Can We Protect Our Daughters from the Mean Girls or Even Worse Becoming a Mean Girl?
There is a time when all little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice but something happens as these girls near their teenage years and if we are not careful they begin to sour and some even become downright rotten. Unfortunately it is an epidemic that occurs time and time again and no matter how much we may try to teach children not to bully and be nice, there are always some that ignore these lessons and end up making life very difficult for others. Being the target of a mean girl can destroy a child’s confidence, it can cause both psychological and physical ailment. Unless you were a mean girl yourself I think most women know what it was like to be the target of a mean girl and would do almost anything to keep their daughters from experiencing that pain.
How do we keep our daughters at a safe distance from these mean spirited girls so their confidence remains intact and they can enjoy their teenage years? I have seen numerous articles addressing this issue by listing advice a mother should give her daughter, but after reading these I am always left wondering if just telling my daughter how beautiful she is, how much I love and admire her, and how special she is, will be enough. My mother loved me, she always told me how beautiful I was, and she tried to make me feel special but it was not enough to protect me.
Sadly, there comes a time when words are just words and the opinions of our peers mean so much more than those of our parents. I already see my first grader roll his eyes when I tell him how proud I am of him. I know he needs to hear it and I need to keep saying it but the bottom line is for six or more hours a day he is not with me. It is the people surrounding him during that time that are going to have an influence on him and how he feels about himself. Fortunately boys seem to be built a little differently emotionally than girls. Of course they suffer but there is something about girls; they can be ruthless and their wrath is often felt by other girls during the teenage years.
So the question still remains, how do we help our daughters avoid being victims of the mean girls? I wish I knew the answer but all I know is that it will be an ongoing challenge to keep my daughter safe. But it is a challenge I gladly accept and when the time comes, I will go through it with her, side by side, and try to do the following:
- Always be present in her life (hopefully); aware of her surroundings, who she spends time with and how they make her feel. If she is in tears more than fits of laughter then I will know she needs to find new friends and I will guide her to make better choices.
- Make every attempt to be friends with the parents of her friends. When our children are small we are present at play dates, we build friendships with other parents and our lives are melded. As they get older there is a separation; we no longer know the families of our children’s friends. I think befriending the parents helps to build a bond that may help friendships last longer and be more meaningful. If you do not find the parents to be people you want to spend time with, it could also be a warning sign their child may not be someone you want your child spending time with.
- Encourage my daughter to find an activity she loves and stick with it. There was a time when I would watch the Olympics and feel sorry for the athletes, thinking they never had a normal childhood. Now I feel completely different. If they had a passion for something and followed their dreams it does not matter that they may have missed a few high school dances. They also missed all the drama and did not care about the opinions of the mean girls because they had something else to focus on. While my daughter may never make it to the Olympics she may find something she loves doing with a group of girls that love doing the same thing, and this may help her care less about the opinions of a few select mean girls.
- Even when she rolls her eyes, I will tell my daughter I love her. I will tell her I am proud of her and I will praise her strengths and call her out on her negative behavior. I will take action if she is ever the one being mean and I will listen to her when someone is mean to her and help her find a way to feel better.
And finally, realize no matter what I do I still may not be able to protect my daughter from being a victim.
If and when that day comes, I will not try to fix things by telling her one day this will just be a moment in her life because even though that is true, to her it will not feel that way.
I will understand her pain is real and not just something that will be forgotten one day. She will know she has a friend in me and I will always be there to help her find her smile.