Earlier this week my preteen daughter had an experience at school that prompted me to post the Facebook status, “Mean girls suck.”
I got an overwhelming response from mom friends and older girls who have been through the mean girl circus and made it out alive. It seems that almost every female I know has experienced shabby treatment from her female peers at some point in her life, and it makes me really sad that it’s accepted as "just a part of life."
I certainly had my share of dealings with mean girls at her age. The one that jumps to the front of my mind just about every time I think about this subject is this one:
I was 11 years old. I started school young, so I was a year younger than the other girls in my class. This meant I was way behind them physically.
You remember how it was. You’re hyper-aware of your body, and every little thing about it is embarrassing to you. My friends had boobs. I didn’t. I wanted boobs more than anything in the world, and my flat chest was the bane of my existence that year (it would later become my nose, and then the little space between my front teeth).
I was sitting in the junior high cafeteria when a girl who was kind of the rock star of the group (and coincidentally in possession of serious boobage), asked me if I wanted her mashed potatoes. I love mashed potatoes. I shrugged and said, “sure.”
Then she looked at me and said, her voice rising at least 300 decibels in order to be heard by every boy in the room, “Well, you can’t have them, flatty.”
Twenty-one years later, I can still remember the humiliation I felt as all those eyes focused on my chest and laughter erupted across the room. And, to this day, I wonder what made her do that to me. Why did she feel the need to hurt me?
I’m not claiming that my child is perfect (just practically perfect), but for the most part, she’s a friendly, slightly nuts, witty and peaceful kid. She likes people, and she’s compassionate. She goes out of her way to soothe hurt feelings, and she's known for giving inspiring pep talks to friends.
Those are wonderful characteristics to have, right? But, it seems those are also the characteristics that mean girls prey upon.
After talking to my friends and their daughters, I’ve come to the conclusion that if you’re sensitive, you’re gonna get it. Maybe the mean girls like to get a rise out of their victims, and those delicate-souled girls give the best reactions.
I don’t think we’ll ever really understand why young girls feel better about themselves when they make another girl miserable. All I know is I found myself searching for the right words to say to my daughter to make it all better. And, it was hard.
There is nothing in this world more horrible than seeing your child hurt and having no power to fix it.
If you have a young daughter, you’re most likely very familiar with the experience I’m describing.
I took it upon myself to turn to the trusty Internet and perform some searches to see what I could come up with. Mean girls are so very prevalent in our society (Tina Fey didn’t write a movie about ‘em for nothing) that I felt sure I could find some sites dedicated to dealing with that particular form of bullying.
The search words “dealing with mean girls” brought up nearly four million results.
I spent a good amount of time perusing some of those hits and looking for the most comprehensive, yet succinct, tips I could find. I like this list by Denise Witmer, author and adolescent specialist, best.
Top Five Tips for Dealing with Mean Girls:
- Learn to communicate with your daughter. Keeping the lines of communication open will keep you in the loop and help her feel like she is not alone. This is very valuable to a teen who has to deal with mean girls.
- Be considerate of her needs. She may just need your moral support or she may need you to step in. Either way she will need you to be on her side.
- Encourage your daughter to find friends that help build her self esteem. They are worth her time and effort in friendship. The more she is connected to these type of peers, the less the mean girls can do to her self-confidence.
- Pay attention to how she is feeling. Be on the lookout for signs of depression. If you feel she isbecoming depressed, have her see a school or private counselor.
- Model appropriate behavior at home. Avoid buying into gossip or saying mean things about other people. Take on activities that make you feel good about yourself. Lead your teen by example.
Did you experience mean girls when you were younger? How did it make you feel, and how has your perspective changed now that you’re an adult? Is your daughter being bullied by mean girls? How are you teaching her to deal with them? Please share your experiences in the comment section.
And, as you and your daugthers go out into the world, always remember this wise saying my wonderful family member Amy reminded me of this week: "Birds always peck at the best fruit."