Diabolical Clique Divas

My 12-year-old daughter in sixth grade has been telling me about a group of four girls who are making everyone else's lives miserable on the bus, playground and other places. They have gone from gossiping and spreading rumors to more malicious behavior -- one clique member told a girl that she could not hang around them unless she told her (former) best friend that she hated her. Another clique girl dared her boyfriend to fight my daughter; he tried to punch her, but she grabbed his arm and threw him over. There is a lot of name-calling, and they freeze out any girl who stands up to them in any way. These girls are sugary sweet around adults and deny that they do any of this. A lot of the time they get other kids to do it for them through dares, and then the other kids get the blame.

I remember cliques that were almost this bad when I was in middle school, but what can you do about them? I told my daughter to look for and be nice to the girls whom the mean ones were picking on, and she has made several new friends that way. I am afraid that if I do not do something, my daughter is going to get pushed too far one day and hit one of them hard enough to hurt someone. Then she will get in trouble.

--no9s.mom
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It is amazing just how diabolical these clique divas can be. I am Margaret Sagarese, and I started cowriting the book The Roller-Coaster Years because this clique issue drove both my daughter and myself nuts. It is part and parcel of the middle-school years.

As middlers become peer-conscious and strive to belong, a byproduct is selecting and rejecting peer group candidates. The mean girls, as you call them, are playing with power and driven by insecurity. Your daughter seems to be pursuing options like finding other friends and not blaming herself for being shunned or picked on. Those are good strategies. However, you are correct to worry about her urge to get physical. Tell her that is not the way to resolve conflicts.

In our book, 66 percent of middle-school teachers saw cliques and actively addressed the situation. So, do talk to your child's teachers and see what they can do to defuse the power of the mean group and help the other girls rise above this behavior rather than stoop to cruelty as well.

-- Margaret Sagarese, coauthor of The Roller-Coaster Years and Parenting 911

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