Revenge: A Girl’s Preferred Strategy



What Would You Do If a Girl Called You a Mean Name?

In a recent When Girls Hurt Girls® workshop, I asked the girls what they would do if they were called a mean name.  A second grade girl raised her hand and answered, “I’d call her a name back.” The revenge strategy is a typical response for girls that age.

Usually, an adult replies to such responses by telling girls, “Don’t do that.” But telling them not to seek revenge doesn’t teach them to do their own thinking.

Helping a Girl by Going Into Curiosity Mode

I recommend making the most of this teachable moment and going into curiosity (not judgmental) mode. The script goes something like this:

You: “So you’d call her a name in return. Hmm, that sounds like an interesting strategy. How would that make you feel?”
Girl: “It would make me feel good.”
You: “I can understand that.  So what do you think might happen next?”

Let’s pause here. Remember, the goal of the curiosity approach is to help the girl think through the consequences of her actions.

The conversation might continue something like this:

Girl: “She might cry, or she might call me the mean name again. She might call me another mean name, too.”
You: “Is that what you want to have happen?”
Girl: “No.”
You: “What do you want to have happen?”
Girl: “I want her to be nice to me.”

Helping Her Defuse the Situation

At this point, you can help guide the girl toward strategies that will help defuse the situation. Two of the best strategies are to ignore the name-calling and to speak up.

When girls ignore the name-calling, they take away the power of the name-calling by not reacting. Speaking up is another great strategy in this situation, because it empowers the target to take matters into her own hands and preserve her dignity as well as offer dignity to the other girl.

The target could respond to the bully with, “When you call me that, I don’t like it. I want you to call me by my name.”  Then, she should walk away.

With girls in second grade and younger, we translate the 3 Ds (Dignity for me, Dignity for you, Defuse the situation) into the 3 Okays: I feel okay, you feel okay and the problem works out okay. Revenge doesn’t achieve the 3 Okays in any bullying situation.

With your coaching, your girls will learn to think through the consequences of their actions. This will help them see that revenge is ineffective and not an okay strategy.

© 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


  1. Paula Ostlund says:

    I met with our PTSA president and she is definitely interested in the program for our Jr High and parents, staff, etc. She was going to get back to me after she met w the Principal so I will be in contact. Our school is in WA and is called Timbercrest Jr High. Thank you for all you do !

  2. Jane Balvanz says:


    That’s wonderful! We’re delighted you’re interested in helping a great deal of people understand relational aggression so that they may successfully guide kids through it.
    Thanks for being the cheerleader; we salute your enthusiasm!


  3. If I had a dollar for every time I heard this over the summer at camp, I’d have a good $50.00

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