How to Help Boys Manage Relational Aggression or Bullying

ball game of boys to depict bullying

Mean girl behavior, or relational aggression isn’t just a girl thing. Boys also experience these painful social interactions and may not even realize it’s a form of bullying.

Relational Aggression is a Form of Bullying For Boys Too

When we think of bullying and boys, we often think of repeated physical attacks like hitting and shoving. Relational aggression typically includes exclusion and manipulation rather than physical attacks. It’s a covert form of bullying used to damage the reputation of another or harm that child’s relationships with others.

Like other forms of bullying, relational aggression includes a pattern of behavior (not just a single incident) and a power imbalance between the perpetrator and the victim. Relational aggression can include gossip and rumors, social exclusion, cruel comments, and/or manipulation such as seeking personal information and sharing it with others.

And just like girls, boys often experience anxiety, depression and low self-esteem when they are a target. This recent article in the Washington Post, “Mean boys are a thing, too. Here’s how to help your son manage toxic relationships,” sheds some much needed light on this subject and how to help boys navigate. 

The Difference Between Mean and Bullying Behavior

Many schools have done a great job raising awareness about bullying. Bullying is never okay and needs to be addressed immediately. With this heightened awareness, I’ve found that many kids have a hard time differentiating between bullying and mean behavior.

Mean behavior is saying or doing something to hurt a person.

Bullying is a cruel act done on purpose and repeatedly that involves a real or perceived imbalance of power.

Neither behavior is okay and can be painful for kids as well as parents. The post, Mean or Bullying Behavior? Helping Kids Understand the Difference, includes tips to help kids navigate each situation.

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Published by Jessica Speer, Author

Author and Advocate for Kids and Families

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