I heard a great podcast about bullying recently, and it talked a lot about the infamous “mean girls” in schools today. It’s a huge issue, yet sometimes it’s hard to see the signs before it’s too late. So, what’s a mom to do?
Thinking about this issue has brought back many awful memories from my own middle school days–before Mean Girls the movie even hit the theaters and became a label. And, I think most of us have those stories…some as the mean girl and some as the mean girl’s target. Unfortunately, I’ve been both.
In kindergarten, for some unknown reason, I was really mean to the new girl who came to our class halfway through the school year. I would tell her that her shoes were ugly, and I would refuse to play with her when she had no one else to play with at recess. I was terrible to her.
In fact, I distinctly remember telling this new girl that she was “too dirty to play with my doll.” I remember looking her square in the face and saying this wretched statement, with a nasty smirk, as I passed the doll around the circle and let all the other students hold it during show-and-tell. How awful is that? That poor girl ran out of the classroom crying, and I was completely to blame.
I was the mean girl.
I have never forgotten that experience, and I still feel awful about it. I didn’t see that girl for many years because she moved. Thankfully, I ran into her at a church when I was in high school, and I was able to apologize for my terrible behavior. She graciously forgave me.
In middle school, I was the mean girl’s target.
We were both on the cheerleading team, and for some reason, this girl had it out for me. We had been great friends in earlier years, but she decided that she wanted to make life really hard for me during middle school. She would tell me the wrong cheerleading uniform to wear to school when she called me as part of our team phone tree (who else remembers those?). Then, she would literally point and laugh as I walked the halls in the white uniform when all the other cheerleaders were wearing the maroon. She did other things too. As a base in our team mounts, she would act like she didn’t see me cheering in front of the mount and have the climber dismount on my head when I wasn’t looking. This went on for a long time. Until, one day, my mom saw the bullying in motion at one of our games.
Mom told me that I needed to confront the bully and put an end to all of this. So, I mustered up every ounce of bravery and confidence that I could, and I did it. I stood up to her at the end of the game when the crowd was leaving. I looked her square in the face and told her that she was going to stop treating me so terribly. I sharply reminded her that we used to be friends. Then, I pointed at her and said that she had become nothing more than a mean bully. And, I told her I wasn’t going to put up with it anymore.
She was stunned and didn’t say a word. I grabbed my things and left, and tears welled up in my eyes. I bawled all the way home. I didn’t do confrontation well back then–and I still don’t today–, but I knew that she would continue to hurt me if I didn’t stand up to her. She never bullied me again after that day.
Friends, mean girls aren’t a new thing. Bullies have been around for years, but now our kids have to deal with things like cyberbullying and social media trolls. Our kids can’t grab their things and go home to cry like I did. They can’t wait to handle something until the next day. No. They have to see the conflict play out in pictures, comments, and likes (or lack thereof). It’s maddening.
As moms, what are we supposed to do if we think our daughter is the target of a mean girl? Here are some practical steps that I learned from the Wire Talk with Karen Stubbs Podcast on bullying :
- Tell your daughter–often–that she can tell you anything and be willing to listen.
- Ask her specific questions about friendships and how they are going.
- Monitor and limit your daughter’s social media.
- If you suspect some bullying, encourage her to confront the bully in person, because a bully won’t just go away.
- If she feels like confronting the bully would put her in danger, then she needs to go to a school counselor and seek counsel on the steps she should take to nip the bullying in the bud.
What if we suspect that our daughter IS being a mean girl?
The first three steps still apply, but the last two are different. The podcast that I listened to addressed this very issue, and they said that parents should have their daughter see a Christian counselor if they suspected that she was bullying other girls. And, I agree. There is usually an underlying issue that leads a child to bully in the first place, and professional counselors are great at getting to the root of the problem in ways that we can’t as a parent.
Whatever we do, it’s important that we stay tuned into our kids and their relationship with their friends. Remember that we can’t fight their battles for them when it comes to bullies. In fact, our overstepping may cause the bullying to get worse. However, we can equip them on how to handle bullies and get our kids the help that they need.
For more on bullying, please read
. Thanks so much for reading, sharing, and responding. Be blessed!