By Jaime Jo Wright, Crosswalk.com
We’ve all witnessed it. The proverbial group of girls who pinpoint that one unlucky girl as their primary target. Or that one girl who likes to make everyone around her realize how privileged they are to be in her presence. And let’s not forget the girl(s) who make picking on other girls their favorite pastime.
What motivates some girls to be mean girls? Honestly, its root is often low self-esteem, a poor home life, an abusive background, or an insecurity that is strong enough where the girl needs to make their position in life valuable, superior, and greater-than as firm as possible. Because of their need to position themselves at the top of the pyramid, this, in turn, means their primary focus is putting other girls in their place.
If your daughter becomes the focus of a mean girl, your life will open to a whirlwind of emotions, wrongs committed against them, and in true female form, some of the most vicious and hurtful words ever spewed against their character. The stereotype may be overused and offensive to some, but girls can be remarkably catty, snotty, and downright wicked to each other. When wronged, they are typically not quick to forgive, let alone forget; there almost always seems to be a sick enjoyment derived from creating the misery of others.
So as a parent, how do you help your daughter navigate mean girls? How do you keep them from falling into depression, from beginning to despise themselves, and from questioning whether or not they are worth anything to those around them?
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1. Ground Them in Their Identity
By this, I mean nothing will be more important than for your daughter to understand their intrinsic value, not just in your eyes, but also the Lord’s. If their identity is grounded in knowing they are a creation of God, that He watches over them and is invested in their welfare, and that He sacrificed Himself on their behalf, then you’ve begun to form a firm foundation for your daughter. Even a young child can comprehend an element of the immense personal sacrifice when someone lays their life down for another. Build that awareness in your daughter. That she was worth dying for, that the worst part of her was still valuable enough to be loved by her Savior, and that nothing can devalue her in His eyes.
Having an unshakable bond with her Creator will build within your daughter a self-awareness of how precious she is. Molded and formed correctly, this will build in her humility and self-confidence—not to be confused with pride—and as the mean-girl darts fly, they may wound, but they won’t be fatal.
2. It’s Okay to Walk Away
Mean girls tend to come at their target with admirable tenacity if it were focused on something more constructive. As a victim of the mean girl, you often see the tormented represented in movies or books as cowering, fearful, or broken. Teach your daughter that it is okay to walk away.
You wouldn’t think you’d need to teach them that’s okay, but here’s the thing: some girls are taught to be polite, and turning one’s back even on the worst offender, feels rude. Or some girls are afraid they will be labeled as a coward or a wimp. Teach them that sometimes, walking away takes more bravery and courage. Truth be told, the mean girls aren’t worth their time or attention. They are feeding off the misery in front of them. Walking away can be a safe solution, even if it’s followed with mean words and scoffing.
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3. It's Okay to Stand Up for Yourself
It’s okay to stand up for yourself. On the other hand, it is also okay to stand up for yourself, and it’s important that you empower your daughter to do so. By enabling them in this way, you teach them to value themselves, and it also reinforces the fact that they don’t deserve to be bullied, taunted, or shamed. This will more than likely open the door for confrontation, so it is also crucial that you prepare your daughter to fight her battles and know what boundaries you may want to set.
It is essential to teach your daughter when it’s wise to walk away versus when it’s wiser to stand and confront it. It will teach her discernment and reinforce that she can be strong, and others’ words and actions can be deflected.
4. Don’t Believe Their Lies
This is a big one. Whether your daughter chooses to remove herself from the situation if possible or stand and confront, they will inevitably be faced with a barrage of lies. These lies may be on the side of barbed insults, or they may be far worse and encouraging your daughter to cause herself bodily harm. Nowadays, we can’t throw all mean girls into the Legally Blonde category. Those days where snobs were simply mean are wasting away to where snobs are physically and mentally abusive—sometimes with catastrophic consequences.
It’s easy to advise your daughter not to believe the lies. It’s not easy to get her to do that. Lies from these types of girls are so effective—it’s why they choose to tell them. And, why the mean girls’ opinions matter so much is beside the point. Helping your daughter see the truth means you will need to reinforce the truth as much, if not more than the mean girls are sending out their horrific barbs.
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5. Reinforce the Truth
This means you will need to be proactive, specific, and super targeted with your daughter. To contradict the negative that she is saturated with, you will need to make sure you’re pointing out the positives. This will also mean you’ll want to figure out how best to communicate these to your daughter.
Not every girl wants to have compliments showered on her. Telling your daughter she’s beautiful, smart, and amazing is nice, but some girls will find that patronizing. You may need to, instead, counteract the negativity with a lot of one-on-one time. It is a chance to reinforce your relationship with her and recenter her in what’s important and long-lasting—family—versus the fleeting trials of being hounded by a mean girl. Be sensitive to your daughter’s needs. Figure out if she needs reinforcing with words, time, acts of service, gifts, or physical touch of the healthy kind. Then shower her with it until the shade that’s being thrown at her bounces off that healthy armor she’s had built around her.
It’s not simple to address the issue of mean girls, especially if they’ve crossed the line into serious bullying where physical harm is threatened. While there’s no one-size-fits-all solution, it always begins with building a level of self-worth in your daughter. And that self-worth needs to be God-centered because otherwise, as your daughter disappoints herself, her own worth will diminish in her eyes, and that argument will become moot. She needs that unfailing truth that her value will never decrease in the eyes of God, and therefore, whatever man brings against her, she can still stand in the center of His love and His truth about her: that she is His blessed creation.
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