My daughter has just entered seventh grade, and despite my best efforts, even homeschooling hasn't exempted her from experiencing trials of her own with the beautiful mean girls. I'm reliving some painful personal memories as I watch her wade into the turbulent waters of adolescence, where the mean girls circle like sharks. Unfortunately, I am all too familiar with their mode of operation. They smell the blood of insecurity and awkwardness, seeking prey that is obviously weakened from coping with a changing body and an unwelcome discomfiture. Their menu varies like a seaside restaurant offering the "catch of the day." They head toward their current target with alarming speed, intent upon sinking their teeth into the tender flesh of budding self-awareness.

Remembering this, I try to head the sharks off before they get too close to my daughter. I try to warn her when I see them coming, but sadly, the advice I have to offer is tainted with bitterness for the mean girls that visited the beach of my youth. My husband quietly cautions me. "You are getting too involved in this," he says. I realize then that I am obsessed with rescue. I am the coast guard. I am Richard Dreyfuss in Jaws, consumed with ridding my family's previously calm waters of this invasion by the mean girls.

The experts can offer plenty of sound, reasonable advice on how to deal with the mean girls. However, I found one Expert whose advice is utterly radical, and strangely enough, His advice seems to have the best chance of actually creating change. His counsel has not been in demand by the media, but it has been sought many times by mothers on their knees. This Expert is Jesus Christ. What does He have to say about mean girls?

• "Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44). When I approached my daughter with this idea, she was totally open to it. She wants to pray for her friends. It is such a comfort to take a problem that seems so big to the One who you know is so much bigger. As we pray together, God has revealed that I am continuing to build my relationship with my daughter. We are not only mother and daughter, but we are sisters in Christ. We are approaching her teen years together as prayer partners. What a blessing.

• "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen" (Ephesians. 4:29). My daughter and I have committed this verse to memory. We used it in a role-playing exercise where I encouraged my children to think about what someone else may need to hear. For example, did someone just fail a test? What would be an encouraging thing to say to her? Remember, if you can't say something nice, then don't say anything at all!

• "Don't show favoritism" (James 2:1). Teach your children not to show favoritism to people because of how they are dressed or how attractive they are. They can miss out on some of the greatest friendships ever by judging people based on first impressions.

Recently, God brought a specific memory to my mind of one mean girl in particular. There was a girl in my class, Michelle, who was a little awkward and tended to be shy. She tried hard, but for all her perseverance, she never fit in. She was always left out, mocked, or simply ignored. One day, Michelle called another girl in our class and asked for her help. She explained that she wanted and needed a friend. But the mean girl she called refused to be her friend. "I just don't like you, Michelle," she said. "I don't want to be your friend." Then as Michelle began to cry, this awful, mean girl hung up on her. Guess who the mean girl was? Right. I am so sorry, Michelle. I really am.

It might not hurt us mothers to do a self-check every once in a while: Is any of that junior high "mean-girlness" surfacing in my life today? Am I loving and praying for my enemies? Am I careful to watch my speech? Am I showing favoritism when I should instead be showing the open arms of Jesus Christ? I'd say most of us have been on both sides of what is now called "relational aggression." A mean-girl self-check is not a bad idea.


Rebecca Ingram Powell is a certified speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries and the author of Wise Up! Experience the Power of Proverbs, a home school Bible curriculum for 6th through 9th grade girls. Visit www.rebeccapowell.com.