Teaching Your Daughter How to Handle Mean Girls

how to handle mean girls

It’s the hardest thing in girl world to pull off: protecting yourself from the barbs of mean girls without becoming one yourself. But that’s just what countless mothers are struggling to teach every day. We want to raise kind, compassionate daughters in a social construct that is often anything but. So you need to teach your daughter how to handle mean girls.

Fortunately, author Kari Kampakis—herself a mom to four girls—addresses this struggle in her recent release 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know. With practical wisdom, she offers girls a peek behind the curtain to reveal what makes mean girls act the way they do and offers solid advice for responding in a way that doesn’t make your daughter a doormat, but takes the high road.

Teach your daughter to survive girl world with grace using some of Kampakis’ 5 tips for how to deal with mean girls:

1. Help your daughter see behind the façade.

Much of the bad behavior mean girls exhibit is a desperate attempt to become—or stay—popular. It is rooted in insecurity and self-focus. Help your daughter to see that mean girls aren’t mean because their brave. To the contrary, they’re some of the most fragile, insecure girls in the world. Recognizing this may enable your daughter to be less intimidated and less affected by their behavior.

2. Tell her what real friends look like.

Some girls are real friends to your daughter: encouraging her, wanting the best for her, and celebrating successes with her. Other girls are what Kampakis calls “50/50 friends”: They act like friends one minute, but entirely different the next. The more distance she can put between herself and the “friends” who routinely cut her down or act competitively, the better off she’ll be. Help her search out authentic friends with girls who will have her back.

3. Teach her to resist the temptation to retaliate.

It takes self-discipline, but your daughter will be happier in the long run if she refuses to repay mean girls with some meanness of her own.

4. Remind your daughter that she can choose to pursue kindness or popularity, but she can’t choose both. {Tweet This}

This is one of the “ultimate truths” of Kampakis’ book and her steadfast message to girls. Young women who choose to prioritize kindness over popularity will ultimately be happier, as they will draw the right kinds of friends into their lives and will have fewer regrets for having treated others badly. Pursuing popularity—even sporadically—will almost always put you in a position of making others feel rejected or unloved. Our president Mark Merrill shares some thoughts regarding kindness in his blog 4 S’s to Show Kindness.

5. Encourage her to make a commitment with like-minded girls to ensure people around them are always treated with kindness.

It’s true that there is strength in numbers and, with just a friend or two to encourage her and hold her accountable, your daughter will have a better shot at living up to her own standards. Remind her to look out for others who may be on the fringe of things—kids who are left out or lonely—and make sure they are treated with kindness as well.

Share with us… Has your daughter been faced with mean girls in her social world?


  • Lisa

    My 14 year old daughter. Had a 50/50 friend, who now along with 2 other girls say nasty mean things about her on the bus everyday. It it’s so hard to have your daughter come home everyday and you ask her how her day was….her response….good until the bus ride and she goes on to tell you what the girls were saying. I just try to reinforce the fact that they say those things because they are not happy with themselves.

  • Jr Denson

    I think that #4 is definitely wrong. Kindness is what leads to true popularity. It’s a longer road than the manipulative mean girls road to having a lot of flunkies, but those girls aren’t really popular. They’re feared. Their supposed friends will dump them in a heartbeat once they find kindness in people who aren’t afraid.

  • MaryJo Griego

    My twelve year old granddaughter deals with mean girls as well that also just happen to be the ‘popular’ girls. I agree wholeheartedly with your statement that she can pursue kindness or popularity but no both. Mean girls have been around for a long time. I had some in my class when I was young. These days they have taken ‘mean’ to a different level and my heart goes out to the girls that are at the brunt of their meanness.

  • Karla Diaz

    #4???? What kind of an advice is that LOL! Totally wrong, I was both popular and very nice and welcoming to real friends and 50/50 friends… being popular is not about being mean at all! Being known to be mean is not the same as being popular. Being popular by definition is someone who is liked, admired, or enjoyed by many people or by a particular person or group.

    My niece is having problems with mean girls she is super kind but sometimes believes all the stuff the mean girls say. One example she likes tennis so, she made it in a tennis team. And all her friends said is that it is a dumb sport, too hard for her to even be good at it. She got home crying for all the negative stuff she heard. So all I can really do is reassure her that anything she wants to do she will be able to do and that she is amazing at it and that it is okay that she likes it.

    However they also criticize her on her appearance she is thin and tall, her “friends” are shorter than her and quite thick, so they tell her she doesn’t look good, and she also cries because no matter how much she eats she just doesn’t put on weight thanks to her metabolism.

    So I guess I want to give a shout out to mean girls…… Being mean and unsensitive towards others does not get you the type of “popularity” you think. BE KIND and remember the golden rule; TREAT OTHERS AS YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE TREATED!.

  • Dana Hall McCain

    I think the confusion about #4 hinges on the word “pursue.” Kampakis doesn’t say that your child won’t BE popular if she is kind to other people. She says that the PURSUIT of popularity is what invariably leads to some level of exclusion and unkindness. If your child is chasing the acceptance of a particular crowd or social group, the temptation is great to squeeze herself into the “gate” even if it means leaving others standing on the outside. However, if your child’s one and only goal is to pursue kindness, she will have friends–maybe not the exclusive “in” crowd, but genuine friends–and she won’t have hurt or excluded others to gain and maintain those friendships.

  • Trish

    My daughter is dealing with mean girls too. There are only 8 girls in her class, she goes to a small private school and there is only one class of her grade. None of the girls will allow her in their cliques, there are two cliques, I host gatherings once a month to get the girls together hoping to break the walls down-they come to the gatherings, have a great time together-none want to leave when they are over-yet when she invites one over individually-no one will come over. One mom even encourages the separation of my daughter from the group -not openly-but I’ve been made aware. So it’s a very difficult situation to navigate when your daughter -in tears -ask you “ why does life have to be so hard”? Or “ did you go thru this”? And “ how did you survive?”