Sue Scheff: Do Mean Girls Grow Up to be Mean Women?

Part 2 with guest Jane Balvanz, educator and Female Friend Expert.

If you missed part 1, go back.

Do Mean Girls Grow Up to Be Mean Women?

I want to answer that question with a resounding, "No," but I can't. I can't answer it affirmatively, either. We humans all try on the roles of Bully, Bystander, and Target like costumes at some point in our lives. We decide what serves us best. No one wants to think herself or himself a bully; some of us are, though. A plethora of literature exists telling us how to deal with adult bullies: bully bosses, difficult people, and abusive partners.

Children Live What They Learn (and They Know More Than We Think)

Adults play a huge role in children's lives, and parents are their most important teachers. Children absorb the parts of us we're proud of as well as the parts we wish not to reveal. If any girls were watching this Twitter war (and I bet some were), they would have witnessed prime examples of grownups bullying.

When we teach our girls to display a certain level of human respect and kindness but don't practice what we preach, they become confused. What if our kids don't actually see us acting incongruous to what we expect from them? They intuit it. If there's one thing I've learned in over twenty-five years of working with kids, it's that they see and hear more than we think. If we live hypocritically, they eventually figure it out.

What Example Do You Want to Set?

As parents or individuals who work with girls, we have to live what we want them to learn. We need to be authentic and demonstrate respect for others. If we want to help our girls avoid earning the label of "mean girl," we need to lead by example. Here are five basic tips for parents and other adults who influence children to keep in mind online or in real life (IRL).

  • Avoid character assassinations. Speak or write of behaviors you find objectionable rather than people you don't like.
  • Watch what you write online. It may be your blog or your tweets, but making disparaging remarks about others is bullying. Sometimes little girls petulantly say, "It's my house, and I can do what I want." We know that tends to be a precursor to upcoming bullying behavior. Some bloggers write, "It's my blog, and I can say what I want." They're right. They can say what they like. Anyone can say what they want when they want, and bullying is still bullying.
  • Think before you speak or write. If you can't say something positive about others, keep quiet and think about it. Think for a long, long time. Keep thinking.
  • Think of your words as toothpaste. Once you squeeze toothpaste out of the tube, it's out. There's no getting it back in. The same can be said about words - once out they can't be unsaid. Once they're online, they're permanent.
  • Apologize when you mess up. We've all said or written things we regret. Girls need to see adults own up to their mistakes. It helps them realize we all make mistakes and are accountable for them online and off. Do what you can to mend the situation.
  • Imagine your legacy. Test your words to see if they represent how you want to be defined. If your words would land you in the principal's office as a kid, posting them online will probably earn you the reputation of Bully or Trash Talker rather the Speaker of Truth or Defender of the First Amendment. How do you want to be remembered?
Thanks to Jane for permission to share this valuable article and information. Learn more about Female Friendships at .

Did you miss part 1? Go back. <<<

Be an educated parent, you will have safer teens!

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