Where and When Relational Bullying Starts
Girls are far more prone to begin relational bullying on each other because, unlike boys, they are expected to learn and use their mental skills at negotiation and communication faster. This cultural difference in upbringing begins what is known as the schoolyard drama that every parent of a little girl becomes familiar with by the second grade at the latest and as early as kindergarten in some cases.
Unlike traditional bullying, the relational type is not overt or active. It instead manifests in passive ways that usually involve peer and group behavior. Typical behaviors can and usually do include:
For adults relational bullying is a hard behavior to understand. Men traditionally don’t experience the relational problems near as much as children as bullying is far more direct as boys. There is usually a bigger child that physically tries to dominate the others with followers until someone stands up and shows that size isn’t a perfect type of power. As a result, fathers often find themselves confused by why girls get themselves into as many issues as they do with other girl students.
Women see the relational problems of their children as flashbacks to their own experiences in school. If they were part of a group, then the drama is simply part of understanding the popularity rules of the game and how to win. If they were the victim, they strive to teach their children to be part of groups for defense and to avoid being singled out. Neither gender usually approaches the relational bullying the right way.
The victim in relational bullying has just as much a significant role in the event as the bully group. This is because, in many cases, the victim feels that being part of a popular group is more important and has significant mental value. As a result, being alone or separated is seen with a negative perspective, even if it may be the safer route to follow. As a result, victims will often exhibit behavior that makes no sense to parents such as staying quiet when a teacher sees the problem and asks, going back for more abuse, being willing to be insulted and denigrated to be in a group, and being willing to accept conditional terms of acceptance. And many times the behavior comes from other children whom the victim labels as “friends.” Ergo, parents feel like they are often being caught up in the drama of a silly playground soap opera, and their child should just grow a backbone and walk away from whoever is causing the hurt.
The behaviors and how to talk to each other in a relational setting often come from households and home versus other children. Many kids emulate behavior that they see and hear from their parents, their household, and especially the TV. Kids are far more exposed to adult matter and conversational content through the television than most people realize. And then they turn around and apply those statements, behaviors and actions to each other on the school yard. The dynamics of social politics and popularity start very early, far earlier than junior high and the teen years when people thing hormones are driving the odd behavior.
Most disturbing is when children see negative behavior become successful at home with adults. This can happen through instances of threat, coercion, verbal tone, conditional terms and more. Kids then turn around and use the same tools on each other at school, often having serious impacts on each other without realizing what they are really doing.
There are number of steps parents can take to deal with relational bullying that can be very effective. These include the following:
Relational bullying doesn’t have to be an ambiguous mystery for parents and children. It is, unfortunately, part of learning social skills that carry forward to adulthood, but the lessons don’t have to be painful. Understanding how to stop elements from growing, and how to teach a child to be confident often helps overcome much of the potential damage.