With the new school year here, you and your kiddos are sure to meet lots of new people, some amazing, friendly and sweet, and some, well, mean.
Here are some tips I’ve compiled for handling mean girls or even moms you may meet or already know:
Confront with kindness, logic, and maturity
Tell that mean girl that they are being mean and that you don’t like it. If it’s an older girl, sometimes it helps to analyze the mean behavior with them. Ask them questions, calmly and kindly to see why they are being mean. Maybe the “mean girl” had her feelings hurt by your child, in which case you or your child may need to apologize. If it’s a little girl, say toddler age, then just tell her firmly to stop it. If she continues to be mean, tell her parent. If her parents don’t do anything, then just avoid her as much as possible, and teach your child to do the same. If it’s in a classroom setting, let the teacher know what’s happening and see if you can recruit some back-up. If two or three people start confronting the mean behavior, hopefully the little girl and the parents will get the message that they need to address the behavior.
Talk about it with your child
Ask your child why he/she thinks that person is being mean. Was there anything your child may have said or done to make that person be mean? Explain to your child that sometimes people are mean for no apparent reason, and it has nothing to do with your child, but with the person being mean; there is something she doesn’t like about herself that day and she is trying to make everyone else feel as bad as she does. Teach your child some kind, yet firm things to say in response to rude comments, such as, “Don’t’ talk to me,” or “Leave me alone, or I’ll tell the teacher,” or give your child some strategies for dealing with meanness, such as taking a different route to school or class, or talking to a teacher.
If you can volunteer at the school or in the classroom, do it! Keep an eye on your kiddo at the park or play scape. Make sure the mean kid sees that your child has a whole network of people who love and cherish her/him. Mean kids, AKA bullies, tend to zero in on kids they think are loners or easy targets. If you can, look that mean girl right in the eye and make sure she knows who you are. Stop the mean girl in her tracks if she starts attacking your child. Say, “I don’t like what you’re saying/doing. It needs to stop NOW,” or “Leave. Do not talk to my daughter. Why are you standing here? Goodbye!” Also, try to see any behaviors your child may have that may be prompting the mean girl to single her out. Maybe your child was mean first. If that’s the case, teach your child to treat others the way she wants to be treated, and try to negotiate a mutual apology.
Speak with teachers and administrators
These people can be your greatest ally. They see your kids every day and can give you tons of information about what’s going on in and out of the classroom…as a former teacher, it was always easy to understand why some kiddos were acting out or having a bad week; between parent conferences, reading their personal essays (English teacher), hearing from other teachers and the counselors, listening to other students talk, and even listening to the student talk, I sometimes had more information than I wanted. Schedule a meeting to discuss what’s going on with your kiddo and strategies to remedy the situation. It’s like having eyes everywhere. Mom = Super Spy!
Monitor social media
I don’t know about y’all but sometimes I want to shut down all social media in our house…no Internet either. It terrifies me to know that my daughter will be on Facebook one day…when she’s 18. Or she’ll be subjected to all those creepy, sneaky little apps that pervs use. Ugh. The best things we can do are, monitor the social media and Internet usage, and monitor our children’s behavior. Stay up to date on the latest creepy apps and the latest methods of social media bullying. Here is a helpful article from the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Don’t face it alone
One of the greatest “weapons” against mean girls, is a friend. Sometimes just one true friend can give your child the courage to stand up for herself. Encourage your child to form friendships with kind people. Help by planning play dates and getting to know your kids’ friends’ parents. Same for you, if you are dealing with a mean Mom, get your Mom tribe in the know, and don’t go near the Mean mom without a trusty, preferably feisty, friend by your side, or maybe even your husband. If you don’t have a Mom tribe, consider joining a group such as MOPs.
Keep calm and carry on. Encourage your child to continue doing what she loves and to do kind acts for others. Get involved in clubs or organizations that do charity work. For every cruelty, do something kind.
Simple. If there’s a mean kid in your child’s class, consider moving classes. If it’s at a playground, don’t play around that kid, or find another playground. If there’s a mean mom at Dance class, take your child somewhere else. Choose your battles; if it’s not worth the stress of confrontation, or teacher conferencing, or parent conferencing, just walk away. Do not engage.
If it starts getting out of your control, and it is greatly impacting your child, report it to the police. Meanness can usually be handled, but full-on bullying can get dangerous and violent. Don’t hesitate to get the authorities involved if you feel that your child (or you) is unsafe.
Have you ever met someone who takes offense to EVERYTHING? You say something about yourself and they think you are talking about them? Or you have a different opinion about something, and they take it as a personal insult? Teach your child the difference between being mean, and just disagreeing, and how to disagree constructively, as well as the difference between friendly teasing and bullying. Teach your child to let criticism roll off of their backs; sometimes it helps to just lean into it and to use humor to deflect pejorative comments. The point is for your child (or you) to learn to not let it get to her, in other words to have enough confidence to laugh at herself sometimes. It is fuel to a fire to let a bully see that she’s upset you.
These are just a few things I’ve learned, surviving my teenage years, as well as from other moms I know. I am by no means a professional counselor, so if you think you or your child needs professional help to deal with mean girls, I highly recommend getting the help you need. That said, I’d love to hear your strategies or stories with mean girls!