Learn the Signs of Bullying and Get Help
What is relational bullying?
Relational bullying is a kind of bullying that occurs within relationships.
This bullying may be done through:
- Gossip and rumors
- Mean texts, posts, or letters
- The silent treatment
- Eye rolling
- Withdrawing from a friendship or threatening to end a friendship
- Telling a person’s secrets, i.e., telling a boy about a crush another girl has on him
Girls who engage in this type of bullying are often called Mean Girls (remember the movie?). The goal of a mean girl is to hurt the victim’s self-esteem and damage her relationships. This results in the victim feeling confused and rejected by her friends and other peers. Relational bullying not only affects the victim, but it can also have negative effects on the group of friends.
Relational Bullying and High School Mean Girls
Rebekah starts her 9th grade year at a new school. She moved from out of state and makes friends quickly. She is very pretty, smart, does well in school, and begins to make friends immediately because she is kind, considerate, and funny. The boys even begin to take notice of her.
How Bullying Starts
Rebekah is befriended by another girl in her grade named Lindsey. Lindsey begins to get jealous of the attention that Rebekah is receiving. As the days unfold, the spotlight is taken off of Lindsey and given to Rebekah. Because of this jealousy, Lindsey begins to exclude and isolate Rebekah and spread rumors about her. Lindsey wants Rebekah to feel bad about herself, which makes Lindsey feel in control and superior to Rebekah.
In the beginning, Lindsey’s plan works. People believe the rumors she spreads. She sees Rebekah’s confidence fade. Sometimes, Rebekah doesn’t even come to school and when she does, she no longer interacts with people. Rebekah feels rejected, powerless, lonely, confused, and sad for most of her days. She does not understand what she did to Lindsey to make her hate her so much.
Recognize the Signs of Bullying
Over time, Rebekah’s parents take notice of the change in their daughter. She has a worse mood, a decreased interest activities that she used to enjoy, trouble sleeping, avoids going to school, and experiences a decline in her grades. They talk to her, but she doesn’t seem to want to talk about what is wrong. The only thing she says is that she “can’t do this anymore” and she “wants it all to end.”
Getting Professional Help for Bullying
Rebekah’s parents are so worried, particularly with her references to suicide, that they bring her to speak with a counselor named Amanda. Through building a trusting counselor-client relationship, Rebekah tells Amanda about the bullying she experiences from Lindsey and the other mean girls at school. Through counseling Rebekah learns more about how to be assertive and stand up them.
Amanda teaches Rebekah to appreciate her strengths and be gracious towards her weaknesses. Rebekah’s confidence and self-esteem increases. She learns about trust and what a good friend looks like. By encouraging her to talk to her parents, Lindsey is able to talk to them about what has been going on at school. By having this resource at home, she feels better and more confident. She begins to enjoy going to school again, and her grades improve. She also makes new friends she can trust, treat her with respect, and are there for her.
“The common mistake that bullies make is assuming that because someone is nice that he or she is weak. Those traits have nothing to do with each other. In fact, it takes considerable strength and character to be a good person.”
Mary Elizabeth Williams
This story illustrates the effects that relational bullying can have on children and adolescents. It is important for parents to be aware of how this type of bullying can manifest. Parents need to look for signs that their children are experiencing bullying at school.
Bullied kids commonly feel:
Common behaviors that can result from bullying:
- Low self-esteem
- Talk or thoughts of suicide
- Problems concentrating
- Being forgetful
- Loss of interest in activities they enjoy
- Trouble sleeping
- Sudden drop in grades or failing a class
- Skipping school or class
- Becoming quiet or withdrawn from friends
- Using alcohol or drugs
- Using negative “I am” statements
- Avoiding social situations
- Going from happy to sad or angry quickly
If you believe that you or someone you know may be at risk for suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 800.273.8255
If your child or teenager is being bullied, or you suspect they are being bullied, Watershed Counseling can help. I’m an experienced counselor working with children and adolescents with the issues they face at home and at school. Click here to make a first appointment with me today.