Dealing with Bullies
But boys aren't the only victims—and they're not the only bullies. Rachel Simmons, author of Odd Girl Out, says girls are just as aggressive as boys, but they act out in much subtler ways. The effect of this "hidden aggression" is devastating to millions of girls but is often invisible to parents.
"Girls have a terrible reputation for being cruel, and there's a reason why," Rachel says. "They don't feel comfortable showing their anger directly. In order to deal with their anger, they go and tell someone else or they do it in a very sly way. They push their feelings down, but invariably their feelings come out in very secretive or indirect ways. So many of them are sitting on that anger. [Girls] do not have the tools to engage in assertive, direct conflict where they can actually say what's in their hearts to each other."
- Acts withdrawn
- Has unexplained injuries
- Clothing is torn
- Fears going to school
- Has trouble sleeping
- Mood changes
- Stops talking about school
- Finds excuses to miss school
- Has new friends
- Displays aggressive behavior at home (Sometimes if your child is being bullied, he or she will take it out on a sibling.)
Ask trigger questions in the third person. For example, ask your daughter, "How do girls treat each other in school?" or "How do you feel when you're at school?" Remember, the most important action you can take is to listen to and hold your child.
- Take it seriously—don't minimize the experience.
- Keep an open dialogue with your child about the bullying.
- Don't assume the bullying has stopped if your child stops talking about it.
- Give consistent advice.
- Bolster your child's self-esteem in other areas. Help them find an activity where they fit in.
- Don't go it alone. Find other parents whose children are being bullied and organize.
- Remind your child what you like about him or her and encourage them to find a group of allies.
- Contact your child's school to report what is going on.
- Never tell them it's a "normal phase."
- Avoid minimizing their problem.
- Never tell them they are being oversensitive.
- Never tell them that they are doing something to cause the bullying.
- Never tell them that they must be joking.
- Deflect the bullying with humor.
- Speak out—say, 'Stop that. I don't like it!"
- Get friends to help. Ask them to stand up to the bully
What if you suspect your child is a bully?