October is National Bullying Prevention Month so for this month’s Marvelous Mondays, I will offer parental tips on “How to prevent your daughter from being bullied.”
I should make one thing clear: The tips are offered with the understanding that your daughter likely knows the person(s) bullying her. They may even be friends. As the founder of Marvelous University, with over twenty years of experience working with girls and young women, I have seen how bullying works. I have witnessed how teasing, social hierarchy drama, and exclusionary tactics are perpetrated more by “friends” than a random girl in school who may be considered “the bully.”
Also, 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. You should utilize these tips as tools to create action items for your daughter, as well as for yourself.
Last week we covered the first tip: Decide if the assessment is true.
This week’s tip: Teach Her How To Break Up With the “BFF”
As I mentioned above, through my experiences working with girls, I’ve seen how bullying tactics are perpetrated more among “friends” than from a random girl in school who may be identified as “THE BULLY.” Since we don’t always effectively teach girls what to want, expect, and give in a friendship, many of them remain in bonds that are unhealthy when they should “break up” with the person who is offending them. Girls place loyalty as one of the top three things that they MUST have in their friendships. However, they don’t always realize that being loyal does not require that one remain committed to someone who is hurting them.
So when girls share a “bullying” issue with me, I always ask if the person they are having an issue with is considered a friend. If they say yes, then we talk about why. “Why is this person your friend, especially your ‘best friend?'” Most of the time girls look confused as if I should know the answer. As if the fact that they’ve known each other since 2nd grade means they’re friends for life. Or the fact that they both absolutely love Taylor Swift. Not even the fact that they made their own Nae Nae video means they’re supposed to always be friends.
The explanation of the why is that there should be at least three things she must have in a friendship. Three things that she will not compromise no matter what. So I ask how the girl who is teasing her meets the friendship standards she has for herself. If nothing matches the list, then we talk about how next steps.
This is where big decisions are made. It’s one thing to know that you’re unhappy in a friendship and another to actually do something about it -especially when you’re in the 7th grade! But wouldn’t you agree that if your daughter doesn’t know how to end an unhealthy friendship, it may be all the more difficult for her to recognize the signs and seek refuge if she were in an unhealthy dating relationship? Learning to set standards and establish boundaries with friendships carries over to dating. Yes, even if YOU’VE told her that she can’t date until she’s 30!
So contrary to what most girls believe and are taught, I strongly suggest they learn the value of knowing when and how to break up with that so-called “friend.” Also known as the BFF, the Bullying Fake Friend.
Breaking up looks like this:
Your daughter: Based on how you treat me, by making fun of me, by excluding me, by talking about me – we aren’t friends. I will still treat you like a human being but, this isn’t the kind of “friendship” I want.
The BFF: Ohmygoodness (eye roll). You’ve got to be kidding me! I was just teasing. Stop being so sensitive. It’s really annoying.
Your daughter: Again, based on how you treat me, including teasing me, we are not friends. This isn’t the kind of “friendship” I deserve.
Yes, breaking up is a scary term because it sounds so…FINAL. In a girl’s mind, there will never ever be another friendship between them. Then there are all the other what-ifs and nevers that come along with that. But, assure her that this person who is treating her like dust is not the only person who wants to be her friend. Remind her of the other friends she has, even if they don’t have the social capital and visibility she desires. Finally, remind her how depleted she feels when she leaves this person’s presence and that she deserves a better friendship.
Trust me, it never fails. Giving girls an opportunity to say what they want in a friendship is POWERFUL. If she can look at her friendships and evaluate whether or not she has what she needs and then decides that the friendship isn’t healthy, you’re giving her a lifelong tool. Because no girl is going to put “get teased on a regular basis” on her “what I want in a friendship” list.
Let’s recap. Preventing your daughter from being bullied begins with deciding if the assessment of the person who is teasing her is true. The next step is to teach her that it is completely fine and often necessary, to end an unhealthy friendship. EQUIP, ENCOURAGE, and INSPIRE HER to know she deserves to be in a healthy friendship. Then watch her marvelous confidence begin to soar.