Broadway could not have produced a more timely musical than Mean Girls, based on the movie Mean Girls, based on the book by Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman.
Across America, moms are talking to moms about the mean girl nightmares in their own backyards.
And if moms across America are talking about mean girls everywhere we live, then what we have is an American bullying epidemic, that can’t possibly get enough ink.
Although I am certainly thankful to the many experts who have shined a light on mean girl behavior in the past, having a few experts on this topic is not doing enough to turn the tide.
We need a kindness movement that redirects bullying behavior in a healthier direction — or at the very least interrupts it.
We do not need an anti-bullying movement, because when you feed what you hate with attention, it just gets bigger and worse. And that’s what we have right now.
Girls don’t need me to tell them what meanness in schools is like. If you are a girl in America, you have experienced meanness and it is likely an everyday occurrence. If you are a parent in America, no doubt mean girl behavior has brought you to your knees more times than you care to admit.
I have an idea. If we want mean girls to stop ruling the schools, we need a kindness, dignity and respect movement among girls. And we need it now. Powered by girls. And perpetuated by kindness.
Moms could also use a movement. But let’s save the girls first. I think we can all agree that the girls, and their futures, are worth preserving. (Boys too, but one group at a time.)
Let’s pull together and create a plan for confronting mean girl behavior as it happens girl by girl, and let’s start today. However, in order to do this, girls need to learn to confront each other with kindness, dignity and respect or all the confrontation in the world will never do any good.
These are my suggestions for dismantling mean girl power trips. I will update it over time with feedback from readers. I hope you will post your insights and suggestions in the comments.
TIPS FOR GIRLS, TWEENS & TEENS
1. Recognize that mean girls have false power. In the fairly tale, the emperor had no clothes, and it’s the same with a mean girl operating on the premise. “I am popular, therefore I am powerful, and you will all carry out my will.” Once everyone stops doing this, the mean girl no longer has power. So stop letting mean girls tell you what to do, what to think, and how to behave. It’s called giving your power away. Why not discuss this idea with your parents today, so you can stop doing it tomorrow.
2. Bravely stand up to mean girl false authority in the moment. If someone is directly mean to you, you have a responsibility to stand up for yourself, whether others support you in the act or not. Good things to say are, “Why are treating me so badly?” or “Why don’t you stop being so mean?” If nothing else works, you can say, “Have you ever considered being kind to others instead of being mean?” The goal is to take the mean girl aback. It’s a bit of a shock and awe approach, so don’t stick around waiting to be thanked. Say what you have to say, then turn on your heel with dignity and walk away. You are not waiting for an answer to your question. It’s her job to hear you. You can’t make someone hear you if she does not want to. But if you speak your mind, then you can at least feel proud of yourself.
3. Let a girl who is mean get confronted by other girls. If you are one of a mean girl’s devotees, constantly there to reassure her how hot, awesome and superior she is while she is treating others badly, then you are part of the problem. Stop doing that. If you are acting like a minion, you need to reconsider your role in perpetuating your mean girl’s rule of terror. Maybe you are just as terrified of getting on the bad side of a mean girl as nice girls are. But guess what? Nice girls can’t change the climate without you. So pick a side, meanness or kindness, and know if you choose meanness, then you also need to be confronted and likely will be confronted.
4. Look for better behavior, without expecting it. When mean girls change their behavior and treat others with kindness, dignity and respect, be the first one to say, “Thanks, I appreciate your kindness.” Don’t throw the mean girl out with the mean girl behavior. Yes, it’s true that most girls are pretty much who they are going to be by the time they turn fourteen, and you should not necessarily try to change a mean girl into a nice girl. Also, you can’t. But if a mean girl decides for herself to behave more nicely, you want to be the first one to appreciate her efforts. Of course, don’t expect a mean girl to transform overnight, but encourage mean girls you know to keep trying to make the kind choices, as they are given the opportunity. They might even thank you for the support some day.
5. Girls, for goodness sake, stop acting like members of a mafia. Be an individual rather than relying on a devoted posse. Your popularity is not who you are. Your integrity is who you are. Integrity means you love yourself and you are not afraid to be authentic, honest and vulnerable. Self-compassion means you can cry without it meaning that someone has to pay. It means, you embrace a range of emotions in yourself and others with acceptance and tolerance. It means you recognize that in life you win some and you lose some and your worth is not made or destroyed depending on those outcomes. It means you stop trying to control the world. It means, if you do not love yourself, you work on that instead of ex-communicating, stonewalling, and punishing other girls according to your whims. At the end of the day, you are either creating a healthier, happier world or a more messed up one. School is practice. Which side are you on?
6. Practice the assertiveness skills you need. The bottom line is that we live in a confrontation-phobic country. No one is teaching girls the skills necessary to confront others in the moment with dignity and mutual respect. As a result, we are raising a generation of terrorizing or terrified girls. Why are we so afraid of girls who can express themselves? We can’t and won’t have equality between the sexes as long as patriarchy keeps us valuing girls for superficial things such as appearance and popularity. Girls, if your parents are overly focused on your looks and how many friends you have, you need to tell them to back off. Tell them you already look good as you are and you’ll have friends when they are genuinely kind and caring people and settle for nothing less. We have a shortage of genuinely kind and caring girls right now and we need more joining the club. So start a club not a clique, and keep it permanently open to new members.
7. Ask your school to give out awards for kindness, caring and emotional intelligence. Varsity letters and top of the class are so 1950’s. If we want to create a future where everyone is not a raging narcissist, it needs to start in families and be rewarded in schools. Right now kind families are sending their girls in to school to get their butts emotionally kicked by mean kids. Enough already! If schools don’t change what they recognize and value, then teaching kindness is a waste of time and the future belongs to the female Trumps of the world. How’s that for something to look forward to?
Don’t just sit around hoping that mean girls at your school get hit by a bus.
They won’t. And they won’t feel bad about being mean either, unless they are confronted about it.
Kind kids can outsmart mean kids by throwing them off their games with directness instead of snarkiness, with honesty to disarm their self-absorption, and by making room for bullies at the table of personal responsibility, if and when they choose to join.
Kind girls of the world, my money is on you. It’s time for you to step up and speak up. Learn how to confront others. It’s time to work together to push back and create a more compassionate world, where there is acceptance for a broader range of types of girls, without as much complicity for girls treating each other badly.
When I have something to say, this blog is the place where I give myself permission to say it. Though I often write about writing and creativity, I also write about issues that are important to me. I help folks become more creative for personal enjoyment, professional development and transformational growth. I am a veteran journalist, author and coach with over a decade and a half of experience and a wealth of techniques to share. Whether you are a professional creative or hope to become one some day, I can help you embrace your personal strengths, explore your creative possibilities, and evolve incrementally into your most inspiring self. If you are ready to achieve creative consistency in your life and career, email me about monthly coaching calls. Looking for more fun in your life daily? Then join us for Collaging For Self-discovery, my online accountability group. To learn more about increasing your creative confidence, please check out my online school. Stay tuned for ways to save money by becoming a Beta User for my next new course by subscribing to The Prosperous Creative. And don’t forget to get these blog posts delivered to your inbox, so you never miss a post. If you appreciate my work—school, products, blog and social media posts—you are welcome to make a contribution of any size at any time. Thank you for your support!
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash