For those of us who are females, it doesn’t take movies like Mean Girls to tell us that girls can be very cruel to one another. We know it because we have experienced it. No, girls aren’t out on the playground punching or kicking a weaker child (in most cases). Instead, they use words and other more passive forms of aggression, which are just as harmful to the emotional well-being as physical abuse is to the body. Most of the time, this problem is thought of as a middle school and high school age problem, and truthfully, that is where the bullying and mean-girl attitudes are fully evident. Unfortunately, many aggressive behaviors begin in the elementary school years and are allowed to develop unchecked until they are clearly seen. October is National Bullying Prevention Month, and I am happy to share a new book that addresses this important topic.
In Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-proof Girls in the Early Grades developmental psychologists Michelle Anthony, M.A., Ph.D. and Reyna Lindert, Ph.D. tackle the subjects of social cruelty, relational aggression, and bullying in elementary school. The authors have developed a four-step approach that can be easily applied to any situation that young girls and their parents, teachers, or counselors face. Drs. Anthony and Lindert introduce and discuss the four-step process, and then give real-life examples of applying the steps in common elementary school situations. The book also addresses why meanness happens, and what to do about it, whether your child is a target, bystander, or the mean girl. The entire book is extremely practical, and it includes many suggestions for dealing with current problems as well as preparing in advance for problems that are likely to arise. It is also full of tips specifically targeted to girls, parents, and teachers. One aspect I especially appreciated is the idea that we want to train our girls to be assertive (able to stand up for themselves and solve problems) without being aggressive. As female, a parent, and a former teacher, I know that this is a tough balance, and I can’t praise the suggestions in this book highly enough.
I have a little girl in kindergarten, and I must give this book a huge stamp of approval (and add it to the 5 Star Reads list at 5 Minutes for Books). Since I read the book at the beginning of last week, I have already seen the process work. My daughter came home upset one day and sadly said, “No one would sit with me on the bus.” As I used the four-steps suggested in Little Girls Can Be Mean, I discovered that no one was being intentionally mean to her, but she felt excluded because three of her friends were sitting together and there was no more room. We talked about possible solutions to her problem, with one being that she could use the situation as an opportunity to make a new friend. I was ecstatic when later in the week she told me, “Mom, I didn’t have anyone to play with on the playground today, but I thought about what you said about the bus and made a new friend. She is really nice!” This is a simple example of a situation in which my daughter had the tools she needed to solve a social problem.
Although she will face much more complex problems than this, the ideas in this book are useful and applicable to many social situations, and they give girls and parents tools to establish a foundation of communication and problem solving. Little Girls Can Be Mean isn’t going to take away the social challenges that girls face. It does, however, provide tools that girls and parents (or teachers) need for empowerment. I am so glad that I was able to read this book as my daughter begins her elementary school years, and I hope that all of you with young girls will find a copy of this book.
I am especially excited to offer one giveaway copy of Little Girls Can Be Mean: Four Steps to Bully-proof Girls in the Early Grades to one of you. Please leave a comment below if you are interested. We’ll announce the winner in this column on November 8.
- The winner of the great package of dog books from Hachette is #10 Erin.
Lauren is a wife, mother of two, and an avid reader. She blogs at Baseballs and Bows and is a contributor at 5 Minutes for Books. Although Lauren would love to protect her little girl from all bad experiences, she knows she can’t, and she is thankful to have tools to use in the growing-up process! Lauren thanks Media Masters Publicity for the review copy of this book.