I'm dealing with a situation right now with my 12-year-old that has me fuming. And I admit, I made my mistakes, too, in this dilemma. I told my daughter to talk to the school counselor. I simply wasn't prepared for what would follow.
My daughter told me a couple of weeks ago that she had been physically threatened by a "friend." Granted, middle school girl friendships have their ups and downs, but all the parenting experts out there say that when there's a threat of physical harm, it's time to get serious. I encouraged her to go speak to her school counselor, Mrs. D, about it. Mrs. D has been helpful previously so I thought it was the right call. Little did I know that my little girl would come home more upset than ever, and I would end up apologizing to her.
While the situation is long and complicated, and I was not in the room for what exactly happened, what my daughter took away from it was that no one was on her side. Mrs. D told the "mean girls" that they could choose not to be my daughter's friend. My daughter and her friend got punished for trying to speak to one of them. My daughter rides the bus to her after-school program with the Mean Girls, who took advantage of Mrs. D's "advice" by isolating my daughter, and then telling everyone on the bus that it was her fault for going to an adult.
My daughter is a 12-year-old girl that wants to fit in. She wants to be liked. She wants to have lots of friends. While I would rather that she not want these particular girls' friendship at all, the truth is, she's 12, and she's simply not that discerning yet! Nor will she be if she is told that she has no choice in the matter, which is exactly what she got out of her conversation with Mrs. D.
This was not what I was expecting to happen. I was hoping that Mrs. D would give everyone involved the opportunity to talk, the opportunity to listen, the guidance to empathize and understand each other's point of view. While I certainly wanted the issue of the physical threat handled, I wasn't looking for punishment here. I was looking for a teachable moment. Instead, what we got was that every child involved, including my own, received a disciplinary consequence.
So this is how girls learn to shut down! What my daughter took away from this experience was she should never have said anything in the first place; that no one really cares how she feels, they just want the matter to go away. What I'm most concerned about right now is that she will take this experience to heart and she will stop talking about how she feels.
I'm absolutely furious that a middle school counselor, with years of experience, felt that this was handled appropriately. Mrs. D called me this morning to inform me of the events, and seemed truly shocked that my daughter felt so unsupported. I am shocked that she didn't see it coming. While I acknowledge that my 12-year-old is vulnerable, I submit that most 12-year-old girls are. Every book I've read on this age in development validates that for me. Mrs. D kept referring to the conversation as a "conflict resolution" session. I kept insisting that it wasn't resolved at all. The conflict is alive and well.
Originally posted on LA Moms Blog, May 14, 2010.