Empowering Your Teenager to Overcome Mean-Spirited Comments

empowering your teenager Feb 08, 2022

Question from a concerned parent:

 

What do I do when my daughter comes home upset because other kids are saying mean things to her?

 

Unfortunately, meanness is a growing issue within our schools and on social media. With daughters, these comments are often directed at appearance. One girl tells another that she is ugly or her hair looks stupid. To a 15-year-old, comments like this can be devastating. Especially if they come from someone who is considered a friend or someone who has influence within the school community. 

 

In this post, we will explore two strategies for empowering your teenager to overcome these mean-spirited comments.

 

Before we explore these strategies, let's drill down on the root cause of the pain or upset for a teenager who is on the receiving end of a mean comment. At the core, these comments stir up the fear of not being good enough, not belonging, and not being worthy of love. We all can agree these are three of the big ones. Interestingly, these three fears continue to follow all of us into our adult years as well. For example: Instead of in response to a mean comment about how our hair looks today, these fears come up when a co-worker disagrees with a decision we made or a boss expresses concern about our job performance. So one of the greatest gifts you can give to your teenager is a strong sense of connection and a love-based self-image. Not only will these attributes help today with the mean-spirited comment, they will serve them well for the rest of their life.

 

The first strategy I am going to suggest is intended to build your connection with your teenager. A strong connection with you and your home will help to lessen the intensity of the fear your daughter experiences when one of these mean-spirited comments comes her way. In reality there is no way to completely eliminate her upset, but a strong connection can certainly reduce it. I like to think of it as a continuum. A teenage girl who feels no sense of connection to her parents or her home will experience the fear of not belonging at a level 10, while the girl who has a strong connection will be at a 2 or 3. Your goal is to continually build connection so that your teenager is less and less vulnerable over time. 

 

In our 28-Day Parenting Boot Camp, we explore nine ways to build the connection between a parent and their teenager. For this topic it seemed appropriate to share “Acts of Kindness.” This strategy, based on Gary Chapman’s 5 Love Languages, is great for giving your teenager a sense that not only are they loved but even more importantly they are worthy of love. If you aren’t familiar with this book, the five love languages are:

 

  •  Words of affirmation
  •  Acts of service
  •  Quality time
  •  Receiving gifts
  •  Physical touch

 

Which one of these does your teenager seem to crave the most? Your goal is to be intentional about engaging with your teenager in their particular love language on a regular basis. Doing this will move your daughter down the scale of vulnerability.

 

The second strategy involves empowering your teenager in this case to have a love-based mindset. This could be accomplished by sharing one of the fundamental principles we teach here at the Family Enrichment Academy. All “bad” or “unwanted” behavior is a call for love. You could say:

 

I wonder what is going on for her that makes her feel like she has to be mean?

 

Can you see how this question introduces the idea of compassion into your teenager’s mind? It is not that this other teenager is a bad person, it is that they are struggling with something. As your teenager develops the ability to see the world from a loving perspective, they will begin to see the “mean” comments as a cry for help rather than an attack. 

 

Here is something to consider: What if through your efforts to build connection and empower your teenager to engage with others from a love-based mindset, your teenager became a positive influence in the “mean” girl’s life. That would be a gift to everyone.

 

Love is always the answer.

 Jim White

Family Enrichment Coach

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