Mean Girls: How to handle girl bullies

Girl bullies do things differently — here’s how to teach your child to recognise them and stop them...

Mean Girls: How to handle girl bullies
Mean Girls: How to handle girl bullies

In Mean Girls (2004), starring Lindsay Lohan and Rachel McAdams, the high-school girl clique and the “losers” play cruel tricks, hurl insults and betray one another. Their actions are very “drama” but there’s some truth to what the silver screen portrays.

Boy bullies are simpler to identify as they are more likely to commit obvious acts of malice, such as physical violence and stealing the other person’s things/money. Girls, conversely, tend to be more subtle in their approach.

What a “Mean Girl” does:

  • Indulges in name calling.
  • Excludes a person intentionally from their clique.
  • Spreads rumours.

Girls who feel insecure about themselves may engage in bullying...to increase their social position and make themselves feel better.

What drives a “Mean Girl’s” behaviour?

Girls who feel insecure about themselves may engage in bullying behaviour such as gossiping or spreading rumours to increase their social position and make themselves feel better. They carry out such actions to attack the victim’s self-esteem and reputation.

Wendy*, a primary school teacher, told SmartParents that such characters even create group chats to taunt their victims, such as a girl who could not hang out with her friends as she had strict curfews. “Even when that girl tried to leave the group chat, they kept re-adding her in order to taunt her,” says Wendy. Thanks to the Internet and smartphones, such incidents are not uncommon, even among children under age 10.

Your child could be a victim of bullying if he/she:

  • Has few friends with whom she spends her time with.
  • Seems afraid of attending class or taking part in organised activities with peers.
  • Seems sad and/or depressed. Complains of headaches, stomachaches or other physical ailments, often caused by stress.
  • Has trouble sleeping.
  • Is not eating as well as before.
  • Appears anxious and suffers from low self-esteem.
Mean Girls: How to handle girl bullies

How to open the subject with junior

Asking your child if he or she is being bullied in school rarely works, notes Dr Hana Ra Adams, a family therapist/counsellor at the German European School Singapore. “Instead, teach your child how to identify a bully.

She adds, “Ask your child about her day at school, who their friends are, and what they did in class or during their class break. Help them break down the day and talk about their interactions with peers.”

Communicating openly with your kid is key ― the more aware you are whom they interact with, the more you can help them zoom in bullying behaviour.

Communicating openly with your kid is key ― the more aware you are as to whom she interacts with, the more you can help her zoom in bullying behaviour.

It is important that you don’t overreact and label every incident as “a bullying situation”. However, don’t ignore any complaints your child makes about a school mate: If your child keeps telling you of similar brushes with an acquaintance, talk to the other person’s caregivers. If the behaviour occurs in school, talk with the teacher to better understand what’s happening in the classroom.

How your child can handle the bully

School bullies
Dr Adams advises, “A child should tell the bully clearly and loudly to stop. Then walk away and find a trusted adult right away about the incident. Educate your child about the difference between telling and tattling. It is not tattling if someone is being harmed.” The harm can be physical or emotional — it is not right if your child is being made to feel bad all the time.

Remind your child that while it’s tempting to fight back, she should not engage with the bully. As bullies enjoy the victim’s reaction, they will continue behaving badly if she thinks she’ll get the response she’s looking for.

If your child is still insecure about this defense — worrying that “just telling her won’t stop her”, tell your child to be firm but loud. Being loud draws attention to the situation so that others are alerted. Most bullies do not act when there is an audience that condemns their behaviour — if a child quite loudly tells someone to “Stop it! I don't like that!”, then others around them are more likely to see the interaction as negative and stand up for the victim.

Online bullies
Again, tell her not to give the reaction bullies want by responding. If these bullies are persistent, tell your child to save these messages as evidence. You can also always block the individual’s chat messages.

Most importantly, though, tell her not to believe what the person is saying online. It’s easy to use the safety of a computer to say mean things because the person is probably too cowardly to say those things in person. Explain that in Singapore, the Protection from Harassment law will help cyberbullying victims as the person who engages in bullying behaviour can be punished for her actions.

Tell her to let these bullies know that you know they are not immune from getting in serious trouble. And if your child says she is going to send the information to the appropriate people — do it! Don’t make empty “threats” you will not follow through with — it will only embolden these bullies.

Mean Girls: How to handle girl bullies

Confidence is a real bully stopper, notes Dr Adams, since bullies torment people they think they have power over. She advises, “Show them that they do not have power over you. Showing that you are confident and not afraid is key to bullies keeping a wide berth.”

How to build up your child’s confidence

  • Help your child gain confidence in her interests, as well as find good friends who share similar interests.
  • Tell your child it doesn’t matter what others say about her. As long as she is confident in herself, the bully should not have any effect on her and will eventually stop if she is not getting the response she is looking for.
  • Teach your child that she should stand up for herself and her beliefs. Help her understand that it’s important to be kind to others even when they are mean to you.
  • Let your child know she needs to seek support from trusted adults who can help her deal with the problem.
  • Encourage your child to work on a positivity journal and help her write down all the positive things about herself. She can look at the journal when she is feeling low or upset.

 

Even if bullies aren’t in your child’s life, it’s important that you build up your offspring’s confidence from the start, so that if she has encounters a bully, she’s strong enough to stand up to her on her own (with mummy and daddy’s support).

Help resources

Keep these resources handy — if your child feels they cannot talk to you, perhaps these people can help...

Coalition Against Bullying for Children and Youth
#27-04 International Plaza
10 Anson Road
(65) 6223-3122
E-mail: ask@cabcy.org.sg

Touch Cyber Wellness
#05-3555, Block 162 Bukit Merah Central
(65) 6273-5568

Community Health Assessment Team
#05-05 *Scape 2 Orchard Link
(65) 6493-6500 and (65) 6493-6501
Hours: Noon to 9pm, Tues to Sun (closed on public holidays)
E-mail: chat@youthinmind.sg

*Name changed

Photos: iStock

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