As a parent, what should you do if you suspect that your daughter is being bullied by a mean girl?
- Get the facts. Find out what’s happening, who’s doing it, how long it’s been going on, and if the teacher knows.
- Make sure your child knows that it’s not her fault.
- Talk about ways of responding to mean girls’ behavior. Role-play with her, acting out the different scenarios she might encounter.
- Encourage her to get involved in activities that focus on her talents and interests, especially activities outside of school and even outside of town. This will help her form new friendships outside of the “cliques” and put her with kids who share common interests. It may help your child realize that the mean girls are not “all that.”
- Tell her your own story if you were bullied as a child (and most of us were, in some way). What did you do in response? Did it work?
On the other hand, if you think your child is a bully, or mean girl, here are some steps you can take:
- Define bullying for her, in its many forms. This includes teasing, name-calling, socially ostracizing, gossiping and cyberbullying. Mean girls are often unaware that their behavior is bullying.
- Tell her that bullying is NOT acceptable behavior and layout the penalties — and make sure to enforce them. For example, if she is cyberbullying, take away her mobile phone or restrict computer privileges for a period of time.
- Work out a way for her to apologize to those she has hurt and help her understand how her negative behavior has affected the person she has bullied.
- Seek help or counseling if it doesn’t stop.
- If the school contacts you, stay calm and try not to become angry and defensive. Make an effort to really listen. Remember, this is about the well-being of your child.
Underneath the facade, the “mean girl” is not evil.
She is just a girl who, like the rest of us, wants to be loved and accepted. Sometimes, though, even the most innocent of motives can lead us astray.
Samantha Parent Walravens is the author of TORN: True Stories of Kids, Career & the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, chosen by the New York Times as the first pick for the Motherlode Book Club.
The views expressed in this commentary are those of the author alone and do not represent GLI. GLI is a 501(c)(3) organization.