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Tracie Wagman Headshot

Let Your Child Handle the "Mean Girl"

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When my daughter first encountered the dreaded "mean girl" at school my inner tiger mom went ballistic. You know how it feels when your child is upset and hurt; you want to do anything to protect and help them -- even when you probably shouldn't.

I found myself in a battle to fix this situation even as my daughter was asking me not to and in fact was doing a great job dealing with it on her own. What happened, I realize in retrospect, was all of my own little girl baggage resurfaced and I wasn't really helping my kid -- I was dealing with the little kid in me facing the mean girls.

The second time (a couple of years later) a mean girl tried to take on my daughter (they are everywhere aren't they?!), I decided to take a step back and just listen to her and be there for her. I tried to help her with solutions but left her to decide if they were right for her and allow her work through it herself at school. Ironically, this time the mean girl's mother's inner tiger came out and the mother did something extremely mean to me; apparently this particular apple didn't fall far from the tree. She obviously has some mean girl baggage of her own.

What I find interesting in these two scenarios is how we as parents deal with these situations and take responsibility to recognize what our own issues are and what issues are our children's. It's completely normal want to protect your kids when they come home crying because someone was blatantly mean to them. But isn't it true that dealing with these situations helps build character?

And if they can't deal with these situations and only rely on us, aren't we setting them up for failure in the future? Just to be clear, I am not talking about incessant and abusive bullying -- just plain old meanies. I think there is a difference.

My daughter actually handled her situation head on and said things that I could never -- did never -- say to the mean girls I dealt with. She is a much stronger person than I ever was.

Nature trumps nurture I suppose. And had I been more involved I probably would have messed up what turned out to be a fine friendship with said meanie.

As parents we need to understand that sometimes, getting involved isn't really helping our kids. Being there for them is.