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“Stop putting your hot breath on me,” one girl yells from the back of the classroom. It’s the same boy targeted every single time, and it seems that no matter where you move him, there’s a problem. At first you think he’s doing something to upset people because you never catch anyone else doing anything. The girls in the class laugh every time he gets in trouble, despite warnings, but they swear he’s doing it and they’ve got the whole class behind them. About a month later, a new person in the classroom gets targeted and they leave him alone. That’s when you realize the problem was never that boy you kept moving.
It’s the girls, and they’ve developed a mean girl club in your classroom.
What do you do? First, you need to recognize that girl bullying and boy bullying are completely different—sometimes girl bullying is hard to detect because it’s so personal and calculating, but the first step to stopping girl bullying is detection. Once detected, if the bullying is found quickly enough, you can either prevent girl bullying or stop it dead in its tracks with a few key strategies.
Detection of Girl Bullying
When girls bullying, it is not physical and usually involves emotional abuse. Here are some things that you might see when girls bully:
- Alienation: When girls bully, they want to make whomever is involved feel alone. You might see them move away from the person they’re bullying or even just whisper behind that person’s back. The bullying victim will quickly lose friends while the girls make sure everyone around them abandons and ignores them.
- The Rumor Mill: If they can think of something disastrous to spread about a person, they will. A lot of times sexual rumors or even physical ones become the topic of conversation.
- Gang Mentality: The girls might gang up on their victim to demonstrate control. A large group of them together can make for an intimidating situation for the bullying victim.
- Emotional Abuse: A victim of girl bullying will likely suffer a lot of emotional abuse—from vicious jokes to name calling and other forms of verbal abuse, the girls will do everything they can to break their victim down.
- Gaining Popularity: A girl bully will pick up new friends and social groups like a snowball rolling downhill. The more friends she has, the more she uses her power to attack her victims and get everyone else to do the same.
Girl bullying happens quietly and with craftiness. Their deception and sabotage of their victim may go on for days, weeks, or even months without detection if you don’t play close attention to the dynamics in the classroom. Even if you see it, it seems impossible to stop. So, what can you do to stop girl bullying?
Strategies for Preventing Girl Bullying
First, recognize that ignoring the situation will not make it better. Girl bullies thrive on attention, and if you ignore it, don’t think they’ll go unnoticed by their victim. Not only will the bullying not stop, but it will get worse until they get the attention they’re looking for. So, what do you do? When you have girl bullying going on at your school or in the classroom, there are several strategies to employ:
- Make sure all of the students in the room know healthy communication skills. They need to learn how to use social media appropriately and how to handle conflict productively. Many children now don’t have any built-in skills for dealing with difficult social situations and need our coaching as a result of never being taught how to communicate.
- Lead by example and be respectful of the people around you. Kids notice just about everything. If you gossip and talk negatively about others, you are modeling the same behavior you’re trying to prevent.
- Use the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Teach your students this rule and use it often. Phrases like, “How would you feel if someone…to you?” can sometimes help them put it in perspective. They may say they wouldn’t care, but don’t let that discourage you from repeating the rule often.
- Girl bullies often lack confidence and self-esteem, and bullying others is a way to make themselves feel powerful and in control. Make sure they are receiving counseling to help deal with these feelings and so that the counselor can teach them appropriate ways to handle their feelings. It takes time to change things, but it is possible.
- Many times, girl bullying happens when the “leader” of the group lacks resources, whether emotional or physical. Make sure she is getting her needs met and that she feels accepted and loved.
Although these strategies all work well to prevent bullying, the best way to stop girl bullying is for it to never start in the first place. Early detection if the best weapon when you’re trying to stop girl bullying in the classroom. Once it spins out of control, it is very difficult to put a stop to it, so getting a handle on it early will make the job much easier than when you have a girl controlling the rest of the classroom while they all isolate and emotionally abuse their victim. In the case of the boy in the classroom that always seems to have girls telling on to him and laughing, noticing who the ring leader is and addressing the problem directly with her may help. If it’s gone on for a long time, make sure to get some help for the victim as well. The emotional damage caused by bullying can last for years, and starting the healing process as soon as possible will help. Pay attention to the group dynamics in your classroom, get to know your students well, and nurture an environment of mutual respect and understanding. Girl bullying is a challenge, but with these strategies in mind, it’s not impossible to make your classroom a true bully free zone.
How do you deal with bullying in the classroom?