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 book 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 also lets her take the high road. Teach your daughter to survive girl world with grace using these 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 they’re brave. On 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 act entirely differently 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 friendships with girls who will have her back.
3. Teach her to resist the temptation to retaliate.
One of the best tips on how to deal with mean girls is not to stoop to their level. It takes self-discipline, but your daughter will be happier in the long run if she refuses to repay mean girls with meanness of her own.
4. Remind your daughter that she can pursue kindness or popularity, not both.
This is one of the “ultimate truths” in Kampakis’ book and her steadfast message to girls. Young women who choose to prioritize kindness over popularity ultimately will 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—almost always will put you in a position of making others feel rejected or unloved. Family First’s president Mark Merrill shares some thoughts regarding kindness in his blog 4 S’s to Show Kindness.
Remind your daughter that she can choose to pursue kindness or popularity, but she can’t choose both.
5. Encourage her to commit with like-minded girls to treat people around them with kindness.
It’s true that there is strength in numbers. 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—kids who are left out or lonely—and make sure they are treated with kindness as well.
Has your daughter faced mean girls in her social world? How did you help her handle it?
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.