How to Deal with Mean Girls: Finding the Meaning Behind the Mean
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Dealing with mean girls is something that every young woman has most likely had to face at one point in their lives. While typical bullying or mean-girl behavior has a tendency to start in adolescence, that same attitude and behavior can often extend into adulthood if it is not addressed early on. Being the victim of vicious attacks or relentless criticism from mean girls can absolutely take a toll on a person, especially a young girl who has not yet developed the coping skills or sense of self to deal with such hurtful behavior. However, in order to find true resolve and prevent the mean-girl antics from continuing, it is important to make even the slightest attempts at finding the meaning behind the mean.
Going Beyond the Label “Mean Girl”
While having a daughter, sister, or friend who is the victim of a mean girl is devastating, having your very own daughter, sister, or friend be the mean girl herself can be just as hard. Every case of bullying is subjective to different circumstances, and though there are some cases of pure cruelty, it is rare that a mean girl is mean simply for the sake of being cruel. If you know a young girl who is acting up in that way, the best thing to do is first try talking to them about it. Asking open-ended questions such as “Who are your friends at school?” or “Who did you play with during recess today?” will make them feel comfortable enough to engage in conversation without feeling interrogated. It is also important to recognize that you probably won’t get all of the answers you need in just one sitting. Allowing for the child who is doing the bullying to have the opportunity to speak up and express what they are experiencing will result in a more vulnerable and honest disclosure of the reasons behind their behavior.
Another way to tackle this issue is to really emphasize the importance and value of being kind. From reading books about kindness to practicing labeling various actions as kind or unkind, there are several different ways to instill that sense of morality and knowledge within young girls (and boys). At the end of the day, kids are still getting the swing of this chaotic thing we call life, and they are bound to make some mistakes along the way. The best thing that we can do for young girls who are lashing out is to take the time to listen, hear them out and remind them that they are so much more than a mean girl, all while reminding them that there is zero tolerance for bullying or cruelty of any kind.
Helping Those They Have Hurt
Despite seeking a solution and having empathy for the girl who is being mean, it is equally, if not more important, to ensure that the victim or victims of this behavior are being heard and listened to. While it is easy to advise young girls to either “take the high road” or “kill them with kindness,” these are two tactics that don’t do much to address the internal feelings and emotions that these girls are facing. Instead of simply advising them on how to best respond to mean girls, it is also wise to really take the time to remind them that how they are being treated is not a reflection of their own worth or value, but rather, a reflection of something going on in the inflictors’ own personal world or self-perception. Feeling as though you have support behind you as you face something as crippling as bullying makes all the difference in the world.
Building a Bridge
When it is possible, encouraging a safe and mediated space for conversation and expression between parties is a way to ensure that real progress and healing can take place. In a close, inescapable setting such as school, it is imperative to make every attempt for peace possible. While some individuals are better off avoiding one another and steering clear, the best outcome happens when true remorse and forgiveness are expressed. Building a bridge between the bully and the bullied is the ultimate way to retribution and resolution, and though it may seem like a difficult feat, it is far from impossible.