My Daughter Is Immersed In Full On Tween Note Passing Drama

I picked up my daughter last week from school and she sighed, “I didn’t have the best day.” I asked her why and she said, “Well, this girl sent me a note…”

Before she could finish her sentence, I said, “Oh God, no!”

My daughter asked, “Why did you say that mommy?”

So I told her. “Because I KNOW that nothing good comes out of girls sending notes to each other.”

So I asked my daughter what this note said and she told me, to paraphrase, that a girl wrote to my daughter that she’s not her “BFF” anymore but will be if my daughter ditches two of her other friends. I just put my hands over my face and sighed, thinking, “And here it begins…”

I got everything out of my daughter, including other notes that went back and forth, with one girl writing to another that she was a bully and a cry baby. Another one said, “Are you going to be my best friend or not? Check the yes or no box.” Of course, I have been through this whole note passing thing years ago when I was in grade four. But I never went to an all girls school, so I can only imagine how many notes go back and forth during my daughter’s classes (She’s now in Grade Four. I think note passing starts around this age because they actually know how to write full sentences.)

I wanted to see this note my daughter received and I asked her to show it to me, but she told me she threw it into the recycling bin, which I thought was not only smart (who needs to hold onto a mean note?) but also very environmentally friendly of her.

I know. I know. You’re going to tell me to tell her to tell the teacher. Well, guess what? No matter how many times I tell her, when someone does something mean to her and to go straight to the teacher, there comes a point where your children just won’t do this. Because they are embarrassed and also don’t want to be seen as tattle tales. I don’t like it, but I get it.

Though these mean notes bothered me, my daughter wasn’t innocent in this whole note passing thing. One of her friends wrote a not-so-nice note to another girl and put my daughter’s name on it. For this, I yelled at her.

“Do not send mean notes, or any notes, to anyone in your class!”

My daughter, practically in tears, cried, “But I didn’t do it! My friend just wrote my name on it.” So I told her to tell her friend NEVER to put her name on any note. Ever. EVER. I explained that if her name is on a note, that note could be passed on to a parent or a teacher and then she will be blamed (Let’s be honest. Most kids’ handwriting looks kind of the same.) I explained to her that nothing should EVER be put in writing and that if she has a problem with a girl in her class, than she should tell her to her face, or tell the teacher.

“Oh,” my daughter said. “Because it’s kind of like proof.”

I was pretty impressed, I must say, that my daughter got my point. All this mommy needs is a call from the teacher or another mother saying my daughter is sending mean notes. In this day and age, I never put anything in writing, including e-mails or texts, or BBMs, that I wouldn’t want the world to see. And kids these days have to learn that. They have to know that if they put something up on Facebook, or send out an e-mail, then it’s there forever.

I was surprised when my bonus daughter, in grade five, told me she still gets means notes. The last one she got said, “I never want to see your face again.” I asked her why she didn’t show it to the teacher and she just shrugged.

So, what can we do? Ban paper? Ban pencils? All I know is that girls can be mean. And, for now, I just told my daughter, “NO MORE NOTES!”

(photo: Blend Images/ Shutterstock)

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  • Sara

    We can’t ban paper or pencils–all we can do is teach our kids that people will say what they’re going to say, but that we can control how upset we let it get us. Easier said than done when you’re nine, but it’s good for kids to learn that a) not everyone has to like you and b) not everyone’s opinion is worth worrying about. If someone is going to pass a mean note about you around, chances are that’s not the kind of person you need in your life anyway. (Said the 30-year-old me. The nine-year-old me would have put a lot more stock into the opinion of the note-passing jerk. Still, it’s a lesson that my mom started impressing on me in elementary school and it finally really paid off when I got older.)

  • chickadee

    Actually, your daughter is handling it pretty well. This is not a situation–not yet, anyway–that requires adult intervention. Most of us experienced this sort of thing and survived, because most of the time it doesn’t progress to pure bullying.

    Listen to her and give advice on how to handle it, but don’t get involved with the drama. It usually passes fairly quickly.

  • Sarah

    You would think that putting a note in a bin would be a good idea, but in 8th grade, I threw out a bunch of notes, and someone went through the trashcan, pulled the notes out, photocopied them, and passed them around.

    • rebecca eckler

      That’s awful!!! See all because of a note. My worry is that this is just the beginning…Sigh.

    • Anonymous

      At least the notes are still in the form that can be contained (destroy them before you throw them out). Once they start texting, the senders will have no control over how far their messages spread.

  • raeronola

    For Gods’ sake, PLEASE don’t tell the teacher. My parents did that to me in middle school and it was an absolute nightmare and made things 1000 times worse.

    • rebecca eckler

      Oh, I’m not the type to tell the teacher, unless I really feel it’s absolutely necessary. Other moms? Well….

    • Raeronola

      Tattletales! They follow us everywhere!!!

    • Justme

      What did the teacher do? Any good teacher would just want to be aware of the situation going on in their class. Not to call everyone out but to keep an eye out for drama so that she (or he) can use stuff like this as a teachable moment for the girls about appropriate social interactions.

      Not all teachers are the bad guys.

    • Shea

      It’s not that the teacher is the bad guy, it’s just that a lot of girls at that age are horrible little monsters. They won’t pay attention to a teacher telling them to be kind, and they’ll feel that the talking-to was the victim’s fault, so they’ll redouble their meanness in order to get “revenge” on her.

    • Justme

      First of all, where do these children learn how to pick on other people? From the actions and words of their parents.

      Secondly, “horrible little monsters.” That is an awful way to to describe children. Are all children perfect? Absolutely not, but I believe that most children are inherently GOOD kids who sometimes make POOR decisions. It is our job as adults (the parents and the teachers) to help them recognize their behavior, why it is inappropriate and how they can change it in the future.

    • Shea

      Sometimes, children who behave horribly to others have good parents. Fortunately, most such kids grow out of it and become good, upstanding adults. But I do believe that kids are often cruel to each other not because they have an awful home life, or feel bad about themselves, or any other external cause (though that does of course happen), but because being nasty to other kids gives them a sense of power that they enjoy. Certainly it’s the job of teachers, and, most importantly, parents, to teach kids empathy and how to have good relationships with others.

      Perhaps I should have said that girls at that age often *behave* like horrible little monsters, but when they do, I’m not going to excuse them by saying, “Oh, they’re just kids who made poor decisions”. I’m not going to assume that they’ll grow up to be awful people either (because they probably won’t), but excusing it does no good. No good at all.

      As you can probably tell, I was bullied constantly by my classmates all throughout elementary and middle school. For that reason, I have absolutely no tolerance for people who excuse cruelty in children by saying they’re “just kids”. Kids can be terribly cruel to other kids, and too many adults forget that once they’ve grown up.

    • Justme

      Saying a child made a poor decision does not excuse them from the behavior. It’s just stating a fact.

      “You chose to cheat on your test. That was a poor decision and here is the consequence – you will receive a zero on the test.”

      I never said that these girls are “just kids” and their behavior should be ignored.

      At this point in time, my school is dealing with a large group of mean girls. Many of the teachers have become frustrated with their drama and nonsense and are harsh with the girls during all interactions. I don’t think this is the way to teach kids how to behave. Instead, I try to build a positive relationship with them in the beginning so that when I do have to call them on the carpet for their “poor decisions” my words have more meaning for them.

      I was picked on mercilessly for being tall and flat-chested. I too, have no tolerance for the kids saying mean things to one another, but just because they make poor choices doesn’t mean that I’m going to just write off a kid as “bad” and not try to change their heart.

    • raeronola

      Some kids at that age are truly awful. I don’t know what happened to all the boys (yes, boys) who teased me at that age, but shortly after their teasing reached its peak one of them was expelled for shoving a teacher down the stairs. I don’t think that’s an inherently good kid making a poor decision, I think that’s an individual with serious impulse control issues who needs therapy.

    • Justme

      Absolutely. And in many schools those children are identified as Emotionally Disturbed and have loads of paperwork, modifications and are sometimes placed in specialized classrooms with individual teachers in order to work on social and behavioral skills.

    • Raeronola

      Uh, when did I say the teacher was the bad guy? The kids who were making fun of me saw that my parents came to the school, and later that day everyone got a talking to about not cornering people in the hall and calling them flat-chested losers. SHOCKINGLY, the kids put two and two together and the teasing got more subversive, hateful, secretive and worse. Chill out, nobody was ragging on teachers.

    • Justme

      I’m not upset but in the climate of school’s today everyone is hyper-sensitive about the bullying topic. The first thing that parents and other members of the community ask when there is a publicized incident (suicide or something similar) is “WHAT DID THE SCHOOL DO ABOUT IT?” Or in more cases than not, why DIDN’T the school stop the bullying.

      I was just responding to the advice about NOT telling the teacher because that is the first person who should be aware of anything negative going on in her classroom. The teacher does not have to “call out” the perpetrators of bullying or drama, but she does need to be aware of it so that she can document the behavior in case it escalates to something much more dangerous.

  • Anna

    Ugh. Just reading this made my stomach turn with mean girl school memories. For what it’s worth I think you handled it well. My daughter is 7. I didn’t think I’d have to deal with notes. I was expecting all Internet/text based stuff.

    • rebecca eckler

      Yeah, the notes are still there. On top of that, later, the internet/text stuff, I’m sure will begin. Sad times.

  • Laura

    Is there a guidance counselor or someone equivalent at her school that can maybe get the girls together and mediate while they work on whatever problems are causing this cattiness?

  • Kelly

    I feel like this is pretty normal behavior. Everyone here is saying that everyone does it. Girls can be really mean to each other (has anyone read Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye? Amazing). Definitely true. The most likely outcome is that the notes will continue and she just won’t tell you about them.