Six Helpful Tips for When Mean Girls Strike
The fact that mean girls continue to thrive won’t come as news to anyone who has a daughter. Mean girls have been around forever, saving seats and spreading gossip. Mean girl behavior has changed over time, however, and the fairly recent addition of texting and social media has taken this behavior to a new level.
Mean girl behavior starts at a much younger age than it used to. Once upon a time, mean girls really found their stride in middle school. These days, you can find them all over elementary school, and sometimes even in Pre-K.
We refer to these girls as “mean girls” because, wow, their behavior is horrific and unbelievably mean. But when you stop and put the behavior into perspective, what we really have is bullying.
Girls are more likely than boys to engage in relational bullying. They spread rumors, they isolate, they ostracize, and they take to technology to amplify their misplaced insecurities.
I would love to make the prediction that we will one day live in a society free from bullying, but that would take a revolution. One thing we can do is support our daughters and stay involved (even when they shut their doors) so that we can help them out when mean girls strike.
As our children grow, we encourage independence. We want them to learn to advocate for themselves and attempt to problem solve before running to us with every little issue. When social issues arise, particularly bullying of any kind, we need to step in.
Keep an open line of communication with your daughter. Be willing to listen, even if she shares things that make you uncomfortable. If your daughter shares that she is being targeted, keep track of instances of bullying. Make a list. Keep screen shots of any texting or social media activity that includes bullying.
Communicate with the school:
As simple as this seems, there can be a lot of red tape when it comes to dealing with bullying at the school level. Ask to see a copy of school protocol and schedule frequent meetings. Know what’s happening at school. Don’t assume that everything is under control.
It takes a village, or even a country, to put an end to bullying. It starts at home, but it also has to include input and help at the school and community level. Get together with some moms in the community and start a local campaign to end bullying. Seek assistance from the local police department. Grass roots efforts can make a huge impact.
Encourage your daughter to join different activities of interest outside of school to increase her peer network. When kids have more than one group of friends, they have a backup if a friendship fails. The more social support they have, the higher their self-esteem and the better able they are to cope with negative peer behavior.
Sometimes kids get stuck in a certain social situation because they feel that’s where they belong. Encourage your daughter to do a self-assessment. Is she happy when she’s with those friends? How does she feel when they isolate others? Is she able to socialize with other peers outside of the group? Taking the time to consider how a relationship makes you feel is a good way to determine whether or not that relationship is working.
Conventional wisdom encourages kids to simply walk away from bullies. Bullies bully because they can. Encourage your daughter to identify a safe adult (teacher or coach) at school whom she can turn to if she is being bullied.
Has your daughter been targeted by a bully? What helped?