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#AskAlyson: Standing Up To The “Mean Girls”

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Dear Alyson,

My daughter is 12 years old and has just started at Glenview Middle School in Grade 7. The newfound freedom has been great!

One day while walking home from school her and a friend went into Starbucks. Behind them in line were two “mean girls” from her previous public school. She has known them since JK.

They asked her to lend them money. She lent them $5. She came home crying and so upset. She knew she was being used, she knew they wouldn’t pay her back. $5 was a big deal to her. So, I gave her the $5 and told her that if they paid her back, I wanted her to pay me back. I asked her why she lent the money and she said she just felt she couldn’t say no.

Two months have passed and the girls haven’t paid her back. I know the mothers, but really don’t think I should get involved. What advice could I offer up?  What could I have done differently? How could she handle the situation differently the next time?

Thank you!


Dear Tara,


I am sorry to hear your daughter had to face off with some mean girls. As parents, we have to help prepare our children for life’s challenges, and people treating you poorly is one such experience.


I would start by thanking her for sharing with you. That is a testament to your relationship and closeness. Some children don’t come to their parents with their problems, so you definitely want to encourage this openness, especially as she enters the teen years. Bullying behavior also seem to peak at grade 8. Social skills and maturity improve after that. This is a timely talk to have with her!


Unfortunately, you can’t follow her around to protect her. She has to be prepared to face situations such as these in real life. Take this incident as an opportunity for her to map out what she would have liked to have said and done instead, and have her practice it with you. Rehearsing our comebacks increases the likelihood of feeling less vulnerable, more empowered, and prepared for the next similar encounter.


As for your involvement, I don’t think there is any reason for you to talk to the other girls or their parents. In this situation, the power differential and misdeed is not great enough to require you to intervene. When we get involved, and try to solve the problems that our children are capable of solving on their own, this leads to triangulation. You can check out my article on HuffPost for a more in-depth explanation of triangulation, and how to know when we as parents should mind our own business.


Lastly, and this often escapes people’s attention, try to stimulate compassion for the mean girls. Discuss with your daughter why others chose to be mean. When seen through the lens of trying to impress or inflate themselves needlessly, you help reduce the power given to the mean students. They actually have lower self-esteem, not more.


Hope this helps!

About Alyson

Alyson has been blogging parenting advice for over 15 years. She has been a panelist at BlogWest, Blissdom, #140NYC and more. Her content appears on sites across Canada and the US, but you can read all her own blog posts right here.

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