We are excited to host our children’s authors here on our blog. Here is an eye opening article by author of the book, Cookie & Milk, Michele McAvoy.
GIRLS GIRLS GIRLS
by Michele McAvoy
When I was a little girl, my mom would say that I was “big boned.” When I was in the 4th grade a classmate called me fat.
I was fat. But I didn’t want to be fat. And being called “fat” by my peers devastated me. I cried and then held back tears the entire school day.
Girls can be mean. Right? It’s an accepted social phenomenon.
Rememberthe movie”Mean Girls”?
In that movie the main characters had a “burn book” where they said nasty things about other girls.
The premise of that movie– high school girls talk behind each other’s backs, dismiss other’s feelings, and only care about one thing-being popular.
As a mom of a now 7-year-old little girl, I have watched her peers put each other down, exclude others because they don’t look the way they do, diminish others because of what they are wearing and dismiss others entirely when they are talking.
This happens at Girl Scout events, soccer practice, cheer practice, library craft time.
Little girls are literally pushing others out of the way to sit next to the “popular” girl.
Wait. What! Popular at age 5?
The beautiful quiet girl is nonchalantlyshoved to the side.
When I was 5 I learned my ABCs, took naps in my half-day kindergarten and played with dolls.
Could it be that our increased expectations for our childrencoupled with social media and the obsession with YouTube and popularityhave caused our girls– at age 5— to act like girlsdid as teens?
Childhood depression is on the rise and children are more likely to develop depression if they experience significant peer conflict such as bullying.[i]
Childhood suicide, actually exists.From 1999 through 2015, 1,309 children ages 5 to 12 took their own lives in the United States.[ii] The CDC has recorded suicides of 5-, 6- and 7-year-olds.
In December 2018, 9-year-old McKenzie Adamshung herself after facing months of bullying and racism ather school.
We need to stop this “girls can be mean” accepted mentality, and we need to stop it NOW.
Who am I to write about this social phenomenon? Am I a child psychologist or a social worker? No I am not. I am a mother and a human with a heart, that refuses to allow beautiful little girls like McKenzie Adams to become a statistic.
Calling all parents, teachers, librarians and school administrators- let’s develop a “No Tolerance” policy for “mean girls.” We can stop the eye rolling, whispering and exclusivity in its tracks. If we saw two young boys hitting each other on the playground, would we turn our heads or break up the fight?While little girl aggression is quieter it is no less dangerous.
How can Kidlit help?
Here is the kidlitrub. Kidlitcan help us in this effort. There are many books that teach empathy and kindness amongst young girls. We need to find these books and read them to our girls.
But that is not enough. We must go beyond the book.
We must use these stories as a tool toteach what it means to be kind and empathetic not only in action but in inaction.
For example, it’s easy for young children to understand that volunteering at a soup kitchen or donating clothes to those less fortunate is a way to show kindness. But we need to demonstratively tell them what kindness looks like in the small moments, in the classroom, on the playground, at soccer practice. We need to make it clear to them the impact of the small things they do, like how eye rolling and turning their backs can deeply effect those on the receiving end. We need to explicitly tell them how not to act and we need to tell them immediately when we see the eye rolling and the back turning. And we have explain how they should act instead.
Everyone does not have to be best friends but everyone has to be kind to each other.
Kindness, not cattiness has to be cool. Our little girls need our specific guidance. I truly believe that at age 5, 6 and 7, “mean girls” don’t want to be mean. They’re just little girls caught up in a demanding popularity obsessed society with an accepted social norm that “girls can be mean.”
Girl Power is not about being powerful in spite of others, it’s about being powerful because of others.
We need to teach our little girlsthis, and we need to change the statistics now.
Michele McAvoy is an award-winning children’s book author from New Jersey. She began writing creatively at the age of 26 as a channel for her grief, when her father was the victim of a violent crime. Today, she finds joy in writing for children and what she calls “bringing color” to a messy world. Michele’s third picture book COOKIE & MILK, with Cardinal Rule Press, is touted by Kirkus as “Smart, sassy, supportive girl power to the max!” Her second picture book, THE GORILLA PICKED ME!, with Native Ink Press, is autobiographical, introducing young Olive, who felt ordinary amongst her peers. Her first picture book, MY SUPERHERO GRANDPA, received a 2016 Children’s Moonbeam Book Award, and is a celebration of her late father. Michele is also the founder and host of the kidlit podcast, MY MESSY MUSE (available wherever you listen to podcasts), a podcast to encourage others to create through the messiness of life.
Michele speaks to schools, teachers and parent groups throughout the tri-state area. You can book a visit with Michele and learn more about her books and her fabulous podcast at www.michelemcavoy.com or follow her on Twitter (@michele_mcavoy) or Instagram (@michelemcavoy) or both!