Mean Girls: How to Help Your Daughter Handle Bullying

Mean Girls: How to Help Your Daughter Handle Bullying

Find out how to respond when your daughter comes home with stories of being bullied by other girls.

By Maria Mora

Many of us recall middle school bullying stories that have stuck with us through the years. Even once you’re a mom, you may harbor negative memories from your own childhood. Here, several women share their encounters with mean girls, and Michelle Icard, author of Middle School Makeover: Improving the Way You and Your Child Experience the Middle School Years , weighs in on handling similar experiences from the perspective of a parent. This way, when your daughter approaches you with her own stories of bullying and heartache, you and your girl can put Icard’s clever tips to use.

When mean girls tease about appearances
“I swam and was constantly made fun of for smelling like chlorine (despite showering vigorously),” says Brooke from Arizona. “I begged my mother to homeschool me.”

Christina from Ohio says she developed late and had a similar experience. “One girl in my gym class took it upon herself to be ‘bra monitor’ and would run her finger down my back each day to check if I had a bra on or not, and then, tease me for not wearing a bra and being flat-chested, suggesting I should go back to elementary school.”

Icard says that most kids don’t confess feeling abnormal or being made fun of. If you’re lucky enough to have your daughter’s confidence, treasure that. Remind your daughter that she’s normal while remaining empathetic to her pain. “But mostly, just listen without judgment of her or her peers,” says Icard. “She’ll feel good knowing you’re a neutral, calm sounding board, and that will keep her coming back to you throughout her adolescence.”

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When mean girls mock and belittle
“I remember in probably seventh grade the girl who sat behind me announced very loudly that my assigned lab partner and I should go out because we were both such dorks, no one else would want to date us,” says Erin from Virginia.

“I was persistently bullied,” says Katie from California. The worst incident involved classmates spreading a rumor that she had a contagious disease. “For weeks, no one would sit next to me on the bus and what few friends I had left me behind.”

Icard recommends brainstorming quick, confident ways to respond to insults. “What parents need to know is that this isn’t about finding the perfect comeback,” she says. “The point is to help your daughter find a way to convey confidence when someone else is trying to expose her weakness.”


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When mean girls destroy personal property
Melissa from Wisconsin saved her babysitting money to buy makeup. Mean girls broke into her locker and destroyed everything in it. They used her new makeup to write terrible things about her. “I knew their actions were more about them than they were about me, but I still felt profoundly sad,” she says.

Icard says that it’s important to help girls feel empowered again after they’ve been bullied. She never tells a girl what to do. “Instead, I ask her to identify what would make her feel better, and what step she’s most comfortable taking first to reach that goal,” she says. Your daughter’s best recourse might be filing a report with the administration or talking to a trusted teacher.

While it hurts to know that other kids are hurting your child, try to focus on the fact that your child trusts you enough to confide. “You must be doing something right to have earned her trust!” says Icard.

What anti-bullying strategies have you taught your daughter?

Maria Mora is a single mom, editor, and hockey fanatic. She lives with her two sons in Florida.

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