As girls enter tweendom, it seems mean girls become an increasingly frustrating issue for parents. It is heartbreaking to watch a teen or tween go through bullying or be stigmatized by mean girl cliques. So, how can parents talk to their daughters about mean girls?
1. Know Why
Why are girls so mean? As girls begin to physically change, competition for boy’s attention and internal comparisons rage. This is especially true starting in 6th grade, when girls start to look different and boys begin to mature and this wreaks havoc on the previously peaceful social scene.
2. Use Social Goals
A new research study has found that the types of social goals children set in their relationships help determine how they respond to being bullied or meanness. A social goal is what someone hopes to have in their social relationships. For this study with 370 children and their teachers they had three choices: First, they could choose that having high quality friendships was their priority (like learning how to be a strong friend). Second, they could choose having superior friendships was their priority (like wanting to have prestige or “cool” friends). Third, they could simply try to avoid negative social judgments as their main social goal (like not wanting to be seen as “uncool” or a “loser.”)
Interestingly, children who chose the first goal were actually more likely to engage in solution-oriented responses to bullying and were better able to manage their emotions after social upsets. Children with the second goal were more likely to disengage, deny anything was happening or pretending to do nothing. Most importantly, these children were more likely to retaliate against the bullies later. The kids with the third social goal wanted to avoid negative attention and ignored bullies but were less likely to seek revenge later.
This study actually brings a new aspect in the mean girl dilemma—we can help orient our children towards their social relationships in the healthiest way possible. I encourage parents to begin to address social goals with their girls. Ask them which goal they feel they most embody and why. This is important as kids get older and enter into new social situations.
3. Talk About Female Troika’s
Read the rest on our guest post on Parenthood.com– How to Talk to Your Teen About Mean Girls