I Didn’t Know I Was a Bully!


I teach workshops for grades K-8 girls to help them identify and successfully navigate through relational aggression. After every workshop, the girls are asked to complete an evaluation, so I can continually improve upon workshop content and delivery. I want to know what’s near and dear to girls’ hearts regarding emotional bullying.

The first time “it” happened, I was amazed. There it was in childlike scrawl in response to the question:

Question: What did you learn today?

Answer: I didn’t know I was a bully.

Imagine my amazement! The workshop helped one girl recognize her behaviors were of the bullying sort. My intention was to help girls successfully navigate through bullying, and it was a BIG bonus for someone to have an “aha” moment regarding their own bullying behaviors! I also thought it was a one-time answer.

And Then It Happened Again

Along came another workshop and another “I didn’t know I was a bully” answer. And then another and another. The answer became so prevalent I came to understand many girls didn’t recognize their behaviors as hurtful to others.

The Theory: We Can’t Assume

While it seems reasonable that girls should know what types of behaviors are hurtful to others, we can never assume they do.  So much of what they say and do is learned though role modeling, people watching, or media examples.  At a young age, it’s hard for girls to understand that the comment, “Whatever,” is sarcastic or dismissive or that eye rolling is a way to show disrespect or disdain.  When they’ve grown up with family or school teasing or name calling, why should they know these are not appropriate friendship-making skills?  When their childhood idols gossip and are routinely part of the rumor mill, why would it occur to them that talking negatively about others is hurtful?

Directly Teaching Friendship Skills

Let’s think about this.  Since a significant number of girls don’t realize their actions are bullying behaviors, why don’t we directly teach them positive friendship skills?  Instead of giving them a don’t list, let’s teach them how to be a good friend with steps to follow, positive examples, and practice opportunities.  Here is a list of lessons girls need to master in order to help them move away from relational aggression as a solution to their problems.

  1. How to ask for what you need.
  2. What to do when your friend is hurting another, and you don’t want to be a part of it.
  3. How to respectfully disagree.
  4. How to speak up.
  5. What to do when a friend is not acting like a friend.
  6. What to do when a friend acts like she owns you.
  7. When to ask an adult for help with a friendship.
  8. How to stay out of the cycle of gossip and rumors.
  9. How to excuse yourself from a group that is talking negatively about others.
  10. How to end a friendship that no longer works.

When girls learn these skills, they no longer will have to resort to relational aggression or emotional bullying to fulfill their needs.  That is exactly what many girls have been doing.  And they didn’t even realize they were bullies.

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

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