How many times has your daughter come home to tell you one of her friends said “You’re not my friend anymore?” My guess is you’re saying “Too many to count!”
It starts with preschool and doesn’t end until the college years (and arguably it’s part of life!), that girls test out friendships with each other. It seems like it’s ever changing and that can be incredibly difficult for your daughter to cope with.
But what happens when your daughter comes home and the words she shares that her peers said are really hurtful? “You’re mean, you’re ugly, you’re not invited to my birthday party, I hate you” for example. It breaks your heart, doesn’t it? And if those words are enough to get you down, you can only imagine how distressing it can be for your daughter.
A skill your child will benefit from learning is how to stand up for herself.
Here are 5 strategies to implement so your daughter can confidently stand up for herself in the face of an uncomfortable situation.
1. Help your child understand what makes up a healthy friendship.
A healthy friendship is one in which it leaves both kids feeling safe (emotionally and physically) and respected. Ask your daughter what “safe” and “respectful” mean to her. Is it OK if someone calls her a name? The answer should be “no” but I am often surprised by the pre-teen and teen girls I meet with who are willing to accept the hurtful words that are thrown at them.
Your child gets her understanding of what a friendship should look like by the relationships modeled for her at home. Look at your own relationship with your spouse and assess “Is there something there that I don’t want my daughter to have in her relationships with peers? What are some strengths in my own relationships that I do want her to have?”
2. Address issues with self-esteem.
Talking with your daughter about the meaning of self-confidence can go a long way when peers at school try to chip away at it. Laying a foundation at home for good growth in self-esteem helps give your child armor, so to speak, when insults are thrown her way. So when one random girl says “your ugly” your daughter can say to herself “I don’t believe that.” And when your child can say that to herself, she is better prepared to stand up against others. Regularly praising your child for the good choices she makes is one powerful way of instilling self-esteem in her.
3. Don’t tell her to ignore it.
Telling your child to ignore something that bothers her is a passive way of asking her to accept what’s being said. If your child has come to you about something that bothers her she is asking you to help take action.
4. Give her powerful words to say back.
Dialogue with your child phrases that she can immediately say to the other person when something hurtful is said. Assertive language is a self-assured, firm way of getting your point across. Some examples, “I’m not OK with you saying thatL” and “That hurts my feelings, and it needs to stop.” This can often times stop the other child in her tracks. Even if it doesn’t immediately solve the problem, it’s a powerful first step your child can take so she feels empowered.
5. Encourage her to ask for help.
Sure it’s awkward and uncomfortable to involve adults! Especially when there’s peer pressure to not be a “tattle-tale.” But it’s also important for your daughter to know she doesn’t have to go through something alone, and there are resources out there.
If your child has used her words to the best of her ability to stand up for herself, and the situation is still ongoing, its time for adult action.
Praise your child for coming to you for help, and for trying to work the situation out on her own. Explain to her why you feel adult intervention is necessary at this point. Dialogue about the best way to go about it. Does your daughter want to reach out to the teacher? Is it best if you do? What about talking to the parent of the child?
Note: If your daughter reports there are threats to her safety, or if there was any physical contact this requires immediate intervention on your part. This is bullying and requires immediate action by an adult to resolve the situation.
Bottom line: It’s important to note that instilling in your child the ability to stand up for herself begins at an early age with creating an a safe, respectful environment in the home and fostering self-esteem and confidence. Giving your child tools to help resolve the situation first on her own, and then learning to ask for help are powerful life skills your child will take with her into adulthood.
Please comment below: Has your daughter ever struggled to stand up for herself? What strategies did you give her to help her stand up?
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.