One thing that you never get away from when raising daughters is talking about mean girls.
I have watched my own kids be excluded on a sports team and at parties. I’ve received text messages from friends about little girls who say awful things about another—to their faces, in notes, on social media. I’ve listened to gut-wrenching stories about a group of girls who stood up and left a friend’s daughter sitting alone at a lunch table over a misunderstanding and another group who said a young girl couldn’t join them at prom because she didn’t have a date even though they were friends for years.
Each time, as moms, our reactions are the same. Why is this happening to my daughter? How can I take the hurt away? Should I talk to the mom? How should I plot my revenge (kidding/not kidding)?
But the sad truth is most parents do not have the capacity to confront mean girl behavior in our own children, and there are very few instances when parents improve the situation by getting involved.
I’m not an expert, but I believe sometimes it’s because some moms and dads find their self-worth tied up in their children, so anything that steals away from the angelic portrayal of their kids is unfathomable. Sometimes I think parents are overwhelmed, and cannot wrap their heads around the complexities of this type of vile behavior or invest the time in fixing it.
And sometimes I think the “bully apple” doesn’t fall far from the tree.
The majority of us try to help our girls navigate these shark-infested waters to the best of our abilities. We coach on what to say and how to respond. We encourage communication and getting along. “Kindness above all else,” we say. “Don’t stoop to their level.”
But 99% of the time, the relationship ends, usually painfully for the girl who was targeted and abused.
Mean Girl Friendships Aren’t Real Friendships At All
We spend so much time encouraging our kids to repair broken friendships when sometimes we should be encouraging them to find new ones.
When one of my daughters befriended a very unpleasant girl, I worked with her to try and model positive behavior—but the result was my daughter was often in tears by the actions of the other. Their relationship turned into frenemies seemingly overnight. I watched as this young girl put people down, manipulated my daughter, left her out, and then lied about why, and behaved in other cruel ways.
I learned at that moment that my kid had a kind heart, perhaps even too kind, so my job was to teach her how to identify toxic people and relationships earlier.
I wanted her to give people a chance, but go in with her eyes wide open.
Healthy Friendships Do Not Include Manipulation And Negativity
We talked about what friendship should look like and how it should make us feel. We talked about the subtleties of mean girl behavior—the constant belittling of other girls not present, the exclusion of individuals who she claimed were friends and the passive-aggressive comments. And that sometimes the person claiming to be your “best friend” may not be your friend at all.
I told her about times I had to quietly exit a friendship, and how my life improved once that negativity was gone. I explained how you can get along with someone you have to see every day without inviting them into your life. And sometimes, in the worst situations, there is a fallout where things get worse before they get better.
It’s Always Okay To Walk Away From A Toxic Relationship
This lays all the cards out on the table. Most of the time, it helps young girls process that walking away from a friendship isn’t a failure, it’s part of keeping your mental health strong and intact. And while sometimes it can impact social standing or opportunities, finding people who accept you for who you are, well, that’s priceless.
Despite my efforts, I haven’t figured out the way to put the kibosh on mean girls, but I do think I’ve helped my kids identify toxic people earlier, and understand that sometimes leaving a relationship is the right thing to do.
I encourage my kids to choose kindness at every juncture, and that includes giving a little to themselves. I can’t save my daughters from mean girls, but I can prepare them how to handle them.
3 Valuable Tips to Help Girls Navigate Mean Girl Drama
1. Empower them to find the “EXIT” sign and use it.
“Do you know that there is an exit in every friendship? In every relationship. And it’s totally your right to find that exit when you want to leave,” says Annie Fox, M.Ed., author of Teaching Kids to Be Good People and The Girls Q&A Book on Friendship. This is also a good lesson to teach our girls when it comes to dating, the workplace, or any other potentially toxic and harmful relationship they might find themselves in. Find the exit sign and GO!
2. Teach girls that nobody defines their self-worth other than them.
Often the most painful part of mean girl relationships is when proverbial “queen bees” say something that their victim believes—therefore given the mean girls power. For example, if someone tells our girls “You suck at soccer” or “You’re ugly” or “You’re stupid,” it is important that we empower them to respond by deciding on their own terms what their value is. “Parents can help their daughters unearth their own conclusions with questions,” explains Wise Girl Workshops. That means asking your daughter, “Do you work hard? Are you a good teammate? Have you improved since last year?” Then do you “suck” at soccer? No, you don’t. And questions like “Are you kind? Are you a good friend?” will help negate other insults as well. This takes the power away from the mean girl and makes it easier for our daughters to find that exit sign and use it.
3. Model true friendships and kindness. (In other words, don’t be a mean girl!)
Our kids watch us, whether we realize it or not. If we gossip and share rumors about other women, turn our backs and keep moms who might need a friend out of our cliques, and put others down, making comments about their weight, appearance, or home life, our girls will grow up thinking it’s okay to treat others that way. If you find yourself getting sucked into grownup mean girl friendships (because yes, adult bullies do exist), it’s important that you also find that exit sign and have only true friends in your life, so that your daughter knows that she can too.
Originally published on Whitney Fleming Writes
Raising teenagers is hard. We’ve found these books helpful in offering different perspectives and tips to help us navigate these challenging years.
Lisa Damour Collection 3 Books Set (Untangled, Under Pressure, Get Out of My Life)The Teen Girl’s Survival Guide: Ten Tips for Making Friends, Avoiding Drama, and Coping with Social Stress (The Instant Help Solutions Series)Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul on Love & FriendshipI would, but my DAMN MIND won’t let me!: a teen’s guide to controlling their thoughts and feelings (Words of Wisdom for Teens)Embracing the Awkward: A Guide for Teens to Succeed at School, Life and Relationships (Self-Help Book for Teens, Teen gift)
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