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In honor of October being National Bullying Prevention Month in the USA and November 15-19 being Anti-Bullying Week in the UK, we’d like to examine the impact that bullying has on mental health. 

According to the National Bullying Prevention Center:

  • One in five students report being a victim of bullying.
  • Males are more likely to be victims of physical bullying.
  • Females are more likely to report being victims of more social forms of bullying, such as being the target of a rumor, being excluded from social circles, or being a victim of cyberbullying. 

Youth who are victims of bullying are more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, have lower academic performance, and even drop out of school. 

Earlier this month, we discussed five different tips for talking to your child about bullying and five ways to help your child stand up to bullies. In this article, we’ll be discussing what the “mean girl” mentality means and how you can navigate it with your child. 

The “Mean Girl” Mentality and What it Means

Thanks to the movie Mean Girls, the phrase “mean girls” has been a household catchphrase to describe a very specific type of bullying since 2004. While the phrase leads many to believe that the “mean girl” mentality only affects females, it actually describes relational aggression, or a means by which a bully targets an individual by means of social exclusion. 

This can affect any gender, but it often seems to be more prevalent among tween and teen girls. Too often, it can feel like it happens overnight…one day, your child seems to have a great group of friends that he or she enjoys doing things with. Then, it seems the rest of the group has moved on without him or her, and your child is devastated. Those feelings of being left out can seriously damage your child’s sense of self-worth. 

So, as parents, how can we help combat these feelings and encourage our children to rise above?


5 Things Your Tween & Teen Needs to Know

You understand and empathize with them

If your child opens up to you about a bully or a “mean girl”, make sure to empathize with them and let them know that you understand how they must be feeling and how difficult it is. In this moment, it is also important to reiterate to them that they are worthy of being treated with respect.

They have strengths to be celebrated

Oftentimes a bully wants to make others feel inferior. After empathizing with your child, it’s important to remind them of all the wonderful character traits they possess. Are they kind and thoughtful? Are they helpful around the house? What do you admire about them? Now is the time to tell them. 

They can speak with their body language

Body language is so, so important. Teach your child to stand tall, shoulders back, and make eye contact. Sometimes, bullies simply want an easy target. Help your child learn how to carry themselves confidently. This can help them feel strong and comfortable in their own skin when dealing with bullies.

They can control their response

It’s important to teach your child that while we will never have control over the actions of others, we can always choose how we respond. Rather than engaging with the bullying, encourage your child to simply walk away and find other friends or activities to enjoy.

They can choose their friends

Remind your tween or teen that they have the power to choose their own friends, and help them learn how to spot fake friends. Don’t let your child buy into the “frenemy” philosophy, and instead teach them the value of inspecting their circle often to be sure that their support system is truly supportive. A fake friend is of no more value than a bully.

They can be part of the solution

Remind your tween or teen that they have the power to choose their own friends, and help them learn how to spot fake friends. Don’t let your child buy into the “frenemy” philosophy, and instead teach them the value of inspecting their circle often to be sure that their support system is truly supportive. A fake friend is of no more value than a bully.

Final Thoughts

There are many reasons why someone might engage in bullying. Perhaps they have low self-esteem or they may even be a victim of trauma themselves. Regardless of why the bully is engaging in “mean girl” behaviour, however, it is important that our children develop the skills they need to rise above the bullies and maintain positive self-worth.

Finally, at The Lily Jo Project, we understand that discussing topics like bullying, navigating cliques and mean girl behavior, and what it means to truly know your worth can be really difficult. We have an online forum/community where members are free to ask questions and seek advice from other parents and those that work with youth. I moderate the group, and we would love to have you join. You can request to join here – looking forward to seeing you there!

More Resources on Bullying

If you found this article helpful, check out these other resources on bullying.

For Teachers: Check out our Curriculum on Bullying for Children and Teens

Imagine if our world was full of people who were building each other up, rather than tearing each other down? It’d be a much better place to live, wouldn’t it?

Our series ‘SMILE’ is all about helping children and teens learn how to:

  • Identify what bullying looks like
  • Speak up about bullying
  • Stand up to bullies
  • Be sensitive to others who may be bullying
  • Reach out for help when they need it

This series is available to purchase for different age groups on our online learning platform – you can check them out here:

To get unlimited access to all of our video curriculum, you can sign up for a backstage pass here.


Pacer’s National Bullying Prevention Center. (2019). Bullying statistics. Retrieved from https://www.pacer.org/bullying/info/stats.asp

Nasir, R. and Johns, E. (2021). Quarterly suicide death registrations in England. Retrieved from https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/bulletins/quarterlysuicidedeathregistrationsinengland/2001to2019registrationsandquarter1jantomartoquarter4octtodec2020provisionaldata 

National Health Care for the Homeless Council. (2018). Suicide and Homelessness. Retrieved from https://nhchc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/suicide-fact-sheet.pdf 

Rabin, R. (2021). U.S. Suicides Declined Overall in 2020 but May Have Risen Among People of Color. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2021/04/15/health/coronavirus-suicide-cdc.html 

Suicide Prevention Resource Center. (2020). Communities. Retrieved from https://www.sprc.org/settings/communities

About the Author: Brandy Browne

Brandy Browne is a care coordinator for a local mental health agency in the United States, as well as a family coach and blogger for UnStuck (www.unstucks.com) – her family coaching service aimed at helping families develop positive habits and breaking the cycle of generational trauma and poverty.

Her education is in early and elementary education, and she also has a masters degree in parenting and child/adolescent development. Brandy is a wife to her high school sweetheart of fifteen years, and together they share three children, aged ten, seven, and five. In her free time, she enjoys reading, gardening, writing, and distance running.

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