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"I'm teaching my daughter not to be a mean girl."

Mean girls are bullies, and I’m not letting my daughter become one.

My daughter has changed so much since she started school just eight short weeks ago. She’s become such a big girl, so independent, so willing to try new things. I couldn’t be more proud of her.

Until she starts demonstrating potential mean girl behaviour, and then I completely freak out. Take this for example.

The other day we were driving to art class and she was chatting to me about her day. We’d attended a birthday party that weekend and Caterina claimed the birthday girl didn’t invite another girl because the girl acts “too much like a baby” by doing “baby things”. I asked for a little more information but she was vague.

Then she said, “So I told her why she didn’t get invited, but she was sad, so I pretended I was joking.”

Okay, what?

The thought of my daughter being mean to any of her friends at school makes me feel so sad.

I madly tried to process all this information. Caterina and I have never had the chance to discuss what to do in a situation like this. I think I'd assumed that because I am an exceptional mum (hey, I can hope) she would automatically know what to do. I felt really bad for this little girl and imagined how she felt when Caterina decided to skip over and blurt this whispered information out to her, followed by a very clumsy attempt to make her feel better.

"Do you think you did the right thing by telling her," I prompted, hoping my daughter already knew where she had gone wrong. She did. Phew. Another mean girl, thwarted.

"She got sad so I pretended I was joking," she said again.

"Maybe next time, don't tell anyone mean things other people say about them," I suggested.

"Unless they ask me to," she counted.

"No, actually, never, because imagine how you would feel," I explained.

She sat in silence, hopefully processing my brilliant advice but probably becoming distracted by a sticker she was trying to peel off her water bottle.

I am so determined to ensure my daughter doesn't become a mean girl and I know exactly what steps to take to prevent it. This was my first foray into it and I think I did pretty well. I didn't gasp or slap my hand over my mouth. I kept it casual. Here's what I have decided to do going forward.

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A girl this cute is never allowed to be mean. Just saying...

I will:

1. Provide her with plenty of opportunities to tell me about her day, about her experiences and interactions. That means that when we are in the car or at home the radio and TV stay off until she starts to talk;

2. I nod but don't comment as she talks and save my comments until the end;

3. I don't get angry or bossy about it, I merely explain about people's feelings and ask her for ideas for how to do it differently next time;

4. I end it positively. "I'm glad you tried to make it into a joke because she was sad. Good girl."

I have a funny feeling this is the first of thousands of such conversations.

As each of my children has started school and shared experiences with me, I have asked myself how I want them to be. Do I want them to be confident and outspoken, sometimes hurting people's feelings and rarely having their feelings hurt? Or do I want them to be sensitive to other's feelings, to be more gentle in their approaches, and to be one of the kids who does sometimes have their feelings hurt?

If I have any control over it at all, I think I prefer the latter, as does any parent who was the victim of mean girls in school. To this day I am still affected by my experiences. I never want my daughter to make anyone feel as badly as I was made to feel.

Mean girls are bullies, and I'm not letting my daughter become one.

How do you teach your daughter not to be a mean girl? 

Want more? Try these:

21 things you didn't know about Mean Girls.

"To the three girls that make my daughter smile, thank you."

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