Since the early 1980s, our country has seen a sharp rise in violence among boys that has not abated. While the nation's attention has been focused more on them—especially since the Columbine tragedy—more girls have recently shown a pattern of violence. This can be explained in several ways: by trying to close the gaps in their actions and achievement with boys, by society's changing expectations of girls, or because law enforcement is now taking acts of violence by girls more seriously. Meanwhile some segments of our population encourage girls to be mean, with comments such as "It's way overdue. Girls really should fight back."
Psychologist Leonard Eron states that, in order to cut down on our violence, boys should be socialized—that means introduced to and taught how to fit into society—more like girls. However, the fact is that in recent years, girls have been socialized more like boys. As a result, girls are now more prone to be aggressive and violent.
No matter what the explanations are for the phenomenon of a larger number of girls acting like mean chicks, more of them are indeed showing their aggressive sides. That does not bode well for society. Instead of humans becoming more civilized, the trend may be the reverse. The worst is that your daughter may be on the receiving end of aggressive and violent behavior by other girls. Yet even if there is no outright violence directed toward her, there are many subtle ways her feelings can be hurt or she can be stymied by girls her age.
You cannot protect your girl from every instance of hurt feelings, and that is not your purpose. Being exposed to some peer meanness and overcoming it is emotionally healthy for her, just as is having her immune system—her body's defense department—strengthened by exposure to some germs. It is much better for your daughter to face unkindness from other girls and learn to overcome it, rather than be shielded from it entirely and never have a chance to develop the necessary tools to combat it successfully. Without experiencing that struggle, your daughter would be deprived of the confidence that is a by-product of overcoming acts of rudeness and hostility by her classmates.
Mean Chick Conduct
Although you cannot protect your daughter from every mean behavior of her peers, you can arm her with knowledge about what to expect from some not-so-nice girls in her world and how to be prepared for it. Then she can disarm and defuse any of her classmates or "friends" who might be inclined to mistreat her. This mistreatment can take the forms of other girls engaging in:
- Stealing her friends
- Excluding her from social events
- Stabbing her in the back (figuratively)
- Spreading lies and rumors about her
Do not feel complacent if your daughter reports no outright physical abuse, such as pushing, punching, or shoving, from her female classmates. Girls usually express their anger toward other girls in more subtle ways, such as through mean-spirited notes, phone calls, instant messaging or text messaging, and other electronic communications in a powerful peer rumor mill that aims to inflict pain.
There are many other ways girls can be mean to one another, but if your daughter is aware of the most prevalent signs of hostility some girls in her circle may exhibit, she can easily dodge or deflect them in whatever forms they may appear. Also, realizing that it is not the girls themselves—only their unkind behaviors—that she should object to, your girl can watch out for any red flags shown by other girls and avoid the accompanying negatives.
So the first piece of information to give your daughter is to let her know what types of mean chicks, identified here by their behavior, she may run across in her school, neighborhood, or community. You want her to be able to do the following:
- Understand and recognize the kinds of unfriendly or aggressive girl behaviors that exist.
- Learn to deal with girls showing those characteristics but only on her terms and conditions.
- Help those girls to be nicer, and create a more accepting climate at her school, neighborhood, and community.
- Avoid them and help her friends to avoid them as well.