The "Mean Chicks" Phenomenon
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Dr. Marian K. Underwood, a professor who studies anger, aggression, gender, and children's peer relationships, calls the way children and adolescents can express their anger and contempt toward their peers "social aggression." By resorting to it, kids intend to hurt their peers through lowering their self-esteem and standing in their groups and relationships.
Mean Chick Types
Parents must not forget that the unfriendly or hostile girls your daughter meets all have their reasons for the way they behave. Most often these reasons arise from their home life, from the way they were raised from babyhood on, or from what they have observed in their parents' dealing with relationships. For example, if they see their parents manipulate their friends, they will act similarly. Or if their parents live to gossip about their neighbors, their daughters will indulge in that as well.
Yet no matter how adept some girls become in their negative machinations of others, they rarely feel good about themselves. In truth, most of them feel miserable and—by lashing out at your daughter and her friends, most often verbally—they try to get other girls to feel miserable too. Based purely on their behavior, these mean chicks can be divided into the following categories:
- Snobs. These girls judge the world, your daughter, and other girls only in terms of their "wealth" or their connection, if any, to famous people.
- Gossips. These girls love to spread bits of information around, especially if it is negative, which they tend to embellish.
- Teasers. These girls enjoy finding a weakness or sore spot in other girls, including your daughter, and needling them about it constantly in a mean way.
- Bullies. These girls, though rarer than the others, threaten to, or physically hurt, other girls.
- Traitors. These girls are the most dangerous in the long run. They will gain your daughter's complete confidence and then betray her by word or deed. Therefore, they can leave lasting scars.
It bears repeating: No girl is ever born mean. They are made that way. An unkind girl is the product of her environment, just as your daughter is the product of hers. Sad to say, but some girls come from homes where snobbishness, gossiping, sarcastic teasing, bullying, and betrayal go on every day. These patterns of behavior are shown to them not only by their parents but also by their siblings, while the parents stand by and condone the actions.
Watch how you treat women. If you are nice to their faces but as soon as they leave, criticize them and make disparaging remarks about them to others, you are teaching your daughter to become a backstabbing girl who will then become a backstabbing young woman.
For that reason, you want your daughter to understand that planned acts of unkindness from other girls are rooted in their personal background and she should pity girls whose character training has been neglected, but that does not excuse their behavior.
Mean Chick Tactics
Should some of the different types of mean girls target your daughter, she will need to know how to handle them and defend herself. It is always best to assume that at some point in her school career she will be exposed to rude remarks or other signs of brattiness by other girls. Therefore, a generic approach to run-of-the-mill bad behavior, such as contemptuous glares, expressions of disgust, or abrupt turning away, can come in handy. Here are a few tactics your daughter can use.
- Never take the meanness personally.
- Try to feel sorry for the girl who acts that way.
- Never revert to the same behavior herself.
- Try to take the upper hand by saying, tongue-in-cheek, "Sorry, I didn't realize you are having a bad day."
Also, practice with your daughter how to stand in a powerful way, with her spine straight, her head up, and facing her potential detractors. Tell her she can send any mean chicks scurrying by her stance, attitude, and confident signals. One thing to remember about mean-acting girls is that they usually look for the meekest and quietest girl in the crowd and leave stronger girls alone. To take charge in a negative situation means to be empowered. Empower your girl not to be a doormat. Instead, rehearse with her how to take a stand against unkind girls.
You also want to make sure your daughter has some classmates who will insulate her against being singled out and give her a network for support and for venting her frustrations.
My daughter who is going into seventh grade is neither outgoing nor tall. Will she get picked on by the bigger and tougher girls?
Do not let your fears spill over onto your girl and scare her unnecessarily. Be extra supportive to her during the first few days of school and expect that she will do fine. There are so many different girls in school that she will soon find a few who are friendly.
What is so heartwarming when you teach your daughter about any mean chicks is that you are giving her another important life skill. In the years to come, she may run into them in various mutations in college, on the job, in her neighborhood, her house of worship, or her workout place—as her superiors, coworkers, or subordinates—in short, wherever there are women who have not experienced the skillful and wise parenting you are dispensing. So there is always a good chance your girl will run across quite a few unhappy women who try to make others feel as bad as they do via their mean-spirited and cat-fighting tendencies.
With her insight into mean girls, your daughter will know how to handle any catfights. She will recognize any spiteful females from a mile away. Actually she will welcome their presence because she will have a chance to help them improve their behavior, if possible. If not, she will deal with them to her best advantage, not theirs.
That does not mean your girl will not feel a twinge of hurt when confronted by female rudeness, but the twinge will be just another sign that she is making progress. Physical exercise can make her sore. Exercising her relationship muscles is no different. Your daughter will get better each time she triumphs over the disrespect from other girls. Plus, being empowered, she will be able to help other girls who contribute to her growth and make her life more fun.
More on: Parent/Child Relationships
From The Everything Parent's Guide to Raising Girls Copyright © 2007, F+W Publications, Inc. Used by permission of Adams Media, an F+W Publications Company. All rights reserved.
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