Q: I am becoming increasingly concerned that my daughter, who is a sophomore in high school, is bullying another girl in her class. For the past few weeks, I have been uncomfortable with conversations that I have overheard between my daughter and some of her friends and also from what I have witnessed by looking at her social media sites. I don't know exactly why my daughter and her friends have chosen this particular girl to target, but I think it might have to do with a boy my daughter likes who may like this other girl.
My daughter and her friends have come up with a "code" name for her and I am getting the impression that between the three of them, they manage to intimidate her quite a bit at school. I have always worried that my daughter would be bullied growing up and now I am shocked to learn she is the one instigating the bullying.
I need to be careful how I approach this situation with my daughter because I don't want her to isolate me from her communication with her friends and access to her Facebook page; however, I will not tolerate my daughter being a bully. I would like to address this issue with her, and have her take the lead in ceasing this unkind behavior. As someone who was bullied quite a bit in high school, I can feel for this other girl, and if my daughter refuses to stop the bullying, I will go to her principal. Any advice you can give to help me with this situation would be appreciated.
A: Your daughter's bullying problem is serious and I commend you for taking it seriously. She probably does not realize how negatively she is affecting the other girl and just views it as fun and teasing. As you point out, there could be some jealously and anger involved. I suggest you take your daughter out to lunch just the two of you and while there, tell her you have something serious to talk about. Share with her your personal experiences of being bullied as a teen. Then, explain that there have been cases of children who were taunted on social media sites where the victims committed suicide. Explain that you believe she is a kind person and would never want to hurt anyone that much, but that you think because she has never been bullied she might not realize how terrible it feels. I'm guessing your daughter will change her direction immediately. You may see some tears.
Just in case your daughter feels justified in what she is doing, listen to her explain her position carefully. This girl may have been mean to your daughter in the past. If she refuses to back off, please contact the school counselor (not the principal) immediately and let him or her know who the victim is so that at least she is offered protection and support. The counselor can then determine if the bullying has had a serious effect and can bring all the perpetrators together to help solve the problem. Sometimes teenage girls just have to talk things through.
Dr. Sylvia B. Rimm is the director of the Family Achievement Clinic in Cleveland, a clinical professor of psychiatry and pediatrics at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, and the author of many books on parenting. More information on raising kids is available at www.sylviarimm.com. Please send questions to: Sylvia B. Rimm on Raising Kids, P.O. Box 32, Watertown, WI 53094 or [email protected] To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.