Bullying comes in many forms. Some of the most hurtful are the comments girls make about other girls’ clothes, makeup, and hair. Teens are insecure about how they look, so the verbal attacker can easily recognize the vulnerable places.
Bullying with Words
The harsher the “put down” the better according to many teens today. Social media has brought verbal bullying to all new heights. A few hurtful words posted online spread like wildfire.
As a school counselor, I taught kids a way to blunt the remarks of their peers. Not only does the bully feel less powerful, the child who is bullied can feel empowered. The trick is to acknowledge the rejection, comment about it, and then laugh at its insignificance. Let me give you an example.
Bullying First Aid
Katie, a twelve-year-old seventh-grader is approached by a group of girls. Like most preteens, she is concerned about what she wears, how she does her hair and everything else about how others see her. She’s wearing a new knit top that she purchased over the weekend. It’s attractive but does not have that important brand insignia which would show that it had been purchased at one of the “in” shops in the mall.
Suzie, one of the girls, says to the others, “Where do you suppose she found THAT top?” Katie’s normal reaction would be to hide the fact that it came from a discount store or perhaps just wish she could hide. (Kids this age often tell me of times when they would like to become invisible.)
What Katie should do is acknowledge the remark and comment on it: “I know it’s cool to shop at a place like Tyler’s, but I just COULD NOT resist this bargain that I found at WalMart. Then she should laugh at the insignificance of the whole issue by saying something like, “I guess that makes me ‘not cool’ today!”
How Can a Bully Respond to That?
When Katie responds in this manner, the other girls are likely to have a new regard for her willingness to defend herself. Most importantly, her response leaves the one who is criticizing her with nothing to say. What could she say that has not already been said? Had Katie withdrawn or become defensive Suzie would have made another attack with renewed vigor.
Acknowledge, Comment, and Laugh (ACL)
Teach your child the three steps: Acknowledge, Comment and Laugh. If you listen to adult conversations, you’ll find that most adults do this naturally. Giving your child this skill early will make her teen years easier.