The bullying epidemic has evolved constantly over the past decade. It’s no longer boys shoving on the playground or stealing someone’s lunch money. Bullying has infiltrated younger and younger groups of children, found it’s way into the online world, and especially festered in groups of preteen girls. Instead of overt and obvious bullying, it’s become sneaky and subtle. Harsh words, glances, whispered insults, snide comments on social media, and even ignoring is modern day bullying, and it can be a serious challenge to tackle.
The “Mean Girl”
The important thing to understand about preteen girl bullying is that it’s about the bully, not the bullied. It can be difficult to help your daughter see this, whether she’s the bully or the bullied. To the mean girl bullies – it’s all about that “weird” girl or the one who bugs you in science class or the one who seems to be happier than you. To a girl who is bullied – it’s your fault for being so uncool or doing something you can’t seem to remember. This mindset can perpetuate the bullying, when the bully feels justified and the bullied feels less-than.
In reality, the entire issue stems from the bully – the Mean Girl. The girl who bullies feels acutely insecure, threatened, and desperate to protect herself. Except that she doesn’t know HOW to protect herself! She lashes out at others, puts them down, asserts dominance, and behaves rudely to others in the hopes that it will help her feel safe, secure, loved, and better. It is no justification for being a Mean Girl, but it does provide some context and understanding that can ease the pain of being bullied.
How to Avoid Becoming the Mean Girl
It’s actually very easy to bully others. Becoming a Mean Girl is simple. How can we teach our daughters to be kind and accepting, rather than bullies? It starts with the girl as an individual. A girl who is safe, secure, loved, and confident on her own, regardless of friends and other factors, is a girl who will not see other girls as threats. Spend as much time as you can with your daughter outside of school, activities, or friend groups, talking about who she is as a person and helping her develop her own self-worth and self respect. Help her to understand that people come and go, and they don’t define your value.
Secondly, it’s critical for young girls to view other girls as friends and assets. Teach them that every girl is a potential friend from whom you can learn. Help your daughter understand that other girls are not threats or dangerous – they’re just girls who want to feel happy and secure – just like her! Teach her to trust, respect, and show kindness to other girls and that it will be returned to her.
Bullying is still a serious epidemic, and many girls are unable to escape the harmful effects. If your daughter is a bully, or has been bullied in her school, activity groups, teams, or online, there is help for her. Do not assume that she will grow out of it, get over it, or that it won’t affect her long-term, because that may not be true. She may be in need of serious help or a program designed to help her tackle her personal issues and become a healthy, happy adult. Take it seriously and get her the help she needs today.