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I have long been thinking about the word civility.  When President Obama used the word in his speech at the memorial service for those killed and injured on January 8, 2011, in Tuscon, Arizona, I felt compelled to write about it.  The purpose of this article is to look at the function of civility in relationship to relational aggression. 

Civility is courtesy or politeness, a formal politeness and courteousness in speech and behavior.  Its synonym is mannerliness.  We commonly use the word nice instead of civil, especially with young children. Often the word respect is used instead of civility.  They are very close cousins.  But when someone has been relationally aggressive toward you, has acted as your emotional bully, it’s hard to address them with respect.  Respect means we hold the one who has bullied in some manner of esteem.  Truthfully,  “some manner of esteem” could be particularly low esteem.

Yes, I am quibbling over semantics.  Yet when I look at the opposite meaning of civility, I see all the qualities that make up relational aggression: rudeness, back talk, inconsideration, disrespect, and inappropriateness.  When extrapolated out into the adult world, we can see how our youth are exposed to incivility daily.  There are examples in international relations, media coverage, talk shows, in our homes, and out on the street.  Incivility breeds incivility.

When relational aggression happens to our daughters, students, or girls in our charge, use the opportunity to talk about civility.  Repeated relational aggression will need some type of response, and a civil response or action will have a greater chance of ending bullying than an uncivil one.  Civility breeds civility and has a good chance of leading to respect.

Begin teaching the word civility to children by third grade.  They will catch on quickly, especially if they hear it repeated.  It will help them understand bullying and friendship problems in a deeper, richer way.  Use everyday situations to illustrate the meaning.  Here are a couple of examples:

(In the media) “Those two people are world leaders.  They aren’t showing much respect to each other.  If they want to solve their problems, they need to show civility when they speak to each other no matter how much they disagree.”

(Daily life) “Mia has bullied you for quite some time, but you haven’t spoken up to her yet.  I know you don’t like her and what she does, but when you speak up to her, speak civilly.”

I admit I am a Wordie (I love words!).  I also like offering kids the opportunity to expand their vocabularies.  Introducing the word civility helps to increase their social and emotional verbiage.  So, am I suggesting the words “nice” and “respect” to be passé or misused?  Absolutely not!  But if you know some inquisitive kiddos who question speaking respectfully to someone they do not respect, speaking civilly might make more sense to them.  In that case, civility turns out to be a pretty “nice” word.  I hope you can respect that.

© 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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Click here to read Part 1 in this series.

Bonding with a bully isn’t exceptional in grades K-2 girls, for they are freshly learning the ins and outs of friendships.  Our role as parents and educators is to guide them through the process.  We want them “through” it, because we don’t want them bound to a hurtful relationship.  We can help prevent or loosen the ties that blind.

A chilling fact is the five major thought processes that bind girls to a bully are the same five major thought processes of women who return to or remain in abusive relationships.

  1. There must be something wrong with me.
  2. There is something in it for me.
  3. This is normal.
  4. Who am I without this friendship (relationship)?
  5. This is comfortable.

What Can Be Done

It’s important to start teaching bullying refusal skills at an early age, so girls will have a lifetime to hone and practice them.  We do this to prepare and inform rather than scare or alarm.  Girls who know how to refuse bullying will have a direct impact on reducing it.  Here are the five factors necessary to developing bullying refusal skills in girls:

  1. Bullying awareness
  2. Assertiveness skills
  3. Positive self-esteem
  4. Exposure to healthy relationships
  5. Self-trust of what feels good or bad in a friendship

Loosening the Ties, Taking Off the Blindfold

Bullying refusal skills help prevent bonding with the bully and are crucial to a girl’s healthy development.  And they can help prevent workplace or domestic abuse in the future. Because when bullying feels comfortable or normal, you can’t tell the difference between what feels good or bad anymore.  And those are the ties that blind.

© 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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“I just don’t get it.  A girl in my classroom is bullied mercilessly by a girl she considers a friend.  She is betrayed and ridiculed yet consistently returns to the very girl who hurts her, hoping the next time will be different.  It never is, though.”    Sharon – middle school teacher

Many parents and educators have puzzled over why some kids don’t learn that they needn’t continue to be friends with someone who bullies them.  It seems brilliantly obvious to us these bullied kids are being used and abused.  Why can’t they see it?  That, by the way, is the wrong question.  Most kids are aware when they are treated badly.  The correct question is this: Why do they return for more?  The answer lies in how and why they are connected to the bully.  What type of bond exists?

In healthy relationships, conflict arises but abuse is not tolerated. Unhealthy relationships have unequal power distribution and abuse of that power.  This is true with adult relationships and childhood or teen relationships.  The difference with childhood friendships vs. adult friendships is that kids are still learning and experimenting with relationships. As they grow, we hope children detach from hurtful friendships, learn from them, and gravitate toward friendships that nourish them.

Blinding Bonds

When our children repeatedly return to a friendship in which they were treated badly, it’s helpful to recognize why they have bonded with the bully.  We need to help them sort out the thoughts that blind them from exiting unhealthy relationships.  Here are five major thought processes that bind targets to bullies.

  1. There must be something wrong with me. This child believes there is something wrong with her instead of the bully.  She feels she must continue to change and mold herself to be liked.  It never occurs to her that she is OK as she is, and something is amiss with the bully.  She keeps returning so she can get it right.
  2.  There is something in it for me. There is a payoff for this girl in the form of acceptance, popularity, or status – at any cost.
  3. This is normal.  A girl without many friendship experiences or only bad friendship experiences may think hurtful friendships are the norm.  Often adults reinforce this thinking through confirming “that’s just the way girls are.”
  4. Who am I without this friendship?  Girls who have been in a long-term hurtful friendship cannot fathom their identities outside of the relationship. 
  5. This is comfortable.  Although this thought seems counterintuitive, targets can become comfortable with the bully.  Bullying is traumatic, and the phenomenon of trauma bonding can occur.  Comfort can come from the predictability of bullying.

 To be continued with part 2…

© 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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Hi, there. Through emails to our VIP list, we completed a four-week exploration into how to guide grades K-2 girls to become independent friendship problem solvers. Their success depends on these 5 Key Friendship Skills:

  • Skill #1 — Self Trust
  • Skill #2 — Decision-Making
  • Skill #3 — Assertiveness
  • Skill #4 — Bullying Refusal
  • Skill #5 — Conflict Resolution

Read on for a complete recap of all 5 skills!

If you haven’t already, you’ll want to make sure you register for our F-R-E-E telelcass event on Tuesday, November 16, where we’ll share more information.  It’s easy!  Just click this link to reserve your seat on this call.  

http://www.awaythrough.com/teleclass3.htm

NOTE: Use this same link to register for our FREE teleclass on March 3, 2011, also!

During this FREE 45-minute teleclass by phone on November 16th, you will find information on “When Girls Hurt Girls®: How to Guide Grades K-2 Girls Through Painful Friendships and Emotional Bullying.”

Friendship Skill #1: Self Trust 

The foundation of building thriving friendships for all girls (and women) is Self Trust.  In order to connect with others who will feed them with healthy interactions, young girls need to learn how to trust their inner guidance system.  This shows up in the form of gut hunches, intuition, a voice in their head.  They learn what and who feels right for them, and what/who doesn’t.

When girls as young as kindergarten learn to trust their inner guidance system, they tap into the inner knowing that will help them choose friends wisely.  They’ll learn that if it feels bad, it is bad.  Self Trust helps young girls identify if there is a problem.  This is a great jumping off point to the second key skill, Decision Making.  

Friendship Skill #2: Decision-Making

Once our girls have developed self trust, they must then make a decision to do something about a friendship that feels bad.  Lingering in its uncomfortable feelings and negative energy makes for an unhappy girl. Through your guidance, she can come to understand she has options in the matter.  She does not have to stay stuck in the hurt. There is really something she can do about it!  A K-2 girl can and will learn there are several choices she can make concerning friendship woes.  When suitable choices are laid out for her, she can learn to decide which options feel comfortable to her.

A grade K-2 girl who has honed her decision-making skills knows there is a way through painful friendships. With practice, she can come to think of her own options. Soon enough she will become confident in deciding what to do.  The world opens wide for the girl who becomes skilled in the art of decision making.  One of the keys to developing high self-esteem is understanding a decision must be made and then making it.  That’s an element of personal power!

Friendship Skill #3: Assertiveness

We’ve said (1.) Self-trust will help a girl know that if a friendship feels bad, it probably is bad, and (2.) Decision-making is the next process she must go through to choose what she will do about it.  Assertiveness (#3) is the quality she needs to carry the decision out.  It implies confidence.  A girl who has made a decision to do something about a hurtful friendship must now take a step to do so.  With assertiveness, she carries out her decision.  Even one who is reluctant to speak up to her friend can do so with assertiveness. 

Practice will help.  With your help, your daughter or student can rehearse what she is going to say or do to stop the hurt.  And when she does this, whether her voice is quiet and shaky or bold, her confidence will grow.  Each time she practices, she will improve.   Assertiveness doesn’t come easily to everyone.  It is something that can be grown and cultivated.  Believe us.  This can and will happen!

Friendship Skill #4: Bullying Refusal

Many young girls don’t have enough experience to realize they don’t have to accept bullying.  When it happens, they don’t know what to do. Either they don’t know how to respond, or they don’t know they can respond.  When a girl is blind-sided by her first bullying experience, she may believe she has to do what the bully says or accept what was said or done.

It’s difficult to prepare kids for everything they could possibly encounter in life.  It’s tricky with bullying, because when introducing bullying prevention, there is a delicate balance.  While we don’t want to plant seeds of fear, we do want our girls to have a “heads up.”  There’s a natural route to take.  When sharing literature, movies, or family TV time, talk about any bullying situations that come up.

Discuss who the bully is and who is the target of the bullying.  Let your child know that the target can refuse bullying. There is something that can be done when bullying happens.  A target can refuse, or say no to bullying, in several ways.  Keep examples simple: tell the bully to stop or walk away or get help.  The clear message your child should get is that she can refuse bullying.  It is not something she has to endure.

Friendship Skill #5: Conflict Resolution

Conflicts are problems between and among people.  They are part of human nature, because we all are unique and have our own perspective on things.  Conflict is natural, and it is neither good nor bad.  Let’s teach our young girls this very point. 

Let them know that when there is a problem between people, the problem can usually be worked out.  Listening to another to really understand helps problems between friends.  Talking about differences also helps.  Walking away from conflict when it becomes too much to handle offers a cooling off period.  Don’t forget about taking a time out, too.  Frame the time out as a good thing to do for yourself when you need space.  It’s not about giving oneself consequences for having a problem with someone.  It’s about making space for thinking about what to do.

Girls who learn how to solve conflicts usually have fewer problems with bullying.  Teach the difference between having a problem with a friend and being bullied.  Girls with equal power can have a conflict but often call each other bullies.  Two friends who usually squabble about many things are not necessarily bullying each other.  They are having a conflict when they disagree.  Things change, though, when one asks the other to stop an unwanted behavior, and the behavior continues.  When the behaviors are one-sided, unwanted, and usually occurring more than once, there is a power imbalance.  That is bullying.

© 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

Recently I was enticed to read a New York Times article with the headline Mean-Girl Bullying Trickles Down to Grade School.  The teaser sentence read “Mean-girl bullying used to set in over fifth-grade sleepover parties, but now the warfare increasingly permeates the early elementary school years.”

The Questions

Hmm, I thought.  Do I buy that?  I mean, the word “increasingly.”  After all, I’ve been in elementary education for nearly 30 years.  I’ve had a ringside seat to physical and emotional bullying among kids.  Has it increased in the younger girls?  As for mean-girl bullying trickling down, I’ve seen relational aggression start in preschoolers!   So really, what came first – little mean girls or big mean girls?  And while we’re on the subject, what came first – the rise in bullying or the rise in media reports on bullying?

I considered the plethora of hurtful stories I’ve heard from girls over the years to draw my own conclusions.  When you work with kids, you hear lots of stories.  You have a front row seat to the hurt.  I sifted through the stories I’d heard and chose the following to illustrate a point.

The Story

It happened on a bright summer day.  Two little girls sat back-to-back on the warm cement in front of the east entrance to the school.  That entrance was hidden from sight, and passersby on the street could not see the rope that loosely bound the girls together.  Minutes before, the rope was joyfully used for jumping.  Now it was a restraint.

The younger girl was in kindergarten. She cried softly, unable to contain her fear. The elder, a second grader, remained stoic and gave no indication of emotion as if she were playing poker. Their captors had already undone the girls’ long and tightly braided hair, laughing all the while.  This act further humiliated and terrified the girls.  It was clear who held the power.

Suddenly, a man burst around the corner of the building.  The captors fled.  The two frightened little girls were free to go home.  The man seemed frustrated and slightly irritated, though. Why didn’t you do something, he wondered aloud.  After all, those other girls were no bigger than you.  As for the rope, you weren’t actually tied.  You could have easily gotten free.

The Point

That story is over 50 years old.  I was the kindergartener, my sister was the second grader, and my dad was the man who came around the corner.  Our captors were girls in our school.  They were first and second graders.  And why didn’t we do anything?  We didn’t know what to do!

The point is relational aggression has been used by young girls for a long time.  History and stories tell us so. The trickle down theory implies relational aggression starts with older girls or adults, is modeled, and then picked up by younger girls.  And since bullying is now a burning topic, it appears it’s on the rise and trickling down to ages younger and younger.  We really don’t know, though.  As pointed out in the Times article, there are no longitudinal studies to prove this one way or the other. 

While role modeling hugely influences the way kids act, sometimes they simply come up with ideas on their own.  Sometimes those choices include acting relationally aggressive.  Without ever having exposure to exclusion, a trio of four-year-old girls can quickly become a duo with an odd girl out.  Yes, that is relational aggression.  No, this is not a new and sudden problem. 

The Lesson

In the not so distant past, bullies were big, mean boys who hit each other, and relational aggression wasn’t yet a term.  Sticks and stones could break your bones, but words could never harm you.  Develop a tougher skin was the sage advice of the times along with just ignore them.  You’re not really hurt.

It’s difficult to measure something that once wasn’t considered hurtful to the “growing mean girl problem we have today.”  Let’s consider this instead.  Emotional bullying can trickle down from role modeling.  It can also start at the bottom and flow upward as experiments in power become negative patterns.  Beware of the emotional tsunamis that unexpectedly hit girls from the sides in torrents of stinging words and mudslinging at any age.  Know that overexposure to hurtful friendships can sear in pain and inflame the desire to hurt back.  Understand that after soaking in a culture of incivility and a media shower of the glorification of bad behavior, acceptance of such can seep into the pores.  And do not doubt for a moment that early education in bullying prevention and assertiveness skills in our youngest girls can make all the difference in their successful navigation through relational aggression.

The Post Script

I would like to thank my sister for using the poker face.  I think you really faked those bullies out, and I felt safer with you there.

I would like to thank Chris and Diane (yes, I remember your names) for the bullying experience.  Through it I learned how scared small children could be when bullied.  It helps me relate to my students when they are bullied.

I would like to thank my dad for letting me know I didn’t have to accept bullying, that I could do something about it no matter my age.  (But Dad, really, those girls were bigger than me!)

© 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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Guiding Girls Through Inspiring Stories

Welcome to our Guiding Girls Through Inspiring Stories series.  Here you can find stories filled with life lessons to inspire girls to use their personal power.  Each story is designed to help girls examine their values, address friendship problems, understand relational aggression or emotional bullying, or embrace the differences in others.  There are clarifying questions at the story’s end to help girls apply lessons learned to their own lives.  Join us here every other week.  Enjoy!

Sometimes You Just Have to Do It Yourself!

Have you ever wished someone would invent a contraption that would do your homework for you?  How about a new vegetable that tastes like chocolate ice cream?  Mmm!   Lots of inventions come out of “accidental” experimenting, but many come from a want or a need.

Josephine Cochrane had a want.  She was a wealthy woman who gave many dinner parties and used lots of dishes. She wanted clean dishes and was tired of having them broken or chipped by the help.  Someone else had already invented a machine for washing dishes, although that machine was hand-cranked and only splashed water on dishes.  It hardly worked, so Josephine reportedly said, “If no one else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself.”  And that’s exactly what she did!

It Didn’t Happen Easily

Josephine went about measuring dishes and creating spaces for them in her version of the dishwasher.  Around the time she was doing this, her husband became ill and died.  Previously, Josephine had all the money she needed.  With her husband’s death, that was no longer true.  She was left owing more than she had.  That didn’t stop her, though.  She persevered, and eventually completed her invention.  She displayed it in 1893 at the Chicago World’s Fair and started her own business which built and sold dishwashers.  Josephine went from hostess to inventor to mechanic to business owner to marketer to advertiser in her lifetime.

What About You?

You never know where a want or a need will take you.  Perhaps we’ll read about something you invent some day!

Extension Questions:

  1. What are some lessons you learned from the Josephine Cochrane story?
  2. Who might you look to for help when there don’t seem to be any answers from anyone else?
  3. Why do you think Josephine persevered in her invention after her husband died?
  4. How could a do-it-yourself attitude help you with friendship problems?  Hurt you?
  5. Do you think a person with a do-it-yourself attitude is more or less likely to be bothered by relational aggression (emotional bullying)?  Support your answer.

© 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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Friendship Blind Spots are behaviors you don’t know you have or are unable to look at which hurt your chances of making or keeping friends.

I recently drove my husband to school after one of our vehicles had attitude problems and did time with our mechanic.  That gave us 60 minutes of uninterrupted talk time.  I was bemoaning a problem that shows up occasionally and causes me to ruminate about specific unpleasant interactions with others.  Tired of this, I decided to get honest with myself.  I self-imposed the magic bullet question,  “How does this problem keep finding me?”

I shared a self-assessment of my behaviors I thought to be getting in my way.  My husband supplied additional input with his observations of me.  Looking honestly at myself combined with his insight helped me understand my contributions to the problem.  Together we uncovered some of my relationship blind spots.  He was not my critic.  He was my insight partner, and he had my back!

It’s All in How You Frame It

As a kid, I was often unwilling or unable to see my part in friendship problems.  My young perception of what help would have sounded like was something like this:  “Would you like to hear all your bad qualities that mess up your friendships?  And here, have another scoop of glass shards in your milk.”  No thanks, too scary!

I’m certain kids still don’t want to hear a laundry list of stuff they do that turns other kids off.  I bet they’d rather turn detective with a trusty partner who has their back while trying to solve friendship problems and search out blind spots.  Frame it in a safe way, and make sure you are a “trusty” enough partner.  You’ll get takers.

Six Steps To Guide Girls to Discover Their Friendship Blind Spots

Here are six steps to help girls become aware of their friendship blind spots.  Use them when a girl tells you of a friendship problem that keeps finding her. 

  1. Tell her you believe you can help.
  2. Use an age appropriate example to explain a blind spot.    Say, “You know how a driver in a car sometimes asks a passenger to help out by looking to the side or behind to see if any other car is coming?  That driver is asking the passenger to help out with blind spots, places the driver finds difficult or impossible to see.  The passenger has the driver’s back, which means she is taking responsibility for helping with the driver’s safety.
  3. Inform her of friendship blind spots. (Refer to definition above.)  Normalize the situation by telling her everyone has friendship blind spots – even you.
  4. Tell her you have her back.  Example:  I want the best for you.  I would like to help you discover your friendship blind spots, so you aren’t unhappy with these problems anymore.
  5. Ask if she wants help.  Respect the answer.  If it’s no, you will have at least planted the seed. 
  6. Discuss her friendship blind spot(s). Ask her first,  “What ideas do you have?”  She may name it so you don’t have to.  Give your input without judgment by saying, “I’ve noticed (state behavior, body language, verbal tones or inflections, facial expressions, etc,) when (state exact or general times this happens).  I wonder if this has anything to do with it.” It’s now up to her to decide.  Name only one or two behaviors at a time, or you’ll scare her off forever.

By guiding kids to discover their friendship blind spots, you will have facilitated a skill that will help them in creating healthy relationships throughout their lives.  What a gift!

© 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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Guiding Girls Through Inspiring Stories

Welcome to our Guiding Girls Through Inspiring Stories series.  Here you can find stories filled with life lessons to inspire girls to use their personal power.  Each story is designed to help girls examine their values, address friendship problems, understand relational aggression or emotional bullying, or embrace the differences in others.  There are clarifying questions at the story’s end to help girls apply lessons learned to their own lives.  Join us here every other week.  Enjoy!

Wilma Rudolph and Running Your Own Race

Wilma Rudolph is best known as a track star. She was the first American woman to become a three-time Olympic gold medalist, and she earned the title of “the fastest woman in the world” in her lifetime.

It’s remarkable for anyone to win an Olympic gold medal.  It takes time, dedication, faith in yourself, and no excuses!  Wilma could have used excuses, because there were lots of reasons why she shouldn’t have become “the fastest woman in the world.”  At one time in her life, Wilma couldn’t walk. 

Born prematurely, she came into the world weighing only 4½ pounds.  She caught many childhood illnesses including measles, scarlet fever, double pneumonia, chicken pox, and mumps.  The toughest disease Wilma had to conquer, though, was polio.  She came down with it at age four, and it left her legs paralyzed. 

Wilma’s family was important to her recovery.  Though they were poor, they were rich in family spirit and love.  Her many brothers and sisters took turns massaging her legs, and her mother drove her 50 miles to a hospital twice a week for two years.  Eventually, Wilma could walk with a brace on her left leg.  Nothing seemed to stop her from that time on.  Her mother came home from work one day and was shocked to see eleven-year-old Wilma playing basketball! 

After Wilma mastered walking, she tried running.  She started entering races and came in last every time.

That didn’t bother Wilma, though.  Her races were about improving herself instead of worrying about how others saw her.  She was just happy to be running!

As Wilma’s personal best improved, she began passing others in races.  Then she started winning.  By age 16, Wilma had earned a spot on the Olympic team and won a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 meter relay.  Four years later, she earned three golds in the 1960 Olympics.

She had achieved survival as a sick infant, walking after a crippling bout of polio, running after mastering walking, and winning races after losing them all.

Wilma lived life running her own race.  She focused on doing her personal best.  Being different from other kids could have caused her to give up and feel sorry for herself.  Instead, it inspired her to try the hard stuff that came so easily to others. 

Whenever you compare yourself to others and feel bad because it seems you don’t measure up, stop and think of the Wilma Rudolph story.  She found gold by being herself and running her own race.  You can, too.  The only person you can be is yourself.  Do your best and run your own race. You’re going to find a big surprise! There is a remarkable person living inside you.  Go out and find her.

Guiding Questions:

  1. What do you think “running your own race” means in this story?
  2. Why was Wilma unconcerned about coming in last in every race when she first started running?
  3. Lots of girls compare their looks, possessions, and accomplishments to other girls and end up feeling bad about themselves or jealous of others.  How can you feel good about yourself no matter what?
  4. How can comparing yourself to your friends cause friendship problems?
  5. What excuses do you use for not doing your personal best?
  6. What life lessons can be learned from the Wilma Rudolph story?

Everyone has a story to tell.  What’s your story about running your own race?

© 2010 A Way Through, LLC

Categories : Educators, Parents
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Throughout my career as a teacher and school counselor, I’ve made many uncomfortable phone calls to parents uttering these difficult words, “Your child bullied someone at school today.” 

I then give them details of the well-investigated incident.  Parents tend to respond in one of five ways:

  1. Denial – “My Jamie wouldn’t do that.  My Jamie doesn’t have a mean bone in her body.”
  2. Blame – “If Suzanne did that, then the other girl must have done something first.  The teacher should watch them more closely.”
  3. Acceptance – “I was afraid of that.  Evie has been behaving that way with her cousin lately.”
  4. Pride – “It’s about time!  Layla’s been having trouble with that girl, so I told her to get her back good!”
  5. Mortification – “Oh, no!  I’m so sorry!  Mary knows better than that!  I don’t know what to do!  We don’t tolerate bullying!  You must think I’m a terrible parent!”

Regardless the reaction, when the dust settles, one thing remains.  A girl behaved as a bully, and that girl needs help.  She needs guidance to understand her actions, their effects on others, and how a pattern of bullying can affect her life. 

Best, Worst, and Extreme Cases

The best-case outcome is a fledgling bully gets help and stops her actions.  The worst case is she doesn’t; her bullying behaviors grow and become second nature to her. The extreme, unthinkable version could lead to her contribution to another’s life-long misery or to abuse resulting in someone’s bullicide.  A chilling fact is bullies contributed to the suicide deaths of Phoebe Prince http://bit.ly/cBYW5Z  and Megan Meier http://bit.ly/4wHxN7.  The physical and emotional damage to Josie Ratley stands as a living reminder http://exm.nr/c3WtqE.

Bullies accustomed to using physical or relational aggression risk using these behaviors as their default coping mechanism.  Beyond the friendship problems they cause in youth, adult bullies bring their behaviors into the workplace, marriages, parenting, extended families, organizations, and societal interactions.  The cycle continues.

Bullying is Complicated

The dynamics of bullying are complicated.  The most dedicated, caring, and peaceful parents can raise a child who turns to bullying.  Schools with zero tolerance bullying policies or programs can still have bullies roaming the halls.  Infinite factors muddy peaceful intentions: personalities, perceptions, target and bystander silence, culture and climate norms, human nature, etc.   Despite sometime seemingly insurmountable odds, parents can and do make a difference when their child is a bully.

What Parents Can Do

First of all, understand your child is trying out a role.  All of us have bullied at some time in our lives.  If you have siblings, that’s where you first likely flexed your bullying muscles.  At some time, your daughter will try hers.  It’s natural, but don’t let her get stuck there.  Help her understand her actions, and guide her to discover the purpose of her bullying.  Here are the top five reasons girls resort to bullying.

The Top Five Reasons Why Girls Resort to Bullying

1.      To  Get What She Wants – the life skill this girl needs is to learn to ask for what she wants in a civil manner instead of bullying to get it.  Teach her positive ways to speak up and ask for what she needs.

2.     To Claim Her Power – Power can be hurtful or helpful.  Help this girl understand more appropriate ways to use her power.  Use inspiring examples to illustrate the use of positive power (Rosa Parks, Gandhi, Harry Potter, Fern from Charlotte’s Web, the mouse from Tales of Despereaux , etc.)

3.     To Get Revenge – Revenge can feel satisfying, so it can be difficult convincing a girl it’s not productive.  It’s the opposite of the Golden Rule.  The Revenge Rule is: Hurt Her As Much or More Than She Hurt You.  Use the example of how nations locked in war can use revenge.  Ultimately, after the war is over, both nations have suffered pain, win or lose. 

4.     Fear – Most bullying comes out of fear.  Girls fear friends being taken away from them, loss of power or position in a group, and others discovering their vulnerabilities and insecurities.  Girls fear they are not enough.  When you expose the fear, you uncover the foundation of pain.  Explore your daughter’s fears with her.  Brainstorm ways she can address them without bullying.

5. Parental Role Modeling – Parents continually deal with life right in front of their children.  If you come from a family culture of bullying, you may be blind to or default to familial bullying behaviors.  Honesty about your own behaviors will help you determine if your daughter’s behaviors are mirroring your own.

If you find your daughter has bullied, stay calm, discover her motives, and teach her positive, replacement skills.  Once a bully, always a bully?  No, however, an established bullying pattern is much harder to extinguish.  Talk to your daughter now to address a current situation or to prevent bullying behaviors in the future.

© 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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Book written by Annie Fox, M.Ed

Book reviewed by Jane Balvanz, MSE, RPT

When I received my copy of Real Friends vs. The Other Kind from Annie Fox’s Middle School Confidential series, I knew I had my hands on a school counselor’s dream.  There are BIG things in this small package!  This is a book that would have had a place under my pillow during my junior high days.  That’s where I would have kept it, so I could read and reread it – especially during those sleepless nights spent over friendship angst.  This book speaks to kids.

Built around the interactions of six middle school friends, Real Friends vs. The Other Kind takes you through their daily interactions and the real life experiences ‘tweens and teens face.  Kids will enjoy the comic book-like story and illustrations interwoven with advice following each segment. This is a sneaky-brilliant way to put together TONS of information for kids.  A real bonus is that it’s “reluctant reader friendly.”  It will appeal to bookworms as well as kids who blanch at the sight of a thick book.

Intermingled within 90 pages of a book one quarter of an inch thick and easily held in one hand, here’s a list of some of the rich content:

  • Real input from real kids
  • Six qualities of a real friend
  • How to evaluate the friendship network you have
  • Other helpful books to read.
  • Identifying when you weren’t a good friend
  • Avoiding Social Garbage
  • Friendship Quizzes
  • Tips for Getting the Treatment You Deserve
  • Helpful websites

I’ve just revealed less than 10% of the contents packed into those 90 pages!  Parents and teachers will also love Real Friends vs. The Other Kind.  Use it in the classroom for whole group discussions or at home for parent and t(w)een talks. For kids who are not “into” parental discussions, just leave copy in their bedroom.  A final note to school counselors – I find this book an excellent resource for running small groups for kids with friendship problems and assertiveness issues.

A Way Through, LLC gives our Must Read Seal of Excellence to Middle School Confidential™: Real Friends vs. The Other Kind by Annie Fox for it’s appeal to t(w)eens, multiple uses, and addressing friendship information kids really need to know and learn.  Recommended for t(w)eens, school counselors, middle school teachers and principals, parents, therapists, social workers, and anyone who loves a t(w)een.

You can find this book and others by Annie Fox at Free Spirit Publishing http://freespirit.com/

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Untitled Document When Girls Hurt Girls™ Parent Pack

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