Why are girls so mean?
Having three daughters, I ask myself this question on a daily basis. Sadly.
Recently, one of my daughters experienced a “good friend” at school being quite ugly to her. Initially, I just tried to comfort my daughter and told her to ignore this behavior. But after several days of her coming home from school upset about this mean girl, I had about had it. My emotions (that I tried my best to keep inside) were all over the place….Momma Bear-like anger, sympathy, helplessness, frustration…you name it. Welcome to motherhood, right?
As a parent, we automatically think, “How dare some one treat my child this way!?!” I understand there are always two sides to every story, however, when your child comes home in tears from hurtful words directed at her, what’s a momma to do?
Well, this is how I handled it. I don’t know if it was right (and I know that this strategy will evolve as my girls get older), but my hope is that you moms of daughters may find a take-away you might someday need for a future mean girl inflicted meltdown. Or better yet, I hope some of you have advice to give us all on how to help our daughters deal with mean girls at such a young age. Here’s how it went down with me and my daughter:
1. I asked my daughter to tell me everything. Everything that had happened. Everything they both said and did. And to be completely honest with me.
2. After listening without interrupting, I validated her feelings.
3. I then asked her what was most important to her: Keeping this friend or not having this kind of conflict with her again?
4. Her answer was the former. So then I explained to her possible feelings and thoughts of the other girl. Not as an excuse for this other child, but in an attempt to help my daughter’s awareness of why people act certain ways/say certain things. I tried my best to keep it simple, as this was already such an over-her-head situation/discussion.
5. Then I told her that if she wanted to continue befriending this girl, she would need to talk to her about what had hurt her feelings and ways to help it not happen again. After discussing a possible “talk”, we decided a letter would be best. Not only could I help her write it, but she could say everything she wanted without being interrupted or worse, ignored.
6. Now this is the big one. I asked my daughter to apologize to this other girl and also to forgive her. While outrage that “It wasn’t MY fault” ensued, she quickly came around and agreed once I explained to her that this other girl may think my daughter was in the wrong as well. It ended up being a valuable teachable moment about saying “I’m sorry” to those you really care about…even when you think you did nothing wrong.
7. My daughter and I also brainstormed other girls she could spend more time with to “diversify” her friends. We’ve preached this to our children from the very start. I even tell my girls to find some one who doesn’t have a friend and ask them to play. Going over this and applying it to her situation at hand hopefully helped drive it home.
*Lest you think I was too lax, believe me when I say my counseling to my daughter will NOT be the same if this “friend” continues the mean behavior. It’s called De-Friending. And thankfully, it has not happened again…yet.
Afterwards, I told my husband that I can already foresee this being the first of MANY “mean girl” ordeals I’ll have to help my daughters through, but at the same time, I’m grateful for the opportunity to teach them proper ways to treat others and to play a part in molding their character when approaching future personal conflicts….because this is just the beginning.
I think the most dangerous aspect of this mean behavior in early elementary school girls lies not with the bullying (which becomes more of an issue with girls in later years), but with their friends. Friends who are mean and negative. In the early years of elementary school, everyone is friends. So what happens when your “friend” makes you feel horrible? A child’s mind cannot comprehend motive, malice, manipulation, or jealousy very well at this age, nor would the “frenemy” situation make sense to them anyway. Heck, it doesn’t make much sense to me! But unfortunately, those behaviors are ever present as soon as our daughters begin school.
(This website has a really great activity to do if your daughter is “stuck” in a negative friendship. I think we’re definitely going to try it out!!! In writing this post and search the web for similar stories, it’s unbelievable how much is out there about young girls in these kinds of friendships. A book I plan to read is called, “Little Girls Can Be Mean”)
So how do we as moms get our children through these tough times without being overly protective, while still providing them with tools to prevent permanent emotional damage down the road? Have you gone through this with a daughter? What ways have you found to be effective in dealing with “mean girls” during the early years?