How to Bully-Proof Your Middle School Daughter

middle school girl thinking

Middle school is full of ups and downs. From power struggles and the rumor mill to conflicting impulses and strong emotions, girls have a lot to deal with. But it's not all bad. Middle school also can be an exciting time for girls. They are developing close friendships, gaining some independence and forming their social circles.

The key is knowing what to expect and how to navigate the unpredictable waters of middle school friendships. Here are the top 14 things you can do to prepare your daughter for middle school and the friendships that go with it.

How to Bully-Proof Your Daughter

These strategies can help your daughter navigate middle school friendships and prevent them from bullying.

Explain How Friendships Change

Unlike elementary school, now when girls get together, they mostly want to talk. They talk in person about music, movies, clothes, crafts, books and sometimes even boys. And when they can't talk in person, they will text or message one another. Parents who understand this change will be more prepared to help their daughters with challenges.

Communicate Often

Listen to what your daughter is saying about school and friends. But do not immediately jump in and try to fix things. Instead, just allow her to talk. If you empathize with what she is saying, she will be more likely to keep you in the loop when things go wrong.

Build Your Daughter's Self-Esteem

A healthy self-esteem is one of the best ways to prevent bullying in your daughter's life. Be sure you are doing all you can to help her feel good about herself because middle school can do a lot to unravel a girl's self-confidence.

Discuss How Social Hierarchy May Change

Cliques get stronger; the need to be the one in control intensifies, and some girls get meaner. Much of this behavior stems from wanting to belong. For some girls, the need to belong is so intense that they will do whatever they can to eliminate the competition. These girls are known as mean girls.

Mean girls use rumors and gossip to control situations and bully other girls.

Familiarize Them With Types of Bullying

From cyberbullying and sexting to ostracizing and other forms of relational aggression, you need to be sure you know how kids are bullying today. While face-to-face bullying still exists, technology has created a new platform for bullying. Girls especially seem to embrace it. Don’t get left behind. Educate yourself and then educate your daughter.

Talk About What Makes a Good Friend

Make sure your daughter knows how to spot a good friend. A good friend is the one who will look out for her, care about her, including her in activities and treat her with respect. Good friends are also empathetic, loyal and cooperative. Encourage her to find friends with these qualities. Help your daughter identify which girls might make suitable friends.

Warn Them About Toxic Friendships

These friendships are often characterized by subtle put-downs, manipulation, exclusion and other hurtful behaviors. If your daughter has friends like this, she will struggle with negative feelings about herself. Frenemies often fall into this category. These are the friends who are nice to your daughter’s face, but gossip about her behind her back. Frenemies also try to control their friends and will use subtle put-downs to undermine self-esteem.

Suggest Avoiding Mean Girls

Mean girls often spread rumors, whisper or laugh when other girls walk by and talk loudly about exclusive parties. They also gossip, tell lies and ostracize other girls. Although these girls may appear popular and well-liked, many students just tolerate their behavior to avoid being the next victim. Urge your daughter to steer clear of these types of girls.

Encourage a Wide Range of Friends

Although having a BFF (best friend forever) may look appealing, at this age girls need more than just one, exclusive friendship. It is wise for your daughter to have friends in a variety of areas in her life, such as friends from the neighborhood, school, church, and sports. This means she will have other people to turn to if something goes wrong with one of her other friendships.

Get to Know Their Friends

Encourage your daughter to invite her friends over. When other girls are visiting, you get the chance to quietly observe your child's social interactions. You also can pick up on any issues. If you notice anything that is unsettling, be sure to talk to your daughter about it later.

Pay Attention to How They Are Feeling

Although middle school is an emotional time for girls because of all the changes taking place in their bodies, it's also important to still watch for clues that something else is bothering them. Be on the lookout for any bullying warning signs. And take notice if she says there is a lot of "drama" at school or that she "doesn’t have any friends." Oftentimes, these are signs that bullying is taking place.

Prompt Them to Resolve Issues on Their Own

Allow your daughter to sort out friendship issues on her own. Don’t step in unless she is being bullied. Allowing her to work out the problems on her own teaches her valuable life skills. She will learn conflict resolution, assertiveness, and problem-solving.

Foster Their Independence

Help your daughter learn to value and express her own opinions. While it is important to think of other people's needs, it's also important for girls to learn to be assertive, especially around potential bullies. The goal is that your daughter will learn to express differences of opinion in a respectful manner. You also want her to learn to defend herself when others are belittling her or bullying her.

Trust Your Relationship

Remember you are still the biggest influence in her life. While it can be disconcerting to see friends influencing clothing choices and music, remember that these choices are short-term. If you foster a positive and open relationship with your daughter, you will have the greatest influence on her values and morals. So, do not get discouraged by the little changes you see. Instead, focus on the big picture.

Was this page helpful?
4 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Wang X, Zhang Y, Hui Z, et al. The Mediating Effect of Regulatory Emotional Self-Efficacy on the Association between Self-Esteem and School Bullying in Middle School Students: A Cross-Sectional StudyInt J Environ Res Public Health. 2018;15(5):991. doi:10.3390/ijerph15050991

  2. Doyle HS, McLoughlin CS. Do Science and Common Wisdom Collide or Coincide in their Understanding of Relational AggressionFront Psychol. 2010;1:179. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2010.00179

  3. Viner RM, Aswathikutty-Gireesh A, Stiglic N, et al. Roles of cyberbullying, sleep, and physical activity in mediating the effects of social media use on mental health and wellbeing among young people in England: a secondary analysis of longitudinal dataThe Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. 2019;3(10):685-696. doi:10.1016/s2352-4642(19)30186-5

  4. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Warning Signs for Bullying.