How can my independent opinionated daughter avoid getting targeted for bullying? She has great self esteem, which I worry will be used against her. Other girls want to tear her down because of it.

Having a daughter who is “spunky” can be both reassuring and distressing. While it’s great to witness her confidence, it is a worry when her feistiness may be misinterpreted by others, or her opinions aren’t happily received. Sometimes, channeling her emotional energy into a sport such as cheerleading or an activity like the debate club might offer the opportunity for her to really sparkle. A discussion about the difference between assertive (I win-you win) communication as opposed to aggressive (I win-you lose) communication with concrete examples will also help. You might switch roles with her and act out a situation where you fear she may offend so she can see her behavior through new eyes.

Few girls realize that listening is an important communication skill. Show her how to give others equal talk time, and suggest ways she can receive their opinions respectfully. Even being able to reflect by a simple: “That’s really interesting—tell me more!” when she’s secretly dying to launch into a diatribe on her own beliefs will be an accomplishment.

No one wants girls to be a doormat, passively accepting whatever behavior comes her way from others. At the same time, a girl’s enthusiasm can turn to dust if she overwhelms others with constant chatter, authoritative discourses, or dominates the dialogue at every opportunity.