out there, you might go to your schools and see about getting this program implemented, if you’re at all interested.

  54. Kristen

    I’m 25, a full-time stepmom to 2 boys, the mom of 2 boys, and I go to night school. I was terrorized for years as a child for being “a teacher’s pet,” “stuck-up,” “too smart,” etc. I had thick glasses, braces, and was painfully shy.

    It seems like the mean kids never do grow up. In my math class last semester the teacher announced that I had received an A on a test (stupid man to have announced such a fact). A boy fresh out of high school looked across the room and asked, “What do you do all day, study?” I, quite innocently, looked up at him and replied, “I have four kids to raise and a business that I am the secretary for, plus I am taking three classes this semester. What do you do all day?”

    I didn’t hear a word from him when I received an A on the next test and the teacher announced it again.

  55. Jodi

    Did you ever read the book, “Reviving Ophelia” ? It kind of scared the sh*t out of me when my daughter was younger, but I’m so glad I read it. My brainy daughter is 19 now and becoming a really cool person.

  56. Kim

    My mom used the “kill them with kindness” idea with me ~ only she quoted the Bible ~ my paraphrase of it goes something like this: “…heap kindness upon them, for it burns like coals upon their heads.”

    I just loved that imagery. Burning coals. On their HEADS! *roars with laughter* It also worked ~ and strangely enough, I actually wound up with a friend who was one of the Mean Girls. ;) It only took a couple of tries, too ~ but I did have to do it with confidence and a knowing gleam in my eye. lol

    I feel for Chickadee ~ I’ve been the new girl too many times to count, and it really does bite. Your advice is spot-on ~ and I think you deserve all the avocados you can eat.


  57. Barb Cooper

    Dang, Cassie, THREE people? So, like with Hitler and the person who invented those stupid stickers that everyone puts on fruit and vegetables now and a politician to be named later, that’s it? That’s used them all up?

    I’m not sure where that leaves my husband’s ex-wife, though. Might have to take Hitler off the list. (Just kidding.)

    Love that Chickie. Is she in 3rd grade, by any chance? Because third grade is where the mean girl stuff started for us. I wrote a column about it actually. (Of course I did.)

  58. Angie

    Regarding the Oscar nomination: My son’s former Montessori teacher once announced at a parent meeting, “We promise not to believe everything your child tells us about your family if you promise not to believe everything they say happened at school.” That being said, I agree with the person who said that most of the time they just want to be heard, even if their side of the story is a bit… exaggerated.

  59. Cele

    I am so glad I don’t have to go through all this again, because I’m not sure I was as good a parent as you are.

  60. nan

    Ha! Hahaha! Haa! We have an avocado TREE!! Yes ma’am. Dripping with avocadoes. Not your little 6-inch, watery things, either. Big as your head. Hybrid, creamy. We had some for breakfast, and some with lunch, and , well, we will have to have some for supper too. All over the island, people are saying “oh lord, not more avocadoes!” but my eldest son and I are addicted. When the season is over, I will hug the tree and cry.

  61. Angel

    You totally *rock* as a mom, Mir!!!

    Ok, I do use the “They are jealous” line. But that’s not the only thing I use when talking to my daughter (she’s 12) about bullies. We talk about how the other person may have issues, about being nice even when someone is mean, and I’ve even made her apologize to a mean girl when she needed to. (The girl was speechless).

    Over the past 4 years, all our dialogues are paying off (for now LOL). She’s very confident, has made friends with girls who formerly teased her (one is the aforementioned mean girl), and can hold her own with the “mean girls” so they aren’t bugging her.

    TOTALLY read “Queen Bees & Wannabees”. Such an awesome book.

    I worried about my daughter this year–her best friend transferred to another school. But so far, so good.

  62. Jenifer

    I was also teased as a kid. And I ahve to say, I wish you had been my Mom! I think you handles it well…. and kids can be brutal. I hope she learns that she shouldn’t compromise herself. ever.

  63. jessica

    I wish you’d been my mom when I was a little girl…and a middle schooler……and a teenager…..

    I’ll be keeping these things in mind for when my own little girl starts school.

  64. Dawn

    What they all said.

    Bullies all need to be taught how to say one thing.

    “Do you want fries with that?”

  65. Becky

    My mom would tell me that the boys all picked on me because they all really liked me.

    Yea. Right.

    I certainly think you did a better and much more honest job.

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