I am a mom with a ten year old daughter, who is struggling to raise a strong individual who will also be a compassionate friend. Trust me, it is a balancing act to create confident girls that don’t become over-confident “Mean Girls.” Girls can be downright vicious to their own gender and it is ever more important for women to stand together; however, more often than not, we end up bullying each other into adulthood.
If you have seen Orange Is the New Black, then you have a clear picture of what it looks like to be a girl in the elementary school system (sans the rape and murder, of course). “Mean Girl” mentality is an old epidemic that has evolved into survival of the fittest for our young women today.
Yesterday, I wrote a blog post on cyber-bullies which you can read in full here. Trying to raise bullet-proof little kids who are also kind and compassionate is NOT easy but throw social media into the mix and you no longer need bullet-proof kids – you need blast-proof kids. Social media is like dynamite and our kids have little matchstick fingers. ~Hastywords
It sounds like I don’t like the public school system which isn’t entirely true. My daughter loves going to school. She loves to learn and she loves her friends. I can’t shake the feeling, however, that my daughter is a ponytail prisoner learning how to survive her stay in the elementary system. If she is going to be serving an 8 year sentence then there are a few things I hope she learns on the inside.
Girls learn a lot from their moms, so I try very hard to be a good example but, often times, I am the example of what not to do. If we want our kids to be strong, independent, outspoken, fearless, as well as beautifully kind then they must first learn they are perfectly imperfect just like us. Here are a few things I think we can do as parents to teach our daughters to be great friends.
Pay attention to your daughter. Don’t just direct them to do certain things or tell them what they need to do. Helping them learn to make their own choices will teach them to be responsible adults. Listening to what they think about and engaging them in a thoughtful discussion is always better than just telling them to do something. She is more likely to come to you with her problems at school if she knows you are on her side and have an active interest in her life.
Benefits of being unjealous. Jealousy is a very normal emotion but jealous behaviors can cause all kinds of damage. Being happy for a friend’s success and letting a healthy amount of envy fuel personal desires to be better is an invaluable lesson to learn. Picking up the phone to congratulate a friend when they accomplish something wonderful is a great way to show your daughter how to support others.
Consequences have nothing to do with how much they are loved. For every decision there is a consequence. My daughter knows her choices will have positive and negative consequences and that if she gets grounded it has nothing to do with how much I love her but everything to do with the choice she made. I try to teach her to empathize with others and that she can cause real pain to someone else if she isn’t careful with her choices.
Keep your enemies close but your friends closer. Take the time to get to know the children in your daughter’s life. Ask them what they like and don’t like about their friends. If your daughter has a close friend then it’s time to get to know the parents. I learn a lot just by looking at my daughters instagram with her. She loves to show me what is going on with her friends and you can tell a lot just by the kinds of things they post about.
My daughter has one friend who likes to tell on people. Since we know this we can encourage her not to confide in this friend. Another friend is very aggressive and displays “mean girl” behavior. We don’t limit her exposure but we do help her know what is appropriate and what is not, as well as what she should and shouldn’t allow in their friendship.
Play “what if” games. I have done this with my daughter since she was old enough to talk. It started out with strangers and has evolved into peer pressure type questions. What if a friend says, “Hey I just learned to smoke this weekend and it isn’t so bad, we will try it when you come over tonight!” Letting your daughter come up with clever answers and maybe helping her with answers will help her have a real voice if she is ever asked for real.
Respect them so they know what respect looks like. We want our daughters to be respectful and the best way to teach them is to be respectful to them. Teaching them to see things from another person’s point of view can help foster a respect towards someone with a different personality. With respect comes kindness. Teach them how to be unjealous by being a good role model.
In an effort to raise our daughters in a “mean girl” society we have to instill a confidence in them using the tools above. It isn’t easy to spot a bully among girls because they don’t normally push and shove. They use words and rumors which makes them so much more dangerous on-line.
Hopefully your daughter can avoid, circumvent, or even disarm a “clique” whose main strategy in elementary school is to banish, spread rumors, belittle, and emotionally and/or physically bully their friends in order to control their social standing.
How to spot a “mean girl”
• They are jealous and want what others have and they display jealous behaviors to ruin the person they are envious of.
• They care too much about what others think. They make friends based on how it will look to others.
• They love to gossip and are always involved in girl drama. They are notorious for “whispering” and then laughing at the subject they have targeted.
• They will do anything to control their friends. This one makes me think of “Pretty Little Liars”.
• They belong to an exclusive group of friends who do almost everything together called a clique.
• Super focused on looks and fashion. They will often use looks and fashion to demean others.
Make visiting hours with your child a priority. Equip them with the commissary they will need. Have their back on the outside ready and willing to break into the prison if they need you to back them up. How they make friends in elementary school will dictate how successful their friendships will be well into adulthood.
Today is the day over a 1000 voices raise compassionate awareness on the topic of bullying. Click HERE to read what all those voices have to say! Building From Bullying… finding positive ways to inform, enlighten, and change. To join the movement you can:
Join 1000 Voices Speak for Compassion on Facebook
Visit the 1000Speak blog
Follow @1000Speak on Twitter
Use the #1000Speak hashtag across social media.