Relational aggression

Educator, Rachel Simmons, Author of Odd Girl Out, discusses girls' relational aggression and the "silent treatment"
Teaching Girls About The Pain Caused By Relational Aggression - Parenting Advice
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Relational aggression

Up until about the age of three, boys and girls express anger in pretty much the same way. You are made at someone, you might punch them or kick them or bite them or take something from them. But girls start to do something different right around that age. When they get angry they go up to the person who they’re upset with and they say, “You give me that toy or I won’t be your friend anymore.” That’s the beginning of relational aggression. “You do what I want or you can’t come to my birthday party. You can’t sit at the lunch table with me. ” It’s the use of friendship as a weapon and it’s something we haven’t talked about until very recently. It is absolutely vital for parent s to step in and deal with that behavior the moment they hear it. If we don’t, girls will grow up to believe that this is an appropriate way to express your anger when in fact, it’s a form of blackmail. Relational aggression may start out as, “ You give me what I want or I won’t be your friend anymore”, but as girls get more socially intelligent and savvy, it can turn into the silent treatment. I’m just going to stop speaking to you so that you do what I want. I’m going to hold our relationship hostage as a way to manipulate you. There’s nothing wrong with girls getting angry, but there is something wrong with blackmail as a way of expressing it. We need to direct girls into more assertive expressions of their anger. If you hear your daughter say something like that you want to stop her, let her know that is not acceptable in your family, help her understand the impact of her feelings by saying, “How do you think so and so feels when you say that” and create a consequence. Ask yourself as a parent, if my daughter hit someone how would I handle it? That’s exactly how you want to handle relational aggression.

Educator, Rachel Simmons, Author of Odd Girl Out, discusses girls' relational aggression and the "silent treatment"


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Rachel Simmons

Author & Educator

Rachel Simmons is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls, and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence. As an educator, Rachel works internationally to empower young women to be more authentic, assertive and self-aware.

Rachel is a Vassar graduate and Rhodes Scholar from New York. The co-founder of the Girls Leadership Institute, she is an experienced curriculum writer and educator who works with schools and organizations around the world. She currently develops leadership programs for undergraduate women at the Center for Work and Life at Smith College. She has previously worked as a classroom teacher in Massachusetts and South Africa.

Rachel was the host of the recent PBS television special, “A Girl’s Life,” and is a contributing writer and advice columnist for Teen Vogue.

Rachel has appeared on Oprah and the Today show, and appears regularly in the national me- dia. Odd Girl Out was adapted into a highly acclaimed Lifetime television movie. Rachel lives in western Massachusetts with her daughter and West Highland Terrier, Rosie, who is currently taking private workshops with Rachel to learn how to stop bullying other dogs.

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