Why I’m Teaching My Daughter Traits of a Mean Girl


My seven-year-old daughter is sensitive, thoughtful and sweet to others. If she sees a little girl being left out at school, she walks over and includes her. She always has a kind word to say about each child in her class. Believe me, just like most kids, she does have her moments but for the most part she’s a very good little girl. One day in the third grade she came home and said to me, “Mom, there’s a girl in my class, she’s really mean to me.”

“Mean to you?” I said, “In what way?”

“Well, she told a bunch of girls on the playground to not talk to me and told me to shut up each time I said something.”

I sat up straight. “Huh, she said what?” My husband was listening and in his Italian swagger said, “Really? What’s her name? What’s her address?” My husband has the tendency to get very “Tony Soprano” when someone is taunting his daughter.  I said to her, “Ava, tell her ‘Well I don’t wanna be your friend anyways!’ and she said, ‘But Mom, I don’t want to hurt HER feelings.'”

My daughter’s feelings are hurt, she is upset and crying, yet she doesn’t want to hurt the girl’s feelings who hurt her? What’s wrong with this situation?

That’s when I started thinking, geez it might be easier if my daughter WAS the mean girl. I imagine the mean girl’s parents don’t have to worry about their daughter’s self esteem. They don’t sit up at night wondering if their daughter is being left out at school because their daughter is the one pulling the social strings. I imagine her feelings never get hurt because she’s doing all the hurting. She just walks around the school with her head held high, without a care in the world.

Of course I don’t want my daughter to really be the mean girl. It took me until college to figure out that mean girls bully their peers to make themselves feel better. I now know that they are insecure and usually grow up to wear too much makeup, have haggard skin and become overweight drug addicts. I’m just saying I wouldn’t mind it if my daughter could toughen up a bit and take some tips from the mean girls to protect herself.

A mean girl charging at my innocent little daughter is like a cheetah taking down a gazelle in the Serengeti. The mean girl cheetah is confident, vicious and assertive. She’s willing to manipulate and dominate any situation to benefit herself. There has to be something we can learn from her alpha behavior.

Here are some mean girl traits that I’d like to turn into positive attributes to teach my daughter:


The mean girls are always confident in owning their right to be mean and mastering the art of manipulation. They excel at intimidating their peers in order to control a situation. I would like my daughter to have the confidence of the mean girl cheetah but the compassion and gentleness of the gazelle. I explained to my daughter,  “Once you make it clear that you are strong and not easily bulldozed that mean girl will back down and leave you alone.”


The mean girls usually lead a pack of insecure minions. Their leadership abilities are obviously flawed since they typically earn their allegiance from their followers by instilling fear. I would like my daughter to take a page out of their playbook which is to be a strong leader. I want her to be a leader who stands up for her herself and her friends.  Who honors her gifts and talents and supports her friends with love and kindness. I don’t want her friends to “follow” her. I want them to cherish a friendship with my daughter because she inspires them and makes them feel good about themselves. Because they are attracted to her positive energy, loyalty, intellect and humor.


Mean girls are assertive. They speak up for themselves. They have strong opinions in their beliefs and often don’t succumb to peer pressure. I’d like my daughter to be decisive about how she deserves to be treated, to value herself so she can stand tall and proud being assured that she has an important place in this world.  When that bully yells in her face, I’d like her to have the assertiveness to look the beast in the eyes, stare her down and calmly tell her, “Don’t speak to me that way.”  Then I encourage her to pray for that mean girl. Pray that she can see the error in her ways and also pray that she develops debilitating cystic acne. I want her to know that standing up and defending herself isn’t hurting the other person’s feelings instead it’s protecting her own.

I’d like her to be that sweet, gentle and brilliant gazelle but in cheetah’s clothing.

My daughter came home from school the next day and plopped herself down on the couch and said, “Ugh, I hate that Meredith.”

I said, “Oh yeah what happened today?”

“She yelled at me AGAIN today. I HATE her!” she said.

I put her on my lap and said,  “You know, kids can become bullies for a lot of different reasons, maybe they’re struggling with things at home or they could be insecure, jealous or they could just not be a very nice person. But this girl yelling at you has nothing to do with YOU. So I want you to put away your anger and hate. She’s not worth the time and energy it takes to hate. I also want you to remember you come from a long line of smart STRONG women. Women who stood up for themselves just like you will. If she bullies you tomorrow,  remember what I want you to say to her? I want you to say, ‘Don’t speak to me that way.'”

The next day my daughter came home from school and I asked her, “So how was your day?“

“Fine. Meredith yelled at me AGAIN today,” she said, “But I told her, ‘Zip it! You aren’t the boss of me. Stop being mean.'”

“Great! Did she leave you alone?” I asked.

“Yeah and then she went and started picking on the girl with the big hair.”

Ah, OK. Well one battle at a time.

Carey Reilly is a mom and food blogger, comedian and TV host at www.notsoskinnymom.com. She is currently the creator and host of www.ulive.com’s new show voted Video of the Week, Dear Buddha. She hosted How Are You So Sexy? for Berman Braun’s 3v Channel. She conducts celebrity interviews for Aol.com, and has served as a judge on Food Network’s Rewrapped, hosted by Joey Fatone. She is a recurring comic/contributor on NBC’s Today Show, VH-1, HLN’s Showbiz Tonight, and The Joy Behar Show as well as being a guest on The Wendy Williams Show. She has also contributed to InTouch Weekly and US Weekly and Yahoo Travel!. 

  • I don’t believe mean girls are confident, assertive leaders. As you note, they’re generally insecure, sometimes with borderline or narcissistic personality disorders and almost always so suffused with shame they have to “right” themselves by asserting themselves as bigger, stronger, more powerful, etc. I think your daughter is JUST RIGHT the way she is. Some people are just more empathic than others (it might be genetic and/or biochemical). It pains me – sometimes physically – to see someone else hurt, therefore I often take more responsibility for the welfare of others than I do for my own well-being. I believe the key is to develop strong boundaries, barring people “sliming” what Anne LaMott describes as our “emotional acre.” That’s what your smart daughter did when she said “you are not the boss of me.” Good for her! And congratulations on raising such a kind and loving child.

  • bookprgirl

    Carey thank you for writing this post and for talking about this topic. There will always be Mean Girls. I love your solutions and strategies (and humor) here. #TeamCarey

  • Thank you for writing about something that affects so many children everyday. As a parent it is never easy to see our child go through these types of situations. Carey Reilly you nailed it from all angles! Courageously and eloquently written. I loved it and shared it! Many had something to say and experiences to share after they read your article. From Florida to Colombia, Europe and Thailand! A subject that reaches many regardless of language! Great work!

  • John Leone

    Thanks for posting …as a father who is learning about how young girls interact with the struggles of life I found this very in formative. It has given me insight in how to deal with problems were facing in my own home. THANK YOU Carey

  • Shecky Beagleman

    Your husband asks very good questions…I’m Italian too.

Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
Get Over Yourselves. We’re All Rory Gilmore
Hillary Clinton, Shake It Off, Taylor Swift, Hillary Clinton Campaign song
Six Reasons “Shake It Off” Should Be Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Theme Song
Nancy Reagan dies, Just Say No, Ronald Reagan
A Not-So-Positive Ode to Nancy Reagan’s Frothy “Just Say No” Campaign
I Married for Health Insurance
Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
A Case of Nixonian Deja Vu
Post-Election Munchies: What is Your Grief Snack of Choice?
Why I Wrote “Trumping And Drinking”
A Case of Nixonian Deja Vu
Trump Reality Check, Now with Actual Facts!
Fascism Facts
I Married for Health Insurance
Get Over Yourselves. We’re All Rory Gilmore
Post-Election Munchies: What is Your Grief Snack of Choice?
Women’s Elections Rights in Saudi Arabia: A Token Drop in an Abysmal Bucket & the Plight of Women Under Sharia Law
Maybe It Wasn’t Rape: Emerging Matriarchy and the Altering of Women’s Past Sexual Narratives
Paris attacks, Paris terrorism
Is Paris Burning?
Chinese government and women's reproductive rights, adopting Chinese girls, international adoption
Dear Xi Jinping, I Am Writing to You as an American Mom of a 19-Year-Old Chinese Daughter
The Vital Voice of Hillary Clinton: Part 1
Maybe It Wasn’t Rape: Emerging Matriarchy and the Altering of Women’s Past Sexual Narratives
The Eyes Have It!
Ashley Madison, Jared Fogle, sex, rape, sexual affairs
Ashley Madison vs. Jared Fogle: Rape, Sex and Hacking in America
women's viagra, Viagra, Flibanserin, sexual arousal, women's desire, sex after menopause
That “Little Pink Pill” Isn’t All It’s Cracked Up to Be

Get our new weekly email
Broadly Speaking

featuring our best words for the week + an exclusive longread