Dealing With “Mean Girls”
It’s twenty to thirty years ago, and it’s time to pick teams for dodgeball in gym class. Your so-called group of friends tells you right before class that they don’t want to hang with you anymore and you have no idea why. As a result you are one of the last picked, and your heart sinks. I’m not even sure if they pick teams in gym class anymore, and kids might not be ostracized for the things they were years ago like wearing glasses, having braces, or talking differently. But that does not mean that our girls (and boys) don’t deal with their share of mean girl behavior, and today, the behavior doesn’t end when the school bell rings at 2:30. It follows them home on the bus, on their devices in their pockets, and on their computers at home: a constant, incessant dinging of notifications meant to hurt or exclude. Or, conversely, deafening silence, implying that they aren’t invited to the movies Friday or the dance next month. It doesn’t end for our kids today.
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Author Cam Bowman discusses a topic so many of us have dealt with either in our own lives or in the lives of our daughters: mean girls.
Dealing with mean girl behavior means recognizing these tendencies in our own daughters and teaching them kindness, inclusivity, and respect for others.
Cam writes: We spend so much of our children’s younger years helping them recognize kindness and the importance of being nice to others. We remind them to say please and thank you, and let them know if they’re doing something that may be deemed unkind. So why does it seem as though more and more of us, as parents, are dealing with combatting mean girl behavior in the elementary and middle school years? Now more than ever we need to figure out how to combat this mean-girl behavior.
There’s no one good straight answer as to why some sweet girls become mean girls. But experts agree that it often has to do with three major factors. Girls who are insecure can tend to emphasize the importance of popularity and being part of the right crowd. Insecurity can stem from the pressure they feel to be the best at everything, or it can be a by-product of competitiveness. Similarly, mean girl behavior can be learned. Whether it’s from reality television or older siblings, adolescent children are impressionable and may model what they see and hear around them.
There are normal ebbs and flows of friendships that occur as our girls get older. They may drift away from certain people they were once close to. They may start to forge new friendships with other girls with whom they have common interests. These are normal shifts and changes that occur in everyone’s lives. Usually, there’s no need for concern. But on occasion, parents may miss certain clues that indicate there are underlying reasons for these friendship changes that go far beyond typical adolescent growth and change.
Sometimes these changes in friendships or interests are a result of wanting to be part of the popular crowd. Fitting in and being just like everyone else, for many young girls, is often the catalyst to typical mean girl behavior. As parents, it is our duty to allow our children to grow and learn to navigate the world around them with a sense of independence. However, they also need us to guide them and remind them that above all else, respect, inclusivity, and kindness are most important. Recognizing mean girl tendencies can be difficult. There are, however, ways parents can determine whether or not they need to be proactive about addressing certain behaviors.
For example, if you notice your daughter becoming increasingly cognizant of her own popularity, you may want to have a conversation about inclusiveness. If her desire to be liked evolves to the shunning other girls or groups of people because they’re not part of a particular circle, this may time to intervene and begin a conversation. Similarly, a girl who is suddenly rude and displaying uncharacteristic traits could be struggling with insecurities that present as bullying behavior or mean girl tendencies.
To read the article in its entirety that includes dealing with cyber bullying, creating bonds through social media, and combatting mean girl behavior in elementary and middle school, click HERE.