It’s only the beginning of the school year, and I can’t believe we are already dealing with mean girls. What hurts the most is it’s at the hands of someone my daughter is friends with; these are 3rd graders, how can this be happening.
Worse part, it’s not limited to 8 years old, it starts as early as preschool. Two weeks ago when we dropped my soon to be 4-year-old daughter off at school, I watched as she ran to sit with “her friends”. I noticed “her friend” guarded the chair, and said – “No you can’t sit here.” My daughter looked bewildered; she sat down anyway. I watched as “her friend” told the other two girls that were sitting down to get up and move to the other side. Away from my daughter. The look on my daughters face was discerning. Glutton for punishment, I watched as my daughter got up and followed them. Once again, “her friend” motioned to the other girls not to let her sit down, they all lifted their hands up and guarded the chair. I watched my daughter in disbelieve, as she hung her head low. She was frustrated and confused. There was nothing I could do, so I stood there with tears running down my face. I spoke to one of the teachers on my way out, and she told me she will speak to the kid. I am not convinced; it will make a difference.
As I drove home, sad and helpless I couldn’t help but wonder, what I could do to make sure she never experience such hurt again. We are currently working with my daughter on ways to deal with mean girls. It’s hard telling a 4-year-old just to walk away, but slowly but surely we will get there. These are the formative years of her life, and it should be a positive and encouraging one. Which is why the earlier we start to engage them, the better off we will be in the long run.
Raising a child isn’t easy. Even if you think you’re doing a great job, outside interaction can still mess it up. That’s why it’s important that we as parents work together to avoid raising a mean girl.
10 Things You Can Do As a Parent to Avoid Raising a Mean Girl
- Teach her the importance of Empathy – We’ve all heard of this saying – treat others as you like to be treated. Whenever I see my girls doing something unacceptable, I ask them two questions – How do you think it made Janice feel when you did that? How would you feel if someone did that to you? These two questions usually helps them understand the implication of their behavior. This exercise has been instrumental in helping them think about their behavior before executing.
- Educate her on Acceptance & Tolerance – The world is a melting pot of people from all walks of life. Teaching your kids to understand and respect these difference is a great way to foster an environment without hate. Use this as a teachable opportunity. Your child is going to come across individuals from a different race, culture, religion, society, and belief systems. Teach them how to work and play well with others.
- Teach her to Respect herself and others –Respect is a two-way street. Teaching kids to be respectful doesn’t happen overnight, it takes practice and longtime reinforcement. We always have to model the same behavior.
- Keep lines of Communication Open – Discuss how to handle the stress of not fitting in. Keep an open dialogue about interacting with people. If it helps, you can role play different scenario and see how she handles it. These, believe it or not, gives you an idea what her thought process are and helps you see how she handles difference scenarios. Everyone feels left out at some point in their life. As a parent, you can talk to your daughter about handling the stress of not fitting in. Also, talk about the importance of staying true to yourself. Don’t change who you are to accommodate someone else.
- Lead by Example – Set a good example for your daughter. Kids emulate what they see, so be an exceptional example for your child. When you gossip with your friends or say mean things about other people, your kids are paying attention. It’s hard to admit, but sometimes we need to look inward and ask ourselves what we are doing wrong. Make sure you treat everyone you meet with respect, from family members to friends up to the waiter at restaurant or strangers at the mall.
- Get Involve – Be a part of their life, ask questions, find out about their friends, their teachers, and get to know them. I know it could be hard to juggle a career and still have time to volunteer at school but helping out during recess or at lunch can let you see your child in their element. Observe and take notes, you might be surprised at what you see.
- Unconditional Love/Validation – How do you show love? Provide consistent and constant support. I grew up in a household where “I love you” were few and far between. I don’t remember my parent’s ever saying it to me or each other. However, they’ve been married for almost 40 years. I attributed their lack of affection to being Africans. It’s just not said; they assume we know how much they care because they’re providing for us. Tell your daughter you love her, provide consistent and loving support. Tell her she’s smart, beautiful and special. Make her feel loved not only through your actions but with words as well. Make her feel validated. Offer positive feedback. Kids need to be constantly reminded of our love for them.
- Be vigilant – Monitor your child’s outside influences. Are you aware of what your daughters daily life encompass? Kids act out when something is bothering them.
- Don’t be in denial – If you notice your daughter isn’t modeling the best behavior. Please don’t chuck it off as being young, or dismiss it thinking she would grow out of it. Or worse don’t say “she’s just being a girl”. Girls aren’t genetically born to be mean; they are taught to be mean so NO, being a girl doesn’t automatically equate being mean.
- Ask for help – If all else fails; don’t be afraid to ask for help. There are lots of resources in your local community that can help with behavioral issues. Mean girls aren’t born overnight; it’s a constant behavior that manifest into bullying. Studies have shown that “Mean Girls” pick on others to boost their self-esteem and to maintain a sense of control.
These ten tips are meant to help you avoid raising a mean girl. If your daughter is the “mean girl”, it’s not too late to intervene. Although these action items were created for girls, it could also be used in raising well-mannered and self-respecting boys as well.
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