Ask any adolescent girl and she can easily point out and explain what a clique is, who is part of the “in” crowd, and who is not. In today’s world, peer groups have more influence than ever before, and technology makes it easier for children to be anonymous and more widespread in their malicious behaviors.
Most schools have addressed the issue of boy’s aggressiveness by developing anti-bullying campaigns and character education programs. However, it has only been recently that the attention has turned to girls and what psychologists call “relational aggression”. This behavior consists of spreading rumors and lies, exclusion from the group, writing nasty notes and messages on Web sites, and even physical harassment.
Why are some girls so mean to others?
- They see it at home. Parents who say nasty things about neighbors, in-laws, or their child’s teacher can send a very clear message that this type of behavior is acceptable.
- There is power and influence when you are considered part of the “in” crowd. Therefore, girls who would not naturally be hateful to others may participate so they will not become the target of the aggressors.
- Cliques are self-reinforcing. As soon as you identify yourself with a certain group, you begin to see others as ‘outsiders’. It then becomes harder to feel empathetic, and easier to be cruel.
- It doesn’t take much for a girl to find herself on the “outside.” She may be less or more developed than her peers, prefer a different clothing style, or simply talk to a boy someone in the group has interest in.
What can be done to stop relational aggression?
- Parents should examine themselves and be very aware of the values they are communicating through their actions towards others.
- Talk with your daughter about what is happening at school. Ask general questions about what she may be observing and her opinions. Once the discussion progresses she may be willing to open up and share her personal experiences.
- If she is part of the clique, let her know exactly what behaviors you respect and those you deplore. Make sure she understands there will ALWAYS be consequences for her actions.
- Keep a close eye on Internet and cell phone activity. Put an immediate stop to any inappropriate communications about others.
- Be proactive in relationships with teachers, counselors, and administrators. Calmly approach the principal and ask if the particular behavior you are concerned about is allowed at the school. If the answer is no, then ask about consequences. In writing, document and date your concerns and conversation.
- Follow up with the administration to see what has been done about the problem.
- Band together with other parents whose children are experiencing the same issues. Encourage the school to develop workshops, staff training, and guest speakers as preventative measures.