I'm a mom of two energetic little ladies, aged seven and 10. They are sweet, passionate, fierce, fun and crazy. They have a ton of amazing little friends, mostly girls (but some boys, too), and one thing we battle during every school year is girl drama.
I can see parents of girls shaking their heads in a "yes" motion, unanimously. I'm not sure why boys can get into a fight, shove each other in dirt, and five minutes later be friends again; while girls fester, hold on to the hate, and become petty little drama queens. Still, this happens, and the differences between genders appear crystal clear to parents, teachers and caregivers alike, early on.
It's taken me a long time to figure what to do for my kiddos when girl drama rears her ugly head. I remember the first time it happened was when my eldest was in junior kindergarten, and I was taken aback. Still, kids will be kids, and as the years have progressed I have become accustomed to hearing their little stories and trying to digest it all (sometimes with an added eye roll here or there).
I'm no expert on conflict management, but I have found certain things worked with my kids as time wore on. Here are some strategies I have used to help break that cycle of mean when it comes to girl drama.
Don't talk, just listen
One of my girls had an ongoing issue with a friend some time ago that took many months to resolve. I think the two were struggling with the idea that they no longer wanted to be friends anymore and instead of simply parting ways, the girl drama was out in full force. One would be mean and then the other would react — a vicious "cycle of mean" is what I called it. I simply wanted it to stop and didn't know if we would ever see the light at the end of the tunnel.
My daughter would come home crying after school for months on end, and at first, I tried to help her solve the issue, which essentially ended in disaster. She'd storm off, get more frustrated, and it would end up in us arguing. Moreover, it also taught me to cut the proverbial umbilical cord: in the end, she needed to learn to deal with these issues on her own; after all, I won't always be around to save her from the mean world we live in.
Frustrated and overwhelmed, I had an older mom friend give me the best advice I think I've ever heard in a long time. She told me to not talk, and simply listen to my daughter while she relayed her girl drama of the day. Offering advice only interrupted her story, and it was not allowing her to fully cleanse the topic.
Once I started listening and not talking, the communication process became easier. She'd talk, I'd listen, and if she'd ask for advice, I'd give it to her. She'd relay the good, bad and ugly in these stories, and her role in it all. She was no perfect angel when it came to this issue, but neither was the other child; however, by just listening, I got a good grasp of what was really going on.
I try and remind my daughters about three important things in life that will help them succeed.
Choose kindness, always
Now that I was listening to my daughter, when she sought advice from me, I could relay a key message that I live by and something that helps in any conflict: be kind, always. Even if someone is mean to you. Smile, walk away and wish them the best. Now, the always part is up for debate, because it can be a struggle for anyone to be 100 per cent kind all the time — especially when they are being poked at to do otherwise — but if we can achieve this a majority of the time, then I'm happy.
I try and remind my daughters about three important things in life that will help them succeed in anything they set their mind to: be humble, work hard and be kind. Being kind can be hard for anyone to do, even adults, especially when we live in a world where people are mean to us daily. Kids face these struggles, too. Still, mean people — girls, boys, women, whatever — are usually looking to poke the other person for a reaction. Relaying kindness nips them in the bud and resolves a conflict much quicker than any other action, essentially crippling the mean cycle instantly.
Kelso's Choice is a tool used in some schools when it comes to conflict management. When placed in practice, these actions can help with most smaller issues between children and even bigger ones. My girls are both huge fans ofKelso's Choiceand try to use these steps when faced with school conflict or girl drama:
- Go to another game
- Talk it out
- Share and take turns
- Ignore it
- Walk away
- Tell them to stop
- Make a deal
- Wait and cool off
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Be a role model
Don't want your daughter to be mean and petty in the face of girl drama? Don't be mean and petty yourself in similar situations!The sad reality is that if mothers want to break the cycle of meanness for our future generation, we as women need to focus on female empowerment, today. And this doesn't mean solely empowering are own children; this means empowering all girls. Your girl's accomplishments and cheering on other girls in the community, too. This means teaching your own daughters that the success of others doesn't negate your own success. This means supporting women outside your network or circle of friends.
Your little girls are watching your every move and can hear you bad-talking other women when you are being petty — whether you think you are being discreet or not, whether you feel justified in the situation or not.
Sometimes breaking the girl drama/cycle of mean starts with you, first.
A version of this blog originally appeared on The World According to Dorthy.
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