by Dawn McDonald, Elementary Counselor
"You're not my friend if…"
If you have a daughter in school, she will most likely hear that sometime throughout her school experience. Or she may talk about lies, rumors, secrets, gossip, exclusion and the silent treatment among the girls in her class or on the playground. Because these types of behaviors occur quite frequently beginning around third grade and continue through middle school and beyond, it is often thought that they are a normal rite of passage for girls.
In reality, these types of behaviors that are meant to harm or control another constitute emotional/social bullying or what has been termed as relational aggression. Boys can also experience relational aggression, but it is more prominent among girls. Sometimes the behaviors are so hurtful that kids become unable to focus at school or begin to display anxiety at home.
Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner educate parents and school professionals about relational aggression. I was able to hear them speak in person at The Wisconsin School Counselor Annual Conference last winter. At that time, I had already been running "Girl's Groups" here at school for fifth graders for several years but have become even more interested in helping girls cope with social bullying.
There will be opportunities again this year for fifth grade girls to become involved in a Girl's Group. As one of our G.I.F.T.S. words is "self-awareness" there is a very nice tie in here. As the girls take a look at their own behaviors, they may be able to identify ways in which they are being social bullies or maybe they will learn that they do possess the skills and traits to enable them to stand up for themselves and others.
There are several websites that are worth checking into if you would like to learn more about relational aggression in girls. One of them is www.relationalaggression.com .
Also, Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner have a website that contains a free audio workshop entitled "9 Mistakes Parents Make When Their Daughters Are Suffering From Hurtful Friendships." You can find the audio workshop at www.awaythrough.com .
Many of the mistakes are common among caring parents who want to help their daughter(s). For example, mistake number two according to Jane and Blair is "Calling The Other Girl's Parent." Unless you have already established a positive relationship with the parent, the call will likely do more harm than good.
If you have concerns about relational aggression at the elementary level or would like to see the topic addressed with other grades, please contact me at school. Also, because relational aggression sometimes occurs in places such as the hallways or bathrooms and not in the classroom, it is helpful to let your child's teacher know if there is an ongoing problem with other student(s).