Bullying has always been commonplace in schools, probably since the inception of learning institutions. There are always children who are different, who do not quite fit in and are excluded or harassed by their peers because of it. It is impossible to completely shield our children from this kind of cruelty. “Mean girls” (and boys, although girls seem to have a particular knack for being vicious to each other) have always been around to decide who was cool and who was not…who was “in” and who was “out.” Unfortunately, parents and children must also deal with a different kind of bully: the “mean girl” mom.
The “mean girl” mom is not merely critical of other mothers, though there is plenty of that going around as well. This type of mom actually does the job of judging and excluding certain children she deems as odd or strange, so her own child will not be dubbed “uncool.” by others. It’s called “social engineering,” a term coined by Lisa Barr, founder of the blog “GIRLilla Warfare: A Mom’s Guide to Surviving the Suburban Jungle.” “Everyone’s heard of helicopter parenting, this is taking it one step further,” Barr said. “It’s social bullying, the desire to elevate their kids’ social status at the expense of other kids.”
Barr recounts an example of this upsetting social phenomenon in her article, Being Left Out Hurts: Moms, Stop ‘Social Engineering.’ She tells of a mother who somehow gained access to a bus headed for summer camp. This parent managed to secure a section of the bus for eight 11-year-old girls. The woman waited on the bus until each of the girls had taken what she had decided were their reserved seats. When another young girl, new to the camp, asked if she could join the “chosen eight,” she was rebuffed by the mother and told she would have to sit somewhere else. The new girl was treated as an intruder by the mom, sending the distinct message that this girl was not “good enough” to be included in the clique. Seeing this display of elitism most likely caused the eight young women to treat the new girl with scorn as well. They are, after all, only following the example of an adult.
This behavior is often based around these mothers’ own insecurities about not being popular enough in high school or junior high, says Barr. They want to make sure their child gets to be a part of things they missed out on in their youth. However, they do not see the damage they are doing, not only to the excluded children, but to their own.
For more of Barr’s take on this subject, or to check out other “Mom’s Guide” posts, visit her blog page at GIRLilla Warfare.