This article has zero to do with digital content, ecommerce, or mobile. But it’s the most important topic I’ve written about.
Below I’ve translated an article from Norwegian that every parent should read, especially if you are a parent of girls. It deals with the topic of silent bullying, or “girl bullying” or call it what you want. If you have small kids you may think it does not apply to you yet. I have a 6 year old. I did not think it would happen for another 6 years at least either. But it did.
The article is important, as it explains the attitude you may see when faced with it. The attitude of denial with schools. It happened with us, in a school I’ll name the President School.
I could not believe when I heard the stories my 6 year old was telling. How nobody wanted to talk to her, how one girl had told that anyone that played with her would not be part of “the club”. They would not get invited to parties.
We had just moved to the US. This was her first meeting with a real school. Ever. And she ended up sitting having lunch by herself – none of the girls wanting to talk to her. Perhaps one of the most exciting moments of her life became one she did not want to take part in. And something that could have had long lasting effects.
I could not believe anything like this could happen at that age. And apparently neither could the President School. The principal and her teacher completely denied this was a problem. The girl who possibly could have caused something was relocating anyway, so there was no problem. Really? A class full of 6 year old girls who had been taught that ignoring and turning their back to the new kid is perfectly acceptable? Not a problem? I wonder if their daughters had said the same, if the reaction would have been different.
Luckily a group came to our rescue: The parents. Perhaps it took having a 6 year old on your own, in the same class, to instantly realize what a travesty this was. We cannot thank the local parents enough who stepped in and ended it. And my daughter’s new teacher, who realizes kids this age need to be taught social skills and behavior just as much as reading, writing and math.
The article below is hopefully something that can stir a debate, provide you with some tools if this happens to you and your child. My only advice: Deal with it and deal with it immediately. Do not let months pass. And be relentless until something is done.
Link to the article in original language.
Girl Bullying Happens Under Cover
Cruel whispering games and fake hugs, turned backs and silent answers. Girls bully girls in secret. It inflicts lasting wounds on the soul of thousands of ordinary children.
“Tuppen and Lillemor” [characters from Norwegian song literature] have blue eyes, bright yellow hair and one day they bicker loudly and start to fight … The over one hundred years old and somewhat innocent child song is outdated, if we are to believe the current research on girl bullying.
Girls no longer cause ugly bruises, they do something even worse; they say nothing. Seemingly silent. Ostracism, intrigue, rumor making and manipulation in secret are typical characteristics of girls’ silent terror.
Ordinary girls experience this every single day of school. Wounds of the soul imposed upon us by other people can often do more harm than accidents, studies show.
OUR GIRL WAS NOT INVITED.
- I think they are not hearing very well mom. They do not hear what I say when I call them in the playground. They only run away!
We had just moved to another city as she was about to begin in the third grade. She was eight years old and thought it was sad to move from friends, but also a bit exciting; larger city, new school, new friends. She was a social girl. Always followed someone home, or had friends to our home. Best friends were important, but she also liked to be alone and could sit in her room with the door closed for hours and puzzle with her own things.
It took some time before we realized that not everything was as it should. We took for granted that the social would work. They were only eight years old.
Maybe we should have realized it when she wanted to quit [after school care] after just one month. Only much later would we understand why: When the kids were at after school care, the social aspect was no longer controlled by teachers. There, ostracism and exclusion roamed free , and no one saw it. But we did not understand it at the time. We should also have understood that when she after three months came and said, “I have asked Henriette whether she wants to play together after school every day since I started, but it is never a good time.”
- Play with someone else, we said, but it was not that simple. The ones she felt most like her were the gang who unfortunately had a leader who decided that if you play with the new girl, we don’t play with you.
The first winter, one day while we were going to the store, we met the class with snow sleds under their arms.
- Hey! We’re going snow sledding! All the girls and the coolest boys are invited!
But not our girl. A few others were also not invited.
– It has unfortunately been that way since the first grade, the teacher said.
We invited kids home. Invited them to the movies. Invited the whole class for birthday parties. And she was invited back. But when it was her and the “gang”, the others sat and whispered together.
– She must fight her way in, the mother of the leader of the girl gang said.
And the eight-year-old fought every day. For a whole year she fought. And she smiled.
– Look Mom, I’m fine. I’m smiling! See!
THE SELF-CONFIDENCE HAS A SOLID SCRATCH.
Increasingly, there were breakdowns in the evening. Endless crying spells, where often small, insignificant things were blown up. We understood that there was more to it.
Finally she turned her back on everyone. She did not want to play at all costs. She did not want to scratch and claw for a place in the peer group. When she turned ten, she was never with anyone.
There were countless meetings with the teacher, counselor and nurse, but it had gone too far. Our little girl who always had so many laughs in her, had gone silent. Become angry. Struggled with poor self-esteem. She had ended up in a bad circle. When others are not treating you well, you are not particularly amenable yourself either.
There were never bad words during recess. There were never naughty sms’s, ridicule, hateful eyes or visible teasing. On the contrary. There were hugs and play – while the teacher was there. As the teacher turned his back, she was overlooked, overheard, destroyed.
- I’m sure they have very bad hearing, Mom, I think they should go to the doctor.
– I don’t think so my love. But I think we’re moving back.
Fortunately, we had the opportunity to move. Back to the good class and good friends who stood with open arms and welcomed us home. We were lucky. But our girl has got a solid scar. Laughter does not come as easy as it used to. Self-esteem has been delivered a solid blow. The silent bullying has left a deep impression. We hope it can be repaired.
BULLY BECAUSE THEY WANT TO BE SEEN.
- It is often gifted, popular girls who bully others. They often do well in school, are clever and personable. They provide guidelines on who is in and who is out, and use subtle means such as gaze and smile, signs that for the teacher may be invisible, but very real for the person concerned, says Kari Myklebust, who in 2008 wrote a thesis about girls many hidden ways to bully other girls and weaknesses of the schools anti-bullying program.
Kari was herself subjected to girl bullying from 4th to 10th grade and remembers with horror the locker room and other places where the girls knew that adults could not intervene.
– It was in the rolling of the eyes, soft-spoken comments when I spoke in the classroom, new clothes that were destroyed. The girls in the class smiled and let me play when adults were nearby, but as soon as they rounded the corner, it started again, says Kari Myklebust, who currently works as a teacher and is particularly concerned with the social relationships between students in class.
She believes that the reason why girls choose indirect methods to bully others, often two or three together toward a fourth, is that girls reflects themselves in others and have a need to be seen and heard.
– Girls seeking closeness, community and interdependence. They tend to use conversation to emphasize that they have the same experiences. Relations with other girls stand in the center, and it is clearly marked who belongs to the community and who are outside, says Myklebust, who believe that covert forms of bullying in many cases will require intimate knowledge of the victim.
– The bullies know exactly where to cause damage, which helps to make this form of bullying especially vulnerable. The exposed vulnerable girl is held outside a group she wants to be in, and bullies have a common project.
|“Dear parents of girls in 7A.Thanks for a nice parent meeting yesterday! We learnt lot of great things about our kids and it is certainly deserved. What I do NOT recognize with the class, is that a picture was painted of a harmonious group of girls without any issues. It is not our reality.
Ingvild has been bullied, excluded, ignored, harassed, threatened and denied for almost six and a half years now, by this group of girls – these, in isolation, kind, decent and talented girls!
Ingvild is TOUGH! She gets up every morning and goes to school with a smile and a hopes to be able to hang out with someone in the lunch break. Often she will not. Often evenings are sad when rejections are fresh memories that make it difficult to keep the hope up of a better day tomorrow. Often it is not even rejection – because the school has rules against that, often it is simply about being ignored, treated as air. Often Ingvild latches on the ones that protest the least, just so it does not look like she stands completely alone, because that’s embarrassing! Embarrassing to be so unpopular, embarrassing to be lonely.
At the parents’ meeting, we heard about how “great” the overnight class trip had been. For Ingvild it was no great trip. She cried for two days afterwards because there had been quarreling in the tent about who was sleeping next to her – nobody wanted to.
I will not bore you with individual episodes here. This has been going on for so many years now that the list is too long. But so many things happen that I am sure others parents have no idea about and I’m sure they do not want their child to be a part of it. I understand that it is hard to believe that kids can be like this and I understand that the easiest would be to think that Ingvild is the problem.
I know it’s too late for Ingvild in this class; our hope is that high school will be better and that Ingvild can continue to fight.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and thank you for trying to bring it up with your child in a way that does not make it worse.
Regards. Anne »
GIRL BULLYING IS NOT VISIBLE.
“Bullies defines victim as nobody. Think about it: You are deprived your personal character and become Nobody. A person without value. And you find that most people around you tacitly accept this. I would like to tell the story of Nobody. ” -Elin Dragland, article in Aftenposten (Norwegian newspaper) in 2009.
– I got a lot of feedback from people from all over the country telling me similar stories after I told about my daughter, says Elin Dragland.
She is currently a board member of the association Bullying in Schools, and is fighting for that teachers, politicians and all of us wake up and realize that this form of bullying is such a huge problem in society that everyone must take responsibility.
- Parents who raise the issue of invisible bullying will often encounter a wall of denials when facing the school and its support system, and many schools lack the skills on how to identify and deal with bullying. They operate with a singular and custom bully term, which is mainly visible, physical and verbal bullying, says Dragland.
Girl Bullying is something different.
– In subtle and seemingly imperceptible ways the child experiences that it is exposed to social exclusion. It may for example be about that no one wants to be on your group or come home with you after school. Unlike physical bullying, this is often as much about what is not being said and done. If your child for instance is telling a story in class, she is at best ignored, at worst faced with rolling of eyes, sneer and body language that clearly explains how hopeless she is. Another effective technique is invisibility. One ignores the victim completely, do not greet or don’t talk to her. Day after day. Many classmates are terrified of ending up in the same situation as the victim, and therefore join the bullying in their struggle to retain their place on the social ladder, says Dragland.
She is afraid that the terms “girl bullying” or “invisible bullying” could help create the impression that this is not so dangerous and that parents and teachers disclaim responsibility.
- Research shows on the contrary that this form of bullying is more harmful than traditional bullying.
- DOOMED TO LOOSE.
Every day thousands of girls are fighting against the desire to stay home. Every day they sit at their desks. Every day, a hope dashed.
– Whatever the troubled girl does or does not do, they can get her on it. If she snaps back it is annoying, and if she is silent it is also wrong. She is bound to lose. It’s hard to get out of this situation without adult intervention done right, says Kari Myklebust.
Resourceful families pack the issues into cardboard boxes and move out, resolving the situation for the person concerned, while bullies find new victims and schools don’t have to improve.
– It feels both unreasonable and unfair that it is the victim who must change schools, but many are forced to do this as the only way out. Common for all the stories I know about changing schools is that the children are in a good situation in the new school. So if the situation is prolonged and entrenched, it is my clear advice to try this if you have the opportunity, says Elin Dragland.
|SARA’ STORYSara thrived in both kindergarten and school from the first to the second half of the fourth grade. She had good academic results and a best friend in the class. From fourth grade, the class split and she lost contact with her best friend and had to find new friends in the class. It went very badly. From being a happy and positive girl, she now came home every day, sometimes crying, with stories about how she was ignored, ostracized and isolated. At first we tried to talk to her and encourage her to be more flexible, have a constructive view on things and initiate new contacts. At this time we did not understand that a hierarchy was established in the class, where our daughter unfortunately had ended up at the bottom of the social ladder. We could not understand that a smart and clever girl with lots of resources had trouble making friends.
In some cases, Sara was directly bullied, for example that her backpack and her clothes were thrown in the trash. But these things were concrete and easy to deal with. The invisible bullying was more complicated and complex. When this had been going on for half a year, and we through different experiences eventually understood what our daughter struggled with, we took the issue up with her teacher. A girl group was formed, where one together focused on developing friendships, talked about bullying in general, but without really addressing the situation that our daughter was in. The result was that this measure had no effect for our daughter, and the problems continued.
During the spring we continued our dialog with the school and requested expertise to solve this type of problem. We send a written complaint (acc. Education Act Section 9 a). Only now the situation is handled by the school administration with a plan and a number of measures to help the situation.
Bullying did not really exist at this school, we were told. The school acknowledged that our daughter was isolated and went by herself, but did not accept that the situation could be defined as bullying.
Our salvation was a Christian private school. It was not the religious aspect that formed the basis for our choice, rather a completely different attitude and insight by the school on how to establish and maintain a good social and academic environment in the school. A change of school meant that we had to pay a financial contribution and dealt with a longer travel to school, but the gain was a daughter who again looked forward to going to school.
INCREASED FOCUS ON OBSERVATION.
– The most important preventive measure is increased focus on the observation of communication and interaction that takes place between children in schools and kindergartens. It is about becoming more aware of what causes a particular behavior in a child, and it is important to practice to distinguish what is actually happening from their own thoughts about what is happening, says Tove Flack, lecturer at the Learning Centre in Stavanger .
She has a PhD in hidden girl bullying and has developed “Insights” , a tool to prevent and detect hidden bullying in schools.
- It’s about systematically noting down both what is said and done and what the children express through facial expressions and body language.
In the preface to “Insights” she elaborates:
– There are too many children who are bullied in hidden ways for years, without the adults seeing it or dealing with the bullying in a good way. There is a great danger to trivialize what is happening and to misunderstand the situation. Hidden bullying is a term often seen as non-dramatic and harmless to outsiders, and therefore adults would like to believe the difficulty lies with the victim; “She’s so quiet and timid,” or “He has a very special mannerism.” Hidden bullying can often take place over a very long time, and for many, bullying can cause psychological and social difficulties throughout life.
Bullying among children may begin even earlier than school age. It is about finding the root of the problem, not just the visible stalk that grows on the surface.
– Research on bullying in kindergarten, shows that the children are not able to operate hidden because it requires an expertise they not yet grasp. However, young children may have incipient bullying behavior that can later develop into more deliberate bullying. It is important that adults intervene and provide some leadership, so this will not establish as a negative pattern. Young children are much easier to guide than older ones. It is in kindergarten the best prevention can happen, says Flack.
GIRLS AND JUNGLE LAW.
Elin Dragland believes that the environment in schools and kindergartens do not exist in a vacuum but reflects society and culture in which it has become socially acceptable to vote each other out as they do in reality series.
– We live in a time where many feel it is important to create their own success, and where each individual can be measured in clicks on social media. Being socially popular is at least as important as good performance in all areas. In such a culture, it is no wonder that loneliness and social exclusion is still connected with a lot of shame and taboo. Many children who experience bullying find it very embarrassing and shameful, and do everything they can to hide this for parents and the outside world. Parents who feel that their child is being bullied, often find this difficult to talk about or admit to others. I felt like many others a nagging uncertainty as we stood in the midst of the situation; Perhaps it was us or our child there was something wrong with?
– Research states that bullying can happen to anyone. It’s simply a lot about luck and bad luck – the child unfortunately ended in a class with a poor environment. Increased awareness and increased efforts from all of us is the only thing that can turn the bullying trend.
The names of the people in the stories have been changed