In the world of girls, their friendships, their social status, their thoughts are taken very serious within their social circles and when there is an imbalance, emotions can run very high. It is not surprising how they envelop themselves in circles, cliques if you will, to protect and maintain their social networks. However, what about those girls that are left out of that social circle, what is their fate? What about their friendships? I worry about my daughter, maybe a little too much, about her friendships or lack thereof, within her social circles. As an adult, it is easy to reflect on my past as a girl growing up. I was on the outside looking in at the cliques and at times the target of their cruelty. I can honestly say that I do not want the same fate for my daughter as I suffered as a child.
In addition to asking my daughter about her day, the usual school stuff, I ask who she played with or did she talk to anyone new. She seems perfectly content with the few kids she hangs out with, mainly boys, but I wonder if she is being excluded, whether by convenience or on purpose, all unbeknownst to her.
Recently, I read the book Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. The book discusses the inner workings of relationships among girls and how to help girls, our daughters, maneuver through cliques and friendships.
When it comes to cliques, according to the author, “Girls outside the clique tend to become targets because they’ve challenged the clique or because their style of dress, behavior and such are outside the norms acceptable to the clique,” (Wiseman, 2002, p. 34-35).
When I was a kid I was teased relentlessly by a couple of girls in my elementary school for being the smart fat kid. The advice given to me by my parents was to ignore them with the assumption that they were jealous about something I had. To this day I do not know what there was to be jealous about or what prompted the teasing, but what I do recall is that it was ruthless and lasted for 5 years. It was not until I went to high school and went my separate way from these girls that the teasing finally stopped. None the less, there were lots of tears and anxiety involved to the point where I did not want to go to school. How do we best help our daughters get through the inevitable, the teasing, the gossip, the just being plain mean, that girls are infamous for? How do we navigate them through it?
We tried with our daughter to help her navigate through peer teasing a couple of years ago and the outcome was less than pleasant. We thought that by giving her the tools to work through the situation was the best option, at the time. And of course, as hindsight is 20/20, we came to learn that the hurt went deeper then we initial thought and we needed to be more involved in the situation as parents.
As our daughters get older, it is our responsibility to educate them as to how to treat each other and how to respect themselves. They will be exposed to gossip, rumors and teasing among their peers, it is how we teach them how to handle these situations that will become valuable lessons into adulthood. “Your goal is to make sure your daughter learns to take responsibility when teasing and gossiping get out of hand, meaning they’re used to tear someone down to solidify someone else’s place,” (Wiseman, 2002, p. 113). In growing up she will encounter all sorts of people that will have an effect on her life. It will be the tools she develops within this impressionable period that will serve as her foundation for how she develops relationships.
Wiseman, R. (2002) Queen Bees & Wannabes. Three Rivers Press, New York, New York.