Oh, it makes me squirm.
I wanted to be accepted in middle school, but I wasn’t. I,
- stood quietly in the locker room when changing into my white shirt and black shorts for PE, hoping that no one would recognize.
- slouched in class – always glancing over my shoulder to see if anyone noticed me.
Since I didn’t fit in, invisibility was my next best option.
I’ve shared my middle school bullying story here before.
When I had kids and got older, I realized how completely ridiculous it all was. That people would make fun of you regardless.
It didn’t matter what you said, how you dressed, what grades you got.
Other people will ALWAYS find something to mock because it’s not about you! Their taunting is all about them and their insecurities.
Middle school was complete hell. When my daughter entered sixth grade this year, I was terrified.
I didn’t want her to think it was her fault that other people were mean to her. I wanted her to know how to confront problems and the typical, stupid ways that people would react.
Ways that had nothing to do with her. Girl drama is one of those things.
Read: How to Help Your Child with Self Esteem
How to Spot Girl Drama
Girls have a very covert way of bullying. As you probably know, its not the “I’ll beat you up in the playground after school.” but rather they bully through exclusion.
Girls reject. They spread rumors so no one will hang out with you either.
You feel completely and utterly alone slumped in a corner in the cafeteria – hoping that no one sees you sitting by yourself because that would be even more humiliating.
But here’s the thing, when girls don’t fit in – they’re made fun of in school. But science has shown that trying to fit in costs you physically and emotionally.
Read: Is this Why You Yell at Your Kids?
Our goal shouldn’t be to encourage girls to fit in, but rather how to weather the storm when they find themselves ousted.
When they tell a friend to “stop making fun of the clothes they wear” or “stop stealing my french fries at lunch.” they can get ready for a few reactions – depending on the maturity of their friend.
We want girls to belong, not fit in.
In Brene Brown’s book, Braving the Wilderness: The Quest for True Belonging and the Courage to Stand Alone, she says, “Belonging is being accepted for you. Fitting in is being accepted for being like everyone else.
The best way to help your daughter deal with mean friends is to prepare them for how they’ll react.
These classifications come from my own experience working with tweens as a fifth grade teacher and my girl scout troop. I’ve also been heavily influenced by the books Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls through the Seven Transitions into Adulthood, Queen Bees and Wannabes and Curse of the Good Girl.
Read: Four Steps to Help You Deal with Your Tween’s Next Mood Swing
From the Very Mature, Emotionally Intelligent Friend
They’ll apologize. People who are very comfortable in themselves and have a fully developed brain don’t want to hurt others. They apologize for any behavior that unintentionally hurt others.
However, we’re talking about early teens here. They don’t have a fully developed brain. Humans brains don’t fully develop until twenty-five years old.
An automatic apology is highly unlikely.
However, don’t give up hope! Girls can do this when they’re coached about how to appropriately respond.
Simply having your daughter watch my video below and making her aware of the different ways people respond, will make her more likely to apologize and consider other’s feelings.
From the friend who knows she’s wrong and blames herself hard
She cries. She doesn’t know how to respond to criticism – because she hasn’t really been exposed.
She’s the one who thinks any criticism given to her reflects poorly on herself as a person. Her thought process is:
- “Nobody likes me”
- “I’m an awful friend”
- “I’m a horrible person”
When you think about it, anyone who believed this about themselves, it makes sense they dissolve into tears.
Then, when you have a crier, other well-meaning girls, get involved in the situation to comfort the crier.
Other girls bombard your daughter with, “Why did you make her cry?” Suddenly, the entire situation turns around on the girl who simply wanted to talk about a problem.
The best thing at this point is to tell the “helpful people” (they’re not being so helpful), that this “I realize you’re trying to help. But this is a situation between me and my friend. I would like to talk to her more about it, but it doesn’t involve you.”
From the friend who thinks If they admit it, they’re a bad person
“I was just kidding, don’t be so sensitive”, they say.
Oh, this is the hardest comment kids say to one another. Just because it was joke, it doesn’t mean it hurts any less.
Refuse this. Urge your daughter to say that the joke wasn’t funny. Please don’t tell me jokes like that.
Or, they may flat out deny:
“No, I didn’t do it.”
Well, your daughter was there. Yes, they did do that.
If your daughter is confronted by any of these, urge her to be wary of this person. They just knocked the trust down a bit.
The truth is, your daughter has no control about what people say or if they come clean with their mistakes.
She only has control over,
- Accepting their explanation or NOT, and
- Having the same behavior with others
Helping Your Daughter with Mean Friends is Rough
Thankfully, girls both grow up – but I woudn’t say they grow out of it. The best way is to make girls – and boys as well – is to make them aware of how to respond to others who are hurt or offering criticism.
By teaching them these common responses, they’ll be less likely to make them themselves and be able to recognize when they’re being used on them.
Does your daughter – or son – need a little extra emotion coaching? Come and enroll in Emotions 911 which teaches them how to identify their emotions, calm down and problem solve conflicts with others. It’s the course I wish I would have had as a middle schooler.
Stephanie Pierce says
Thank you for this post. Our family is currently going through this. Great advice!