Very commonly, elementary aged girls are bullied by good friends. Surprised? I was, too.
Girl friends bullying girl friends is the premise of Little Girls Can Be Mean (affiliate link). One of the authors, Michelle Anthony, Ph.D., walked me through the book over coffee recently.
Initially, when she told me about her book, I felt shocked. Friends as bullies?
Then I thought about girls. And how they can be.
Are you with me so far?
Except, it’s not what we’ve been teaching our children about bullies. We’ve been teaching kids that the bullies are mean kids. Not our friends. Never our friends.
“It’s very confusing for kids,” says Anthony, “their idea of bullying is very stereotypical, not the best friend / worst enemy.”
With boy’s it’s different, it’s physical. But, with girls it’s relational, explains Anthony.
Anthony says, “Girls in general are trying to find power in the relationships, that is why we find mean behavior – begin in elementary school, in general kids are mean because they’re trying to serve a purpose for themselves.”
This book began when Anthony’s daughter had a friend who turned against her. Together they began a journey of trying to deal with this friend (frenemy.)
Anthony realized that she couldn’t just tell her daughter to play with someone else. Not when her daughter craved a friendship, and wanted to be friends with the girl who was bullying her. So, Anthony and her co-author, Reyna Lindhert, figured out a way to help Anthony’s daughter see the situation for what it was, assert herself and problem solve. The book, Little Girls Can Be Mean, breaks it down into four steps.
- Observe. Watch your child as a social being in a new way and how she responds to conflict
- Connect with your child. “I notice that when your friend Katie leaves, you start fighting with your brother a lot. Are you sad that she’s leaving?” Help your daughter begin to notice things. You want to give empathy but NO problem solving. You’re setting yourself up as her partner. You’re becoming a team.
- Guide. When you really are connected, together brainstorm and list all the things you can do to deal with the bully. All your ideas are valuable – even sending the bully to the moon. Write up a whole list of possibilities. What this does makes it seem like there are many solutions. That it’s not an insolvable problem.
- Support the Act. Help your daughter choose one of two things herself that she’s going to do. Then role play what she’ll do. P.S. SHE chooses – NOT YOU says Anthony because your daughter is building inner strength inside herself. If the idea doesn’t work, go back to the list and choose another.
Anthony lives in the Denver area, does workshops all over the country, and writes a column for Parent and Child magazine.
This book changed everything for me – and I think it will for you, too. It’s the best resource for elementary-aged girl bullying. You can’t do anything about the other girl’s behavior, but you can empower your own child. I really, really appreciate this empowering approach, what about you?
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