how to deal with mean girls

Teaching My Daughter How to Handle Mean Girls

It’s the hardest thing in our daughters’ world to pull off: protecting yourself from the barbs of mean girls without becoming one yourself. But that’s just what countless fathers and mothers are struggling to teach every day. We want to raise kind, compassionate daughters in a social construct that is often anything but. So you need to teach your daughter how to handle mean girls.

Fortunately, author Kari Kampakis—herself a mom to four girls—addresses this struggle in 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know. With practical wisdom, she offers girls a peek behind the curtain to reveal what makes mean girls act the way they do and offers solid advice for responding in a way that doesn’t make your daughter a doormat but lets her take the high road. Teach your daughter to survive girl world with grace using some of Kampakis’s 5 tips for how to deal with mean girls.

1. Help your daughter see behind the façade.

Much of the bad behavior mean girls exhibit is a desperate attempt to become—or stay—popular. It is rooted in insecurity and self-focus. Help your daughter to see that mean girls aren’t mean because they’re brave. To the contrary, they’re some of the most fragile, insecure girls in the world. Recognizing this may enable your daughter to be less intimidated and less affected by their behavior.

2. Tell her what real friends look like.

Some girls are real friends to your daughter: encouraging her, wanting the best for her, and celebrating successes with her. Other girls are what Kampakis calls 50/50 friends; they act like friends one minute but are entirely different the next. The more distance she can put between herself and the “friends” who routinely cut her down or act competitively, the better off she’ll be. Help her search out authentic friends with girls who’ll have her back.

3. Teach her to resist the temptation to retaliate.

If your daughter asks how to deal with mean girls, be sure to tell her not to retaliate. It takes self-discipline, but your daughter will be happier in the long run if she refuses to repay mean girls with some meanness of her own.

4. Remind your daughter that she can choose to pursue kindness or popularity, but she can’t choose both.

This is one of the “ultimate truths” of Kampakis’ book and her steadfast message to girls. Young women who choose to prioritize kindness over popularity will ultimately be happier, as they will draw the right kinds of friends into their lives and will have fewer regrets for having treated others badly. Pursuing popularity—even sporadically—will almost always put you in a position of making others feel rejected or unloved. All Pro Dad’s president, Mark Merrill, shares some thoughts regarding kindness in his blog 4 S’s to Show Kindness.

5. Encourage her to make a commitment with like-minded girls to ensure people around them are always treated with kindness.

It’s true that there is strength in numbers, and with just a friend or two to encourage her and hold her accountable, your daughter will have a better shot at living up to her own standards. Remind her to look out for others who may be on the fringe of things—kids who are left out or lonely—and make sure they are treated with kindness as well.

Sound off: If your daughter asked you how to deal with mean girls, what would you say?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “How do you handle mean people?”