Back-to-School Troubles: Girls Bullying Girls
Bullying is a topic that gets a lot of attention and for a good reason. In a recent study, 77% of the students surveyed said they had been bullied and 14% of those who were bullied said they experienced severe (bad) reactions to the abuse. The three characteristics of bullying behavior are: it is an intentional, deliberate act, there are repeated occurrences, and that it's about power-the abuse of power. Unlike boys who typically use physical aggression such as hitting, shoving, and kicking as their approach to bullying, girl bullying is much more subtle and indirect. Girls bully by using what researchers call "relational aggression". This is in the form of alienation, deliberate exclusions, spreading malicious rumors, and humiliation.
Girls form social alliances and jockey for popularity to obtain positions of power. They form groups that pick and choose members and exclude others without reason. Studies have shown that bullying among girls is caused from several different reasons: boredom, desire for excitement, jealousy over appearance and close relationships, competition for boys, inclusion in the perceived popular group, and revenge. Since girls often go after the "emotional jugular" with one another, tactics girls use to bully one another can range from making anonymous prank calls to other girl's cell phone, making humiliating comments on social network sites such as MySpace or Facebook, playing jokes or cruel pranks designed to embarrass and humiliate one another, or simply whispering in front of other girls with the intent to make another one feel left out.
Tips for Anti-Bullying: Girls vs. Girls
- Help girls express their feelings appropriately: Girls are taught to be sweet, caring, and nurturing. Although these are great qualities, many girls are also taught that when someone does something that upsets her, she's at a loss about expressing how she feels. It's important to help girls stay in touch with their feelings and express their feelings in an appropriate manner. To express feelings, the "I Message" approach works really well which clearly states in a non-defensive way how one is feeling. For example, "I feel (angry/sad) when you didn't invite me to your birthday party".
- Explain how to have well-balanced friendships: Friendships start as early in preschool years when the nature of friendships are being explored. It's important for children to know that in all friendships there are times when it's important to consider the needs of your friends and also at times to respect one's own feelings and value and express their opinions appropriately. Bullying is about a power deferential where one person acts as if they have more power than the other. A well-balanced friendship is an equal alliance.
- Talk about empathetic behavior towards one another: Empathy is the ability to recognize and understand another person's feelings, motives, and situation. It is placing yourself in "another person's shoes" to gain another perspective. By asking girls the question "how would you feel if someone … ?( ex. whispered in front of you)" allows them the ability to see how it would feel within themselves an action or behavior that they may do to another. Empathy creates compassion and kindness in relationships.
- Teach how to recognize a true friend: The qualities in friends that you want your child to look for are being respectful, trustworthy, empathetic, loyal and cooperative. Point out that bullies don't exude those qualities even if they are the most popular.
- Encourage children to report bullying to adults: Explain to them the difference between "reporting" (helping) and "tattling" (telling on someone in a hurtful way). Children are often afraid that if they report a bully, they are tattling, which is not the case. By children working together with their friends, they can distract a bully from performing cruel behavior on another, and then report the incident to an adult for intervention.
Ask Dr. Andie
Questions can be submitted through the website and if possible, will be answered either in the Q&A section or in the Power2Relate Newsletter.
Last week I was called by my daughter's second grade teacher about behavior that she is doing especially during recess. Apparently, my daughter and some of her friends were purposively excluding other girls from joining what they called their "hip hop group". This group makes up dances, which they perform for others during recess. When I asked my daughter about it, she exclaimed that her friend Ashley was the one who was the leader behind this exclusion and that it was not her idea. My daughter's teacher is calling this incident a form of bullying even though my daughter was not the ringleader in this. Is my daughter just as responsible as her friend who was really the "bully"?
The sad thing is that good kids, probably like your daughter, know better about going along with these kinds of popularity games for fear of being singled out and thrown out of the group. Sometimes it seems easier to do nothing than it does to do the right thing. The other unfortunate thing is that kids that go along with a bully (in this case her friend Ashley) just adds to the bully's power by giving the victim the illusion that the bully has peer support. I would suggest that you help your daughter with the empathetic concept of "being in someone else's' shoes" and ask her how she would have felt if she was the one being excluded from the hip hop group. Would she have felt angry? Or sad? Also, help her understand the qualities of what real friends are. See if her friend Ashley has any of those key friend qualities of loyalty, empathy, kindness, compassion, or thoughtfulness. Most often, bullies don't have those qualities. Your daughter may not have been the ringleader in this but by condoning this kind of bullying behavior of exclusion, she, too, is bullying through association against another person(s).
To hear more of Dr. Andie's speaking out about this hot social topic of girls bullying girls, go to Dr. Andie's Media sdection and watch her recent TV interview from the Philadelphia's popular 10!Show. Also, under the media tab, you can hear her speaking about this topic on the syndicated radio show "Walking on Air" where hosts Betsy and Sal discuss with her boy and girl bullying.
Want to know more about a certain social or emotional topic that your child is experiencing? Check out Dr. Andie's Hot Social Topics. If you want to know more about a topic that is not listed, write to firstname.lastname@example.org, for consideration for future e-newsletters.