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Empowering Girls to Respond to Social Aggressive Bullying

By Bethany Todd, in collaboration with Laura Barr


Bullying behavior can look different coming from a girl versus a boy. While boys tend to bully more physically, girls bullying behavior is often more “socially aggressive”. This aggression is often manipulative behavior that happens away from the eyes of teachers and sometimes parents; it’s hidden. In this article we will discuss how to teach children to respond to girl bullies and their socially aggressive behavior.

Signe Whitson, a social worker and educator on bullying, discusses in her article, how to help girls cope with bullying. She recommends that girls learn how to appropriately outlet their anger and identify when someone is being manipulated or bullied. Whitson also encourages parents to help children find their strengths and have a conversation about what good friends do.

Identify A Bully and a Friend

In last’s week blog, we talked about the importance of identifying a bully.  It’s  important that parents specifically talk to girls about non-physical social aggression. Begin by helping your child understand what social aggression is. Then, work with your child to create a list of behaviors that girls may do to hurt their feelings. Examples may include, lying, excluding from a club or playdate, gossiping, or targeting one girl. Talk about how these behaviors are often done in secret or quietly and how that can be hurtful.

Define words like manipulate, deceive, and friendship. Use this conversation to create another list in which you identify what good friends do. Examples might be: including others, encouraging each other, sharing, complementing, or respecting them when they aren’t around.


Expressing Anger

Teaching girls ways to express their anger is an important lesson. When we don’t teach them this lesson, they sometimes learn that anger is bad. This can lead to young girls expressing their anger in secret, which can turn into manipulative or destructive behavior.

Below is a list of ways parents can teach their children to appropriately outlet their anger:

  1. Focus on their own feelings and avoid blaming
  2. Use “I” statements
  3. Identify their emotions
  4. Be respectful
  5. Get space and breathe before addressing the matter
  6. Journal with your Child


Encourage your Child’s Strengths

Socially aggressive behavior can be very destructive because it can destroy a child’s self-esteem and confidence.  Talk to your child daily. Encourage their strengths and cheer them on. Boost their self-esteem in every way you can!


A Book Recommendation

e.Merging team member, Julie Greves, recommends the book, Little Girls Can Be Mean


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