Cheerleader Mom and Daughter Bully Team

Reader’s Question

Another cheer mom and her daughter are spreading lies about myself and my own cheerleader daughter. My daughter had been friends with this other daughter, but the other girl was quite a jealous person and was quite mean to my own daughter. As a result, my daughter couldn’t continue the friendship. The mom is the scary, over-involved, thinks her daughter is the best, cheer mom. Both are extremely charismatic and quite practiced with their lies and have been quite successful at hurting my daughter’s rep and my own. We are mystified by all the people who disliked this cheerleader and mom who now are buddied up to them and actively turned against us. I tried to talk to this parent, but she lied and said she didn’t know what I was talking about. We keep getting reports of quite the opposite. It is extremely unfair to my daughter, who deserves none of this. They play nice with everyone unless they’re jealous of you, then they try to destroy that person’s rep. It seems if you recognize what they are, they get mean and destroy you. How best to deal with the injustice here? Because my daughter won’t get involved with the meanness and gossip, others believe the lies. It seems to be a no win situation. What is your thought? Please help, I’ve never had such a situation before where things have gone so badly in such an undeserved situation.

Psychologist’s Reply

The rumor-spreading cheer mom and daughter are bullies. When we think of bully behavior, we often think of the big kid who threatens smaller boys for their lunch money. Male bullies use physical aggression. Girls and some adult females use “relational aggression” as their bullying style. Relational Aggression (RA) is defined as “both direct and indirect acts intended to inflict damage on a victim’s social relationships or social status.” RA has been the target of research, school educational programs and Hollywood movies (“Mean Girls”).

Your situation is not uncommon, especially in programs where the parent receives as much attention as the student. You’ll find the Mom and Daughter both “queens of drama” — mutually involved in the relationships of the teenage cheerleader squad. In such cases, the Cheer Mom and Daughter have turned relational aggression into a team sport. While we may think of bullies as having low self-esteem, the opposite if often found. They are egotistical, narcissistic, and antisocial enough to feel justified in damaging anyone in their path. Bystanders who witness the ability of the RA Team to spread rumors and damage relationships often support them — actually in fear that the RA will be turned in their direction. This is why bullies seem to have lots of friends.

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These RA Mom-and-Daughter teams are often successful in the short-run because they are so charming and manipulative. When confronted with their behavior, they suddenly play “victim” themselves, don’t know what you’re talking about, deny any responsibility, and then spread rumors that you were abusing them when all they were trying to do was help…

Recognize that your daughter is facing a type of bullying behavior. Both you and your daughter will need to gain distance from this RA Team. Try to ignore the gossip and lies. Monitor the seriousness of relational aggression that is being used as it sometimes reaches a criminal level. Encourage your daughter to maintain her self-esteem and integrity — remaining independent of the mean-girl clique — at the same time focusing on her talents and future rather than her standing with the “group”. Remind your daughter that she must be careful about information she provides to classmates as some with low self-esteem will trade that information to be on the “good side” of the bullying cheerleader. As an adult, be aware of not-my-friend cheer moms who pump you for information as they too may be on a mission ordered by the RA Cheer Mom. While this may sound overly dramatic, as a victim you know this is how it works. If you and your daughter maintain a low profile, the RA Mom and Daughter Team will target someone else. When several families are victimized, their power starts to break down as their behavior becomes too obvious.

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