Parents who foster positive relationships with their children are less likely to have daughters who are mean to other children.
Little girls have huge emotions, and their ability to control emotions, understand another person’s point of view, and resolve problems takes time to emerge.
Perhaps you’ve witnessed your daughter bullying a sibling who refused to share or yelling at a friend who wasn’t playing with her “properly.” But, before you beat yourself up about it, you should know that the concept of “mean girls” is a common problem and nasty behaviour is a typical (and thankfully transient) component of growing up.
Girls are meaner than boys
According to parenting author Karen Sullivan, girls are “meaner” than boys.
“It’s the way they fight their fights,” Karen says. “Little girls are effectively dealing with identity and social relationships, and much of their behaviour is a way of making themselves appear good, dominating their immediate environment, and exercising some personal power.”
Karen claims that ALL youngsters do this; the genders simply take different ways.
“Girls do it in a controlling style that is often tied to insecurity or powerlessness,” she adds, adding that “while boys fight with their fists, girls battle with their minds and tongues.”
Boys, on the whole, put their hearts on their sleeves and react swiftly to perceived threats, usually with physical aggression – air cleared, business as normal. However, girls are more prone to engage in something called social aggression, which involves ostracising friends, gossip, sarcasm, bitchiness, and cliques. This, according to Karen, is significantly more upsetting to girls on the receiving end.
“There is a developing culture of young girls gaining respect from guys and other contemporaries by being violent, wild, engaging in dangerous behaviours, and pushing limits, and this is the culture in which today’s daughters are growing up,” Karen explains. “Daughters are being taught that it’s okay to be harsh and mean; it’s okay to use verbal abuse and alienation as tools. It gives them a sense of strength, coolness, and power.”
How to deal with your mean daughter
Adult authority figures such as teachers and parents often miss acts of aggression by girls because they’re so subtle and often occur “in context” and are less conspicuous than the physical altercations of boys. However, there are ways parents can nip their daughter’s “meanness” in the bud.
Mean girls require both direction and encouragement, as well as strong, good role models. They need to be taught how to assert themselves efficiently and successfully within socially acceptable bounds.
They also need to be given a little power – some responsibility in the house or classroom, for example – in order to feel good about themselves.
Most essential, girls must be treated with respect and kindness, compassion, and empathy in order for these behaviours to be acquired.
How to deal with girls who are mean to your child
A parent’s role is to encourage and teach young girls how to be good friends, as well as to give them the social skills they require to move on after being bullied or excluded.
Child and adolescent psychotherapist Katie Hurley, who wrote the book, No More Mean Girls: The Secret to Raising Strong, Confident, and Compassionate Girls – a guide for parents of girls between 3 and 13 – offers the following tips to help you navigate your daughter through the rocky terrain of childhood and adolescence:
- Take the time to connect with your daughter, regardless of her age.
- When she speaks, pay attention.
- Discuss and keep track of her social media activities.
- Teach her everything you’ve learned about friendship.
- Demonstrate the power of friendship and unfailing support.
- Help her get through the ups and downs of life.
- Encourage her to collaborate with friends.
- Explain how to take a friend’s point of view into account during a quarrel.
- Show her how to accept her position in a disagreement with her peers.