9 Things You Need to Tell Your Daughter About Mean Girls

dad comforting teen daughter

The teen years are filled with all types of mean girls. From frenemies and fake friends to toxic friends and controlling girls, mean girl behavior often leaves others feeling hurt, puzzled, and distraught.

Mean behavior is not normal girl behavior, and your daughter will have no idea how to respond without some coaching from you. In fact, mean girl behavior is perplexing and inconsistent. One day a girl may seem like your daughter's best friend; the next day she refuses to speak to her. Your job is to help your daughter see that her friend is not truly a friend.

There are a number of reasons why girls choose to be mean or use relational aggression. These include everything from climbing the social ladder to peer pressure. Mean girls often belong to cliques that use backbiting, ostracizing, rumor spreading, name-calling, and even manipulation to inflict serious psychological harm.

They also harm others through cyberbullying. And they engage in online gossip, sexual bullying, slut-shaming, and other hurtful tactics. Cliques are reinforced in cyberspace when girls post pictures of exclusive parties and events where only a select few were included.

If your daughter is friends with a group of mean girls, or she is being targeted by a mean girl at school, it will likely be very painful for her. And while it may seem insignificant to you, it is a very big deal to her. Arm yourself with some thoughtful things to say about the situation. Here are nine phrases to consider.

I Understand

Probably the most important way you can help your daughter is to empathize with her situation. Remind her that no one deserves to be treated the way she is being treated. Mean girls often make others feel inferior. Reinforce all the positive things she has to offer the world. Be sure your daughter knows that she is not the problem. The mean girl is. Help her focus on her strengths. 

Smile and Stay Strong

Mean girls often have a natural ability to discern whom they can control and manipulate. So encourage your daughter to smile and remain confident. She should avoid looking nervous, insecure, or defeated.

Work with your daughter on being resilient and building self-esteem. Mean girls are less likely to repeat their tactics when their victims can remain confident and in control. Teach your daughter to have good posture, a strong speaking voice, and good eye contact. These characteristics often deter mean girls. Many times, they simply want an easy target.

Be Assertive

Every girl needs to learn how to stand up for herself, especially against mean girls. The best way to do this is to learn how to be assertive. The goal is that your daughter can defend herself in a respectful manner without being aggressive or mean in return.

Help your daughter find a way to communicate that bullying and mean-girl tactics are wrong and will not be tolerated. Remind your daughter that those mean girls count on her being passive about their behavior. She can show them that they miscalculated when they targeted her.

Consider Your Response

Remind your daughter that although she has no control over what other people say or do, she does have control over her response. Stress that no matter what a mean girl says or does, she should try to keep her responses free of emotion.

If she can’t respond in a calm manner, she should ignore the comments and walk away. Then, encourage her to talk with you or another adult about how to deal with future attacks.

Don't Be a Bystander

If your daughter observes mean-girl behavior, she needs to know that standing by and saying nothing communicates that she accepts this type of behavior. And if she doesn’t have the courage to say something at the moment, she should walk away. When mean girls don’t have an active audience, they lose some of their power.

Remind your daughter that it’s important to report unjust behavior to an adult. She also can befriend the target of the mean girl. All these things reduce the likelihood that the mean girls' behavior will continue to be successful.

Keep an Adult Informed

Too many times, girls think they can or should handle mean girl behavior on their own. While there are a number of reasons why kids don’t tell anyone about bullying, stress to your daughter that you and other adults are there to help her.

Be sure she knows that you have her back and that you will work with the school to put an end to this behavior. Be committed to helping your daughter through this and she will be more likely to keep you informed.

Find Another Group of Friends

Oftentimes, the mean girl is someone your daughter thought was a friend. Your daughter may be part of a group that now has become a clique. The girls in it are no longer true friends, but frenemies.

Talk to your daughter about how to spot fake friends. Also, discuss the signs that exist when a friend is a bully. Then brainstorm who might be good friends to pal around with. Encourage your daughter to branch out and invite those girls over. Be willing to help her develop friendships. Healthy friendships are one of the best deterrents of bullying.

Focus on School

Kids often allow what others say and do to impact their everyday lives. And the first thing that is impacted is their schoolwork. Help your daughter change her focus. Monitoring cell phone and computer use is a good place to start. But don’t prevent your daughter from using these means of communication. Instead, encourage her to spend less time on social media.

Stress that she should not let the turmoil caused by another’s actions control her life and her time. She needs to take back the control and focus on something she has control over, like school or sports.

Find Healthy Ways of Coping

Let your daughter know that what she is going through is hard and that she shouldn’t try to handle it on her own. Be willing to listen to her without judging or trying to fix things. Let her know that you are a safe person to talk to. And if she doesn’t want to talk to you, help her find someone she can confide in.

Also, be aware of the consequences of long-term bullying. These can include eating disorders, body image issues, PTSD, self-harming behavior, depression and even thoughts of suicide.

If your child is having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911.

Don’t be afraid to get outside help for your daughter. It is not a sign of weakness to seek out medical professionals and counselors. In fact, it shows wisdom. Do everything you can to help your daughter cope with mean girls. You will be glad you did.

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