Tuesday, January 31, 2012


I’m not going to make the claim that my daughter is a saint, but when she’s hurt because a “friend” is a mean girl, the mama bear in me certainly rises up.  I hate mean girl stuff.  I remember going through some of it myself when I was in junior high and high school, but I don’t remember it being as pervasive as it is now.  I also think it starts with girls at a much younger age now than it did in the past.  The Princess was dealing with mean girl stuff (including participating in it herself) as early as the third grade.  It is particularly vicious now that she is in 7th grade.

My girl came home from school yesterday and asked to get on the computer.  I limit her computer use, but she is allowed to use it by going through her school’s start page.  The school district has Google apps set up for students.  They mainly use Google Docs.  I logged her on, and when she sat down, I asked her what class she was writing for in school.  She replied (without thinking fast enough to lie), “Oh, it’s not for school.”  She was writing a note to a “friend” who said some pretty mean things to her the last couple of days.  This is not the first time this “friend” has behaved this way.  I looked over her shoulder and saw she was writing to a girl we know who also has a traumatic past.  We know her from church as well as school.  What really got to me was that she was writing to beg for a restored relationship with this girl – one that would exclude another girl who does not like The Princess and isn’t afraid to say so.

It all sounds so junior-high-ish, doesn’t it?

Being popular.  Being accepted.  -- It is all so hugely important to a 13 year-old girl in the 7th grade.  It’s her “whole life.”  It’s her social standing.  It’s about how she sees herself.  It’s about judging.  It’s about cattiness.  (And people used to wonder why most of my friends were guys when I was a kid.)  Again, I hate it.  I hate seeing my little girl in heaving sobs over these things.  I hate seeing her go to bed an hour early because she’s literally nauseous from the stress.  I hate the sadness in her eyes, because some kid decided to behave like a little jerk -- a kid who is supposed to be her friend -- and decided it would be fun to hurt her.  I also hate the realization that The Princess has undoubtedly done the same thing to other girls.

We can watch for signs that our girls are being targeted by mean girls (or that they are targeting someone themselves).  Some of the nasty things girls do to one another include:

• Saying something mean and then following it with "just joking"
• Leaving certain girls out of parties/play dates
• Giving someone the "silent treatment"
• Starting rumors/spreading gossip
• Threatening to take away friendship ("I won't be your friend anymore if...")
• Criticizing someone’s appearance (“Why are you wearing THAT?”)
• Forming "clubs" and excluding others
• "Forgetting" to save someone a seat
• Using social media and other technology to send hurtful messages

Of course, the list goes on.  (Feel free to add some of your own experiences in the comments section.)

We need to teach our daughters some specific skills.  I think for traumatized kids, meeting that need is particularly crucial.  Our girls need skills so that they can roll with these inevitable social punches – skills  that anti-bullying education doesn’t seem to be able to touch.  We need to teach them the girl saying mean things to them is most certainly not feeling great about herself.  She is diverting negative attention away from herself, and dumping it onto someone else.  We need to remind our girls to treat one another the way they’d like to be treated – even if someone else is behaving badly.  That doesn’t mean we teach them to be doormats.  It means we teach them to be kind.  (I remember a couple of verses from Proverbs my own mom taught me:  “If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat; if he is thirsty, give him water to drink.  In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, and the LORD will reward you.”  -- 25:21-22)

There are some good tools our kids can use to combat mean girl stuff and bullying.  I’m busy looking for resources today.  This video shows how kids can develop a couple of good comebacks for verbal assaults.  It also instructs parents to teach their kids not to allow the bully or mean girl to get a rise out of their target – to not give the negative attention that is being sought by the aggressor.  While I don’t necessarily agree with some of the examples this guy uses, I think it’s a good idea for us to help our kids come up with some things they can say themselves:

As a parent of a young teenage girl who is also a hurt child, it’s hard to determine where to draw the line on how far I go when I become involved.  The mama bear would very much like to rip into the jerky little frenemy and give her an education she’d never forget.  However, I think it is much more effective to keep the lines of communication open with my own sweet girl, so that she is able to continue to feel she can trust me with her hurts.  (Of course, if there were physical danger involved, I would do more than teach her to handle things – I’d be involved in a heartbeat.)  By keeping those lines of communication and trust open, I am in a much better position to teach her enduring social skills she can carry into adulthood.  Because let’s face it, there are a lot of adult mean girls out there, too.

Be kind to one another . . . (Ephesians 4:32)

1 comment:

Paige said...

give the princess a hug from me and little bit. we adore her.