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How to deal with mean girls

5 ways to fend off mean girls

Mean Girls" may be a guilty pleasure film for some moms, but seeing your daughters live through the ostracization, catty remarks and social media bullying that mean girls are known for is anything but pleasurable. Though the film pokes fun at the concept, bullying is no joke. During the tween and teen years especially, bullies can provide a source of constant torment. Local parents and teachers provide insight for girls facing pressure or ridicule from these mean girls.

Why are mean girls mean?
Since mean girls are sometimes part of a teen's current circle of friends, teaching them the ability to identify unacceptable behavior, no matter who it comes from, is critical. This starts with teaching teens and tweens what a good friend looks like. Barbara Marshall, mother to twin twelve year old girls from Highland, says, "When they were younger I explained to them and showed them what a true friend was." By explicitly teaching them the characteristics of a good friend, her children knew who to seek out and who to avoid.

Deb Storrs, a high school teacher and mother to a teenage daughter from Red Hook, says often mean girls act the way they do because they aren't happy. "One thing I've pointed out to my daughter is that the mean girls are mean because they are unhappy or they are insecure with themselves." This helps her daughter realize that the behavior isn't a reflection of anything she is or has done. Storrs says this holds true in her classroom, too. "As for the girls I've taught in the high school, there was always a great deal of drama and mean girl behavior among the girls who did not have as much parental involvement or didn't feel good about themselves." Teens can avoid taking negative behaviors to heart if they know this.

READ MORE: What parents should know about bullies

Don’t rush to grow up

Jennifer McCain, a middle school teacher and mother to eleven year old triplets from Kingston, offers a different reason for the catty behavior in girls. She thinks some of them are emulating the adults in their lives. She recounts a time one of her daughter's friends was being bullied by a girl on social media. After looking into the situation, McCain noticed the bully's mother acted in similar ways on her own Facebook page.

Marshall, too, sees mean girl behavior stemming from this type of imitation. She says, "Girls act that way because they watch or are taught that behavior in their home."

Keeping away from girls who want to act older or, as McCain puts it, "more socially aggressive," will help teens avoid some of the mean girl behaviors. Storrs says of her daughter's circle of friends, "these kids have maintained an innocence about them that's been nice. None of them have been in a rush to grow up or do things beyond their years." She attributes her daughter's mostly mean-girl-free teen years partly to this innocence.

Boost your own confidence
Mean girls and their comments are less likely to chip away at someone who already has a good sense of self-esteem. This self-esteem can come from any number of places, including success in extracurricular activities.

Storrs' daughter plays several team sports, which has helped her build confidence, but also helps keep her busy with other teens who are invested in the same positive behaviors. Of her daughter's team, she says "they know they need to work together for success. No one puts anyone down on the team."

Marshall agrees that building confidence makes a difference in how a tween or teen handles bullying behavior. "I have taught my girls to handle themselves properly and with confidence. Confidence eliminates a lot of nonsense."

READ MORE: 6 strategies for dealing with bullies

Stand up for yourself
Though Storrs' daughter has been lucky enough to avoid mean girls behavior through a good portion of her teen years, she has encountered some. The advice she gives her teen is to not let the situation fester. "Now that she's in high school we encourage her to stand up for herself and find out the truths behind the actions." She says recently her daughter had an issue with a girl in her group of friends. "Because she questioned her friends, and found out answers, things worked themselves out."

Just walk away

Sometimes the simplest way to deal with a mean girl is to simply walk away. Marshall says she has told her daughters to steer clear of such girls. "I teach the girls not to associate with mean girls." So far, she says, this has worked for them. "They ignore them and don't talk to them and walk away."

Storrs, too, says she has taught her daughter to ignore the mean girls if talking to them doesn't work. "I always tell my daughter to be nice to people and if someone is mean to her, ask them why they're being mean, and not to take what they say to heart, move on."

Dawn Green is a teacher and mom to two amazing boys who lives in Saugerties. She enjoys gnomes, Tempeh Reubens and getting lost in a book.

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