Almost every girl will encounter a “mean girl” at some point during her adolescence. As parents, it is very important that we learn how help our daughters in these situations. Yes, it can be tempting to go down to the school and go “Mama Bear” on the bully yourself, but you know that is not allowed!
Here are some constructive tips for dealing mean girls that won’t land you on the PTA’s blacklist.
1. Don’t Minimize The Issue
Avoid saying things like, “Oh, forget her! Who cares?” or “Just ignore her. Bullies just want attention.” This advice just isn’t practical, and it makes your child feel like she is in it alone. Instead, listen. Soak in the pain she is feeling. Reflect it back to her in your words, such as, “Wow, I can see this is really hurting you,” and “Ouch. You’re in a lot of pain of right now.”
2. Resist The Us-Vs.-Them Mentality
It can be tempting to switch right into calling the other girl “mean” or a “bully,” but labels like this aren’t helpful. Instead, try talking about why people bully others—usually because they aren’t feeling too happy with themselves. So, say something like: “Julie must have a lot of pain inside if she is being mean to you. Happy people don’t try to hurt other people.” It’s not about excusing the behavior, but helping your child to see that it really isn’t about her. The bully is just acting out her own issues.
3. Ask Her What She Wants To Do
It’s tempting to start rattling off ideas, but first sit and listen to your daughter’s plan. Say something like, “Okay, how do you think we should handle this? What do you want to do next?” It will empower her and help her work on her problem-solving skills.
4. Be Vigilant About The Internet
In these modern times, bullying doesn’t stop at the schoolyard. Now it can follow you home, thanks to the internet and sites like Facebook and Instagram. Talk to your kids about this reality and help them to make home a safe space. Monitor sites for bullying and screenshot any rude and aggressive messages. You might need them later.
5. Talk To The School
Get the bullying out in the open. Your kid might protest and say she doesn’t want to be a tattletale, but when it comes to safety, there is no such thing as tattling. And, yes, emotional safety matters just as much as physical safety. Words don’t break bones but they break hearts and spirits, and that might even be worse, as those are much harder to repair.
6. Emphasize Kindness In Your Home
Point it out when you see your daughter’s celebrity idols practicing this value. For example, instead of ogling Taylor Swift’s new hairstyle, talk about how cool it was of Taylor to volunteer at a local homeless shelter. Instead of bad-mouthing Miley’s latest antics, talk about how she is passionate about fighting cystic fibrosis. Use language that builds women up, whether you are talking about a celeb or your own friends.
For more strategies on dealing with bullying, check out this article in Real Simple.