Dear Straight Talk: I’m a single father and my daughter is or was a well-adjusted sophomore. Now, she refuses to go to school. When I insist, she locks herself in her room and cries. I’m at a loss and must get to work myself. She says “the girls” (her friends) hate her, which seems ridiculous; they are such nice girls. I think she has blown something out of proportion. How do I talk sense into her? We are going on day three. I did call the school and they aren’t aware of problems. — Frustrated Dad near Auburn
Ashley, 25, Auburn: Girls don’t fight like guys, where they throw a couple punches and it’s over. No, girls go behind your back, hold grudges (for years), turn friends against each other — all in an amazingly sneaky way. If she’s saying her friends hate her, listen, because something is real there. You both need a solution to get her back to school. This could blow over, or it could be bigger than you think. Transferring schools should be an option. Your daughter needs a safe, un-bullied environment in order to learn. See if she’ll talk with a counselor.
Brie, 22, San Francisco: Girls can be cruel. I hated high school after my girlfriends turned against me and spread false rumors. I considered switching schools, but realized I was better than them. (Someday I’ll go see what they did with their lives.) To your daughter: You can get through this. It’s OK to be friends with the “nerds” (the cool kids’ future bosses). High school goes by quickly, and in college, “mean girls” are gone. I’m glad I rose above them instead of falling down with them.
Moriah, 17, Rutland, Vt.: Talk to her! If you open the conversation non-assumingly, we are usually willing. Let her know you don’t understand how she’s feeling — and want to. There is nothing we hate more than parents pretending to understand when they don’t.
Molly, 22, Berkeley: Teenagers have crazy chemical changes going on. I felt like the whole world was out to get me. No matter how unreasonable it seems to you, it’s very real for her. She may have gotten into a fight and no girl took her side — or they are making her life miserable while putting on a nice face. You need to find out what happened and help her navigate. Leah, 21, Yuba City: School officials rarely know anything because students fear worsening things by speaking up. Also, these girls may be nice to you while showing a different face to others. Take your daughter seriously. If she’s locking herself in her room, consider a transfer.
Brandon, 21, Mapleton, Maine: Were you ever bullied or harassed in high school? Girls need sympathy! Don’t assume she blew something out of proportion. Our community’s so-called “pageant queens” are the rudest to their peers, while being angels to adults. That said, we don’t know the situation. Talk to her sympathetically and help her.
Dear Dad: Listen to the panel. Guys fight in the open — often becoming friends afterward. Girl fights are cloaked, cruel, and relentless. Another difference: Girl bullies tend to be popular, boy bullies less so. Usually the alpha female is jealous of something.
Take this seriously. Get computers and smartphones out of her bedroom and check her texts and social networking sites for bullying. Call the school again. Don’t ask if there’s a problem, tell them there is one.
Girls indeed respond more to “sympathetic” parenting, so shift your approach. If there’s no improvement soon, suggest a transfer (and counseling). Also, girls need other girls, so have her join an activity that bonds her to girls outside school. — Lauren
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