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Health & Pregnancy

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Girls Just Wanna Be Mean

Girls Who Bully

(Pierced) Earmarks of a Bully continued...

"If a girl is being bullied and no one is speaking to her, she may ask a friend, 'Are you mad?' and the friend will say no, though clearly something is wrong," says Wiseman.

How did Kelsey finally make it through school? "I sort of walked in between," she says. "I was friends with the geeks, skaters, gangsters, stoners, jocks, and those background people. You know -- the ones you see in class but don't know."

Hey, mom and dad, did you know all this was going on? And school is just starting!

If Your Child Is Being Bullied

According to Wiseman, many parents never learn the bullying is going on. Their kids may simply become quiet or depressed or refuse to go to school. Others think kids need to work these situations out for themselves.

Chesler suggests parents warn girls ahead of time that this could happen -- and probably will. "Kids need to know this can break their heart, but it isn't their fault, they didn't do anything wrong."

Jean Spaulding, MD, a professor of psychiatry at Duke University in Durham, N.C., suggests parents talk with their daughters alone in the car. "Ask about specific friends," she suggests. "'How's Molly these days? What's Sarah up to?" See how the child reacts. If she says, 'Molly's mean,' Molly may be bullying your child."

If this happens, network with other parents, Spaulding urges. Then, go to the school, the teacher, and the counselor to see if this can be handled. Maybe role-playing in class. "Teachers cannot allow this to go on," Spaulding says.

In Kelsey's case, she was crying in the bathroom and her religion teacher came in, put an arm around her, and slipped a tightly folded note into her hand. Later, she opened it: "The whole world is not against you," it read, signed with a smiley face. "I still have that note," Kelsey says.

What if Your Daughter Is the Bully?

On the reverse, your child may be doing the bullying. Wiseman also suggests keeping an ear open in the car. Some warning signs your child may be relationally aggressive:

  • Having a party and wanting to exclude certain kids.
  • Negative comments, "She's lame."
  • Gossiping about a girl who's not present. "Those shoes!"
  • A friend is no longer mentioned or calls.

"If a parent comes to you and says your child is being a bully," Spaulding says, "check out the story at school before talking to the child. Then say, 'They told me at school that you have been having arguments with other girls. What's that all about?'" Most of these bullying girls who do it for sport need counseling, Spaulding adds.

"It's a great chance to make an ethical point in a context the child will understand," Wiseman says. "Don't you want to raise an ethical child?"

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Reviewed on August 26, 2002

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