Most parents want to believe their children are gifted with a compassion and understanding that surpasses even the narcissistic teen years. Unfortunately, most teenagers aren’t actually that evolved. Teen girls especially are prone to bouts of cattiness and cruelty on their path to self-discovery. Guiding your teenager to a kinder way of dealing with her peers can be challenging but possible.
Reflect on your teenager’s role in her group of friends and how she personally might be playing into the mean girl dynamic. Don’t make the mistake of assuming your daughter is entirely innocent of bad behavior. Recognize that if she is hanging out with a group of girls you view to be particularly catty, she is likely playing a part in the cattiness as well. Consider the possibility that she may even be the ring leader.
Model kindness towards others through your own behavior. Understand that from a young age, your daughter will look to you as an example of how she should interact with the world. If you make a habit of gossiping or speaking poorly about others, she will pick up on that and view similar behavior as being acceptable.
Find ways to sincerely compliment and praise your daughter’s better traits. Psychotherapist F. Diane Barth for Psychology Today recommends adopting a subtle approach, remarking upon your teenager’s genuine qualities in conversation once or twice a day.
Engage your daughter in conversations every day, solidifying your active presence in her life. Many times, girls maintain toxic friendships because they are struggling with their own self-worth issues and gain status and popularity as a result of these friendships, according to Rosalind Wiseman, author of “Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World.” Avoid outright telling your daughter what to do, choosing instead to highlight behavior you find admirable.
Remain watchful and discuss your observations with your daughter. Encourage her to reflect on her behavior, asking questions about why she acts in certain ways. Shift the focus on to the victims of her mean girl attitude, and try to get your daughter to contemplate a time when she was on the other side of teenage cruelty. Come up with a plan regarding how she can handle similar situations better in the future.
Recognize that this is not all of who your teenager is. She may have a myriad of reasons for falling into the friend group she has and behaving in this way, but that does not doom her to a life of cruelty. Continue to enforce rules and expectations regarding the respectful treatment of others, but do not become disheartened if your daughter remains immersed in the same friend group for the foreseeable future.