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Girls often bully without throwing punch

Mon., May 28, 2007

When I was in the sixth grade, the hip girls would come around and pull on a group of girl’s bra straps to see if they were wearing one. I moved my shoulders around, trying to make the appearance of something on my back. It didn’t work; those of us that were not wearing one were teased and laughed at.

I was only 11 years old; I did not need a bra yet. Being singled out was humiliating. Why did they have to draw attention to me? They were no better, yet they pointed out my differences and made me feel small.

I was called a Freckled-Face Strawberry-Head, Can Opener and Tin Grin. Did I cry about getting teased and picked on? Absolutely. Not being part of a group can be lonely. Getting tormented by mean girls was not fun; it was agonizing.

Even though we may not realize it, this type of action is a form of bullying. It shows no physical signs, but the mental anguish is there.

Why are some girls singled out to be picked on?

This type of behavior is known as relational aggression.

Cheryl Dellasega, creator of ClubOphelia.com, says relational aggression is a way of inflicting damage on others without punches. “Instead, a female bully uses words, relationships, and behaviors as weapons against another girl.”

Suzi Gregory, a third grade teacher in the Mead School District, says that she had seen the girl cliques when previously teaching sixth grade, but also sees it among younger girls. “Mean things are done to bring attention to differences,” she says.

Gregory says that as early as the third grade, girls are exploring the idea of getting into groups. They create “pockets of controlling,” such as “I won’t be your friend if you don’t do…”

How do you protect your children from being hurt and left out?

How do you empower them so that they can handle ridicule?

Gregory notes that girls who keep themselves busy with athletics have not been as prone to being part of a mean-spirited group of girls.

These athletic girls often have more self confidence and don’t need the reinforcement of a clique.

Kathy Masarie of Full Esteem Ahead, a nonprofit parenting organization, offers these tips to help children who are being bullied:

•Know that it’s not your fault and that you don’t deserve it.

•Tell the bully to stop.

•Remove yourself from the situation.

•Get help from people you trust, a school counselor, babysitter or Mom or Dad.

•Hang out with people who let you be you.

•Use humor to deflect bullying.

•Don’t become a bully yourself.

Mikayla Daniels, a Parents Council member, says “building up every girl’s esteem (letting them know they are special and have something to offer the world) is what needs to be done …”

Did the tormenting I received as a child mold me into the person I am today? Maybe it did. Without realizing it at the time, it taught me to be strong, independent and to not fear what others think.

Girl cliques have been around for a long time and will most likely not go away.

The best defense is to arm your daughters with the courage to stand up, be strong and believe in themselves.



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