Opinion Saturday: Mean girls

Since I have been up to my ears in preparations for our new children, I didn’t get around to announcing a winner for last week’s Opinion question. When I go back to look at all the entries again, I think I need to pick several different questions as winners. I’ve decided to feature one question a week for the next few weeks.

This week the winner is Mopsy at Lifenut. She asks:

How much should I step in when my 10-year-old daughter has problems with her friendships? Should I allow her to navigate those “mean girl” waters on a long leash, or should I insert myself into those situations every time? Why are girls so mean?

You have until next Saturday to share your best tips for handling this tricky situation. Come on, hit me with your best thought!

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  1. We dealt with this with my 9 year old when she was in 2nd grade. She was terrorized by a girl in her class, and bullied by two boys. Even thought I chose to homeschool her for the rest of 2nd and all of 3rd grade, we began talking to her alot about how to deal with mean people. Running away is not the answer. But we felt like our daughter needed some more tools to be able to sift though the mean comments. It was important that she learn she was not the problem. Not to internalize the mean things people say. We taught her that kids who are mean, are usually unhappy inside as well. We gave her examples. Some children don’t have loving parents. Their parents are cruel and say hurtful things. So in order to make themselves feel less small, mean kids say things that they think will make them bigger. But it really makes them smaller. We began doing roll playing over the year I homeschooled her. We chose a book to read called “The Hundred Dresses” which beautifully discussed how to stand up to bullies and what happens if you don’t. We taught her at an early age how to self talk. (Not something kids automatically know how to do.) When someone says something that hurts, say to yourself, “Did I do something wrong? If not, then it’s not me, it’s them and I should pray for them that they can stop hurting other people. I know what they are saying is not true. If I did hurt them in any way, I will apologize.” We’ve taught her that there will always be mean people in our lives, but it’s up to us not to absorb what they say to us. If we don’t let them hurt us, then we won’t be damaged by their words. Anytime she’s in a situation now that used to buckle her, we practice the self talk and then she’s feeling better. We’ve noticed a HUGE change in her confidence level and she’s been initiating new friendships. Something she’s never done before. We’ve also noticed that she’s been choosing nice girls to be friends with. Something we’ve also talked about.

    Sorry this is so long. I think it’s so important to empower our little girls to be strong in the midst of hurtful people. Keeping a dialogue open with our children so we KNOW what is going on. Teaching them to have tender, compassionate hearts toward those that hurt us, so we not only shield ourselves from their arrows, but can learn to love our enemies through praying for them. We’ve taught our daughter that sometimes the meanest people need the most prayer from us. After all, Jesus modeled that perfectly for us!

    It’s hard to teach kids because they want to either run away, or hurt back. But if the conversations are frequent through their young lives, I have to believe that they will, in the end, come out on top.

  2. Because Kati is not a “drama child” she has been the brunt of the mean girl syndrome when in public school (she currently homeschools).

    We;ve played it both ways with her- listened and given some advice where appropriate.

    Now that she’s a bit older (14), I’ve found that she responds better to my horror stories of jr high and high school, by year, as she goes along. I’m honest about what happened, how it felt, the good, the bad and the heartbreaking- and what I did right or wrong to deal with it.

    It allows her to ask know she isn’t alone, it’s unfortunately a natural process (the Queen Bees, The Worker Bees and the Want To Bees) , she can ask questions and use whatever she needs from the process to get through it.

    It hasn’t stopped the tears or the heartache, but each time she seems to get abit stronger and still maintain who she is. Now who they want her to become.

  3. I think that the first two writers had awesome advice, and I have a few thoughts about this subject too. First of all personally I am not a mother who believes that our children can navigate this world without our advice,counsel and protection. I absolutely believe in stepping in and protecting our kids from cruelty in the same way that we would not think twice about stepping in and protecting our kids from physical abuse. I also think giving our children tools to manage “meanness” is critical because we won’t be around many times when they are the target of abuse. Beth’s advice is the best as far as that goes (see above). I realize that the author of the question was wondering about how much should she insert herself with a 10 year old child not with a 5 year old, but my advice still holds. I think the best thing is hoping that our kids will talk to us when they are hurt by others and helping them figure out what is really going on can be a blessing. I also love Beth’s advice about asking your child to consider herself and ask herself if she is doing something wrong. Some kids are simply annoying to other kids. One of my cousins has a “know-it-all” 11 year old girl, and she is constantly being picked on by her peers. I could tell you why in an instant, and yet I am not sure if her mother sees this in her own daughter. If we can also help our children understand themselves, we will give them wonderful tools for their future. So try and stay a bit detached to understand where the “meanness” is coming from. This in turn might help your child. We also want to insure that our children are not the mean ones either so being part of the conversation about cruelty is an excellent way for our children to absorb those lessons.

    As far as schools vs. homeschools etc…I can say from a lot of experience in this area and from having been a teacher too, please consider your choices very carefully, not only from the perspective of the learning environment but also from the peer group. Many times a school seems terrific in its instruction, but the peers may not be the right peers in general for your child. Sometimes a large school is too big and a child gets lost in the shuffle, but sometimes a small school is too small and “three’s a crowd”. Knowing your child is the most important part of this equation too and unfortunately what might work for one child does not always work for the other. Of course ideally we could all chose the right school for each child, and our own sanity and financial means would have no impact on our decision, but of course we have to consider these things too when we are looking at schools. Homeschooling can be a wonderful option for some of us, but it is definitely not the right thing for others.

  4. Thanks, Mary!

    I’m so glad to read the advice of moms who have been there.

  5. Darthualianne says:

    I always have tried to help my kids navagate the negative… however, I think it depends upon the kid really and the situation. I just want you to know that if you really want to step in…. go ahead and do it. If your child is like mine, she will turn around to you and say with hands on her hips.”Mother I will handle this MYSELF.”
    This way you will have no doubts.
    On another hand, if one of your children decides to test her power index and you notice she is being rude to her friends you should be ready to tell her, “You will soon have NO friends if you are mean to others just for the power thrill.” Being powerful without kindness is wrong.
    A shy child will have different needs. You are the mom and what you decide is best.

  6. Well life is like that. There are mean girls wherever you go no matter how old you get. The only thing I know to do is to encourage her to make an extra effort to be kind to those around you who might be on outside. I need to remind myself to do the same.