Posted: Jul 19, 2013 8:00 AM
 
In a world full of bullies, it's important to teach young girls the value of sticking together, asserting their needs and setting their goals high. When young girls learn to lift each other up, they internalize a valuable lesson: Success is a team sport.

Girls have been teasing and bullying other girls for a very long time. It certainly isn't a new concept. Prone to using "relational aggression" as their primary form of bullying, groups of girls exclude others, spread gossip and verbally taunt other girls whom they deem different or who simply don't fit in.

Although this kind of behavior has been going on for years, technology has only made matters worse. With the freedom to hide behind anonymous posts and the power to influence hundreds of other girls in just minutes, relational aggression can now ruin lives with a single click.

This behavior doesn't have to continue. As parents, we can all take a stand on relational aggression by focusing on building self-confidence in our girls and empowering our girls to stick together.

Promote healthy competition

When young girls join team sports, they learn the value of working together toward a common goal and helping each other along the way. They learn that divided they fall but together they can succeed.

We currently live in a very competitive world. Parents compete to get their children into the best preschools, elementary schools and beyond. Gone are the days of childhood fun — today's children are taught prereading skills the moment they can utter a sound. Many parents begin planning strategies to get their child into their college of choice before that child can even walk.

It only makes sense that this incessant need for competition trickles down to our children. While some competitions border on the absurd (Lay off the science fair projects, mamas. Please?), healthy competition can be a good thing. For example, when young girls join team sports, they learn the value of working together toward a common goal and helping each other along the way. They learn that divided they fall but together they can succeed.

Model supportive friendships

Two young girls who are friendsIf you're constantly competing with your friends and colleagues or making negative comments about others in the presence of your children, your daughters will internalize that behavior.

It's crucial to both maintain healthy friendships with your girlfriends and let your daughters in on those friendships. When girls see their role models enjoying lifelong friendships, they strive to have the same. When girls see their role models providing support to a friend during a time of need and cheering for a friend during a time of success, they learn the importance of unconditional support.

Be honest

We try to shield our kids from the negative parts of life, and we do it so often that we forget our kids might actually be living them. Bullying among girls can start as young as kindergarten. While that might sound alarming, it's important to recognize that this behavior is out there.

Talk to your daughters. Be open and honest about the damage that relational aggression can cause. Focus on building empathy and understanding so that your daughters think twice before simply following the crowd.

Aim high

Have you ever noticed that preschoolers are always discussing what they want to be when they grow up? They have goals that are lofty and sometimes completely out of left field, but we encourage our children to have them just the same.

When girls have a specific end goal in mind, they are more likely to remain focused and positive.

But then our children get older, and we get stuck in encouraging them to focus on day-to-day tasks that require so much of their energy. That's a mistake.

Young girls should be encouraged to think about and write down their long-term goals on a regular basis. Consider suggesting they keep a goals journal or an adolescent bucket list. When girls have a specific end goal in mind, they are more likely to remain focused and positive. Also, when a few girls share the same goals, they just might learn to help each other reach them.

More on parenting

How to protect tweens from online bullying
How to end your child's aggressive behavior
Tips for teaching listening skills

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