Tips for dealing with mean girls



My darling girl, the time has come for me to tell you about girls. Girls are complicated creatures – I know you’ve got that nailed, you are complicated yourself! Girls can be wonderful, loyal, warm, supportive, nurturing, caring, and funny. They can share everything with you and make you feel like the best person in the world. But they can bring you down with a word – no, a look – and they can destroy your confidence. If you let them. Mean girls: they can be total bitches.

I want you to be better than that. You are already better than that, at the mere age of 8. I want to give you the tools to remain that way, and to make yourself impervious to the kicks they will dish out.

You are no stranger to the nastiness of the female sex. I mentioned it in passing to your head teacher. She replied with a sigh and a knowing smile of chagrin, “Year 2 girls. Every year has its problems, and in year 2 it’s the girls, beginning to get cliquey, and mean.” I gave you my best tips for dealing with the girl who told lies about you, the child who taunted you for some minor aspect of your appearance, and the individual who tried to split up your friendships. I was proud of how you handled it all, and between you, you girls sorted things out and are friends again. That’s how smart girls deal with their disagreements.

I was part of a disturbance amongst a group of girls earlier this week. We all enjoy the same thing – for the sake of example, lets say we all love rollerskating. Here’s how it went:

  • First, one of the older, more experienced girls said something about rollerskating that a lot of the others didn’t like. She wasn’t very diplomatic in the way she said it, and the others took offence. She was making her point about a brand of rollerskates that she thought weren’t good value for money. Some of the girls disagreed with her point of view. Some of them didn’t like the way she had made her point. People started to complain. A discussion broke out. I myself said “Really???! I’m amazed you can say that!”
  • As with all discussions, once the other girls noticed the argument in the corner of the playground, lots of them skated over to see what was going on. Some of them joined in. Some girls are better at arguing than others. Some managed to make their point without being offensive. Others don’t really care about people’s feelings, and just said whatever they felt like. People got cross. Some were just in it for the power trip of being mean about others, to bolster their own egos.
  • Suddenly, a few of the girls broke off into smaller groups and stopped arguing about rollerskates. They started shouting at each other about things they’d disagreed on previously. It stopped being about rollerskates, and became a bit of a slanging match. Some girls tried really hard to be polite, but lost their tempers and said things they didn’t mean. Others didn’t even try, and just stuck the boot in.
  • At one point a teacher wandered onto the playground and tried to calm things down. “Girls, what do we all love about rollerskating?” she asked. Most of the playground were drawn towards her, keen to have their say:
      • I love that skates are all so different!
      • I love that I’ve made new friends through rollerskating.
      • I love how my rollerskating has got so much better from all the good advice the other girls have given me.
      • I love that whenever I’ve got a problem, I can always make it feel better if I go out on my skates.
      • I love how there’s always someone up for rollerskating when I need to be with a friend.
      • I love that it doesn’t matter whether we like traditional skates or inline skates, what matters is how we use them.
  • It was a really nice interlude, and the teacher left us all to it again, hopeful that the distraction method had helped calm the waters of rollerskating.
  • But there were some girls who were still angry. Not only that, they weren’t thinking straight. Or they were just plain mean – keen for a fight, whatever the cost. Some girls just wouldn’t let it go until someone got hurt.

What’s the purpose of my retelling this tale for you? Well, life experience has taught me a few things about girls, and the best way to deal with them.

Girls come in all sorts of packages, some good, some not so good. Some are kind, others are mean. Some are friendly, some a bit cold. Some are supportive, others will do anything they can to bring you down, not because you’ve done anything wrong, but because they don’t like to share, they don’t like you having something they haven’t got, or they feel insecure around you. And there is the crux of the problem with girls: all of us started out decent, but life has happened to each of us, and we have shaped our actions and our words around what we have learned to expect from each other, not what is actually there.

I can’t give you the definitive guide, my love. You will have to work out how to deal with the girls you come across in your own life, but I can forearm you with the tips I have learned.

Tips for dealing with mean girls, from one who has dealt with a few:

  1. Tips for dealing with mean girls who call you names: a year or so ago someone called me a rude name online. I was hurt, so I asked her to clarify what she meant. She socked it to me good and proper. She made judgements about me based on a couple of words I’d used in a 140 character tweet. We have never met, and had not conversed before that exchange. I was tempted to tell her about my background, my achievements, my nature, so that she might have more respect for me. I stopped myself though, because this wasn’t about me, it was about her. She has no respect, nor a willingness to understand someone new in the playground. Instead, I did what I have always advised you to do. Just stay away from her.
  2. Tips for dealing with mean girls who hurt you: sometimes, I have found, people don’t realise they are being hurtful. With these girls it is best to speak to them privately. Get them on their own and calmly explain how they made you feel. I know you’ve done this on the playground, and it has cleared the air, cemented your friendship. Sometimes it doesn’t work, in which case you need to go back to tip 1.
  3. Tips for dealing with mean girls who taunt you: sometimes, even though you try to steer clear of them, they won’t let it be. They follow you around, tell their friends what they don’t like about you, or try to make your own friends stop liking you. These girls are more difficult to deal with. My advice is to always be the better person. Stay strong, don’t lower yourself to their level, don’t try to attack back, that will do you no favours. Let them see that you’re not bothered. Even if you are. Have a cry in private if you need to, or confide in someone you trust not to hurt you, then get right back out there with a smile on your face and ignore.
  4. Tips for dealing with mean girls who are mean through and through: this is the toughest one of all. Some girls are troublemakers. For reasons you can only guess at, they like to start fights. The best thing here is to make your point, strongly and professionally, with good grammar and intelligent articulation, then walk away. Don’t be tempted back there when they retaliate. Feel good inside knowing that you have had your say, and don’t need to say any more. Watch them get angry and smile to yourself, confident in the knowledge that you are the smarter person. Kind of like blowing a kiss in the rear view mirror to the guy who has road-rage.

Finally, if all of the above fails, use humour to your own advantage. I recently conducted a workshop session at a blog conference about how to be nice online. When I asked the assembled group if they had ever suffered nastiness online, so many of them nodded their heads. We talked about the best way to handle it. All of the above advice came up. But the one we all loved best came from Minty, a very cool and funny lady.

“When I get rudeness online,” she confessed, “I just change the subject. ‘I’ve got a lovely chicken roasting in the oven,’ I might say. It baffles them and they have nowhere left to go!”

But I think you’re already there my lovely smart girl. The last time someone made a rude remark to you in the playground about your appearance, you had this to say:

“Yeah, I know. But at least I don’t have an enormous nose. Imagine how hard that would be to sort out! Not that you have or anything…”

Keep it up lovely, I’m proud of you x

75 thoughts on “Tips for dealing with mean girls”

  1. Awesome. What I tell Flea about this stuff is something I’ve learned myself through experience. It’s better to be happy than to be right.

    So (using your analogy) someone might say you’re skating ALL wrong, that your skates are lame and boring, and their skates are amazing. They might decide they HATE you because of your crappy skates, and tell all their friends to hate you, too.

    You don’t have to win the argument. You don’t even have to have it.

    You can just think to yourself, “I like my skates, I’m happy. And if that bothers someone else, it’s all about them, and nothing to do with me. So I’ll let them go on feeling what they feel and I’ll feel what I feel – happy.”

  2. Fabulous post. You are so clever Mrs! And as a mother of a sometimes complicated girl (and being quite a complicated girl myself), I am storing some of these valuable tips away! 🙂

  3. What a fantastic bit of advice there. I am so glad to hear that your daughter is already such a nice, well-rounded girl – and let’s hope this kind of behaviour just stays in the playground for her.

  4. Absolutely brilliant post, and fantastic advice! Unfortunately I have found girls tend to get meaner as they grow older. I shall remember your advice though and be the better person. X

  5. Based on that last comment alone, you’re daughter is awesome.
    Such good advise. If only the horrible girls in question had received the same advise, maybe they wouldn’t be such bitches!

  6. Really great post!! Having all girls, these tips will really help. I have to say I definitely found Year 2 for my 7 year old this year was hard, very cliquey and she was often left out. Girls really can be so so mean.

  7. Sound advice which she has clearly already taken on board. We used to have a roller skating club in our street, our skates were rubbish but we made badges and certificates and we had THE most fantastic time. Some people who lived in another street round the corner laughed at our rubbish skates and our amateur badges but they weren’t having as much fun as we were and I suspect they were just a little bit jealous. I remember that long hot summer with a smile on my face even now when all those people have long gone. I have taught my daughter (and indeed my sons) that if she is happy and what she is doing doesn’t hurt anyone else it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says, just enjoy the happy.

    • Exactly Chris, it’s hard enough to be happy in this world, if you allow it to be contingent on other people’s approval you’ll be stuck being miserable forever.

  8. I love this post, and I love Sally’s comment too. Be happy with your own skates, admire other people’s skates, but trust your own skating judgement. And most importantly – play nicely xx

  9. Wise words Helen, for all of us – I fear some girls remain forever mean… I intend to arm my daughter, just as you are, with the skills to deal with them calmly, maturely, with respect (as much as is possible!) and with strength. Great post x PS. I was slightly gobsmacked watching the argument about roller skates, wouldn’t life be boring if we all had the same ones…?!

  10. Great post Helen, it’s a subject that I struggled with myself as a child so something I am very aware if how to advise my daughter. I really think you’ve given sone great advice to your daughter, if only certain individuals could be reached so easily x

  11. Fab post Helen. I’m only just getting used to the idea of having a girl, even though she’s eleven months old and I’m determined to try and raise her as a strong, intelligent young woman. I’m going to pin this for when I’m panicking about mean girls in the playground.

    Now, does anyone else really want to go roller skating?

  12. Oh those skaters – I have a theory that some get bored every now and again and go looking for a spat 🙁 Normally its during the full moon/pmt – must have been some other astrological thing this time!
    You are always so wise – no worries that they’ll get to you for too long.

  13. Superb post!! When I was little, I believed that when you became an adult, everyone would be lovely and kind. Sadly it’s not the case, but I’ve come to the conclusion that all you can do is to try and do the right thing in each given situation. Brilliant advice 🙂

    • And isn’t that the most disappointing thing Karen?! Realising that the only people who have learned are the one’s who were already trying to get it right when they were children. Very enlightening being a parent.

  14. Mean girls are the worst aren’t they? I try to stay neutral, generally I can see something good in everyone’s skates. I don’t see why people have to only like one style or another. They are the ones missing out. xx

  15. Are girls really so bad? It’s kind of scary to think, I like to avoid confrontation at all cost so I am just no fun to pick on! My daughter stands up for herself so much better than I ever will, perhaps having 5 older brothers has that effect. Sounds like your daughter is a natural at dealing with anything thrown at her and long may that continue.

  16. Wise words and a smart young lady.
    I agree with Sally, totally true.
    I also love your daughters take on life ….. seems like she has got it sorted more than most!

  17. I love this post. Fab advice. Just wanted to add my eldest daughter’s experience. Last day of year 6, she went over to a very mean girl who had been really mean to her since year 2 and hugged her before they went off to different secondary schools. Afterwards her younger sibling asked her why. “You hate her, that was your chance to get even.” “Yes but you keep friends close and enemies even closer.” Couldn’t help feeling proud of my 10 year old.

  18. Great post and fab tips – there is something about year 2 girls isn’t there? I witnessed it yesterday at a water park – 3 girls picking on another, all about 7 and parents nowhere to be seen – I was really shocked when they called her a slut – how do they even know that word?
    Have to admit I was rather amused when Isaac came crashing into the circle and managed to turn a water jet that hasn’t been working on them – they soon fled!
    Sadly you can’t use water jets online, but I’m with minty! Random tweets work to distract.

  19. Brilliant, Helen. Very cleverly and sensitively done. You personify ‘being the better person…., making your points, strongly and professionally, with good grammar and intelligent articulation.’ You’re right, that everyone starts out decent but then life happens. You have to feel sorry for the mean girls, ultimately, while you rise above their behaviour. X

  20. All the drama that comes with girls is the bit that terrifies me most about raising one. I know parenting boys has it’s issues, but the ability of females to hurt other females the way that they do never fails to amaze me.
    This post is great Helen. I’m loving the rollerskating analogy. And it sounds like GG is already doing a great job dealing with mean girls, well done for teaching her so well.
    And ditto to the thoughts from the head teacher, year 2 does send girls crazy! x

  21. We have 13, 14 and 15 year old girls. I see a lot of meanness, and I hear about an awful lot more. Girls can be horrid, and some girls take a lot longer to grow up than others…

  22. ooh i missed the conversation about roller skates but then i miss most stuff that kicks off…i think i have a natural ‘huh?’ ability. not sure if thats a good thing or just shows that im off in my own world most of the time!! Love your advice, your girl is going to go far x

  23. Oh Helen. You rock. This is a truly fantastic post.

    It’s unrealistic to think that every skate-loving girl will like each other, but they should respect each other and remember that there is no right or wrong way to skate. Skate with your arms in the air, skate backwards, skate sideways with little jumps, it’s all skating.

    Oh and you’re an excellent skater, Helen.

  24. Having kids is so tough, isn’t it? We want them to be independent and fight their own battles but it completely goes against all the instincts we have to protect them. I don’t have girls but I know that girls tend to be slyer and more manipulative than boys which can be trickier to handle. With boys it’s a case of do they hit back when someone hits them? I don’t want them to be aggressive or bullies, but I don’t want them to get picked on, either. Great post and very thought provoking. It sounds like your daughter has it sussed; good for her x

    • That’s true. At least with girls you can teach them to be cleverer that the bullies. With boys it’s really tough when they’re being picked on. Not sure how I’ll handle that if it happens here.

  25. Well put! there are a lot of roller skaters in the world who could do with reading this! Just because you’ve had your skates longer than other people doesn’t mean you are the best at skating!
    Girls are just horrid to each other sometimes and it’s kinda sad that we don’t learn as adults to get along better!

  26. i have lived by this code since the age of 7 when i started to be picked on sometimes it works wonders but other times you have to live day in and out with these people seeing them at school and life can be lonely and miserable being the person of someone else unwanted attention, as your trying to be the better person. Evan at 40 these mean girls are still around just outside the school gates instead i bet they will be there when we are all 60 to. Sometime its not about how many friends you have and trying to please people its about maybe enjoying the quality of one awesome friend or even being contented with yourself.

    I love your post so much it goes to show that you can never please everyone but just keep trying to be the best person you can be and say sod it to all those others out there that dont get that your a totally fab girl. People come and people go in life.

  27. Great post, fantastic analogy! Love it (even if I can’t skate – one of my worst fears is being made to go ice skating. Urghh) xx

  28. Well I have to admit I’m not at all disappointed that I missed the roller-skating event of the year….! It always does surprise me how bad and mean grown-up people can be – just goes to show they haven’t really grown far enough yet. I am, and always have been, rubbish at confronting mean-ness, and I really am trying to teach my 8 year old how to look after herself and be one of those that cares but at the same time doesn’t care. I don’t think the meanies ever really win though – surely they can’t be happy with their lives?
    I’ll just add a couple more wise words if I may though (about nothing in particular, seeing as I wasn’t there): sometimes words typed out may come across as a little short (particularly in Twitter or Instagram), or as having a completely different meaning to what you thought when you typed them (i.e. the humour part is lost), which is something I know has happened to me (as one of your lovely readers could testify). So I do think giving opinions or making jokes online can be dangerous, and that is definitely something I’ll be trying to teach my girls!

  29. Thank you for the good advice! I will follow suite with my girl!
    Good luck to your growing youngster and i am sure she will do just fine xx

  30. I missed this first time round so I’m really glad to discover it again on the Love All Blogs favourite post link. My daughter is in Year 2 and things are just beginning to change in her year group – some splintering off of ‘factions’, some cliqueyness, and sadly some meanness. I’m never quite sure how I should be dealing with this (when I was a child I was picked on, and just went off into my own little world, which didn’t really help, with hindsight) so I think this post will form a useful basis for a snuggled up bedtime chat before term starts again x

  31. I remember this “roller skate” saga well and I think you handled it beautifully. I hope I’m able to equip my little boy with enough confidence to be able to walk away from things like that when he’s older.

  32. I said it before and I will say it again…we just can’t defend our kids from the madness and cruel ness of the world. All we can do is to try and give them the tools that helped us and with this post you’ve done a great job! Thanks for writing it and Happy New Year!

  33. Great post Helen, so true. I have been on the receiving end of mean girls way too many times and even when I first started blogging online which almost made me delete my whole blog and quit. Your words are inspiring and your advice is great. Thanks for this lovely post. I never understood a bully?

  34. Lovely post. I hope everything is ok now. Reading things like this make me realise how happy I am just being the nobody in the corner of the blogging world, just the same as in real life. Nobody bothers to be mean to you then, it’s not worth their while. X

    • Ah everybody blogs for different reasons. As long as your blog makes you and yours happy, no-one else has anything to complain about. Thanks for commenting x


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