If there's any doubt in your mind that mean girls still exist, let me assure you, they do. One would hope, with all the enlightenment we've had about bullying and online abuse, that we'd be "beyond" mean girls at this point in time. After all, this is a generation that has grown up under the umbrella of tolerance, so how can they be so hateful to people they view as different?
Mean girls are alive and well, so if you're a parent who wants to understand your daughter's motives and intentions, here are five signs that she might be a mean girl:
1. She is frequently embroiled in drama. If your daughter is constantly involved in disagreements, misunderstandings, competition with other girls and changing friend groups, she is likely, at the very least, contributing to the drama. Know who your daughter's friends are and take note of how long she keeps them. If her conversations center on why she doesn't like people, and a previous good friend is now odd-girl-out, question it.
2. She sees herself as better than other girls. While psychologists tend to blame bullying on low self-esteem, I've seen the opposite in my 20 years of teaching teenagers. Mean girls generally have something going for them. They're pretty, they're uber-confident, they come from a wealthy family or they have strong personalities that intimidate others. Sure, they can be compensating for insecurities, but in my experience, they truly are girls with high self-esteem who believe others must be jealous of them. They love to watch other girls squirm while they boldly step over them. Look for statements and attitudes in your daughter that convey this "everyone is jealous of me" persona.
3. She uses her powers for evil, rather than good. She is a natural leader, someone people flock to, but instead of parlaying these qualities into maintaining a great group of friends, she uses them to turn others on her victims. This empowers her. If you hear your daughter bragging about how no one talks to Brittney anymore and she deserves it, question her. What did Brittney do and how must she feel now that she's lost her friends?
4. She employs social media to discredit others. How would you know? Check her phone. Frequently. No, this is not a violation of trust. The minute your daughter posts something to the public, it is no longer private, and therefore, it is fair game. If she posts unflattering photos or sentiments about another girl, sends hateful texts or holds discussions with her friends that malign and embarrass others, you have every right -- and obligation -- to question her, take away her phone and educate her on the pain inflicted by words.
5. She has a Finsta (Fake Instagram). This will take some digging on your part, but you can determine this by becoming intimately acquainted with her phone or paying close attention to her conversations with her friends. Kids create Finstas so they can hide behind a secret identity or communicate with friends without parental oversight. Check your kids' phones for other apps that allow for anonymous online bullying, such as Yik Yak, and make a decision about whether you want to allow these apps and what parameters you should place on them.
Yes, identifying mean girls requires diligence and some online savvy, but it is well worth it. According to a Big Brothers Big Sisters 2014 survey, 66 percent of parents' top hope for their kids is that they be kind and giving to others. We all want our kids to show empathy and compassion, and we want them to grow into adults who will make us proud. If your daughter is heading down the mean girl path, provide a detour now. Show her that she can be confident, beautiful and a natural leader without having to put others down.
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