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Why Anti-bullying Programs Miss the Mark

As I direct my focus to a new school year about to begin, I reflect back on the past school year and the approaches I’ve seen schools take to address school bullying among their students and their staff.  The one that really misses the mark is starting an anti-bullying program.

It is common for us to see something we don’t like and to join an anti-[fill in the blank] campaign.  We talk about, write about, and complain about how bad it is.  Our focus is on resisting the thing we don’t like, in this case bullying.  We push against it.  And that’s the problem.

What We Resist Persists

There’s an old saying: What we resist persists. Put another way, when we are negative about an issue, we perpetuate or spread negativity.

When we jump on the anti-bullying bandwagon, our attention, energy and focus are on the negativity of bullying. From this place of negativity, we lack emotional access to positive solutions. The anti name has a persistent negative influence.

As an alternative to a dooms day attitude or an angry approach, a more effective option is to recognize the bullying we see.  Name itBe curious about it.  Look at it from several angles.  But don’t stay stuck there.

Once we’ve gotten clear on what we are seeing and where it is coming from, work to clarify what we DO want. We want better social skills, social competence, emotional intelligence, social intelligence, healthy friendships, a positive culture, a positive climate, and positive role models.

A Springboard to Create a Replacement of Bullying Behavior

This positive focus gives us a springboard to create what we want.

Once we know what we want in bullying prevention, our job is to provide structures, training, and ongoing support for our students and for our school staff – all based on a focus of creating what we want, not on stopping what we don’t want.

Let’s replace those anti-bullying posters (of kids bullying or being bullied) with posters representing healthy friendships and acts of kindness. Start social skills training early. Put forth positive examples, language and visuals everywhere to influence your students in a positive way!

 

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

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What Would You Do If a Girl Called You a Mean Name?

In a recent When Girls Hurt Girls® workshop, I asked the girls what they would do if they were called a mean name.  A second grade girl raised her hand and answered, “I’d call her a name back.” The revenge strategy is a typical response for girls that age.

Usually, an adult replies to such responses by telling girls, “Don’t do that.” But telling them not to seek revenge doesn’t teach them to do their own thinking.

Helping a Girl by Going Into Curiosity Mode

I recommend making the most of this teachable moment and going into curiosity (not judgmental) mode. The script goes something like this:

You: “So you’d call her a name in return. Hmm, that sounds like an interesting strategy. How would that make you feel?”
Girl: “It would make me feel good.”
You: “I can understand that.  So what do you think might happen next?”

Let’s pause here. Remember, the goal of the curiosity approach is to help the girl think through the consequences of her actions.

The conversation might continue something like this:

Girl: “She might cry, or she might call me the mean name again. She might call me another mean name, too.”
You: “Is that what you want to have happen?”
Girl: “No.”
You: “What do you want to have happen?”
Girl: “I want her to be nice to me.”

Helping Her Defuse the Situation

At this point, you can help guide the girl toward strategies that will help defuse the situation. Two of the best strategies are to ignore the name-calling and to speak up.

When girls ignore the name-calling, they take away the power of the name-calling by not reacting. Speaking up is another great strategy in this situation, because it empowers the target to take matters into her own hands and preserve her dignity as well as offer dignity to the other girl.

The target could respond to the bully with, “When you call me that, I don’t like it. I want you to call me by my name.”  Then, she should walk away.

With girls in second grade and younger, we translate the 3 Ds (Dignity for me, Dignity for you, Defuse the situation) into the 3 Okays: I feel okay, you feel okay and the problem works out okay. Revenge doesn’t achieve the 3 Okays in any bullying situation.

With your coaching, your girls will learn to think through the consequences of their actions. This will help them see that revenge is ineffective and not an okay strategy.

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

What It Is

Relational aggression (RA) is a term we use to describe hurting others through the manipulation of relationships. It’s a form of bullying that’s also known as emotional bullying, relationship bullying or (because girls are so good at it) female bullying. However, both boys and girls use RA.

What It Looks Like

Relational aggression takes place when the Bully finds a Target and uses gossip, lying, name calling, silent treatment and cyber bullying (or any number of what we call Friendship Weapons™) to hurt their feelings. Sometimes, Bystanders sees the hurtful behavior happening, and the Bully uses them to manipulate the situation further.

When It Starts

Emotional bullying can start as young as 2 1/2 years old. Left unchecked, it can:

  • Continue for weeks or months (especially for girls)
  • Peak in middle school (thanks to hormones)
  • Escalate into physical violence (especially for boys)
  • Cause immeasurable emotional pain

Why Girls Use It

The schools, parents and youth organizations we talk to often ask why girls are so good at relational aggression. Part of the answer is that girls are wired as natural connectors. Girls will go a long way for connections with their peers, even if those connections are negative.

Also, their brain center for emotional memory is larger than boys. By nature, they are more sensitive to relational cues and find it hard to let go of emotionally charged events!

As role models for girls, it’s so important to educate ourselves about emotional bullying and how our children experience it. By understanding how relational aggression serves the Bully and affects the Target and Bystanders, we can be better equipped to guide our kids through painful friendships and emotional bullying situations.

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

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Hi, everyone, Blair here with some exciting news. We have expanded our team to include an administrative assistant as well as another expert presenter. Welcome, Eva and Janelle, to the A Way Through team! Eva is providing essential administrative support as we grow, and Janelle brings her expertise as an assistant principal to our When Girls Hurt Girls® presentations. To find out more about Eva and Janelle, click here.

We are also excited to have been interviewed by KCRG TV 9 in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a special story on bullying. The segment we appear in will air May 19 on the 10:00 p.m. news. The complete special story, which includes several segments about bullying, is scheduled to air May 21 at 6:30 p.m. on KCRG 9.2 on Mediacom in Cedar Rapids, Iowa area. Check http://www.kcrg.com/local9point2/tv-schedule for a schedule and details on how to watch the live streaming story on May 21st!

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In Part 1, I shared two common responses girls give when asked, “When it comes to my friendships, I wish my parents would…”  They replied… 1.  Don’t call it drama.  2. Listen.

Here’s what else girls said…

3. Leave Me Alone

After your daughter feels listened to, you can ask if she wants your help.  Say, “Would you like help in solving your problem?”  Honor what she says.  No means no.  If she doesn’t want help, say, “I understand this is your problem and you want to solve it yourself.  I want you to know that I am here to help you if you want help.”  Then, back off.

It’s important to let her know you believe she can solve the problem.  Girls want their parents’ faith that they will do what is right for them.  Be available, but not clingy.

One exception to this rule is if your daughter has been on the receiving end of emotional (or physical) bullying for an extended period of time.  Or, if you are concerned for your daughter’s safety.  If you think she is at risk of hurting herself, it is time to get the support of professionals.

4. Help Me

Many girls wish their parents would be more effective at helping them through their friendship problems. They want help thinking about what to do and would like their parents to step in and work them through it.  They want good advice and guidance.

Girls who are happy with their parents’ support have parents who:

–  Offer effective, positive strategies that are relevant to their daughter’s problem.

–  Let their daughter choose her strategy.

–  Don’t get caught in the pain.  They remain grounded and positive and keep a healthy level of detachment from the problem.

–  Practice or role play the situation with their daughter.

–  Follow up in a casual, calm manner.

–  Bring in other help as needed.

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

Categories : Parents
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Recently I facilitated a When Girls Hurt Girls® Parent/Daughter Workshop for 4th and 5th grade girls and their parents.  After the girls were warmed up and engaged in role playing, problem solving, and asking lots of questions, I asked the girls to finish this statement…

“When it comes to my friendships, I wish my parents would…”  Here’s what they said…

1. Don’t Call It Drama 

Girls feel belittled when their parents make comments like, “Oh, it’s just girl drama.”  It is insulting and arrogant to refer to anyone’s problem as “just” anything.  Emotional bullying and friendship problems are serious for girls.  We owe it to them to take them and their problems seriously.

The opportunity to help girls grow their social skills when they are young will more than pay off as they grow older and deal with boyfriends, bosses, roommates, etc.

2. Listen

This was one of the most common wishes the girls had.  They wish their parents really listened to them.  They wish their parents knew what’s going on.  They wish they could feel comfortable talking with their parents about friendships.  They wish their parents understood them.

Here are three tips for listening to your daughter about friendship problems:

Tip # 1:  Set your advice aside.

Advice should only come after you’ve listened to your daughter and asked if she wants your advice.  When your daughter brings up a friendship problem, your initial reaction may be to help her solve it.  Squelch this urge.  Instead, set your ideas aside (for the moment) and really listen to what she is dealing with and how she feels.

Tip # 2:  Ask questions.

There are two important types of questions to ask:

– Questions about what happened (Then what happened?  What did you do then?).  Get a feel for what went on and who is involved (and if an adult saw what happened).

– Questions about how she feels (How did that feel?)  Help her put vocabulary to her emotions.

Tip # 3:  Be a mirror.

Being a mirror means helping your daughter see herself more clearly.  You can only support her in this way if you are being non-judgmental.

Repeat back what you are hearing – both what happened and how she is feeling.  For example, “It sounds like you feel embarrassed whenever Chelsea calls you names and won’t let you sit at her lunch table.”  Or, “I notice that you keep wanting to play with Anna, even after she treats you poorly.”

Being a mirror helps bring clarity to her situation.  From there she is better able to make a wise decision.

In part 2, I’ll cover [3. Leave Me  Alone] and [4. Help Me].

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC 

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

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What Do You Wish You Knew?

When I facilitate girl-to-girl friendship mentoring training sessions for middle school girls, I start with a question.  I ask… What is the most important thing you know about friendships you wish you knew in elementary school?

The girls think about this for a moment, and here is what they typically say:

1. You’ll have different friends in middle school

Girls entering middle school are surprised to discover their friendships change.  Cliques (or posses) they thought were permanent tend to evolve or dissolve when they enter their middle school years.  This creates new friendship opportunities.

Girls also report that multiple sports and activities introduce new groups of friendships to them.  Girls new to middle school are pleased to learn they can be part of multiple friendship groups.

Their advice for elementary school girls:  Try out new friendships in addition to your regular friends.

2.  You’ll like girls you didn’t like in elementary school

Often very young girls think if someone is not their friend, she must be their enemy.  They draw rigid lines around friendships.

Middle school girls say they’ve learned to open up to new friendships and new kinds of friends, even girls they didn’t like before.  They have a wider range of friends.

Their advice for elementary school girls:  Be open to new friendships with girls you didn’t think you’d like.

3.  It gets better

Middle school girls report they had a harder time with friendships in elementary school.  They say friendships get easier as they get older.

Their advice for elementary school girls:  Don’t worry if things don’t go well in a friendship.  It will keep getting easier.

Relational Aggression in Middle School

Interestingly, relational aggression and female bullying tends to peak in the middle school years.  Girls this age who have the opportunity to learn about friendship dynamics and discover how to be positive advocates for themselves and for others see friendship problems shrink.  They become empowered and love to share their wisdom with younger girls!

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC  

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

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Resolution #1:  I resolve to stand up for myself.

Resolution #2:  I resolve to pay attention to which friends feel good to be around and which friends don’t.

Resolution #3:  I resolve to walk away from situations I don’t want to be part of.

Resolution #4:  I resolve to think about what I want in a friend.

Resolution #5:  I resolve to smile at girls who don’t have friends.

Resolution #6:  I resolve to be a Positive Active Bystander™ when I see bullying.

Resolution #7:  I resolve to practice using a strong voice.

Resolution #8:  I resolve to ask for friendship help from a trusted adult when I need it.

Resolution #9:  I resolve to be honest with my friends.

Resolution #10:  I resolve to trust my gut over what anyone else says.

Resolution #11:  I resolve to stand tall.

Resolution #12:  I resolve to avoid negative text messages.

Resolution #13:  I resolve to do what feels right to me.

Resolution #14:  I resolve to try out new friends.

Resolution #15:  I resolve to say goodbye to friendships that aren’t healthy for me.

Resolution #16:  I resolve to ask questions when I realize I’m making assumptions.

Resolution #17:  I resolve to let go of sarcasm.

Resolution #18:  I resolve to speak up instead of get revenge.

Resolution #19:  I resolve to say how I feel.

Resolution #20:  I resolve to respect myself as much as I respect my friends.

Resolution #21:  I resolve to look for friends who treat others kindly.

Resolution #22:  I resolve to ignore negative gestures.

Resolution #23:  I resolve to stick with friends I can trust.

Resolution #24:  I resolve to be open to making lots of friends.

Resolution #25:  I resolve to avoid gossip and rumors.

Resolution #26:  I resolve to stay away from friends who manipulate and use relational aggression.

Resolution #27:  I resolve to keep others’ secrets private.

Resolution #28:  I resolve to talk to girls who are being given the silent treatment.

Resolution #29:  I resolve to never say, “Just kidding.”

Resolution #30:  I resolve to be myself.

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC  

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

The Challenge of Time

Today’s educators are barraged with hoops to jump through, metrics to measure, and legislative requirements to follow.  They don’t have a lot of time to stop and address friendship problems between their female students.

That is problematic because girls who are struggling with their friendships are not girls who are able to learn.  Emotional bullying trumps math every time in a girl’s world.

Educators who are tuned into this reality want to help girls and often run into roadblocks within their schools.  They ask me, “how do you get your school staff to pull together on relational aggression when it can take up their time?”

Common Tools

Here are three quick and easy tools to give your school staff to enable them to effectively guide their girls through painful friendships and emotional bullying when time is tight…

Tool #1:  Common Language

Agree upon and teach common terms for dealing with relational aggression in your school.  For example, when I facilitate the When Girls Hurt Girls® staff training, I explain the difference between victim and target.  Victim is a mindset, a choice.  Target is factual, based on what happened to you.  Consistent use of these terms is important.

Give your staff the language to use on the types of Friendship Weapons™ girls use against each other.  Types like Bad Memory (forgetting on purpose), Silent Treatment, Taunting, etc.

Tool #2:  Common Strategies

Provide a common set of strategies to use with your girls.  I like the It’s Time to Choose™ clock in the When Girls Hurt Girls® program that gives girls twelve strategies laid out in the form of a clock (everything from ignore to speak up to keep it light).  It shows girls they always have a choice.  A tool like this clock provides a quick reference for educators to use when helping a girl see her options.

Tool #3:  Planning Worksheet

Distribute relational aggression planning worksheets to all educators who may be in a position to provide friendship guidance to a girl.  Having a simple, 1-page worksheet that lists the commonly agreed upon strategies in a girl-friendly graphic makes for consistent problem solving in your school.

The worksheet should be used by the girl to identify the type of friendship problem she is experiencing, the strategy she will use, and how what she will do on a continuing basis.

Independent Friendship Problem Solvers

When you have common language, common strategies, and a common planning worksheet in your school, everyone on your staff is on the same page.  They can quickly identify a relational aggression situation, help the girl select a strategy she’s comfortable with, and head her toward being an independent friendship problem solver.

© 2010 A Way Through, LLC  

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR EZINE OR WEB SITE? You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

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Nov
05

Let’s Talk

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Blair here. On Friday, October 22, I had the pleasure of being asked to join Karen Schachter of HealthyBodiesHappyMinds.com for a 30-minute teleclass and Q&A session. Karen and her callers were wonderful. We had a great time talking about  “How to Help Your Kindergarten-Grade 2 Daughter through Painful Friendships.”

If you’d like to hear our conversation, please listen at:
http://www.audioacrobat.com/note/C0XVpywQ

Thank you to Karen for inviting me to share my knowledge of emotional bullying, aka relational aggression. You can visit her website at http://www.healthybodieshappyminds.com/.

Please remember to join us on November 16 for our own detailed free teleclass series (1 of 2), “When Girls Hurt Girls®: How to Guide Girls (Grades K-2) through Painful Friendships and Emotional Bullying.” Get details and register now at www.awaythrough.com/teleclass3.htm!

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Untitled Document When Girls Hurt Girls™ Parent Pack

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Untitled Document


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