We’ve all heard the term “mean girls.” It refers to the notion that tween and teen girls are exclusively and irrationally mean to one another. A notion so popular that it was made into a movie, which was so popular they followed it up with the sequel, Mean girls 2. Personally, I find the term bothersome – though any generalization, particularly when it targets young women, makes me twitchy.
Sure, I’ve heard some girl bullying stories and I know that friendship, emotions, social lives and defining one’s place in the world are all complicated issues for young people. As they develop into tweens, then teens, it’s no longer about making friendship bracelets for one another and fawning over their pop idol. Sometimes along the journey, kids find themselves acting in a way that might not reflect the kind of person they will be once they mature.
Honestly, with three girls ages 9, 12 and 13, I have had no personal experience with “mean girl” situations. None of them have had any friendship drama, issues with exclusivity, cyber bullying, or experienced general “mean girl” attitudes from their friends and peers about a girls clothing or status.
I tried to reflect on why maybe we’ve been able to avoid this drama that we hear and read so much about.
- Role modeling. My girls don’t see me act petty or gossip about people. I don’t speak badly of my friends or other women. I try to role model good behavior.
- Resilience. I find that if my girls have a problem with a kid, they tell that kid and move on without holding a grudge. Perhaps that is a result of being a part of a big family. We HAVE to deal with our issues and move on in our family or we couldn’t function otherwise. With so many people in one household and so many personalities there is too much room for conflict. Perhaps my girls have generalized that skill with their social groups outside of the home. I’ve also noticed that if a kid is being a goof, my daughters are not desperate to gain that kid’s acceptance or approval. They simply move on to their other friends. They don’t try to hang out with kids who don’t want to hang out with them.
- If my girls do tell me about a child at school who is not acting kindly to others, I remind them that something is likely going on with that kid or their parents, at home or otherwise, that is making them feel vulnerable and insecure. Their behaviour may be reflecting that. We need to be patient, but also speak out and self-advocate.
I’m pretty sure there are many mothers out there doing these same things, yet have kids who seem to attract drama and conflict in their social situations. Is the mean girl phenomenon one of many stereotypes or has this been a real issue in your family? What has been your experience and what lessons do you have for how to deal with mean people?