What to Do About the Mean Girls

Shannon Hutton, M.Ed., M.P.A., is a certified School Counselor who works with students on various issues including anger management, social skills, anxiety, divorce, self-esteem, study skills, impulsivity and bullying. She addresses parenting and school issues in her weekly Ask the School Counselor segment on her work life balance blog Believer in Balance.

If you have a daughter, take the time to read this. It could save her a lot of heartache. Not to mention stomach aches, headaches, missed days of school, lower grades, eating issues and depression.

The sad truth is that every school, whether public, private or parochial, has girls who bully. I bet you can still remember who they were when you were in school. As a School Counselor and mother of three daughters, I know firsthand – both personally and professionally – how much it hurts when girls are targeted by bullies.

The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” couldn’t be further from the truth. While boys usually bully through intimidation, girls bully through exclusion, also called relational aggression. Here’s an example of relational bullying taken from my professional experience:

“Heather” was miserable because “Leslie” was not only saying mean things to her face, but getting other girls in school to exclude her with the age old line “You can’t be friends with me, if you’re friends with her.” In our sessions, Heather would complain that she didn’t have anyone to hang around with because the girls were afraid that if they hung around her they’d become Leslie’s next target. Leslie had immense influence over the social dynamic among these girls.

In order to improve the situation, I had to not only reduce the power Leslie had, but empower Heather as well. Here are some ideas that helped, adapted for use by parents:

* Ask for specifics when your daughter says girls are bullying her at school. Who? Where? How?

* Tell the principal and homeroom teacher the specifics of how she is being bullied. Have them tell other teachers (i.e., gym, art, music), hallway monitors and cafeteria staff so that everyone who comes in contact with her can be on the lookout and poised to intervene.

* Explain to her that reporting an incident is not the same as tattling, and have her tell an adult at school when she is being bullied.

* Encourage her to stick with a friend at lunch, in the hallways, on the bus or walking home because she is more likely to be targeted when she is alone.

* Teach her to convey self-confidence by walking confidently, with her head up. Girls bullying at school target those they think are weaker.

* Pay attention to how she is sleeping, eating, feeling and doing in school. If you notice changes in any of these areas, have her see the School Counselor.

* Arrange opportunities for your daughter to socialize with her friends outside of school to help her maintain a strong social support system.

In Heather’s case, these steps alleviated the problem. But because it’s tougher to catch girl bullies, it’s extremely important for girls to tell an adult if they’re being bullied. Unlike boys, who usually bully physically, girl bullies often spread rumors, whisper as their target walks by, talk loudly about a party she wasn’t invited to, give her the silent treatment, and as discussed above, tell others not to be friends with her. School personnel are there to help, but in order for them to be able to do anything about girls bullying at school, they must be informed when a bullying situation arises.

To read more about girls bullying at school, I recommend the following books:

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls by Rachel Simmons

Queen Bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence by Rosalind Wiseman

Shannon Hutton, M.Ed., M.P.A., is a certified School Counselor who works with students on various issues including anger management, social skills, anxiety, divorce, self-esteem, study skills, impulsivity and bullying. She addresses parenting and school issues in her weekly Ask the School Counselor segment on her work life balance blog Believer in Balance.



5 thoughts on “What to Do About the Mean Girls”

  1. How about the stealth summer bully? The one who doesn’t threaten anyone. Instead, she (the queen bee) excludes anyone she deems a threat; she will not reply to texts or phone calls, and no way will you be invited to the beach or pool letting you know you’re out of the main group!

    I’ve suggested to my daughter that she keep in constant touch with the peripheral ‘worker bees’ so she’s informed of friends’ doings, and to be gutsy and show up — which she has done with moderate success.

    This is so much work! Is there anyway to confront these situations and just get along?

  2. ohhhh I really dislike these girls and it always happens too. The one thing your daughter should realize is that as soon as school starts it will get better after a few days of “oh, that pool party was soooo awesome”

    I find the best thing to do is host your own parties/activities and make a point of including her, even to small (three to four person things) so she realizes your daughter is not a threat

    Vanessa

  3. I wish my parents had enrolled me in activities outside of our school. Girl bullying is awful, and if a child has no where else to go, it can be heartbreaking. At least if she has friends outside of school, she can hang out with them, and not worry so much about the mean girls. Then she can invite some of the “worker bees” to hang out with her “other” friends.

  4. Girls are just awful, whether it’s in school, work, or sports. I played volleyball for a year and a half & it was nothing but drama, drama, drama. Even when they’re not saying stuff to your face, they can treat you like you’re worthless and that just ruins your self esteem. I know so many girls who quit the team because of those few who weren’t talented at anything except killing confidence. I was lucky enough to learn from the experience & realize that your success is not determined by how many points you score in a game, if you’re the most popular on the team, or if you’re the MVP, but by what you learn and what lessons you take away from the experience. Speaking from experience, mean girls don’t amount to anything & things get better. I ended up writing a book called The Bench Sitter based on that year and a half and I’m happier than ever. (: Don’t let mean girls get to you, ever! -Katlin Sweeney, 18 Year Old Author of The Bench Sitter.

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