How Bullying Affects Tween Girls vs Boys, and How We Can Help
Research has recently proved what many parents and educators have known for years: bullying hits its peak during the tween years. An astounding 48% of children say that they’ve been the victim of bullying, and have experienced the harassment, manipulation, ostracism, and more that peaks between the ages of 11-13 years of age, then thankfully begins to decline.
With bullying metamorphizing because of social media, it’s never too early to talk to your child about bullying. Even if your child isn’t actively being bullied, making them aware of the problem can help them be more confident if they’re ever targeted. It may also assist them in helping others, if they’re able to take a more active role in a situation where they’re either part of a social group that’s bullying others, or if they witness bullying in the classroom or schoolyard.
However, in order to help our children (especially our girls) understand bullying, parents must first be aware of the critical differences between tween girls, and tween boys when it comes to situations like these.
How Boys Bully
Generally, boys are bullied less than their female classmates. Boys tend to be more physically aggressive, and will attack or fight others to raise their status within a group. Boys who are not interested or able to physically intimidate others, or who display traits that are stereotypically ‘feminine’ will often find themselves the target of bullies.
However, even in these situations, male bullying in the schoolyard tends to end quickly, without either party holding a grudge. Boys in general are much more accepting of bullying behaviour, and may continue to be friends with their bullies, or those who bully others.
How Girls Bully
In contrast, girls are much less likely to use physicality in their fights with others. Instead, they bully indirectly, through gossip, ostracism, and other passive-aggressive methods. These methods may seem less damaging in isolation, but the continual jockeying for power and influence not only within the class but within individual friend groups can wear away a girl’s self-esteem.
In one study that analysed four years’ worth of data from the National Youth Risk Behavior Survey, researchers found that girls were more likely to be bullied, and were also more likely to think about or even attempt suicide. These two correlated figures are very worrying.
What Parents Can Do If Their Child is Being Bullied
To help protect girls from the dangers of bullying and passive-aggressive social behaviour, we must help them gain the emotional and interpersonal skills necessary to thrive. We should also be nurturing a strong sense of self, so they are confident in their own self-worth.
Here are some tips on where you can start.
1. Spend time teaching and nurturing emotions
By speaking freely about emotions and raising children in an emotion-rich environment, you can help them feel more confident bringing up issues when they arise.
2. Encourage their confidence
Both tween boys and girls find it easier to bully a child that has low self-esteem. Helping your child gain confidence will help them push back against bullies, and will also make them less likely to become a bully themselves.
3. Speak to your children about healthy friendships
Tween girls in particular need to learn the difference between a healthy friendship, and one that’s built on competition, control, and mistrust. Parents and educators can help by opening up a discussion on what makes a good, healthy friendship.