Is My Daughter Becoming A “Mean Girl”?
We recently held a slumber party at our house for our 13-year-old daughter Stacey and four of her friends.
For most of the night I left the girls to their own devices but I must admit to eavesdropping for part of the evening and I was shocked by what I heard.
Stacey and her friends were being really mean about a girl in their class who has a learning difficulty, calling her the R word and a waste of space. They bitched that another girl was a ‘lezzer’ because she hasn’t got a boyfriend. And they said another girl was ‘too ugly to live’.
I really didn’t like what I heard but I also know that times have changed since I was a teenager. Is this just how girls talk nowadays – and does it really mean anything? Should I be worried that my daughter is becoming a Mean Girl?
Concerned in Connecticut
While I’m not an advocate for eavesdropping or snooping on our kids, in this case I would be hard pressed to say it was not warranted. Wow, such venom and nastiness and I know it must have hurt you to hear that since you didn’t raise your daughter to be that way. We all remember what it was like as a teenager, how fitting in was the most important thing. That includes, sometimes going along to get along or falling in with the crowd and what they are doing or saying. This is a prime opportunity to teach Stacey how to be independent. Here’s what I would suggest.
1. You Need To Have A LONG Talk With Stacey
In case she doesn’t know or forgot, this is a great time for a primer course on what your morals and values are as a family. Calling someone with a learning disability is cruel and someone without a boyfriend a “lezzer” is homophobic. Surely those are not qualities you have been teaching or want your daughter to embody You need to come down hard and fast; there can be no ambiguity here. Stacey needs to know that this sort of talk is unacceptable from any daughter of yours.
2. Teach Empathy And Sympathy
This might be a difficult thing to teach self-absorbed adolescents but if you don’t it now, those self-absorbed adolescents turn into self-centered adults. I would scout out opportunities for her to do volunteer work and I think an awesome place would be with the Special Olympics. I volunteered with them for a while in high school and I cannot explain how fulfilling it was to get completely outside of myself and help someone achieve a physical goal. It is impossible for me to describe the feeling of watching the Special Olympians break the tape at the finish line. The tears flowed and I think I got more out of that then the Olympians.
3. Empower Her To Take A Stand
I do believe this will be easier once Stacey learns the empathy and sympathy I was talking about. Once the people she and her friends were talking about cease to become labels but instead people that she has developed feelings and relationships with, it will be more difficult for her to bash them. In fact, she may become a staunch and fierce defender. One of the things I talked to Casey and Cole about this summer (during the rash of suicides among gay teens was how to handle a situation where someone is saying things that they don’t agree with, be it bullying or racial or homophobic abuse. I taught them to just say, “Hey, that’s not cool and I’m not going to stay here while you talk about that person” and then to walk away. It’s not a big discussion as much as it’s a statement of their values. I know Cole has used the strategy before with success.
4. Teach Her About The Company She Keeps
I’m not saying forbid her from seeing her friends but I do think Stacey needs to understand that if that group will talk about others while they’re not around, they will do the same to her. How would she feel if she got wind that they called her ugly or a waste of space? It might be time for her to take stock of the people she is hanging around.
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You ask if this is the way girls are talking nowadays. I can tell you I have never heard Casey or her friends talk like that and if I did I would not stand for it. It’s up to you whether you decide to punish her for the off-color talk you heard. I would be more prone to spell out what is acceptable behavior the first time but if I heard it again, I would come in with both feet. But I do think this is a great teaching opportunity so take advantage.
Good luck mommy!
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(Editor’s Note: This piece ran in its original format on 12/3/2010)