Mean Girls Already?

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Bullying has been on my mind. It’s all over the news, in the media, in the Diary of a Wimpy kid book someone checked out from the library last week. I’ve dealt with it myself, and had my first experience being bullied when I was six years old. In fact, it came up in my first session with my new therapist. He’d asked me in very broad terms about my social life and school, how things were for me growing up. I felt that familiar lump in my throat as the word “awful” bubbled up. I didn’t go into anything specific. He latched onto that fact, though, and said, “You were a kid. Little kids don’t know. They can’t take things apart and realize it’s not their fault. They didn’t DO anything, they were just picked. And things like that can follow you the rest of your life (…if you let them — which apparently will be something I’m going to be working on in the months to come).”

The tears came hard and fast then, and of course there was a box of tissues right there. Every decent therapist out there buys stock in Kleenex.

And then there’s my daughter.

She tells me things. There are already “clubs” in second grade. Clubs she’s not allowed to join. Some girls are already quite fashion forward and have voiced opinions about the cool or uncool items others are wearing. Some girls turn up their noses and act rude when my daughter musters up the courage to ask to play with them. Yes, we’ve spoken with her teacher. Yes, the teacher has told the class that clubs aren’t allowed; but I’ve been there, done that. There are easy ways to get around the rules, and just as I was bullied right under the teachers’ noses, so it continues.

A doctor in our pediatrician’s group (Pediatric Associates on the Plaza) recommended the American Girl Company’s line of books, including this journal below. It’s great because although the twins are eight now, they still need prompts to help them figure out what they’re feeling. These didn’t disappoint, and both girls love reading and writing in them. Friendship Troubles is another good one we’re finding helpful.

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We love this book. Buy The Feelings Book Journal on Amazon.

So using the doctor’s tips and the books, plus my own instincts, I’m trying to help her. But it’s difficult because when I look at her I see a mini-me.

Important things for me (the mom) to remember:

1.) She is NOT me and I shouldn’t think of her as a small version of me;
2.) She will not have the exact same experiences as I did; and
3.) She will not filter things through the same lenses.

Important things for us to do to help her through this:

1.) On the way home from school or at the end of (most) days, we talk about or write down three things that made us happy. They can be big things or small things — no restrictions or limitations!
2.) We focus on finding friends that make her feel happy.
3.) We encourage her to stand up for herself. It’s okay for her to walk away from a situation or from classmates that are making her sad or uncomfortable, but before she does so, she needs to let them know how they’ve made her feel.
4.) Focus on the positive.
5.) At a certain point she must take these tools and work the rest out herself, mull it over in her journal, etc. She is only eight, but that’s old enough to know the difference between mean girls and nice girls. **I keep saying girls only because most of her friends at this age are girls, and because we haven’t had any issues with boys in her class.**

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6.) Empower her so that she knows her own self worth. For a wonderful post about how to teach your children self worth, visit Jennifer Williams’ blog. And for more advice about our kids and their friends, read this post she wrote.


What about you? Have you ever been bullied? What about your children? If so, what do you do to comfort your kids and to teach them how to cope? 

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  • Jennifer P. Williams

    For me it is so much harder watching Cady go through it. On one hand I want to pound it into her, “YOU WILL SURVIVE THIS”, and on the other hand I want to pound the kids which mess with her. Since neither of those are options, I do my best to give her tips to be stronger than I was so that she can survive the messy parts of girlhood.

    • Erin Margolin


      Yep, you got it. It’s a fine line and I’m having trouble walking it. I almost posted again about it towards week’s end, but had to bite my tongue. Sigh. Thanks for sharing your posts!!xo

  • Lindsey

    This is really great. My daughter (11, 5th grade) has been dealing with mean girls since second grade. It’s so, so heartbreaking and I often don’t know what to say. We like the American Girl books too. Xox

    • Erin Margolin


      I’m so sorry your girl has been dealing with this, too. I’d like to think they’ll grow up stronger and better because of it, but…I’m not sure I did. And yes, it’s heartbreaking for sure! xo

  • efloraross

    I was shocked when my 4yo daughter was bullied in preschool. I had no idea it started that early. This is a great post, and I am eager to read this book. Thank you for sharing, Erin!

    • Erin Margolin


      Yes, it’s quite shocking what goes on these days and how early it starts. We’ve had inklings before now, but this year has been a real struggle. I can only hope that I’m giving her the right tools (or some of them). I’m glad you came to read & that you found this helpful! ;-)

  • sellabitmum

    I feel so lucky that my girls have yet to experience this. And sad that I know they probably will. Great post, my friend. xoxo

    • Erin Margolin


      I’m so glad your precious ones haven’t dealt with this. I hope they’ll escape it completely. But if they don’t, they have an incredible mama who will have the right words to help them through it!! xo

  • Kerstin Auer

    My kids have both been picked on at times for being German. Funny (not really funny) thing is that the kids that picked on them are usually Native Canadian Indian kids, who likely had their share of being picked on as well. Huh.
    Either way, I tell my kids that they have the power to stop it by speaking up. Speak up even if you think it’s embarrassing and that has worked every time.

    • Erin Margolin


      Ugh, isn’t it ironic and terrible all at once? I don’t understand why we can’t just break the whole damn cycle! Why can’t we all just agree to NO MORE BULLYING?! I’m so glad you teach your kids to speak up. That’s so integral to survival these days. We’re reinforcing the same here. Hugs!

  • Julie Gardner

    Don’t you just want to put bubble wrap around your sweet girls and protect them from all of it?

    We’re going through this with Karly for the first time right now. I know we’re lucky it’s taken 14 years for her to feel the sting, but as a freshman in high school, she has lost her best friend (who wants to be popular and thus, has joined the mean girls). Because Karly doesn’t want to talk about other girls behind their backs or make fun of people who aren’t in “the group”, she is now ostracized. She says, “They HATE me, Mom.”

    She has no one. She sits alone. And I die a little inside.

    I’m going to read the links you shared in this post and hope hope that time will make things better for my girl and for yours. I’m already in awe of Karly and her strength. I don’t know if I would’ve been able to stand up to the popular girls if they’d challenged me.

    I DO know I’d take every bit of this and live it for her if I could.

    So good luck with your daughters, Erin. It’s a long road but at least they know they are loved UNCONDITIONALLY at home.


    • Erin Margolin


      It’s taken me some time to reply to you…because…I had no one, too. I sat alone. I’ve been talking some in therapy about this (I think my girl’s experience brought it to the forefront of my mind, but it’s always been lurking there), and it’s awful how fresh some things still feel to me.

      I told my husband for the first time the other night…how I used to hide out during lunch. I’d sneak into the library or hide in the gym– and eat alone, cry, read, and write. I had a fight with my best friend too, which didn’t help matters, but even before that I was never part of the “in group.” I was made fun of. I was called names. It was horrid.

      It was a hard lesson to learn back then, and I think it’s partially why I’m still shy and awkward and have trouble joining groups, reaching out, making new friends even as old as I am now.

      Your Karly is at an advantage first and foremost b/c she’s already standing up for what’s right. Secondly? She has YOU for a mom. A girl couldn’t ask for a better role model.


  • Kristen Daukas

    I have done a lot of posts on this subject and you’re on the right track to help her, for sure! We role played A LOT with my oldest. She started seeing the mean girls in the 2nd grade and is now a freshman in high school and while she still encounters them (and their technology) she is much better at handling it. I love the AG books and used their “body” books a lot with my girls.

    • Erin Margolin


      Thank you so much for all of this feedback! It’s encouraging to read comments from someone who’s been there/done that, and who’s now on the other side of it all. I’ve also gotten the first installment of the AG body book series and am going to start sharing parts of that with them. I want them to be prepared, and I want them to hear all that stuff from me first. I really wish all of this wasn’t happening, but I’m glad I have found these resources, and so many people who have chimed in here in the comments!! Thanks again!

  • Kim@Co-Pilot Mom

    This is so hard. I have boys and helping my oldest through the occasional bumps in the friendship road is difficult. I remember how words hurt and being excluded stings. It sounds as though you are on the right track, though. I hope that the coming days are easier for her!

    • Erin Margolin

      Thank you, Kim! I almost posted again about this at the end of the week, but I thought better of it and bit my tongue. I think I’m getting my own experiences with bullies get in the way of what’s happening with her…my brain is blending them, but they’re totally different. Sigh. xo

  • Ilene Evans

    Erin, Sadly, my oldest daughter had her first run in with mean girls in second grade too. She was excluded from “the club” and ostracized by someone who had once been her best friend. It was an awful school year. I love the advice you give here. The situation forced me to do some of the things that you discussed here – but you list other techniques that I’m unfamiliar with and that will come in handy. Wishing the best for your daughter.

    • Erin Margolin

      Thanks so much for reading and chiming in here. I’m sorry that your daughter has had to deal with similar circumstances—that’s not fun. I’m hoping next year is a better school year for us, too. I’m glad I was able to help a bit through this post…and if you have any advice for me/us, I’d love to hear it! Thank you!

  • Galit Breen

    Oh Erin, my heart hurts for the both of you.

    Thank you for all of the resources. Your girl is lucky to have such a thoughtful, proactive mama.

    (Holding you both close from here!)

    • Erin Margolin


      Thanks so much, sweet friend. I hope you won’t need any of these resources. And I sure hope that what I’ve got will carry us a long way…or that we might not need all of it for much longer… xo

  • Gigi

    Read Queen Bees and Wanna Bes. Now. Currently reading for my 3rd grader.

    • Erin Margolin


      I read that book a few years back, but realized it might be time to reread. Thanks for the reminder/suggestion!! ;-)

  • shellthings

    It’s so heartbreaking when are kids are struggling, isn’t it? That journal sounds great. I like the idea of talking about the positives of each day. We’ve had some experience with mean boys- though it seems like boys are less subtle about it. They get physical or they yell out their mean comments, so it’s been more likely that a teacher will actually witness it, rather than the sly way girls are mean to each other.

    • Erin Margolin


      Ugh. Yes, I know boys have some of this stuff too, but you’re right—it can manifest differently, i.e. the physical violence. It’s all terrible, no matter which way you slice it. It does get frustrating though— with the girls being sly and the reachers not seeing certain things.

  • Kimberly M

    My sister was bullied in grade school. Why? No idea. It got so bad that my parents hired a lawyer and threatened the school to shape up and fight for her. On her birthday, these girls followed her home and knocked her off of her bike. You better believe that I marched to the girls home and fucked her face up with one solid punch. I don’t regret that for a minute.
    in high school, my sister found her voice and her own crowd. She is the most confident person that I know. I’m sure she has a dark spot on her heart because of it though. Kids are mean.

    • Erin Margolin


      I’m so sorry for what happened to your sister, but I’m happy she had YOU, and I’m glad she’s found confidence in spite of it. I think part of my problem is…. I never stood up. I blamed myself. In fact, I have another post brewing about it, but about my own experiences. I think my own run-ins with bullies have made it harder for me to deal with my girls and what’s going on there. Because in a way, I’m still processing so much of what happened to me way back when… thank you for reading and sharing about your sister. You’re right– kids are mean. But I guess when all is said and done, I’d much rather my kids be the victims than the ones doing the bullying. xo

  • Alison

    I am hurting for your girl. But thank god she has you. A strong, knowledgeable Mama who will guide her hand.

    I was bullied too. Not horrifyingly so, and I think for the most part, I was unaffected. I remember standing up to my bully simply by walking away whenever she tried to provoke or humiliate me. It’s made me stronger. It made me realize that I can stand up for myself.

    • Erin Margolin


      Thank you…I am hurting for her too, and I’m sorry you went through some crap as well. I’m relieved you stood up for yourself— because I didn’t. And that’s what I’m trying to instill in my girls. I’m telling them it’s okay to walk away from bullies or people who aren’t being nice, but first?? they need to TELL them why. They need to say, “This is NOT okay, and you hurt my feelings.” Then they can walk away. It’s so hard. xo

  • HerStories Project

    That’s so hard. I’m so sorry that your daughter is going through that. I taught middle school for over a decade, and, as teachers, bullying was one of the hardest issues that we dealt with. For one year (my last year of teaching before going back to grad school) I taught second grade. It shocked me that there was that degree of bullying among kids that young. And I can tell you that a lot of kids are not as lucky as your daughter to have a mom so prepared to deal with this.

  • Roxanne Piskel

    It’s not just the girls. My son is in first grade and is already dealing with being teased for being “different”. You know, for wearing nail polish or for enjoying dressing up in a collared shirt and bow tie. It takes a lot of discussions between me and my son to build up his confidence after these run-ins. I’ve talked to his teachers, but I think it’s most important to talk to HIM. I’d like to look for a “feelings” type of journal for him, or to just come up with my own prompts to help him. Maybe I’ll check out the American Girls one just for some tips.

    • Erin Margolin


      Oh no. I’m so sad to hear this about your kiddo. If you want, I can even scan in some of the AG pages for you? Or you could check it out at the bookstore (Barnes & Noble is where I got ours, unless you want to order off Amazon— we were in a rush and could not wait, and B & N had plenty in stock). I am sure it would be helpful for him, but he might not love it being aimed at girls? There’s got to be something similar out there for boys…. but even if there isn’t, you can work w/ what’s in the AG book journal. Our girls are in class with a boy who likes nail polish, too. We’ve had lots of talks about it and they don’t tease him. But I know plenty of others do. It’s a shame. Please let me know how I can help, Rox. I’m so sorry. This shit SUCKS. xoxo

  • Adrienne Bolton

    It’s great that your giving your girls some tools to handle this sort of thing. Kids can be so mean.

    • Erin Margolin

      Thanks, Adrienne. I’m trying. It’s not easy because I don’t really know if I’m doing the right things…just taking it a day at a time and talking through the problems as they come… xo

  • Alexa

    I love all of the suggestions that you’ve made on this. My first grade son told my husband (in a complete and total melt down the other day over something completely unrelated) that kids in school call him a weirdo. My heart was CRUSHED. I wonder if they have this same journal for boys? He is so sensitive. But the worst part, is that I already see the “exclusivity” and the clicks forming in my daughter’s three year old preschool class. They will pair up and have “Ella and Addie day” or whomever is playing together, and they won’t let anyone else play with them. I’ve been spending a lot of time talking to my daughter about not doing and saying to others the things that would hurt her feelings. It’s a rough world.

    • Erin Margolin


      Yes, we’re seeing cliques forming already as well, and it makes me nauseous. I’m so sorry they’re calling him a “weirdo.” My therapist told me the other day that bullies will seek out someone who’s different for whatever reason (i.e. the tallest kid, the shortest kid, one who’s overweight, one with glasses (my girl has glasses), the smartest kid w/ best grades, or the kid with red hair). And? the names you chose for your daughter’s class? WHOA. I just hit the floor. I didn’t use any names in my post, but… holy cow! Yes, I tell my girls that clubs aren’t cool. I’ve been emphasizing that the coolest people? Are the ones who are nice to everyone, who include everyone, and who help others feel good about themselves…. hugs!

  • Suniverse

    Loved those American Girl books. They did a great job for the girl when she was small. Now, in high school, she can more easily recognize what’s happening. In middle school, she finally broke things off with a “friend” who spent a lot of time dismissing her feelings. It was hard to watch happen, but by keeping communication open and positive, she got through it.

    Sorry about the clubs. That sucks.

    • Erin Margolin


      Thank you so much. Grateful for your insights, especially since you’re ahead of me/us. I’m glad we’ve got the American girl books for now, and I am hopeful things will get better. And if not…we’ve got a good foundation and we’re staying strong… xo

  • Lady Jennie

    I had a LOT of trouble with mean girls growing up. It seems that my daughter has mostly been spared of this, and I’m glad. I love that you’re opening the dialogue with your girls. They need that – they need you to navigate all of the hurt that mean girls can bring up.

    • Erin Margolin


      Ugh, isn’t it the worst? But I am relieved that your girl has managed to avoid it…it’s a blessing. As far as the dialogue with my girls, I hope I’m doing the right things. And I also hope it doesn’t escalate… xoxo

  • Nina Badzin

    We’re dealing with this with my oldest son right now. A boy at our shul is bothering him on Saturdays . . . the boys parents can’t seem to control him and the rabbi doesn’t really want to deal with it. We may end up having to switch where go. Such a shame. :(

    • Erin Margolin


      Oh no! I am so sorry to hear this! We haven’t been having any issues with the boys, and haven’t heard of anything, but I know it happens because my younger brothers had to deal with some junk. How old is your son? I do hope your rabbi wakes up because unless parents, teachers, clergy, and all authority figures get in line on this, we’re kind of stuck. I hope you won’t have to switch because of it, but if it comes to that? Shame on your rabbi!! Hugs, Nina!

  • heidi cave

    My experience and my daughter’s experience have been different so far. I didn’t have the confidence she had. I was quite shy and didn’t cope well. We moved a lot when I was a kid, but she’s been at the same school since Kindergarten. She happens to have a great group of girls in her class. We talk about including and bullying and how it feels to be alone – a lot. It sounds like what you’re doing is so great, so proactive. You are a wonderful mom. Your girls are lucky to have you, Erin.
    (Trying to log in, but I cant remember my password!!)