According to Very Well Family, the label “Mean Girls” is used to describe teen girls who exhibit any number of anti-social behavior against their peers. Anti-social behavior of mean girls may include gossip, backstabbing, verbal discrimination or prejudice, bullying, and using others in a way that is detrimental to them [1].

The mean girls culture

A National Center for Education Statistics survey reveals that while overall harassment is down, bullying among female students is now on the rise. Mean girls can be found in almost every social group but their effects are mostly felt at school. Most girls who have been through middle school have come into contact with them in one way or another.

Mean girls thrive on drama, either by creating it or stoking its flames and are particularly good at turning friends against each other. They usually target girls they are jealous of and those who are different or stick out from the crowd. Unlike physical bullying which may leave visible scars, mean girls terrorize their victims emotionally making their effects harder to identify.

Victims of mean girls may begin to lose confidence in themselves and develop harmful behaviors in a bid to ‘fit-in’ more. This usually leads to grievous consequence later on in life. There was a recent case of female bullying in which Phoebe Prince, a fifteen-year-old Massachusetts high school student, was so badly harassed by girls at her school that she killed herself [2].

Breaking the culture

Researchers have found that mean girls’ resort to anti-social behavior as a way to establish some control over what happens in their own lives. According to associate professor and developmental psychologist, Charisse Nixon, “If kids don’t feel like they have control in one area of their life, they are likely to be aggressive to gain control in some other area of their life.” [2].

Mean girls focus on creating mayhem so they can claw their way to the top of the social order and dictate who can and cannot be a part of their inner circle. This power over their peers helps them meet their need for control. The best way to break this culture is by including, loving, empowering, and regarding your female child. By raising girls who are “includers” instead of mean girls [3].

Raising includers

An includer is someone who sees the outsider and looks to include them despite what they may look like or where they come from. Someone who is good at bringing people in and making them feel a part of things instead of creating rumors about them or trying to put them down. When we raise our children to be includer, they are less likely to bully or discriminate against others who are not like them.

Creating safe spaces where children can express themselves and feel loved and included just as they are will show them the importance of empathy and inclusion. Take the time to listen to them and ask for their ideas and needs. This makes them feel wanted, making them less likely to lash out at others.

Reference:

  1. The Truth About Middle School Mean Girl and Bullying Culture“, Very Well Family. January, 2019.
  2. Dealing With Mean Girls in High School and Middle School“, WebMD.
  3. Raising girls who are “includers” instead of “mean girls”, Lisa McCrohan. September, 2014.
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