What to Do When Friends Are Unkind

Girls. They’re smart and fun and creative and sweet.


And not so sweet—sometimes.


Ask any woman who’s been through middle school and she’ll tell you girls can be catty, critical and downright mean to each other at times. The tween years are a prime season for developing close friendships, but even the best of friends will sometimes stumble through spats or judgment slips.


So what’s a girl to do when friends are unkind? Here are some tips for guiding your daughter through rough patches.


  1. We all have bad days and grumpy moods. Encourage your daughter to give her friend the benefit of the doubt and always forgive an unkind word or action. Why? Because Jesus forgives us. And He commands us to do the same for others.

    “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

  2. One of the best ways to repair a rift in a friendship is to pray about it. Your daughter can ask God to instill more kindness, selflessness, patience and forgiveness in her own heart first, then also her friend’s. As a bonus, she may discover it’s harder to stay mad at someone she’s asking God to bless.

    “bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (Luke 6:28)


  1. Examine yourself. So your friend was unkind, but what part did you play (if any)? Did you do or say something to upset her? Have you been a good friend lately? Be careful not to suggest your daughter is to blame anytime someone is mean to her (that is NOT the lesson we’re going for here), but do encourage her to consider what Jesus says in Scripture:

    “How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye?” (Matthew 7:4)

  2. Confront—kindly. Help your daughter muster the courage to address the problem directly with her friend. Not in anger or by playing the victim, but simply by explaining how the friend’s behavior made her feel. Sometimes girls don’t even realize what they said or did was hurtful. It’s much better to get it out in the open than to let hurt feelings fester.

    “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” (Matthew 18:15)


Decide if this person is really a friend. Is her unkind behavior an occasional incident or a constant problem? True friends will love as Jesus loves. If your daughter has confronted her friend gently and honestly yet the mean streak continues or turns to bullying, encourage her to pray and forgive—but then let go. Her time and energy are better spent on friends who build her up, not tear her down.

Stand Up To Bullying

Remember that scene in A Christmas Story where the evil bully Scott Fargus emerges from behind a rickety fence, filling the air with his sinister laugh? He pins another boy’s arms behind his back until the poor victim cries “uncle” and runs home in shame.

Today’s bullies aren’t quite so easy to spot. They come in a variety of forms—called “mean girls,” gossips, clique leaders and cyberbullies. These kids may not threaten physical harm, but insults and social intimidation can hurt just as much. How can we help our girls stand up to bullying?

How else? With scripture. When faced with a bullying situation, let’s teach our children to focus on three key truths—straight from God’s Word.

1. Bullies don’t define you. Only God has the right to do that. And all those hurtful comments a bully throws your way? God says they’re lies. He loves you. He created you. You are his masterpiece. So always remember who God says you are—and don’t let anybody convince you otherwise.

“But God chose you to be his people. You are royal priests. You are a holy nation. You are God’s special treasure. You are all these things so that you can give him praise. God brought you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” (1 Peter 1:9, NIRV)

2. Retaliation is the wrong answer. You might feel tempted to fight back, but exchanging a hurt for a hurt only propels the problem. Resist the urge to stoop to the bully’s level. That means do your best to avoid getting sucked into school drama or online bickering. Instead, try being kind to the bully. Trust God to help you do it.

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:19–21, NIV).

3. Pray for bullies. What? Pray for someone who hurts you? Yes, that’s what God asks us to do. Consider that a bully may be acting hurtful because she is also hurting. In which case, what she needs more than an enemy is a friend who will show her the love of Christ.

“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” (Matthew 5:43-44, NIV).

Finally, parents—make sure your kids know that if they’re being harassed by a bully, they should tell you or another trusted adult about what’s happening. Grown-ups can help defend and protect as well as give advice on how to handle the bully’s unkindness. And whenever possible, equip your child to handle the situation on her own, rather than stepping in and solving every detail. Knowing how to stand up to bullying will build your child’s confidence in herself and, more importantly, in God.


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