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What to Do About the Mean Girls

Posted Aug 03 2008 10:10am 1 Comment

Shannon Hutton, M.Ed., M.P.A., is a certified School Counselor who works with students on various issues including anger management, social skills, anxiety, divorce, self-esteem, study skills, impulsivity and bullying.She addresses parenting and school issues in her weeklyAsk the School Counselorsegment on her work life balance blogBeliever in Balance.

If you have a daughter, take the time to read this. It could save her a lot of heartache. Not to mention stomach aches, headaches, missed days of school, lower grades, eating issues and depression.

The sad truth is that every school, whether public, private or parochial, has girls who bully. I bet you can still remember who they were when you were in school. As a School Counselor and mother of three daughters, I know firsthand - both personally and professionally - how much it hurts when girls are targeted by bullies.

The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” couldn’t be further from the truth. While boys usually bully through intimidation, girls bully through exclusion, also called relational aggression. Here’s an example of relational bullying taken from my professional experience:

“Heather” was miserable because “Leslie” was not only saying mean things to her face, but getting other girls in school to exclude her with the age old line “You can’t be friends with me, if you’re friends with her.” In our sessions, Heather would complain that she didn’t have anyone to hang around with because the girls were afraid that if they hung around her they’d become Leslie’s next target. Leslie had immense influence over the social dynamic among these girls.

In order to improve the situation, I had to not only reduce the power Leslie had, but empower Heather as well. Here are some ideas that helped, adapted for use by parents:

* Ask for specifics when your daughter says girls are bullying her at school.Who? Where? How?

* Tell the principal and homeroom teacher the specifics of how she is being bullied. Have them tell other teachers (i.e., gym, art, music), hallway monitors and cafeteria staff so that everyone who comes in contact with her can be on the lookout and poised to intervene.

* Explain to her that reporting an incident is not the same as tattling, and have her tell an adult at school when she is being bullied.

* Encourage her to stick with a friend at lunch, in the hallways, on the bus or walking home because she is more likely to be targeted when she is alone.

* Teach her to convey self-confidence by walking confidently, with her head up. Girls bullying at school target those they think are weaker.

* Pay attention to how she is sleeping, eating, feeling and doing in school. If you notice changes in any of these areas, have her see the School Counselor.

* Arrange opportunities for your daughter to socialize with her friends outside of school to help her maintain a strong social support system.

In Heather’s case, these steps alleviated the problem. But because it’s tougher to catch girl bullies, it’s extremely important for girls to tell an adult if they’re being bullied. Unlike boys, who usually bully physically, girl bullies often spread rumors, whisper as their target walks by, talk loudly about a party she wasn’t invited to, give her the silent treatment, and as discussed above, tell others not to be friends with her. School personnel are there to help, but in order for them to be able to do anything about girls bullying at school, they must be informed when a bullying situation arises.

To read more about girls bullying at school, I recommend the following books:

Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girlsby Rachel Simmons

Queen Bees and Wannabees: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescenceby Rosalind Wiseman

Shannon Hutton, M.Ed., M.P.A., is a certified School Counselor who works with students on various issues including anger management, social skills, anxiety, divorce, self-esteem, study skills, impulsivity and bullying.She addresses parenting and school issues in her weeklyAsk the School Counselorsegment on her work life balance blogBeliever in Balance.





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What to Do About the Mean Girls

Comments (1)
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If your child is giving you the silent treatment there are somethings you can do to get them to talk. I think it's very important that you give your child a clear message when he gives you the silent treatment. You should say, “Not responding to me is not going to solve your problem. When you're ready to talk about it, I'll be here.” And here's the important part: “Until then, no cell phone use.” Or, “Until we talk, no electronics.” That way, your child has a motivation to talk and to solve the problem. And you're not pressing him or pushing him. Once you make that statement, go on about your business. Don't let it be a big deal or a stumbling block. Believe me, if you don't give the behavior power, you're going to be a lot better off in the long run.
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