In our kids' early school years, we spend hours arranging playdates and planning parties. We become the architects (some call it "cruise directors") of their positive social development. With nothing but the best of intentions, we strive to help our little ones develop the skills to make and maintain friendships. Until the day they make—and tenaciously maintain—a friendship with a mean girl. Then what?
2. Talking about parties and play dates in front of girls who are not invited
3. Mocking, teasing, and calling girls names
4. Giving girls the "silent treatment"
5. Threatening to take away friendship ("I won't be your friend anymore if...")
6. Encouraging others to "gang up" on a girl you are angry with
7. Spreading rumors and starting gossip about a girl
8. "Forgetting" to save a seat for a friend or leaving a girl out by "saving a seat" for someone else
9. Saying something mean and then following it with "just joking" to try to avoid blame
10. Using cell phones and/or social media to gossip, start rumors, or say mean things to a girl
Help Her Make Friends with her Anger
Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry." —Lyman Abbott
Encourage Her to Show Strength
As a social worker, I am all about teaching young people that it is okay to feel sad, or hurt, or angry, and that it is a good thing to talk about their emotions with others. Yet, when it comes to facing off with a mean girl, my best advice to parents is to teach their daughters to show resolute strength. Mind you, strength should not come in the form of physically or verbally aggressive responses that up the ante and escalate hostilities, but rather kids show strength when they use humor to deflect a situation and they stand up for themselves whenever their feelings are disrespected. A simple "Knock it off," or "Tell me when you get to the funny part" is a simple, powerful signal to the bully that your child will not be an easy target.
For school-aged children, friendships create a powerful sense of belonging. We want our daughters to feel accepted and embraced by their peers—never to be used as pawns in someone else's popularity game. Parenting has everything to do with teaching kids values and talking about the values involved in making and maintaining healthy friendships is one of the most important things parents can do to help their daughters choose friendships wisely.
• Uses kind words
• Takes turns and cooperates
• Uses words to tell me how she feels
• Helps me when I need it
• Compliments me
• Includes me
• Is always there for me
• Understands how I feel
• Cares about my opinions and feelings
• Stands up for me
• Is fun to be with
• Has a lot in common with me
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