Signe Whitson is an author and national educator on bullying prevention, crisis intervention, and child and adolescent emotional and behavioral health.
The world of little girls begins as such a lovely place. Heart and rainbow doodles adorn notebook covers, best friendships are formed within seconds, and bold, exuberant voices carry squeals of carefree laughter and brazen delight. Happiness is worn on a sleeve and anger is voiced with authentic candor.
Length-of-stay in this accepting, kindly world is time-limited for many girls, however. Seemingly overnight, sweet sentiments like, “I love your dress,” turn into thinly-veiled criticisms such as, “Why are you wearing that dress?” Yesterday’s celebratory birthday party becomes today’s tool of exclusion, as guest lists are used to enforce social hierarchies. Long before most school programs begin anti-bullying campaigns, young girls get a full education in social aggression.
What can adults do to help kids cope with inevitable experiences of friendship conflict and bullying?
To Intervene or Not to Intervene?
Adults often struggle with the question of, “Should I intervene in a child’s friendship problems?” The line between helicopter and hands-off can get confusing, as adults waver between wanting to protect young people from the pain of broken friendships and believing that bullying is an inevitable rite of passage. The bottom line is this; no child should have to find her way through painful conflict alone. Kids need adult support and insights when it comes to navigating the choppy waters of friendship, disguised as a weapon. Here are some fundamental ways adults can help:
Teach Her to Know it When She Experiences It
One of the things that makes relational bullying so insidious is its under-the-radar nature. It is things left unsaid and invitations not given. It is unexplained cut-offs in friendship. It is silence. This type of bullying is marked by crimes of omission that make it very hard for girls to put their finger on what they are experiencing in their friendships — yet the pain, humiliation, and isolation are unmistakable.
Adults play a critical role in keeping an open dialogue with young people and making them aware of the typical behaviors that mark this cruel form of social aggression. Knowledge is power; when girls know what relational bullying looks and feels like, they are better able to make a conscious choice to move away from friends who use these behaviors.
Some of the most common bullying behaviors that adults can make kids aware of include:
1. Excluding girls from parties and play dates.
2. Talking about parties and play dates in front of girls who are not invited.
3. Mocking, teasing, and calling girls names.
4. Giving girls the “silent treatment.”
5. Threatening to take away friendship (“I won’t be your friend anymore if. “).
6. Encouraging others to “gang up” on a girl you are angry with.
7. Spreading rumors and starting gossip about a girl.
8. “Forgetting” to save a seat for a friend or leaving a girl out by “saving a seat” for someone else.
9. Saying something mean and then following it with “just joking” to try to avoid blame.
10. Using cell phones and/or social media to gossip, start rumors, say mean things, or forward embarrassing posts and photos.
Help Her Make Friends with her Anger
“Do not teach your children never to be angry; teach them how to be angry.” –Lyman Abbott
Anger is a normal, natural, human emotion. In fact, it is one of the most basic of all human experiences. And yet many girls, from a very early age, are bombarded with the message that anger = bad. Young girls face enormous social pressure to be “good” at all costs, a standard that makes it difficult for young girls to stop and say, “Hey. I don’t like the way you are treating me right now. I’m feeling angry about what you just said/did/pretended not to do and I’m not going to let you treat me that way anymore.”
Adults who teach their children how to be angry effectively — by role modeling assertive communication skills and by accepting anger when it is respectfully expressed — fortify girls with the confidence to walk away from toxic friendships.
Encourage Her to Show Strength
As a school counselor, I am all about teaching young people that it is okay to feel sad, or hurt, or angry, and that it is a good thing to talk about their emotions with others. Yet, when it comes to facing off with a frenemy, my best advice to caring adults is to teach young girls how to show resolute strength. Mind you, strength should not come in the form of physically or verbally aggressive responses that up the ante and escalate hostilities, but rather young people show strength when they use humor to deflect a situation and they stand up for themselves whenever their feelings are disrespected. A simple “Knock it off,” or “Tell me when you get to the funny part” is a simple, powerful signal that a girl will not allow herself to be treated poorly.
As for the “talking about their emotions” part, adults should make themselves available as a sounding board for kids whenever possible. Kids need to have a safe place to be vulnerable–to vent, to talk about their friendship frustrations, and even to cry. Parents, relatives, teachers, counselors, and other caring adults are ideally suited to provide this safe place.
Teach Her to Know What She is Looking For
For school-aged children, friendships create a powerful sense of belonging. We want our girls to feel accepted and embraced by their peers — never to be used as pawns in someone else’s popularity game. Fostering disucssions and careful consideration of the values involved in making and maintaining healthy friendships is one of the most important things adults can do to help girls choose friendships wisely.
Around the dinner table, after class, during carpool, or anytime the mood is right, strike up a conversation (or, better yet, a dozen ongoing dialogues) about the values kids should look for in a real friendship. Make it into a finish-the-sentence game with a starter like, A Real Friend is Someone Who. Hopefully, the end of a young girl’s sentence will sound something like:
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Most of us know teens bully their peers. But did you know that many teens bully their parents? When a teenager is manipulative, that’s a form of bullying. A manipulative teenager can make you feel helpless and insecure about your parenting.
For the health of the family, it’s crucial to identify this behavior and deal with it before it impacts your parenting.
6 ways your teen manipulates you
Teenage girls can use manipulation to cover up mistakes when they are in trouble. They also do this to gain your attention and a sense of power or control in a world dominated by adults. The main reason they resort to manipulation is that it is effective.
These are the tactics teen girls use:
Repeatedly asking for things that are forbidden:
Your teenage girl will use repetition hoping to wear you down and make you give in. To break the habit, stand firm in your decision. Come up with a reply and repeat it every time the situation demands it.
Suppose your child wants to go out for fun but has not finished the day’s schoolwork or home chores. Your answer should be firm and constant. Tell your child to complete their duties before going out with their friends. Regardless of how many times they ask, don’t give up. They will learn that your answer will not change.
Your goal is to see your child happy. Your child knows this. Unfortunately, a manipulative teenager will take advantage of this to get their way. They can easily use your emotions against you by being irrational and coercive.
For example, your teenage daughter may blackmail you into buying a pair of shoes by saying they won’t be popular in school if you don’t. This form of emotional manipulation can be hard to handle. Remember that, while you want your child to be happy, you also must teach them about the world.
Anger and explosive behavior:
If your child resorts to anger and violence when you deny them something, they may be trying to manipulate you. They may throw things, get into a heated argument with you, or yell. The behavior is similar to throwing a tantrum on a bigger scale.
This is a common strategy used by manipulative teenagers when you won’t let them have their way. They may do something to hurt your feelings or throw some hurtful words your way. In other cases, they will not follow through with what you expect of them, including house chores and school work.
When your child says things to you like “you love my sister more than you love me,” they usually don’t mean it. Teens use guilt-tripping as a way to manipulate you. In extreme cases, they will threaten to commit suicide if they don’t have their way.
It’s not uncommon for teens to manipulate you through lies. They will promise to do something you want them to do if you allow them to do what they want. Your teenage daughter may tell you she will do all the house chores for the whole week if you let them go out. When you permit them, they forget their promise.
How to deal with manipulative teenage behavior
It can be tricky to crack down on your teen’s manipulative behavior because you want them to be happy. Nevertheless, sometimes it’s crucial to put your foot down and lay the rules down. Your child will become less manipulative if:
- There are consistent consequences for manipulative behavior: enforce some strict repercussions whenever your child tries to pull their manipulative stunts on you. Reason with them and agree on a consensual contract that outlines your house rules and consequences. Let them know there are consequences to face for breaking the rules and be firm about them.
- You encourage them to be honest: create an environment so full of honesty that your teen won’t have a reason to lie to you. Where there is honesty, there is no room for manipulation.
- You think through arguments: during a conflict with your teenager, it can be hard to think things through. It’s easy to say something you will regret later. Instead, practice the act of pausing in the middle of an argument with your child. Tell them to give you time to think about the issue. Come back with a level head and provide an appropriate response.
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COGNITIVE SCIENCE: “Effects of Manipulation on Attributions of Causation, Free Will, and Moral Responsibility.”
Mental Help: “DSM-5: The Ten Personality Disorders: Cluster B.”
PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center: “Bullying statistics.”
PSYCHOLOGIA: “Mind Control techniques to Be Aware of.”
Psychology Today: “7 Ways to Get Out of Guilt Trips,” “Emotional Extortion: How Adolescents Manipulate Parents.”
Solstice East: “Don’t let Your Teen Bully You: Putting An End to Manipulative Teen Behavior.”
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: “The Ethics of Manipulation.”
We’ve all been there, trying to learn how to deal with girls hitting on your boyfriend. There is the catty way of doing it and the . “nicer” way of doing it. Remember, a girl only hits on another girl’s boyfriend if he’s hot, nice and all around a great guy вЂ“ all good things! If you’re wondering how to deal with girls hitting on your boyfriend, take a look at my top 7 tips below!
1 Take Pride in Your Man
While learning how to deal with girls hitting on your boyfriend is never easy, you’ve got to give it up to your man for wanting to be ‘that’ guy that every girl hits on! Take pride in your man, really make sure that he knows that you are proud to be with him and that he is all yours!
2 Don’t Confront the Flirt
Why would you confront a girl that is hitting on your man, especially if he is making it clear that you are his girlfriend? You also don’t want to make a huge scene. Instead, just pull your boyfriend away вЂ“ or make sure that, with your actions, you are making it clear that the guy is claimed.
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3 Don’t Accuse
Just because girls are hitting on your boyfriend doesn’t mean that you have to accuse him of hitting on them in return. Flirting is one thing, but if it is all one-sided, why get upset with your boyfriend? Instead, make it clear that you are his girlfriend and don’t accuse him of bringing it on himself. It’ll make it all worse!
4 Create Clear Agreements
Girls want what other girls have (and boys want what other boys have, and guys want what other girls have, and girls want what other girls have вЂ“ you get the picture). You’ve got to keep that in mind and maybe have a conversation about it with your boyfriend. Create clear rules and clear agreements вЂ“ flirting might be one of them, but also, making it clear in public that you two are together.
5 Remember to Get the Facts
Always keep in mind the facts. Was he the one starting the flirting? If not, then you really can’t blame him! If you trust your boyfriend, then just ask him for the facts, ask him what happened and just how often (or how long) he’d been getting hit on.
6 Pay Attention to How Your Man Responds
If you are a witness to your boyfriend getting hit on вЂ“ pay attention to exactly how he responds. Does he respond to the flirting? Does he flirt back? If not, then you have absolutely nothing to worry about, right? If he does flirt back, you might want to keep him in check.
7 He Might Be a Victim
Finally, if your guy is hot and just all around a great guy (which I’m sure he’s both!), he might be a victim to girls and guys constantly hitting on him. It can be daunting for you to deal with, but remember, girls and boys, it might not be his fault!
While it can be really difficult for you to handle other girls and guys hitting on your boyfriend, it is possible to do it! So, what other tips do you have? Give ’em up! Who knows, you might be helping a relationship and not even know it!
It’s the hardest thing in girl world to pull off: protecting yourself from the barbs of mean girls without becoming one yourself. But that’s just what countless 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 her book 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 also lets her take the high road. Teach your daughter to survive girl world with grace using these 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. On 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 act entirely differently 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 friendships with girls who will have her back.
3. Teach her to resist the temptation to retaliate.
One of the best tips on how to deal with mean girls is not to stoop to their level. It takes self-discipline, but your daughter will be happier in the long run if she refuses to repay mean girls with meanness of her own.
4. Remind your daughter that she can pursue kindness or popularity, not both.
This is one of the “ultimate truths” in Kampakis’ book and her steadfast message to girls. Young women who choose to prioritize kindness over popularity ultimately will 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—almost always will put you in a position of making others feel rejected or unloved. Family First’s president Mark Merrill shares some thoughts regarding kindness in his blog 4 S’s to Show Kindness.
Remind your daughter that she can choose to pursue kindness or popularity, but she can’t choose both.
5. Encourage her to commit with like-minded girls to treat people around them with kindness.
It’s true that there is strength in numbers. 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—kids who are left out or lonely—and make sure they are treated with kindness as well.
Has your daughter faced mean girls in her social world? How did you help her handle it?
Dana Hall McCain writes about marriage, parenting, faith and wellness. She is a mom of two, and has been married to a wonderful guy for over 18 years.