When you think of a bully, perhaps you think of a boy in school who picked on the other kids by calling them names or getting in fights during lunch. You might not picture a girl being the one doing the bullying, but now more than ever, girls are bullying their peers at school, at the mall, and in their neighborhoods.
Sure, it could be a phase. However, it’s a phase that shouldn’t be ignored by parents. Girls tend to use their words more than their fists to torment others they don’t like or feel threatened by, and gossip can hurt just as much (if not more so) than physical wounds. Here are some ways to cope with the behavior if you think your child is being a bully:
#1: Observe her behaviors. Is she no longer friends with some children she grew up with? Is she treating her siblings differently? Does she act verbally or physically aggressive? If so, consider the fact that she may be displaying the behaviors of a bully.
#2: Communicate with your daughter. Don’t yell at her or use an accusatory tone, but discuss why you think she may be a bully, and give her the opportunity to explain herself. She may come clean and tell you the truth, or she may deny it and refuse to acknowledge her behavior. Be prepared for both possibilities.
#3: Listen to her side of the story. If she’s honest with you and tells you she has been mean to her peers, discuss the reasons why she might be doing so. Were the other girls mean to her? Did someone start a rumor and she decided to do the same? Talk about the reasons for her behavior and try to determine why it happened. She may not understand the way she is hurting others, especially if she has not been on the other side of the situation.
#4: Discuss the consequences. Make sure your daughter understands that there are consequences for her behavior, whether it be from her school or from you as the parent. Discuss the punishments she may face if she breaks the rules, and ensure that she understands that you will follow through. Many schools have No Tolerance policies for bullies, and if she continues to bully others, she may not only end up in trouble at home, but in school as well.
#5: Discuss other ways to cope. Give your daughter options. She may not know any other way to deal with her feelings and frustrations other than by lashing out at others. Let her know that there are other ways to deal with people she may not get along with, and that you will support her in doing so as long as she does it in a healthy way.
#6: Determine her part in the situation. Is your child bullying others due to peer pressure? Is she part of a larger group that is bullying another child, or is she the ringleader? Determining your child’s level of participation can be key in solving the situation. Bullying among girls is rarely done as an individual activity, and she may be trying to fit in with the girls who are causing the bullying.
#7: Take a look at her friends. Think about the people your daughter surrounds herself with, and determine whether or not they are a bad influence. Perhaps her attitude has changed, and it’s because her friends act the same way. Junior high is an especially difficult time for girls, and she may feel as though she has to have a way of defending herself.
#8: Ask for help. If you don’t know how to handle the situation, ask for help. Talk to your daughter’s teachers, her guidance counselor, and seek assistance from a therapist if you feel the need to do so. It’s ok if you don’t understand or don’t know how to deal with her behaviors. If you ask for help, you might find new tips to help her stop bullying others, and bring peace back into your home.
Every child will likely be bullied at some point during their childhood, and could also become the bully for a number of reasons. Knowing why it is happening and encouraging open communication with your daughter is a way to curb the behaviors, and help her through the difficulties she may face on a daily basis.