In the first blog, you learned the basics of Relational Aggression and how “mean girls” act.
A social circle is a defining part of a girl’s life. It’s where she learns about herself and others. A social circle provides security, connection, and fun! Yet, for girls, friendship can quickly turn into a weapon.
Girls connect through conversations about emotions and personal events. They share their secrets with the intention of building trust and developing lasting friendships. Moreover, they often seek acceptance and approval by means of knowledge about others. They want to know what is going on with other people, or the latest scoop, thinking this information makes them more powerful, protected, and desirable. Girls also have a strong desire to know what others think of them. Very often, this can become an obsession.
The quest for information and acceptance can spark competition for the most friends, attention, or control. This competitive nature leads to Relational Aggression (indirect bullying with the intention of causing damage to a peer relationship or social connections). In an effort to be the most liked, or perceived as the most powerful, girls will start rumors or exclude a peer with whom she competes or feels threatened by. Sometimes this type of indirect bullying happens online. Girls can create anonymous profiles and use them to torment their target. Less aggressive or less threatened girls in the group are unlikely to stand up for themselves or for the victim; they fear rejection and becoming a victim themselves.
How to help your daughter handle or avoid “mean girls”
Building social awareness will help your daughter identify a toxic friendship or social circle. Social awareness develops largely through experience, but there are also explicit ways to teach your daughter about friendships and equip her to handle or avoid “mean girls.”
- Talk about the role friends play in her life. How do they support and encourage her? What do they do or say that makes her feel accepted, included, and liked?
- Build self and friend-awareness with these questions:
- What makes a good friend?
- What would end a friendship?
- What are my responsibilities as a friend?
- What are my boundaries?
- How do I show others they are important to me?
- Teach her the function of behaviors like gossip, exclusion, and online bullying. Explain that sometimes girls will gossip or exclude because they think it gives them more control. Help her see the fallacy of this belief and how damaging these behaviors can be. Plenty of books, movies, and online resources can serve as powerful examples.
- Come up with ways to respond to a mean girl or an act of RA. Assertiveness skills are essential as are knowing what to say, how to hold themselves; and what tone of voice to use. Identify when it is critical to get outside support.
- At home, cultivate an environment of respect and support. Encourage your daughter to share her thoughts and feelings and experiences and don’t judge them.
- Talk about concepts like fairness, empathy, and responsibilities.
- Provide experiences where she can work for the greater good; support others.
- Provide her an opportunity to use her voice and assert herself.
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Finally, If you are concerned about your daughter’s friendships, consider bringing in outside support. Very often teen girls do not want to take their parents’ advice and for many reasons, girls don’t always want to talk with their parents about friends. A life coach can help your daughter process her experiences, gain a broader perspective, and understand how she can navigate or circumvent “mean girls” and RA.