Many of my posts cater to providing advice for victims of girl bullying, or the parents of victims. But I feel it’s just as important to address the bully. Often times, it can be much harder for a parent to acknowledge their daughter is causing such pain and drama. It’s crucial to recognize that there are several different roles in female friendships – and they’re not always fixed.
I admit that I’ve been on both sides; though I know wholeheartedly I was the victim more than the bully, I also know there were instances in which I contributed to hurting another girl. It’s not something I’m proud of or am defending in any way – but it has given me such greater insight into the topic itself, and why bullies behave as they do.
This brings me to my first point when it comes to parenting the bully: in my experience, 99% of the time, girls are not bullying with a purely malicious or evil intent. They are not monstrous individuals who lack empathy. Being the bully fulfills a greater – and in their minds, necessary – purpose. So I don’t think the best response is to initially scold your daughter for these actions. Odds are, they know what they’re doing is wrong – further reprimanding them won’t lead to real results. You need to assess what your daughter gains from playing this role; this is not necessarily an easy task, but it’s also not impossible. Observing how she interacts with friends, how others respond to her, how she talks about others, and what the power dynamics are within the group can provide you with clues. Bullying others can yield protection, validation, a sense of control – among many others. Determine what exactly your daughter feels she lacks and how she can develop and cultivate these things in a healthier manner.
However, take this approach with a grain of salt. I believe above all else, the most important piece of advice I have to parents of young girls, is to not be blind to the reality of your daughter’s world. It’s difficult to accept that your daughter may be the bully, entranced by and loyal to the bully, or that she herself is the one being left out. But turning a blind eye to these harsh truths and preserving an untainted, sweet image of your little girl is not the solution. Her world is changing, and in order to best support her, you need to be willing to acknowledge these changes and grow as well.
There is a difference between not scolding her for these actions, and enabling her. The parent can be used as a pawn within their daughters’ games; recognize when this is happening, and don’t get sucked in. It’s a difficult balance to master – playing the role of your daughter’s confidant and keeping an open mind, whilst maintaining clarity and perspective. But remember it’s okay to disagree with her and put your foot down when you’re being called into play. Maintaining a perfect relationship with your daughter is unrealistic, and ultimately not beneficial to you or her. There is life beyond girl bullying – who she is now is not necessarily who she’ll be forever. Remain open. Keep reassessing. And remember you are not alone.