Please Don’t Tell Your Daughter “Girls Are Mean”
GEMS Guest Post by Kari Kampakis
I have a friend who has a hard time trusting women due to a mindset her mom instilled in her.
As a child, whenever a girl hurt her feelings, her mom would say, “She’s just jealous of you.” It was an easy answer, yet over time it made her skeptical of her own gender.
Today, she struggles to unwire herself of this mindset and let down her guard. While it may have been true that some girls were jealous, hearing this repeatedly has kept her from forming deep relationships.
I thought of this after receiving an email from a mom whose 3rd-grade daughter was hurt by friends. What stood out about this mom was a realization she had after telling her daughter “girls are mean” in a desperate effort to soothe her.
“I didn’t like hearing those words come out of my mouth,” this mom said. “Afterward I thought, ‘That can’t happen again.’ It didn’t make me feel better, and I don’t think that is the way to go through life. How will girls ever see themselves if everyone seems to agree that girls are mean?”
For the record, her daughter had every reason to feel hurt. A game called “5 Things I Hate About You” had gone around their class, and a close friend turned it on her. Yet even in the aftermath, this mom searched for a better response.
I applaud this mom because she’s onto something. I’ve never bought into the “girls are mean” cliché for these reasons:
- I don’t agree with it. Yes, girls can be very mean, but so can boys. The real problem isn’t a gender issue but rather, a cultural issue. Our world has become incredibly cruel, and what we see happening among kids is a reflection of the adults – and the terrible example being set by people who should know better.
- We find what we’re looking for in life. Just as a pessimist will see thorns while an optimist sees the rose, people who accept blanket statements like “girls are mean” or “guys are jerks” will carry that expectation into every relationship. They’ll make it a self-fulfilling prophecy, proving themselves right every time.
- Kids walk into the labels we give them and live up to the expectations people have for them. If we want kind kids, we must first believe they have kindness in them. In the movie The Help, Aibileen Clark repeatedly tells the child she is raising, “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Why? Because she’s casting a vision for how that little girl will perceive herself the rest of her life. She’s making it clear that this is her identity, and any choice or belief that contradicts it – such as acting mean – isn’t true to her character.
- Girls need each other, and while some girls are meaner than a rattlesnake (we all know that type, right?), letting bad experiences taint our view of everyone makes us defensive and suspicious. It prevents us from forming meaningful connections with anyone – even trustworthy females – because we don’t let anyone close enough to see the “real” us.
- Saying “girls are mean” bashes the entire female gender. Why insult ourselves and the daughters we’re raising? Why train the next generation to eat their own and perpetuate a thought that only paints a picture of doom and gloom?
If we want change, we need a new narrative. We need to think about the scripts we hand our daughters that wire them for relationships.
So how do you respond when your daughter gets sucker-punched by a mean girl, and you’re grasping for words to ease her pain?
The temptation is to revert to clichés. To tell her “girls are mean” and then fantasize about getting revenge. Before your mind goes there, consider an alternative. Change the conversation to instill hope and a sense of control.
Consider words like these:
I’m so sorry this happened to you. It’s not right and it’s not fair, and you don’t deserve it.
I can’t promise that you’ll never be hurt again – because you will be – but you can use this situation to your advantage. You can learn from it and become a better friend.
This may blow over with the person who hurt you, or it may not. Only time will tell. But for now, keep a safe distance and stick with the people who make you feel good. Take the high road and be kind, because kindness keeps you at peace with yourself. It always attracts the right kind of friends.
It’s time to start a better conversation, one that empowers our daughters in hurtful situations and casts a vision that makes them proud of their gender and confident of the good things still to come.
Moms are eager for tips and wisdom to help them build strong relationships with their daughters, and Kari Kampakis’s Love Her Well gives them ten practical ways to do so, not by changing their daughters but by changing their own thoughts, actions, and mindset. A great resource for mentors and ministry leaders, too!
Kari Kampakis is a mom of four girls, author, speaker, and blogger from Birmingham, Alabama. Her bestselling books for mothers and daughters have been used widely across the country for small group studies. Her new book for moms Love Her Well: 10 Ways To Find Joy and Connection with Your Teenage Daughter and her two books for teen & tween girls—Liked and 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know—are available everywhere books are sold. Join Kari on Instagram, Facebook, and the Girl Mom Podcast, or visit karikampakis.com.
@2021 by Kari Kampakis. All rights reserved.