Mean girls are having their moment. Not only is this the 10th anniversary of the Tina Fey-written film that cemented the career of Lindsay Lohan and launched that of costar Rachel McAdams, but researchers are learning more and more about what spurs on the gossiping, rumor spreading, and exclusion seen most often among adolescent girls.
In fact, according to a recent University of Missouri study released earlier this month, a little talk therapy can work wonders to help lessen mean-girl behavior. The study found that those middle school students who participated in one weekly 70-minute session were less aggressive by the end of the 10-week study. So how can you help diffuse potential mean-girl traits in your daughter? Cheryl Dellasega, author of “Girl Wars" and a professor of women’s studies at Penn State University, offered Yahoo Parenting four tips for reducing girl-on-girl bullying:
1: Cultivate empathy.
This is one time when all the cultural attention being paid to girls being cruel to each other can actually help you state your case. “Watch a show together,” Dellasega suggested. “Afterwards, ask your daughter how she thinks a girl feels when she’s being picked on, what could be done differently, and then see if she’ll share if she’s ever been picked on.”
2: Share things from your daily life.
“If everyone in your office went out for coffee and left you behind, share this with your daughter,” Dellasega said. “She’ll find it interesting if you tell her how it made you feel to be left out, and it might spur her to volunteer some of her own experiences. Just don’t say, ‘When I was your age, I was bullied.’ That’s not nearly as relatable.”
3: Underscore the power of social media.
The challenge for girls using social media is that there are no cues, whether it’s the look in someone’s face when they speak or even their voice when they’re on the phone. “Women are very aware of these cues,” she said. “Your daughter needs to be reminded that this doesn’t exist on an email or in a text. Talk to her about being super cautious about each and every text, email or Instagram post, and ask her to make sure there’s no possibility something could have been said that was (unintentionally) unkind.”
4: Make sure you’re in tune with your daughter’s social life.
It seems basic, but it’s always a good idea to regularly sit down with your daughter and find out how things are going in her social sphere. “Ask her what kinds of thing are changing with her friends,” Dellasega suggested. “Encourage her to sign up for a host of after-school or weekend activities and to seek out friends outside of school. If she’s not entirely invested in her friends at school, there’s a better than average chance she’ll feel more secure socially and won’t resort to mean-girl behavior.”