Mean girls seem to be an age-old issue that surface on some level for most young girls (there’s a reason there is a whole genre of movies dedicated to the stereotype). For some, the mean girl never zeroes in on them and it never becomes a problem; for others, the experience of dealing with a mean girl can poison the whole school experience. As a parent, we wonder, what can we do? How can we help? So, here’s a little Mean Girl Management 101, with tips and tricks from the experts.
Work with your daughter on assertively calling out behaviours from bullies. “Saying ‘That hurts my feelings’ isn’t enough; many girls will respond that they don’t care,” says Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees & Wannabes (which inspired the 2004 film Mean Girls). “Instead, name the behaviour and say, ‘That was really mean.’” But also brace your daughter for the expected response. The mean girl will likely shoot back with a similar accusation. “And then your child should respond with, ‘Me saying I’m mad at you isn’t mean. It’s telling you how I feel and you can’t take my feelings away from me,” says Wiseman.
“Moms have to get out of mama bear mode,” says Susan Wellman, founder of The Ophelia Project, an initiative that ran from 1997 to 2012, and pioneered work on how girls treat peers. “Girls can be terribly upset one day and then make up three days later. Meanwhile, Mom has gone ballistic. It’s almost like you need to wait and see.”
Even if it’s just one friend—that’s all it takes. Encourage your daughter to move away from the bully group and seek out new girls to socialize with. “Make sure they have a strong social group of their own,” says Barbara Coloroso, author of The Bully, the Bullied, and the Bystander From Pre-School to High School. “Bullies tend to pick on kids who are alone.”
You can help correct the behaviour. Make sure she understands your family’s stance on how to treat other people and be clear on the consequenc- es for breaking these rules. if she has hurt another child, have her apologize and make a plan for how to improve her behaviour going forward. Lastly, give her another chance. She needs to know that you believe in her.
Originally published in the Fall 2018 issue. Photo by iStockphoto.