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Parenting Guru: When girls bully

Julie Weingarden Dubin is a Michigan-based freelance journalist, blogger and author with three rocking kids, a loving husband and a trashed minivan. She covers parenting, health, psychology, relationships and pop culture for national mag...

How to get rid of mean-girl behavior

Kimber Bishop-Yanke has spent the last 13 years teaching kids how to stand up to bullies. The founder and president of Detroit-based Girls Empowered, a business offering empowerment programs to kids, says girls in the middle are a big problem. They’re involved in “social combat” trying to climb their school’s social hierarchy. Many are both the aggressor and the victim. Girls today feel they can’t be themselves because their friends may not like them and they try to please everyone — they’ll even step all over other girls to make sure they have friends, Bishop-Yanke says.

How to get rid of
mean-girl behavior

Kimber Bishop-Yanke has spent the last 13 years teaching kids how to stand up to bullies. The founder and president of Detroit-based Girls Empowered, a business offering empowerment programs to kids, says girls in the middle are a big problem. They’re involved in “social combat” trying to climb their school’s social hierarchy. Many are both the aggressor and the victim.

Girls today feel they can’t be themselves because their friends may not like them, and they try to please everyone — they’ll even step all over other girls to make sure they have friends, Bishop-Yanke says.

The early starting point

How young is bullying starting with girls, and when should parents begin talking to their daughters about it?

Bishop-Yanke: Research shows that relational aggression — rumors, gossip, lying, excluding, unfriendly body language — starts in preschool. Parents need to start talking early about what acting mean and being kind look and sound like.

If your daughter is a victim, teach her to talk back to the bully rather than slink away silently. Empower her with some comebacks so she can stand up to the tough girls, such as: “If it was a joke we’d both be laughing,” or, “Why are you paying so much attention to me?”

Kids should stand up for themselves three different times, and if the meanness continues, get help from an adult.

The media is placing more of a spotlight on bullying, and celebrities are getting involved. Why is bullying still a big problem?

Bishop-Yanke: While there’s a lot of press about bullying, there’s little actual training going on. Kids, parents and schools need to have a common language and understanding, a process in place and the skills to handle bullying, relational aggression and mean-spirited behavior.

We need to stop using the word bullying unless it’s truly a bullying situation because people are calling everything bullying, and everyone is becoming frozen as to what to do.

Take away “tattletale” term

What can girls do who are afraid to come forward when they’re bullied? What if mean girls threaten them?

Bishop-Yanke: Adults and children misuse the term tattletale. They need to be taught the difference between tattling and reporting. We’re asking that adults and schools stop using the word tattletale.

Schools need to address the bully or Queen Bee without saying the target reported them. They can say an adult heard them or other children reported them. We have to increase the awareness that by keeping silent, we give the bullies power.

Tell us

Moms, do you think bullying with girls is getting worse? Please share your thoughts and stories in the comments below.

More on bullying

How to deal with mean girl cliques
Bullying in schools
Victory over verbal abuse

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