What NOT to Say When Helping Girls Through Relational Aggression


 First do no harm.  When our kids tell us they‘ve been on the receiving end of emotional bullying, we want to help.  Our initial response, though, can be a deal maker or a deal breaker.  The goal is to help the individual open up and express herself, so she can then focus on choosing a solution that’s appropriate to her situation. 

 So, think of this as a great opportunity to be the door at which she comes a-knocking for help.  (Yes, you are the door!)  Your first remarks can either open that door up wide for further conversation or slam it shut in her face with the wrong comments.

 The good news is that the words to open up the conversation are simple and few, and she will do most of the talking.  You can pick or mix and match from this sample menu:

  • Tell me about it.
  • What was it like for you?
  • What would you like to have happen?
  • Let’s brainstorm some possible solutions.

 The door-slamming phrases are plentiful and common.  Stay away from these if you want to keep the lines of communication open.

  1. Oh, it can’t be that bad!
  2. Just be nice to them, dear, and they’ll be nice to you.
  3. Be mean back to her.
  4. Just go out to recess. It will be fine.
  5. Learn to take it. You’ll be a stronger person in the long run.
  6. Well, in my day it wasn’t this way.
  7. Girls are just mean!
  8. You’ll have to learn sooner or later that the world’s not a nice place.
  9. That’s just the way girls are.
  10. Learn to be friends with them.
  11. You won’t succeed in (middle school, high school, college, life) if you can’t take it now.
  12. I know what you mean.
  13. That’s the bad part about being female!
  14. I’m a man.  Go talk to your mother.
  15. Go play with boys then.  This doesn’t happen with them.
  16. Oh, I wish girls could be more like boys in handling problems.
  17. Your sister never had this problem.
  18. You’re only (5, 10, 15…).  Things could be much worse.
  19. You’re (10, 15, 20…). You should know how to handle this by now.
  20. You think that’s bad, just wait until you get out into the real world!

© 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. Dayle Gray says:

    I would love to use this– I just purchased your materials and am impressed. I could happily print

    Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. and a link to your website. I could not publish the last part as I am an educator and this part is an advertisement and would not be appropriate on our website or parent newsletter. Let me know if that is sufficient. If not, I will not be able to use it. I understand your goal, I think you do not need the last part– it feels way toooo commercial, and I don’t think you need this to sell your products- they sell themselves, in my opinion.

  2. Mari says:

    What about telling them to ignore them? That must also be a DO NOT DO… right?

    Thank you for this article. My 2nd grader is going through a tough time with two classmates (girls) who are REALLY MEAN and of course, I think that the kind of things they say are way ahead of what they should know at this age. It feels like she is dealing with teenagers!

  3. Jane Balvanz says:


    Ignoring can be a do or a don’t, which lands it squarely in a frustrating gray area. Sometimes girls do need to hear input to ignore IF they consistently perseverate on small problems they can solve by themselves. We want to discourage learned helplessness.

    One the other hand, girls are sometimes told to ignore hurtful behaviors that need to be addressed immediately. If an adult’s stock answer is to just ignore it, girls will learn not to come to us for help. They may also ignore hurtful behaviors that have crossed over into bullying, because we have told them to.

    Here’s the tricky part. While ignoring a small friendship problem may be an appropriate solution once or even twice depending on the situation, we need to teach our girls to choose a different strategy when it doesn’t work. I have girls act out different strategies with an emphasis on moving on quickly from ignoring when it’s not working.

    Best wishes to your daughter. There is a way through!


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