Girls and Bullying

May 15, 2009 at 3:05 pm 6 comments

Has anyone noticed the plethora of stories and articles out there about “mean girls” or girls and bullying?  I was reading this one article in a Boston Globe publication about 5th grade girls and in the article it stated  “It’s very typical for girls at this age to be mean, nasty, and downright rotten to each other.”   REALLY?  I always feel like I’m defending a girls inner nature – that deeper part of her that wants to be connected and wants to be loved and wants to be inclusive and friendly.

I remember this one story I heard at a Girls Circle training about a school who was having terrible problems with girls and bullying.  So, they decided to gather all the biggest “bully” girls and put them on a LEADERSHIP TEAM to figure out how to stop bullying.  Guess what happened?   Almost overnight, those girls began to think of ways to influence other girls to stop bullying, to improve communication and to stop hurting each other.  Another GREAT STORY about focusing on utilizing the strength-based approach!   And we have heard countless stories about how in Girls Circle, girls stopped bullying – or girls changed from MEAN girls to CARING girls or at the least RESPECTFUL girls.

So then…….is bullying “inherent” in girls?  Or are we just focusing and pointing a lens at the wrong side of girls behavior?  Because what I’m noticing and hearing all around the country is that it dosen’t take long for girls to change these behaviors if we, as adults, believe they can and provide opportunities for them to do so.  So, are these behaviors really inherent in girls? Can’t the biggest bully girl become the best leader?  I say YES.   What say you?  ~Giovanna


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Girls Circle and Climate Change Check-In – Favorite Time in Girls Circle

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Beth  |  April 12, 2011 at 7:25 pm

    Linda, this is an excellent story of how you were not only prepared but took the chance to a) notice what was being said “just joking” and b) taking positive and helpful action on behalf of the girls in your group – all of them!
    Thank you for the suggested book and how you are considering using it within the Girls Circle as a read aloud moment.
    Great to have your voice and experience, Linda!
    Keep up your incredible work.

    Appreciatively, the GC team.

  • 2. whatsaysyou  |  March 24, 2011 at 7:40 am

    As a former victim of bullying, it makes me sick and angry to hear of ‘horror’ stories of girls who bully. It is sad but true that bullying committed by girls is no myth and it is getting worse in this day and age. However, I would like to point out some popular girls in school are capable of bullying and I was a victim of bullying in the hands of some of the popular girls in my class long ago.

    If we want to curb bullying among girls, I believe girls need to be parent properly so that they won’t become tomorrow’s moralless, ruthless and corrupted meanettes in the workplace, neigbourhood, social circle or in the home. Last but not least, bullies also need to undergo counselling and therapy to help them curb their bullying behaviour before it is too late to be stopped.

    • 3. Beth  |  April 12, 2011 at 7:21 pm

      Hi, I really appreciate your views, whatsaysyou, and am glad you’re speaking up too about the seriousness and harmful impacts of bullying. Girls and boys are growing up in a culture that sometimes encourages bullying, or at least looks the other way as if not to hear it. I do agree that parents play an important role, not only as role models, but also to become educated on how to help their daughters and sons deal with the bullying culture. Doing the “right thing” is not always immediately clear and/or doesn’t always feel socially safe to kids, so talking it out with parents and supportive adults can help kids prepare how to respond when it happens around them or to them. Thanks for your thoughts.

  • 4. Jackie  |  May 19, 2009 at 4:41 pm

    My daughter is in 9th grade, and will be turning 16 soon. When she was in 4th-5th, 6th grade.. OMG!!!! She was always on the receiving end of bullying. She was a champion speller, articulate, unusually physically mature, and very bright.. I. Will never forget the drama and the trauma of never ending ridicule, and physical bullying of those days.. It was so bad at one time, I went on a email and letter writing campaign to everyone I know.. in every city in every state, and asked them to fax the school to send the message that bullying is NOT ok. It sorta worked. The emails and faxes generated such an uproar that the school administration called a meeting between me and my daughter and the parents of one bully in particular, and the police.. The only thing that changed was awareness. But the girl and her parents were so in denial.. The school and police were not helpful at all.

    My daughter and I eventually moved to another school district.. where some bullying happened when girls felt rejected and jealous… because my daughter was more selective about who she would befriend..

    Now, she’s the same active intelligent person only a little taller and has some self taught coping skills behind her. SHE DOESN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE. She’s been in the same school and with the same girls now for the past 4 years. She’s still telling me stories of bullying incidents from back then, that I’ve never heard before..

    In the midst of it, I was at my wits end! No one cared. It was said to be a rite of passage and they’ll outgrow it. BUT it is so so harmful and distracting, to say the least. My daughter and I cried and fought with each other so much. She threatend to run away, even suicide! I wanted her to cope by ignoring it.. She was tired of coping and ignoring it, and being nice to people. She was having stomach aches, head aches, vomiting, being absent -nearly truant..Counseling didn’t help. We didn’t need the counseling.. the bullies and their parents did! The mean girl drama made her walk away from acting in theater.. only to discover she loves set design and stage management..

    I’m so glad this is all over and I applaud your efforts to be extremely proactive in this matter. I tried, or thought about trying to facilitate your Girls Circle classes, but, as a working single mom, it would require more energy and effort than I had stored up. And the route I took seems to have made things worst for my daughter.. until that email campaign.

    Parents are in denial that they have girls behaving badly. After all, “she’s so smart and pretty and nice.” I’ve noticed that the girls that used to bully my daughter are no where to be found now.. Constantly in off campus detention or gone for a semester and back, then gone again..

    My daughter is graciously tough now. She has very little tolerance for non-sense and she can spot non-sense a mile away.. Sometimes I think she’s too hard on people as a result of her experiences with bullies.. Not too many girls (or people in general) get second chances (aka forgiveness) with her. I’m doing all I can to help her soften up a bit on this, but.. she’s made up her mind.

    She’s an honors student, very active, and has been inducted in to a few National Honor Societies.. but my job now is to help her lighten up about friendships with girls. As an only child, having deep, compatible friendships with other girls can be very fulfilling. But her position is, that she doesn’t have time to figure bad girls out anymore.. Once they violate.. they’re out!

    She does have plenty of guy friends that make her laugh and keep her sane during school.. And that’s worth gold to me!

    • 5. Beth  |  May 21, 2009 at 2:37 am

      Thank you for describing the long and excrutiating ordeal your daughter suffered, and you as well, throughout the years she was bullied. Your daughter’s strength and determination are evident, and her firm boundaries sound protective given all the violation she endured. Unfortunately so many girls have some degree of this kind of experience, and many girls in Girls Circle groups initially say they don’t trust girls, don’t talk to girls, and prefer their male friends. That begins to change once girls begin listening to one another and discovering commonalities, in the GC group environment with its’ high standards for real respect. Your daughter is fortunate for your proactive efforts to open the school and community’s eyes to the problem. It must’ve been a terrible position of isolation for both of you. One of our goals in Girls Circle is to recognize that the issue of bullying affects individuals and yet somehow stems from the broader culture that reinforces bullying behavior. Any T.V. series will confirm that. It’s our goal to promote nonjudgment AND personal responsibility both – not to blame girls but to invite them to identify and explore harmful interactions, recognize that their needs for power or popularity or attention can be met in relational ways. Rather than using relationships as currency for power, girls learn they can be powerful in effective ways and often far more enjoyable ways with collaboration and inclusion. We have a long way to go to reach the goal of having a Girls Circle for every girl who wants one – on schools, in communities and homes, in programs. Yet your story and the stories of so many girls who’ve been hurt, or isolated, or participated in hurtful actions are stories that we know can have different endings – and someday different beginnings too – through empowerment groups like Girls Circle. Thank you so much for your comment and many best wishes. – Beth

      • 6. Linda Lilly  |  April 12, 2011 at 2:36 pm

        As a somewhat new GC Facilitator – I’m working with my 2nd group, (plus a Mother/Daughter group) I encountered this face to face for the first time recently when I picked up on the fact that one of my girls is a bully and another is one of her primary victims. As the universe would have it, I had attended a wonderful anti-bullying workshop the day previous, where the keynote speaker was Jodee Blanco, a best-selling author and a powerful speaker on this subject. When I heard the comment from the bully “I was just joking around” — I related my workshop experience & some of the experience of Ms. Blanco AND the fact that the title of her school presentations is “It’s Not Just Joking Around”….this caught all the girl’s attention and they were eager to hear more of her stories. Her latest book, “Please Stop Laughing At Us” contains specific techniques for handling the victims and their tormentors. (and I was so glad to see that she has equal compassion for both!) Her techniques are compassionate and creative and fly in the face of what we’re so often told to do i.e. tell the victim to “ignore” it and walk away – which is asking them to be a bystander in their own life! (and you’re right Jackie, it’s not the victims that need counseling, yet that’s so often what we’re told to do!) Since my GC Girls seem eager learn more, I’m thinking about incorporating parts of her powerful story of being the victim into a read-aloud section of our GC meetings. I urge everyone who cares about this issue to check out her work. She is an intelligent critic of what is not working in our schools and a big defender of the rights of all children to live a peaceful, compassionate life.
        And Jackie ~ kudos to you for standing up for your daughter!! I’m glad to hear that she is in a better place and I hope that her strength & belief in herself continues to grow. The scars left by bullying can last a lifetime. Peace to you both!

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