Dear Mama Friends,

Parenting is hard. No one gave any of us a handbook (and if they did I totally missed that part of the class). Today’ society also brings about challenges that have become harder than ever to be a parent, but it can take on a whole new role when you are raising teenage sons and daughters. Once our kids reach a certain age, there seems to be a change in mannerisms and a different level that our children view us as parents and the world.

I grew up with all sisters and now as a mom I have two daughters. Even as young as they are, I have noticed a group of mean girls that seem to always be near – in the playdates that we have, the preschool classes we go to and the dance and gymnastics lessons we take. Sitting alongside those mean girls are mean moms who raised them. I can’t help but worry occasionally that maybe I am one of those mean moms.

My daughters fight, with each other of course and that is a natural part of sibling discontent and family accord, but they do love each other and would go down swinging for the other’s best interest. But as I sit and watch these mean moms, many who may or may not include me in their conversations or circle of friends – I can’t seem but feel anxiety and can watch the anxiousness trickle all the way down to my little ones and other little girls that are noticing the same mean girls around us. Why is that? And how to we make this right for your young ladies?

Here are some tips to help you avoid being a mean mom and to ensure you don’t raise mean girls.

Be aware. Know what is going on in your daughters life, in her day-to-day and in her circle of friends. You don’t have to be in the drama but you do have to be aware of the drama so you can move on to the next steps; teach your daughter how to be a tolerant, empathetic and a curious teen. Be involved and ask questions; follow up on what happened yesterday, or how she handled a situation.

Let them know when they aren’t so nice. Call them out on being mean when you see it happening and put an immediate stop to it. Point it out at home with siblings that is not the normal bickering that might occur, from stories you hear, and actions you are now aware she is taking. Sure, an outburst here and there, or a straight up screaming match about which sister actually owns that jacket, is to be expected. But nasty language and meanness for the sake of meanness is not okay. If they use those words and tone at home, they will use them out in the world.

Empower them. Mean girls have a sixth sense for other meanness. They know it’s nasty and they know it’s out there, just wanting to eat them up too. Most mean girls are desperate to fit in. They are at the top of that girl drama and they don’t want to get knocked down. Instead of falling victim to mean girl temptation, empower your teen to understand jealousy; show her how to support her peers and find genuine happiness for them; help her be curious about others rather than judgmental. Your daughter doesn’t need to be best friends with every other girl at school, but why not give her the power to see good in every person? What a great life skill.

Be the Example. Those three words might be the most important that you read. Model how to be an accepting and loving woman and friend. Show her how supporting other women is uplifting and positive. Teach her how to make friends, keep friends and leave friends; those are skills women need their whole lives. The average adult friendship lasts seven years. She will change friends, she will stay close forever with some, but she will make new friends throughout her lifetime. Show her how to grow apart kindly. You can make everything a teachable moment and setting the example is the first step. At the end of the day, simply be a place your daughter can be tolerant, empathetic and curious about herself, and all that life has to offer beyond the drama.

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