Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,

We have three children. The girls have both been viciously bullied by other girls on social media. Our son was bullied, and then the bullying stopped, but now he’s turned into a bully himself.

One of our girls has been talking about suicide. Both girls have been pushed, manipulated, left out, and gossiped about relentlessly by groups of girls that they were once friends with.

Our youngest seems to accept the bullying from girls that are supposed to be her friends. They laugh at her and say horrible things to her and then say they’re joking. She doesn’t want us to report them, because they won’t be her friends anymore.

The older girl has been seen by a therapist for months now. We didn’t know she had threatened suicide until her sister told us. She isolates herself and is losing weight by the day. We’re very worried about her.

Our son never talked about the guys who bullied him. He got into trouble again for bullying someone on the track team. He tells us things are fine.

Do boys bully differently than girls and what should we do?

Signed,

What Now?

Dear What Now,

Gender does typically make a difference in the types of bullying each gender chooses and also how they approach the experience. We recognize that both groups will manipulate, ostracize, push, bump into their victim on purpose, gossip, humiliate, harass, and seek power over their victims, regardless of gender.

The definition of bullying is someone trying to dominate or gain power over another.

Your boy is a bully-victim. He was bullied and now he’s trying to gain power back by bullying others. Bully-victims try to justify their actions. Revenge bullying is never justified.

Boys are more physically hostile and violent. Boys are more impulsive. They’re direct, open, and not as secretive as girls. Boys also bully girls, in a more aggressive sexual form, and other boys, in a physical form.

Girls approach bullying differently.

Bully-girls are leaders who create groups, however, they often betray each other. Girls are indirect and secretive and use relational power-grabbing with verbal abuse, gossiping, rumoring, labeling, and by ostracizing someone out of their group. That’s not to say they don’t choose someone outside of their group to bully. Girls bully because of social standing, boys, and peer pressure.

Strengthen your family and play games, do sports, go to entertainment together and limit any social media. Take phones away from your kids until you see a positive change in their behavior. Relationships within the family are truly important.

You can do this.

Signed,

Rhonda and Dr. Cheri

Rhonda Orr is the president of Rhonda’s STOP BULLYING Foundation and host of a podcast at therhondaorrshow.com. Dr. Cheri L. McDonald, PhD, LMFT, is a crime-victim specialist. Write them at Rhonda@rhondastopbullying.org.