****Preface- this post is not about bullying, which is a very serious problem many children, tweens, and teens deal with. All references are for what is considered normal tween/teen drama****
It can start as early as 5th grade for some, as late as 7th for others but it’s usually 6th grade that will have you in tears. Welcome to the world of girl drama and your initiation will most likely be brutal.
Expect to find yourself on both sides of the battlefield, depending upon the day.
One week your daughter comes home in tears because her best friends have decided to ignore her. You are stunned. These are girls you know! How dare they treat your daughter like this? Screw them all! Your heart will break for her. She may not even know what she’s done. You won’t know what to say or how to fix it.
Things eventually blow over. You breathe a sigh of relief. Everything is back to normal!
And then…you get the text. It’s from another mom and she’s informing you that your child is now the one who is ignoring someone or worse (we’ll get to the worse later). You can’t believe it. There must be some misunderstanding. This just happened to her; surely she wouldn’t do the exact same thing to someone else! Again, you’re at a loss.
You knew at some point you’d watch you daughter nurse a broken heart but what you probably didn’t realize was it would be broken by a friend long before boys enter the picture. I know NO ONE who has been immune to preteen/teen girl drama so my advice is to be prepared.
First Thing First…
Never utter the words “my daughter would never…”. This is almost guaranteeing your daughter will do whatever it is that follows your words. Even if your daughter is the very definition of an angel, there is a 99% chance that at some point, she will participate in some not-so-nice, mean girl behavior. Let that sink in. Your child is not perfect and neither are any of her friends.
They are learning and growing, experimenting with limits, testing friendships, and feeling out their power.
Some Things to Expect (or at least be aware of)
On Social Media-
- She will not be tagged in a photo when all of her friends are/ She will not tag one of her good friends in a photo (this is 100% intentional- do not believe for a moment it was innocently forgotten)
- She will get a “side tag” by her bestie and a new name will be featured prominently in the middle/She will place tags in ways that highlight levels of friendships depending upon the day/week/month
- She will get removed from a group text/She will remove others from group texts
- Her friends will leave a “houseparty” (an app) and start a new one without her/She will do the same
- She will participate in “games” and quizzes on her FINSTA (fake Instagram account) that will playfully roast others (which could definitely get her into trouble)
IRL (In real life)-
- She will give the silent treatment/She will receive the silent treatment
- She will gossip about others/Gossip will be spread about her
- She will get dumped by a friend/She will dump a friend
To get involved or not?
This is where things get murky. You ALWAYS want to be involved with your daughter by having open conversations. Be there to listen and try your hardest not to tell her what to do but instead strategize many options and let her choose what feels right to her. Not every girl is ready to confront someone and staying silent is not always the best option either.
Should you call the other parent? Many experts say this is the wrong move. Unless we are talking about bullying (more on that below) your best move may be to work with your daughter and not involve the other parent. If you have a close relationship with the other mom, you may want to acknowledge that you realize the girls are having a problem so that she knows you are aware of what’s going on. Whatever you do, do not place blame. When anyone attacks our children, our response is to attack back. Remember there are three sides to every story- your daughter’s, her daughter’s and the truth.
Another option is to encourage your daughter to turn to a guidance counselor who is a neutral resource who is skilled at handling these things.
And then there are times you must get involved. If your child doesn’t want to go to school because things have gotten so bad, is withdrawn or displaying unusual behaviors, that is a sign to get a professional involved. Stay on top of it and let your mama bear claws out.
Is it Bullying?
In order to be considered bullying, the behavior must be aggressive and include:
An Imbalance of Power: Kids who bully use their power—such as physical strength, access to embarrassing information, or popularity—to control or harm others. Power imbalances can change over time and in different situations, even if they involve the same people.
Repetition: Bullying behaviors happen more than once or have the potential to happen more than once. (https://www.stopbullying.gov/index.html)
So what do you do if your child is the…
First explain the tween/teen friendships are fluid. They will most likely change many times throughout the middle school years. Most importantly, stress that she cannot be a doormat. She can and should ask her “friend” what she’s done wrong and what she can do to make it better. If no reason is given, then encourage her to foster other friendships (cast a wide net). One of two things will happen- it will work itself out or it won’t. If it doesn’t work out, they have most likely grown apart and this happens. Reassure her it will be ok. Girls are looking for friendships that “fit” and not every friendship does. This is much harder if it’s a group as opposed to one girl but the advise remains the same- don’t beg.
Try to get her to name the feelings she has toward the other girl. She’s got to name it to tame it! Is she annoyed, jealous, or hurt? There are usually some strong emotions behind a girl who is acting aggressive or cold to another girl. Ask, what incident preceded this issue? Work to get her to understand the why. Then ask her how she thinks she can handle this…can they talk it out? Does she need space and if so has she told the other girl? Is an apology in order? If so, strongly suggest doing so in person or on a phone call- not as a text.
Most girls will be the victim and perpetrator at some point. Acknowledge this and discuss the reasons why and what types of things shift the power between friends.
Girls Against Girls
I’ve done a ton of research on this topic and listed below are some of the resources I found the most helpful. If you are in the thick of it, I highly suggest reading the book Girls Against Girls by Bonnie Burton WITH your daughter. We were laughing out loud because she described an exact situation that was happening with my daughter’s friends. It just showed us how normal it is if it’s described to a T in a book! I’ve broken down the book below. How many have you or your daughter experienced?
Mean Girl Methods-
- Silent Treatment
- Boyfriend Stealing
- Verbal Abuse
- Cyber Abuse
- Keep your cool
- Confront her
- Cut ties
- Get it out of your system
- Break out
Finally, and most importantly in my opinion, is the section called “Stopping the Cycle”
- Understand why you are pissed
- Learn how to communicate
- Learn how to admit fault
- Stop the buzz
- Don’t plot out revenge
- Get familiar with your excuses
These years aren’t easy. Take a deep breath and love your girl where ever she happens to be at the moment. Be supportive and a good listener and empower her to brainstorm strategies to tackle mean girl behavior, in others and herself. When she’s wrong, tell her, but use it as a teaching opportunity. Work to be a positive girl role model yourself- don’t gossip and look for ways to support the other women in your life. It all starts in our homes- we will never be able to control how others behave but we always have the power to control ourselves.