Every week, your daughter tells you of a new conflict with a particular friend at school. You are losing your mind and feel helpless. Here’s how to help your daughter deal with friend drama.
Wait? You’re fighting about what?
“Well,” your daughter explains, “she looked at me funny in the cafeteria and then she started whispering to her friends.”
“What? But you don’t even know what she was talking about. It could have been nothing.”
“But,” she continues, “earlier she said I used her pencil without permission and I think that’s what she’s telling everyone.”
Wait… Wait… let me get this straight. You used a pencil without permission. Wow, you are out of control. You need to be locked up.
At least, that’s how you want to respond, right?
Because a situation like this seems to come up every day.
Particularly if your daughter is in 3rd, 4th or 5th grade. This seemingly insignificant arguments start to pop up.
Every urge wants you to tell them to “knock it off’ and “stop being ridiculous” but hold off on that for second.
Girls fight different than guys. It’s more psychological warfare than bombing raid.
These tiny, insignificant fights that your daughter is involved in elementary school are perfect practice to sharpen her conflict skills for the older grades.
Because the girl drama will get worse.
Here’s how to help your daughter deal with friend drama in a way that will serve her far into the future.
Say as little as possible to get the whole story
9 times out of 10, your daughter is not imagining that other girls are talking about her. Regardless of the reason, being the subject of gossip feels awful…
I painfully remember my first month of 7th grade.
At the end of PE class one day, a girl I barely knew called my friend back to talk with her. She whispered a few words, my friend looked back at me.
I had no idea what was said but knew it ended in my friend completely rejecting me.
I thought that it must be my fault. And I didn’t tell a soul because of the shame that I felt.
Looking back, I wish someone could have taught me earlier how to deal with a situation like this.
If your daughter has girl drama that she’s talking to you about, consider it a blessing in disguise. This is your opportunity to teach her how to stop these mean girls – and not become one herself.
1. Acknowledge Her Feelings
First, acknowledge her feelings by actively listening to her – not saying that you don’t already. But here’s what that looks like:
Daughter: “Mom, Tania was looking at me weird today.”
Mom: “Oh, really?”
D: “Ya. I’m pretty sure she was telling everyone how negative I am. And mom, I’m not negative.”
M: “You are worried that Tania is telling everyone you’re negative.”
D: “Ya. And I’m not negative. I just told her that what she wanted to do was impossible”
D: “But it was impossible mom. It was just a completely STUPID idea.”
M: I see.
And you see where this is going.
Suddenly, this situation where Tania was completely at fault and spreading mean rumors without any reason becomes a little more clear.
But, by only summarizing what your daughter says and filling in empty spaces with “Oh” and “I see,” you’ll get a little more info about the situation.
With me. If I had brought myself to tell an adult what had happened and they had let me talk without offering advice, I probably would have said that I later found the reason why they were talking about me.
Something that was completely under my control. Once I changed, my social life improved as well.
2. Give her a script to confront
Now, let’s say your daughter has no clue why they’re talking about her.
Imagine the following situation – WARNING: This may dig up painful memories about middle school.
Say, you are walking down the hallway when you pass a group of girls.
As you edge your way past, you hear them whispering and then laughing.
You ignore it.
BUT… then later that afternoon it happens again.
Yes, they are definitely talking about you. Now, how do you handle it?
If this happens to your daughter, what can you tell her to do?
Simply, teach her a script on how she can confront these girls in the hallway.
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In her book,Queen Bees and Wannabes, educator Rosalind Wiseman suggests using the SEAL method.
SEAL is an acronym that stands for:
- S- Stop and Strategize. Don’t react with your strong emotions. Breathe and decide if you want to act now or later.
- E- Explain. Tell the other person what happened and what you didn’t like.
- A- Affirm. Acknowledge anything that you did that may have contributed to the situation, but affirm your right to be treated with dignity.
- L – Lock. Lock in the friendship, take a vacation or lock the friendship out.
In the hallway situation, SEAL would sound a little like this:
(After stopping in the middle of the hallway and taking a breath. You decide to respond)
You: Hey Felicia,
(Explain) Everytime I walk by, you start whispering to each other and then laughing. I don’t know why and I can’t stop you, but I’m guessing you’re trying to make me feel bad.
(Affirm) I have the right to walk down the hallway without people making me feel bad by whispering. If there is something you need to tell me, you can tell me to my face.
(Lock) If you can tell me, that would be great.
That takes a whole lot of courage! And yes, the girls may be mean and heartless in return.
But usually, they’ll just stop the whispering and not do it around you again.
3. Show her what she can control
Now, say your daughter has used SEAL and she comes back to you to say her friends are still doing it.
As much as want to,
- we can’t control other people’s actions.
- we can’t force them to say sorry.
By using SEAL, your daughter clearly stated her feelings in a respectful way and that’s all she can do.
If her friends are not respectful of how she feels, she needs to know that it’s not her fault.
And this can be super painful.
It happens with adult friends as well.
In college, I was really good friends with two girls. We had fun, hung out in our dorm rooms, went out to parties…
Except one thing always bothered me about them. The two of them were so supportive of one another and buddy-buddy that I always felt excluded.
One night, we went to dinner and they decided to sit in the backseat together leaving me in the front.
This totally pissed me off. It was my breaking point.
As they chatted in the backseat, I silently simmered in the front. My hands tightly gripped the steering wheel as I formulated how I would handle it.
I pulled up to the restaurant and calmly told them, “Hey, you two seem pretty happy but I’m not feeling it tonight. I’m going to sit this one out.”
What did they do? Well, they asked me what was wrong, look deeply concerned and…
WHAT… No, none of that happened.
They called me a bitch and slammed the car door.
It hurt… deeply. I lost what I thought were my two best friends.
We never spoke again. Every time they passed me on campus, they narrowed their eyes and glared.
Years later, I now realize I did what I could, but ultimately these were two people I did not need in my life.
4. Teach her how to apologize
Sometimes, your daughter will be wrong.
She may have unknowingly (or knowingly) done something to offend her friend and needs to apologize.
People have a hard time hearing when they’ve done something hurtful. In fact, I’ve seen kids cover their ears and run away when a friend confronts them about a misdeed.
The key to ending girl drama is to help each party learn to apologize.
They need to know that apologizing doesn’t mean they are a horrible person. It simply acknowledges that they contributed to the conflict with their own actions.
But, telling kids to apologize doesn’t work.
Rather, getting kids to see how the other person feels and then suggest an apology is a way to go.
You can convince an apology like this:
Mom: “So you told her that her idea was impossible.”
Daughter: “Ya, cause it was mom!”
Mom: “You know… if I was told one of my ideas was impossible, I would feel pretty hurt.”
D: “I was hurt too though! And I’m trying to be as nice as I can but she keeps bringing up the things I did”
Mom: “Do you think you can be a little bit nicer?”
D: Probably. But, they’ll keep telling me about it.
Mom: “I think all they want is an apology.”
Many times, kids don’t realize when an “I’m sorry” will solve their issues with their friends. They are so accustomed to apologies being things they are forced to do.
When all else fails…
Sometimes, your daughter will do absolutely everything right and the girl drama continues.
Then, it’s time for you to go straight to the source.
As uncomfortable as it makes us, it’s ok to contact the other girl’s parent. Approach the situation as if it’s neither girls fault but there is a disagreement going on between your two daughters and you would like to work together to fix it.
Not that you need to two girls to be best friends. But, they should be able to stop the drama.
If the other parent refuses to work with you AND it’s effecting your child’s attitude towards school, then is the time to contact the school.
Helping your daughter deal with friend drama can be excruciating. Small situations balloon out of control.
But my acknowledging her feelings, teaching her what she has control over and encouraging an apology when she’s in the wrong will help her deal with conflict in the future.
You got this!