Ask almost any mother of daughters about “mean girls” and you will most likely hear a litany of horror stories. The really sad part is it seems to start at younger ages every year. Our first really stereotypical incident happened in fourth grade to our daughter, but there were girls behaving in “mean” ways as early as kindergarten.
Perhaps the scariest part of mean girl behavior is that they are actually intentionally and unintentionally being coached by adults to act in those ways. In fact, in many areas the behaviors are so ingrained in the culture, the mean behavior is considered “smart”. You can even go into many churches and see adult women behaving in mean girl fashion – often without any apparent awareness many of these behaviors are ungodly.
So what should we be teaching our daughters, so we don’t raise more mean girls? There are probably a lot of things you can say and do, but here are some I think are critical:
- Teach your daughter God expects us to be kind to others. Tell your daughters about women like Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1:1), Abigail (I Samuel 25:1), Tabitha/Dorcas (Acts 9:36) and the Proverbs 31 Lady (Proverbs 31:10). They are great examples of women in the Bible who showed kindness to others. Discuss other places in the Bible where God commands us to be kind (Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:12 and many, many more). Your daughter needs to understand to please and obey God she must be kind.
- Teach your daughter that women, especially Christian women, need to view themselves as partners – not competitors. Often the biggest contributor to mean girl behavior is the idea girls and women are in some sort of competition with each other. Once Satan convinces your daughter every girl is her competition, it is really easy for him to convince her to participate in mean girl behavior. What I am about to say next will raise a few eyebrows, but I can share plenty of scriptures and biblical examples that I believe back the idea that God has a specific plan for your daughter. Think about it. The God who cares enough about me to know how many hairs I have on my head and sent His son to die on the cross for me, suddenly has no interest in what I do with my free time, what job I have, whom I date/marry, etc.? Of course He does! Helping your daughter understand and believe with all of her heart God knows what is best for her, has a plan for her and will guide her steps, erases the need to fight to the death in competition for something. If it is in God’s plan for her and she follows the steps He puts in front of her, the things He wants for her life will happen without her needing to use ungodly behaviors to get them. Once your daughter no longer views other girls as her competition, she can begin partnering with them to serve God.
- Teach your daughter kind behaviors and words. Kindness must be taught. Teach your daughter how to encourage others with her words. Help her learn how to be a good active listener. Help her practice actively doing kind things for others. Explain what it means to go the extra mile for others. Show her how to be a servant leader. Help her to rejoice with those who are rejoicing – especially if it is about “winning” something she wanted for herself. Make sure she understands these behaviors are not to be used to manipulate others, but to show kindness.
- Teach your daughter kindness is not a tool for manipulating others. This is a crucial and often missed step. Mean girls aren’t always mean to everyone. Sometimes they use what look like godly behaviors to manipulate others to do what they want them to do. You will need to have many conversations with your daughter over time. Godly kindness is given by someone in order to honor and serve God, not to get something she wants. Often the lines are blurred because kind people are generally well liked. This will often result in them getting things they want – especially over those who may not be as kind. Help your daughter understand true kindness is about having a kind heart, not about the results of her kindness.
- Be very careful when coaching your daughter on how to achieve something she wants. Listen to yourself as you coach her how to win a class election or attract the attention of a boy she likes. Are you giving her advice that would encourage her to be mean to others? You may not actually tell her to do ungodly things, but if you set her goal as “beating” someone instead of doing her best and being her best self – you may be encouraging her to make poor choices. Your daughter can be and do her best and even “win” without clobbering everyone in her path in the process. Yes, it is a competition. If we believe though that God has a plan and your daughter is trying to follow the plan, things will work out the way God wants them to be.
- Listen to your daughter talk, especially when she is with her friends. Are other people being discussed in a negative light? Is too much attention given to having the “right” clothes or gadgets? Are they hard on each other when someone in their friend group expresses an interest in something the others do not like? Are they plotting ways to “beat” another girl in some competition for a boy’s attention? You can catch a budding mean girl by listening to her talk. If you hear concerning conversations, don’t ignore them. Your daughter’s friends may need a little non-mean girl tutoring themselves.
- Teach your daughter every girl does not have to be her best friend, but she must be kind and friendly to everyone. This is a common misconception adults seem to have about cliques. Interests and personalities play huge roles when we pick our closest friends. We only have the time to nurture a few close friendships. Chosen carefully, these people are our support group for tough times. A nice term for them is an “inner circle” of friends. Which frankly is a clique. Cliques become bad when they refuse to be kind and friendly to those who are not in their circle. If your daughter has a group of friends she enjoys sitting with at lunch, there is nothing wrong with that. It becomes ungodly, mean girl behavior when another girl asks to join them and they refuse – even though there is plenty of room for her or they allow her to sit, but don’t allow her to participate in their conversation comfortably.
- Model kindness for your daughter. Take a long, hard look at your own speech and behaviors. Many women have gotten into mean girl habits and don’t have a clue they are being ungodly in the ways they treat other women. Make sure your daughter sees you living in an anti-mean girl way consistently. She will model many of her behaviors after what you do. Make sure they are godly things she is copying.
Mean girls cause so many unnecessary problems for others. Don’t contribute to the problem. Raise a kind girl, not a mean one.