Bullying is a very real problem for girls today. Almost every girl has either seen one, knows one or is one. As leaders and role models, how do we empower girls to resist bullying tactics and help those who suffer silently under the influence of a bully at school?
In general, when speaking with a girl being bullied, it is important to check in with her and take action in a way that does not further alienate her. A private discussion that takes place at a safe place and safe time can help reassure she is not at fault for being victimized.
Once you have identified a girl who may be exhibiting bullying tendencies, it is important to remember not to label her a bully. Instead, point out bullying behavior in certain situations. When labeled a bully, a girl may be negatively empowered to think she can use her “bully” identity to gain control. For example, she may be led to believe that people won’t say no to her because she’s a bully.
The 2009 Girl Scout Research Institute study, Good Intentions: The Beliefs and Values of Teens and Tweens Today, states that more girls (39%) than boys (23%) turn to their friends when they don’t know what the right thing to do is. This important statistic shows the importance of a positive influence from friends.
Tips for working with different age groups
Daisies and Brownies: Kindergarten and Grades 1-3
- With younger groups of girls, bullying can begin to manifest itself in simple situations like raising hands or working in groups. Encourage understanding by doing activities that require sharing, which can be related to conflict resolution when girls are at the Brownie level.
- Utilize the use of journals where girls can draw or write about things they are experiencing. Providing an outlet that is private and non-discriminatory can help open the doors to verbal communication.
- On the contrary, sometimes girls may want to be more verbal about their feelings within a troop, so providing a safe space and opportunity to voice their opinions can promote ownership and responsibility in working on difficult situations.
- Team building exercises can often be altered to cater to younger elementary school girls and can help girls understand the necessity in being inclusive and welcoming to each other.
- Daisy and Brownie bullies may exert their power by dominating a troop meeting or activity, so it is important to funnel their energy in a way that contributes positively to the group and keeps each girl focused on the task at hand. Identify a “buddy” a bully can partner with who can help equalize her behavior or have her assist the troop leader, as an example of how to be a positive leader.
Juniors and Cadettes: Grades 4-8
- Older elementary and middle school girls become targets of bullying behavior if their opinions differ from their peers.
- In an effort to keep friends and not make enemies, girls will not talk to an adult when bullying exists. They would rather hurt internally than out someone for bullying them and risk further scrutiny.
- “Odd Girl Out,” starring Alexa Vega, is an excellent movie geared toward middle school girls. It addresses important bullying behaviors and consequences. Encouraging the girls to identify each bullying behavior that takes place will help make the girls aware.
- Encouraging open and honest communication can help the girls develop the skills to talk out a problem rather than let it escalate and let bullying behavior develop. A Girls’ Circle is an excellent tool that enables every girl in the group to talk and be heard. Important guidelines for a Girls’ Circle are:
o One person talks at a time
o Use “I” statements
o No put downs or killer statements
o Everything stays in the circle
o We will work toward a solution
Seniors and Ambassadors: Grades 9-12
- Encouraging Senior and Ambassador Girl Scouts to thwart bullying by being a role model for younger girls is an excellent way to make older girls aware of behaviors.
- The opportunity to educate younger girls on the topic gives the older girls ownership and hopefully a deeper understanding of and appreciation for the importance of putting an end to bullying.