Today we begin our Marvelous Monday series for October to recognize National Bullying Prevention Month. We will cover three tips to parents in three Mondays on how to prevent your daughter from being bullied.
Disclaimer: As the founder of Marvelous University, with over twenty years of experience working with girls and young women, I have seen a variety of ways of how bullying works. I have witnessed how teasing, social hierarchy drama and exclusionary tactics are perpetrated more by “friends” than from a random girl in school who may be considered “the bully.” With that said, each tip will be given with the understanding that your daughter most likely KNOWS the girl who is making school a nightmare for her or at the very least makes her school days VERY difficult to bear.
Also, you should know that there isn’t a foolproof way to prevent your daughter from being bullied. However, as a coach, youth advocate and former school administrator, I can tell you that there are some strategies that can help reduce the likelihood of this happening to your daughter. These tips will create verbal action items for your daughter and get her from the place of tears to tenacity. Let’s begin with the first tip:
Decide if the Assessment is True
Has your daughter ever said (through sighs and tears) that another girl ruined her day? If your daughter is anything like the ones I’ve worked with over the years, the reason for the ruination could be:
“She didn’t talk to me because I’m not pretty enough and she said I don’t look like her other friends.”
“I couldn’t sit with them because she told them I’m awkward.”
“She told the team that if I make it, it’s only because the coach feels sorry for me.”
“She told everyone what I made on my test and now everyone thinks I’m dumb.”
These are just a few of the many examples I could give. Do any of them sound familiar? The statements are so matter of fact and the emotions are real, the tears are real and the helplessness as a parent is real. Your stomach is probably in knots right now because it’s tough when the girl you love is determining her value by someone else’s assessment of her. A
someone peer who happens to have more influence on her confidence than you.
In situations like this, I do two things: First, I have Kleenex handy because, well….because these are tough conversastions and emotions have every right to be present. Second, I ask the girl in tears if the assessment of that girl who is causing the tears accurate. I ask her, “Are you ugly?” “Are you dumb?” “Are you”… whatever it is?
I go on to ask, “And do YOU agree with her?”
Most of the time, the answer is “No.” It isn’t a confident no though so we keep talking. Because instead of internalizing, fretting, and sending you to the mall to get the latest headband that she thinks will make her fit in, your daughter has to begin verbally differentiating between what is true and what is false, which is why I ask the questions. And since the majority of the time girls believe the assessment is false, we’ll focus our attention there.
While patiently listening and waiting through the sniffs and tears, I confidently but gently say to girls, stop believing the assessment, regardless of who the girl is and the
perceived worth of her social capital. Then, after I see the confidence returning, I ask girls to TELL “ruining day girl” her assessment is inaccurate. This is important because false assessments are paralyzing and your daughter has to take action in order to move ahead.
When your daughter uses her own words and says to the girl who makes her cry, “Your assessment of me is wrong and I will not allow you, to make ME, mistreat ME,” she is showing strength, growth and movement FORWARD. Your daughter is standing up for herself and acknowledging that she will not allow another person’s false assessment of her, or their exclusion, lies, or cruel comments, make her think less of herself.
Sounds severe doesn’t it? Perhaps even confrontational? Well, it may be severe but it is not confrontational. Severe because we must stop giving our girls room to internalize the false assessments of themselves. Don’t you agree that your daughter receives too many messages that tell her the complete opposite of what you want her to believe about herself? Would you agree that many of the messages she receives are not true? So would I; which is why we can no longer be passive about calling out the false assessments and addressing them, especially when they are from people we know.
Regarding the confrontation angst. I understand how many of us want to avoid anything that resembles conflict or confrontation. We get nervous about encouraging our daughters to dare to challenge the person who’s filling her head with untruth. We still think it’s easier to kill her with kindness or just ignore her. But, the kindness card doesn’t work in moments like this and ignoring her is impossible, especially when your daughter wants to be accepted by her. So courageous parent, support her to be brave.
Let’s recap, ask your daughter: Is the assessment of the girl who is telling her that she is not enough because of (fill in the blank) TRUE? No, it isn’t. Great! Now, tell your daughter to stop believing it and then EQUIP, ENCOURAGE, and INSPIRE HER to tell that girl she doesn’t believe it. Then watch her marvelous confidence begin to soar.