If you were ever a girl in middle school, you know how brutal it can be.
Boys certainly know how to bully too, but nobody — nobody — beats tweenage girls for emotional manipulation and mind games. It’s a tough time, and, unfortunately, it can bring out the worst in people who are figuring out a whole boatload of body issues and hormonal hiccups.
Middle school bullying can have long-reaching effects, from low self-esteem later in life to an entire lifestyle change in response to nasty comments.
Michelle Icard, for one, remembers the bullying and the mean girls of her own middle school days all too well. Now, as the mom of a daughter going into middle school too, she’s on a heartwarming mission to stamp out cattiness whenever and wherever she finds it, through her website, Michelle In The Middle.
Just a few days ago, the perfect opening presented itself, when she overhead three teen girls gossiping cruelly about friends and classmates.
Not one to let opportunity pass her by, she leapt into action. Read on below to learn how she tackled gossiping girls with kindness and empathy.
Thumnail Photo: Facebook/Flickr
It all started with an ordinary trip to Starbucks.
Michelle Icard, a parenting contributor for the TODAY show, was enjoying her drink, but as she put on Facebook, she was “crawling out of [her] skin sitting next to three very pretty, very boisterous, horribly behaved young teenage girls.”
She overheard the trio making multiple nasty comments about friends, other girls at school, and “inadequate” gifts.
Eventually she just couldn’t stand it any more, and she got up and left.
After Icard left the coffee shop, she couldn’t stop thinking about the girls and their bad behavior.
So she went back, and decided to target the issue at its source.
She bought three mini Frappuccinos and left behind a note, telling them it was to encourage them in their studies.
The note read:
I sat near you today in Starbucks and listened as you talked. You three are obviously pretty and hard-working. I wished your kindness matched your pretty exteriors.
I heard you talk about a girl who sang about being lonely in the talent show — and you laughed. About a girl who couldn’t be lead singer because you got all the votes, about crappy presents other people have given you… and you sounded so mean and petty.
You are smart, and you are pretty. It would take nothing from you to also be kind.
Icard has no way of knowing if those girls will ever take her message to heart.
She acknowledges that they probably thought she was meddling and interfering, but she stands by her actions, noting on a later post, “Perhaps I overstepped my bounds, but I have to believe there is still room in our village for lessons from strangers with good intentions in their heart.”
For Icard, the lesson comes from hard-won experience, as a bullied middle-schooler herself growing up. She often posts pictures of her younger self going through the awkward changes of those challenging years.
Under a post featuring braces and glasses, she admits she still needs to be “brave” to put the picture up.
To see the long-lasting repercussions of middle-school bullying in action, all you need to know is that Icard still, many years alter, needs to feel brave to post an unflattering old school portrait.
For anyone who was the victim of bullying in middle school (aka, just about everyone) that’s sure to bring back a rush of emotion.
If you ask me, ICard’s memories of her own negative experiences are the only proof we need that stepping in and guiding bullies in a different direction is always a good thing.
Please SHARE if you think all young ladies (and men) need to learn this important lesson!