It’s hard not to worry about the effects of bullying on today’s young people after reading headlines like Monday’s: “9 Teenagers Are Charged After Classmate’s Suicide.” We can hope the group of girls from South Hadley High School didn’t expect their taunting and threats to result in Irish student Phoebe Prince’s hanging herself in January.
But there you have it: words can and do hurt you, even if the old adage says they can’t.
I shudder when I hear stories like this because just the other night a few girlfriends were talking about their daughters, who are a few years older than Katherine, and how the cliques and meanness start well before junior high. The catty behavior of certain queen bees just floor the moms.
Was it that bad when we were in middle school, junior high, and high school?
I, for one, would rather skip to senior citizenship than go back in time. It was an awful period for me, as I had bad ache and was called “Pimple Face” by some, while my beautiful and popular twin sister got invited to all the parties. I still remember getting kicked out of one group because I couldn’t find a boy that liked me.
Erika Holiday and Joan Rosenberg, authors of “Mean Girls, Meaner Women,” say the female aggression thing doesn’t really get better as we mature. I agree with them to a certain point. My first job out of school was a toxic environment, where my boss made fun of me on a regular basis. But outside of that, what I find different now, then when I was that pimply pre-teen, is that I can remove myself from it much more easily. Yeah, the cliques and the cattiness are still there. But I don’t have engage in it. And, in fact, by removing myself from it–and staying accountable for my side of every relationship–I can help model to Katherine what to do if she’s the victim of mean behavior. They write:
As women learn to tolerate, manage and directly express unpleasant feelings of anger, aggression, competitiveness, envy, jealousy, or hurt more effectively with each other, we will see less relationally hurtful behavior between women. Model appropriate use of anger and direct expression of it within your relationships and it can help girls understand more about how to handle their angry feelings. It can also help girls understand that conflicts naturally occur in friendships and that these conflicts can be resolved in a direct and loving manner without damaging the friendship. Help your child articulate painful feelings–she may have to go through the messiness of learning how to get the words out–even if it is uncomfortable.
What do you think? How do we address the bullying problem?