When Girls Bully (page 2)

When Girls Bully

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Updated on Apr 7, 2010

The good news is that girls can develop these characteristics at home, with the support of their family. How can parents facilitate this? Marean gives these ideas:

  • Role Model. Marean says this is the most powerful thing a parent can do. Let your daughter see you handle conflict, speak about how you feel, and admit your mistakes. “When your daughter sees you own up to your mistakes, she is much more likely to do that with her friends, and that means she isn't trapped in the cycle of having to be perfect and covering up mistakes,” she says.
  • Give Her Permission for Difficult Feelings in the Home. Rather than feeding into the temptation to smooth all her ruffled feathers, let her get upset. Even if it means slamming the door, it's important that she realize conflict is a part of life that doesn't need to be hidden.
  • Practice Inside Feelings. Inside feelings are the ones we usually don't share openly (jealousy, embarrassment, hurt) and outside feelings are ones we show (anger, rage). Marean says it's important for girls to understand the difference between the two and how, while inside feelings are often more difficult to talk about, they help to preserve friendships.
  • Practice “I” statements. Marean says the home should be a place where children can learn how to practice communicating during conflict. And that goes for adults, too. It's the difference between saying “You're so ungrateful” and “I feel used when you ask me to drive you everywhere.”
  • Encourage Role-play. Though this can be awkward, it can be a valuable tool for helping your daughter deal with conflict confidently and honestly. If your daughter is facing a difficult conversation with her friend, let her practice, with you pretending to be the friend. Marean suggests asking questions like “How could you start this conversation? What might you say to her? How might your friend react?”
  • Make Your Home a Put-Down Free Zone. When anyone in your house uses language to put themselves down from “I'm bad at math” to “I look terrible in this” family members signal the violation, either with a whistle or with a code word. Just be ready when your daughter starts calling you out! Similarly, when someone makes a joke that is offensive, Marean suggests her students say, “That's my NJZ” which stands for No Joke Zone. When that code word is used, the other person has to simply apologize and change the subject.

Marean says these techniques help teach girls to be resilient, which is an essential part of dealing with bullying. “It's not that you want a daughter that will never have problems. That's not realistic. But you want to teach her to be emotionally intact in order to manage them.”

For more information on the Girls Leadership Institute, go to:

For more information on bullying, check out our Bullying Special Edition.

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