The “Bitch” Evolved: Why Girls Are So Cruel to Each Other: Scientific American

And what’s especially sad is that adult authority figures such as teachers and parents often miss such devastating acts of reputational violence because they’re so subtle and often occur “in context”—that is, they’re less conspicuous than the physical altercations of boys.

via The “Bitch” Evolved: Why Girls Are So Cruel to Each Other: Scientific American.

This is one of the main problems in education in the US today. The failure, inadvertent, or deliberate, of adults to engage with youth in their social lives. There is so much of this “I want them to like me” and such, that we abdicate our responsibilty to youth. They just need to be made to analyze what they are doing — that is, if they are conniving, make sure they can own it verbally, or else they aren’t sure they are conniving. Youth don’t always have meta-cognition down pat.

Then they need to be explicitly informed that mean behaviors are not right. Now, that doesn’t mean they won’t act mean, but they need to be called out in front of their group, so that the group attitude toward mean behavior gets recalibrated to include the adult perspective.

I’ve observed over and over again, teacher who act like they don’t see this kind of behavior and it makes the group’s social ethos begin to resemble what occurs in “Lord of the Flies.”

Soccer moms are perpetrators of this when they are car-pooling. The children start being mean or discussing some reputational violence, and the parent is on the phone or just ignores what the youth are saying, as if their world was apart from the adult world. Instead, the parent ought to intervene in the discussion, not by commanding the kids to be nicer, but by asking questions about what they think and what the effects of what they are doing will be. Your own kid may cringe when you talk directly to their friends, but if you treat them with respect but be truthful, you will find they come to like the interaction.

With 4th graders in an inner-city school I used this kind of approach to create a cohesive supportive group, at least in the classroom. Certainly at night, the kids went with their own gangs and whatever, but in my class, the mean factor was way down.

Asking questions, not telling is the way to do this. Don’t ignore it or think it will go away on its own. In the end, kids would rather be in an environment where it isn’t like “Lord of Flies” and controlled by fear and violence.

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