Author Archive

Last week I read a blog post that shocked me.  Dr. Michele Borba, author, speaker, and educational consultant, wrote a post called “More Teens Getting Botox“.  More?  You mean even one teen got Botox?  Now there are more?  The trend even has a name – teen toxing.  Well, I’ll be!  I never saw that one coming!  I don’t have anything against cosmetic surgery, Botox, and youth-enhancing procedures for consenting adults.  Adults can make their own decisions on that.  But seriously, youth-enhancing procedures for……youth?  Isn’t that like selling hair-removal cream to bald men or buying an expensive airline ticket to visit the city in which you live?

If there’s one thing girls don’t need, it’s another way to strive for perfection.  The competition to look magazine beautiful stirs the pot of insecurity and can lead to relational aggression, hurtful friendships, and other friendship problems.  

I bet you a buck if you told an eight-year-old that some parents were paying hundreds of dollars to help their teens look younger, she’d think it was crazy.  Ask any eight-year-old to go to the doctor for shots in the face.  You’d have to catch her first!  Yet in five short years, that very girl could become one of the many 13-year-olds begging to receive Botox injections.  What could change the girl’s mind in that time?  Self-esteem and peer pressure issues come to mind (See Michele’s article).  Another is succumbing to clever and seductive advertising.

What can parents do to help girls from being sucked into wanting the latest, greatest product or procedure that will finally make them the perfect girl?  Teach them economics, that’s what!  As a young consumer, did anything come between you and your Calvins?  For me it was money.  Teaching kids to become savvy consumers is a tool parents can use to raise critical thinkers who can learn to separate fact from fiction in advertisements and on glossy magazine pages.

The Ten Dollars Game

Start teaching economics when your child is young, and make it a routine part of her life.  If you make the lessons fun instead of preachy, she will learn more. Here’s a game idea. On a routine trip to the store, tell your child you’re going to play The Ten Dollars Game.  The only materials you will need are a pencil and a notepad.  A five to six-year-old child is probably old enough to play.  Make sure you explain this is a pretend game; you won’t use real money or actually buy the item you want.  Here are the rules:

  • Give your child an imaginary ten dollars to put in her pocket.  Do the same for yourself.  Actually go through the motions of doling out the money and tucking it in a safe place.
  • As you do your normal shopping, both you and your child are to look for an additional item you each would like to purchase.
  • Before checking out of the store, name and talk about the pretend purchase.  Do you have enough money to buy it?  Will you have any money left over?
  • Record the items each of you pretend to buy along with the price, date, and money left over, if that is the case. 
  • If you don’t spend any money, the next time you play the game, it will be called The Twenty Dollars Game.
  • Each time you play, start with $10 and add to it what may be left over.  

See the sneaky educational stuff that can happen here?  Kids can learn decision-making, addition, subtraction, tracking expenses, re-evaluating purchases, saving money, value, etc.  As they grow older, imagine the other lessons they can learn.  With your help, they can learn independent thinking skills such as scrutinizing advertisements and looking at cost vs. benefits.  Imagine teaching your child enough about economics that she can eventually ask herself some of these questions before buying (or asking you to buy) something.

  • Is it a want or a need?        
  • Is my money needed more for something else?
  • Will I become sick, in danger, or die if I don’t have it?
  • If I don’t have it, will someone else become sick, in danger, or die?
  • If I don’t have it, will it stop me from doing something I’m supposed to do? (responsibility)
  • Who says I need it?  Why?
  • Can the people selling it prove it works or that it’s good for me?
  • Can I get my money back if it doesn’t work or if it harms me?
  • What is it made of?
  • Can it hurt me in any way?
  • How long does it last? 
  • Will it help or hurt the earth?

Now back to Botox for teens.  Remember we started with that?  We don’t know enough about how Botox will affect people who start using it in their teens.  So, in this case, allowing teens to receive Botox injections is a gamble.  It reminds me of the tanning craze to get young, healthy-looking skin which led to wrinkley-looking skin or skin cancer for so many people.  Is your teen worth the gamble on Botox?  It doesn’t seem like sound economics to 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

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Winner of the 2009 Good Parenting Seal

The Birth to Five Book: Confident Childrearing Right from the Start
by Brenda Nixon Reviewed by Jane Balvanz, MSE, RPT

Imagine having the right baby gift for expectant parents every time.   Imagine giving a gift so utterly useful, the newborn benefits immediately and forever.  Imagine new parents having a such a life-changing, powerful experience from your gift, they share their knowledge with other parents.  Imagine giving new parents or yourself  The Birth to Five Book by Brenda Nixon.

Reading this book is somewhat like being guided through the first years of parenthood by a wise aunt or knowledgeable big sister.  It feels as if Brenda is right there with you holding your hand and saying, “Now, now, dear.  This is normal.  You’re doing fine.”  If The Birth to Five Book had been written when my own children were born, I would have felt much less parenting anxiety.  That, in itself, is worth the price of gold!  (See page 66 – Ten Tips for Stress-less Parenting)

The book is divided into four chapters: Parenting Your Infant,  Parenting Your Toddler, Parenting Your Preschooler, and Parenting Anytime.  Each section addresses basic issues parents have about childrearing in early childhood. Brenda’s answers are written straightforwardly in a conversational tone, so parents can get right to the nitty-gritty.  After all, who has time to peruse medical books or thesauruses when your children are ages five and younger?

What is impressive about The Birth to Five Book is its range of  childhood and parenting topics.  One can read about the basics such as mother’s milk, starting solid foods, biting, toilet training, and bad dreams.  Brenda goes much farther than this, though.  She intermingles milestone markers, early education, and character education. One can learn about growing a reader, traits of toddlers, raising responsible kids, and kindergarten readiness.

Research informs us early childhood is vitally important to a child’s self-esteem, sense of well-being, and learning.  The Birth to Five Book addresses the topics essential to giving a child good foundational footing.  The bonus?  All of this information comes in a book you can easily hold in one hand while holding a baby on your shoulder with a toddler seated in your lap!

Brenda Nixon is a well-known parenting expert and speaker.  You can find out more about her at or on Twitter via @BrendaNixon.  Brenda is parent-friendly.  She routinely shares her knowledge via her radio show, The Parent’s Plate.

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Why Are Girls So Mean?

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Why are girls so mean?  This is a common question asked when discussing friendship problems, female bullying, and relational aggression.  I do not love the question.  It implies that girls, by nature, are mean, and I simply don’t buy into the mean girls culture.   When we expect girls to be mean, we will see mean girls everywhere. 

The real question is this.  When girls are mean, why are they so cruel and relentless? The answer is four-fold.  Like the weather, these factors can increase or decrease the likeliness that “conditions are favorable” for unkind relationships. 

  1. Wiring – Female brains are hard-wired to remember emotionally-charged events.  This can account for the relentless focusing on past hurts and staying stuck on a problem.  Female brains also are wired in a fashion that make girls and women adept at reading social cues and picking up on subtle verbal and tonal inflections.  Girls are tuned into non-verbal communication and reading between the lines of the spoken word.  The good news is girls have multi-dimensional ways of gathering information.  The bad news is girls make assumptions about this information without checking the veracity.  Nature rules brain wiring.
  2. Temperament – This is comprised of the quirks of our personality that make us unique.  A girl may be laid back or fussy, inquisitive and free-spirited, or pensive and brooding.  As Forrest Gump’s mama used to say, “You never know what you’re gonna get.”  Nature is fully in charge of temperament. 
  3. Role-Modeling – Our girls are watching us, and what are they learning?  What we do in front of them is a powerful teaching agent.  This is where nurture has a chance to trump nature.  When we role model problem-solving skills, civility, and acceptance of others, our girls are likely to follow our example.  Want to make a BIG difference?  The next time someone remarks, “I’m glad I don’t have girls. They’re so much more work, and they’re so mean,” you can reply, “I don’t find that to be true.”  Do it.  Do it in front of a girl.
  4. Life Experiences – We can neither control nor predict life experiences.  Life hurls at us what it will, and we get to choose how we react.  Both nature and nurture come into play with life experiences.  Some girls will have experiences that could understandably create ill will and mistrust toward other girls.  They will want to seek revenge.  They will want to hate.  And in some instances, no one would blame them for their reactions.  But we must try to guide girls through life experiences toward a place of heathy reactions and choices.  We circle back and help them through role modeling.

Girls are not born mean.  They are inclined neither toward meanness nor niceness, and they are not destined to be a part of a mean culture.  Girls are simply born female.  We adults have the opportunity to guide them toward healthy authenticity or toward a culture of mistrust and perceived meanness toward their own gender.  What shall we choose?

© 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

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Summer is a time for kid heaven.  It’s a time for freedom, friendships, fun, and eventually, “Mom, I have nothing to do.”  (For precise expressiveness, the word “mom” must be said in a nasal tone and as if comprised of two syllables.) 

Not to worry!  Hand this list over to your child and say, “I know just what you can do.  *Complete this list by the time summer is over, and you will have practiced most of the skills necessary to build good friendships.”

Apologize – Say you’re sorry when you mess up.

Balance – Balance your time wisely between friends and responsibilities.

Cool – Cool down your temper by deep breathing or walking away.

Dream – Dream about how you want your friendships to be.

Encourage – Encourage someone when they are feeling down or afraid.

Feel – Feel your emotions instead of stuffing them inside.

Give – Give of yourself.  Help someone who could use help.

Humble – Be humble when you are complimented on an accomplishment.

Integrate – When someone wants to join you, integrate them into your group.

Judge – Judge friendships on your own experience, not by someone’s opinion.

Kick – Kick a habit that interferes with your friendships.

Laugh – Find someone who makes you laugh.  Laughter = friendship magic!

Manage – Manage your commitments and do what you have promised.

Negotiate – Negotiate a compromise in a friendship disagreement.

Oppose – Oppose actions that purposely hurt another.

Praise – Praise someone’s accomplishments.

Quit – Quit a friendship that doesn’t feel good.

Relate – Find a way to relate to someone who is different than you.

Start – Start a new friendship.

Team – Team up with others to have fun.

Understand – Try to understand an opinion different than yours.

Value – Value others who make you feel good about yourself.

Wonder – Wonder about what makes a good friend.

X – X out the negative attitude.  No one loves a grump.

Yield – Yield to your friends now and then to share decision-making.

Zip – Zip your lips when you feel like repeating words that hurt.

* Your child has the opportunity to be featured on the A Way Through, LLC website.  Just write to us and let us know how your child used the A – Z Summer Friendship List.

© 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

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At one time girls were considered “sugar and spice and everything nice.”  It was proper they were seen and not heard, ate like a bird, portrayed themselves as unintelligent, and sought to reach the pinnacle of catching a husband.

Times have changed, and there are new unwritten rules.  As girls strive to fit in, they worry about doing it all: getting good grades, looking perfect, performing well in extra-curricular activities, and having the right friends.  The result is stress laced with insecurity, often resulting in eating disorders, anxiety, and depression.  Will they ever be enough?

As everyday stressors mount, it’s time to let our girls know they are enough.  They do not have to do or be anything to be valued.  Their sheer existence is enough.  Let’s help them grow to become strong, self-actualized women by guaranteeing them The Girls’ Bill of Rights.  They are what girls need to get through relational aggression, solve friendship problems, build self-esteem, and become self-assured.

1. The Right to Love Yourself Unconditionally 

To love yourself unconditionally means to love yourself just the way you are.  You do not have to do more, have more, or be more.  Your size and shape do not matter nor do the clothes you wear, the amount of money your family has, your talents, or how smart you are.  Be proud of your culture and your background. All of these things make you unique.  There is no guarantee others will love you unconditionally.  You will have to love and respect yourself.  Through loving yourself, you will be able to give and receive more love.

Do you love your child as she is?  She has a unique temperament, personality, strengths, deficits, and ways of being which define her.  Do not devalue these gifts by wishing her to be different – especially within her earshot.  The girl who is loved unconditionally learns to accept herself and others.  When you love a girl unconditionally, you allow her to be herself.

2. The Right to Speak Up

You have the right to express your opinions, thoughts, and feelings. 

Do you allow girls to speak up?  Everyone has the right to her own opinions and thoughts. Help girls express themselves through the filter of civility rather than censorship.  A girl who is allowed to speak up learns to speak her mind rather than swallow her feelings or disregard her thoughts.

3. The Right to Explore Your World   

You have the right to be curious, ask questions, explore, get dirty, have fun, and learn.

Do you allow girls to explore?  Foster curiosity.  A girl who is allowed to satisfy her curiosity learns to make discoveries, decisions, and widen her horizons.

4. The Right to Question Authority

You have the right to wonder if adults are right.  No one is right all of the time and this includes adults.  It’s OK to speak up and express your opinion when you disagree with an adult.  Not all adults will like this, but if you approach them respectfully, you will have a better chance of being heard.

Do you allow girls to question authority? There is rarely one right way to do or think about anything. We all learn from each others’ differences.  Children need adult guidance, but listening to kids’ viewpoints enlightens us.  A girl who can question authority learns to develop a backbone, think independently, and value herself.

5. The Right to Make Mistakes

You have the right to mess up.  No one is perfect; we all make mistakes.  That’s how we learn.  Don’t get stuck thinking you need to be perfect or you’re stupid if you make mistakes.  A wise girl takes a lesson away from each mistake.

Do you allow girls to make their own mistakes?  There is an instinct to protect our kids from making big mistakes.  They do need our guidance; however, mistakes create opportunities to learn. A girl who is allowed to make mistakes is less inclined toward fear and perfectionism and more inclined toward self-efficacy.

6. The Right to Experience the Natural Consequences of Your Actions

You have the right to know that almost everything you do causes something else to happen.  When you practice something, you usually get better at what you are trying to do.  If you don’t practice, you don’t improve.  If you work on making friends, you will probably get friends.  If you treat others unkindly, you may not have any friends.

When was the last time you allowed a girl to experience natural consequences? Sheltering a girl from the world creates fear and dependency.  When allowed to experience natural consequences of their actions, girls learn resiliency and responsibility. 

7. The Right to Have and Express Your Own Feelings

Your feelings are your own, and no one has the right to tell you not to feel a certain way or to tell you what you’re feeling is wrong.  Feelings are feelings.  You can’t turn them on or off just because someone tells you to.  Your feelings are guides that give you information.  They help you know things like when to stop something or when to keep on doing what you’re doing.

Do you ever tell a girl what she should or shouldn’t feel?  Denying a girl the opportunity to own and express her feelings creates confusion and self-doubt.  Adults unwittingly create this situation with good intentions.  We often tell girls not to be sad, mad, or scared to protect them from hurt.  A girl who learns to have and express her own feelings learns to become strong and trust her own intuitions.

8. The Right to Make Choices

You have the right to make choices in many areas.  Parents or other adults may guide you, and you won’t always get your way.  The older you get, the more choices you will have.  Especially with friendships, you have the right to choose ones that feel good.  You can choose to let go of friendships that make you feel sad or miserable.

Do you allow girls opportunities to make choices? Many choices are already made for them as they enter the world.  The hospital provides the pink hat while friends give the “I’m a Princess” tee shirt.  Grandparents scour toy stores for “girl toys.”  Allow girls early on to make choices unencumbered by the media or others’ definitions of what a girl should be.  Let girls follow their natural instincts.  A girl who is allowed to make choices learns to value herself as an individual without worrying about what others think.

 9. The Right to Be Yourself 

You have the right to be exactly who you are and express yourself in ways that say, “This is me!”  What you like and dislike makes you who you are.  Some girls like to hang out indoors while some like to play soccer outdoors.  Some like playing soccer indoors.  Whether you are artsy, sporty, geeky, musical, natural, girly, noisy, quiet, or anything else, YOU are YOU!  You are a wonder.

Do you allow your girl to be herself?  Is it OK with you if she dresses in plaids and stripes together?  Will you let her sing songs off key at the top of her lungs?  Is she allowed to dig in the dirt, conduct experiments, and engage in what she enjoys?  Kids like to be like their parents or other adults they respect.  They will try out many ways of being just to see how it fits them.  Respect these choices, for it’s through trying out different roles that girls learn who they are.

© 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

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041310articleThe spotlight is again on bullying in schools due to the gut-wrenching suicide of Phoebe Prince.  Phoebe was the 15-year-old girl who moved from Ireland to South Hadley, Massachusetts.  She suffered physical and emotional bullying at the hands of some of her classmates.  There was a campaign of relational aggression against her via texting, Facebook, and other forms of social media.  According to Phoebe, school was becoming intolerable.

It’s essential parents are prepared to work in partnership with their child’s school to squelch bullying.   If it becomes necessary to contact the school, the following steps will guide you. Remember, you and the school are allies in your child’s education.  Work together.  Every child deserves the right to a safe education.

   1. Assess the situation – Find the answers to the following questions.

  • Is bullying happening? Bullying is a pattern of unwanted behaviors toward another. Conflict is a problem between persons. Kids can misunderstand the difference. All bullying is conflict, but not all conflict is bullying.
  • How has your child responded to the bullying? Find out if she has attempted to solve the problem herself and in what way.
  • Has your child informed any school authorities? Whether your child is in kindergarten or high school, NEVER assume school authorities have been told. Some kids don’t tell.
  • What was the school’s response? Discover if there is a plan in place between your child and an adult in the school.

Proceed to Step 2 if your child will not go to the teacher, you need additional information, or more help is in order.

2. Contact the school authority closest to your child or the situation. If a school authority is already involved, get in touch with this person to exchange information. If your child has not told anyone at school, contact the classroom teacher, homeroom teacher, or school counselor.  It is not necessary to go “straight to the top” if the problem is solvable at a different level.  It’s appropriate to contact the principal first if the problem is intense or complicated.  Although most bullying issues can be solved at the building level, parents should feel free to contact the superintendent or school board when possibilities at the building level are exhausted.

3. Create a home and school collaboration plan. Call, e-mail, or make an appointment with the teacher or counselor. Create a plan of safety within the school setting. Some plans can be as simple as teaching the bullied child to inform the teacher when bullying occurs. Others can be as elaborate as school personnel collecting names of bullies and witnesses, conducting interviews, and creating a custom made plan to protect targets.

4. Monitor the situation with the school as necessary. Safety plans need to be adjusted as time goes along. The best case scenario is an email to the teacher that says – success!  Conversely, a bullied student may suffer retaliation when bullies receive consequences, and extra attention then is essential.

 © 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

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031610articleKids LOVE to play the Telephone Game! Each school year I’m eagerly asked when the game will be played. I use it as a classroom counseling lesson to help children understand the impact of gossip and rumors. It’s an excellent lesson for both boys and girls, because not only “mean girls” use these methods of emotional bullying. Boys have friendship problems and are targets of relational aggression, too. This year I added a twist and a tally with the Telephone Game. I added Part 2 to the classic game and tallied up the results. It proved illuminating for the kids and me while packing a wallop of understanding! 

The Two-Part Telephone Game

The traditional Telephone Game is played with a group of kids, preferably with a number between 15 – 25 participants. One person starts with a simple message and whispers it into the next person’s ear. The process continues until the last person announces the message she heard. The message is then compared to the original message. Of course, the final message has morphed from the original.

The Two-Part Telephone Game begins like the classic game. I start it with an emotionally charged message. With co-ed groups I like to use: It’s said that girls are smarter than boys (or vice versa). After the message travels through the group and the first and last messages are compared, I provide the following worksheet to the kids. This is Part 2.

Telephone Game: How Words Change Accidentally and On Purpose

Put a check mark by the numbers that best explain what happened to you when you played the telephone game.

  1. I listened the best I could.
  2. I was anxious to pass the information on, so I might not have listened the best I could.
  3. I asked for the words to be repeated when I couldn’t hear them.
  4. I got frustrated trying to figure out the message, so I passed along the words the best I could.
  5. I changed the message on purpose just for fun.
  6. I changed the message on purpose, because I thought the other person got the message wrong. I changed it to what I thought it should be.
  7. I didn’t want to pass the message along, because I didn’t think the message was correct.
  8. I thought the message was hurtful, but I passed the message on anyway.
  9. I thought the message was hurtful, so I changed the words.
  10. I only passed the message along, because I was forced to do so.

The students are NOT to put their names on their worksheets, because honest answers are desired. After collecting their completed work, I write the numbers 1 – 10 on the board and tally the check marks corresponding to each number. We then talk about gossip and rumors as they relate to each number.

Here’s a sample of what kids can learn with the Two-Part Telephone Game.

  • Some people like to listen to rumors and gossip.
  • Some people like to pass on gossip and rumors.
  • Information passed on may not be exactly the way things happened.
  • Messages change from person to person the more the story is told.
  • Some people are careful to get the information right and some people aren’t.
  • Even when people don’t understand the gossip or rumors, some people pass them along anyway.
  • There are different agendas for spreading gossip and rumors.
  • You may never know why a message changes from mouth to mouth.
  • Incorrect information gets passed along all the time.
  • It’s important to verify ANY second hand information.
  • Hurtful messages often travel faster than other information.

My students loved seeing the tallied results! It resulted in rich discussion. You can use this game with ages eight through adulthood. It works in classrooms, before and after school programs, sleepovers, sports groups, or anywhere a group of kids gather.

Let us know if you use the Two-Part Telephone Game, and tell us how it worked for you. Write a comment about it, and we will enter you in a drawing to win a “When Others Bully You” poster from A Way Through.  Drawing will be held on March 31.

© 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

020910articleOne of my sixth grade students once asked me why no one liked her for herself.  “People should like me for who I am, but when I act like myself, no one likes me,” she said.  It was both her lament and her puzzle.  She saw herself a leader: an avenger of the downtrodden, helper of the helpless, savvy dresser, and smartest kid in the class.  The other kids saw her as an arrogant, bossy girl who disrupted class, stuck her nose in others’ business, and had disgusting hygiene problems.  It had been this way since kindergarten, and she had no friends.

A Likely Target for Bullying

Look back to your early school years and think of the student who didn’t have any friends.  What behaviors did she display?  Looking back, you may have empathy for her, but as your child self, it was probably hard to see beyond her behaviors.  My parents encouraged me to play with the kids who didn’t have friends.  I did so at school, but I certainly didn’t invite them to my house to play.  

It’s difficult for kids to separate behaviors from the person.  “Love the child, dislike the behaviors” advice is a tall order even for adults when the behaviors are extreme.  When a child exhibits behaviors other kids don’t like, they stay away from that child.   Worse, they might rebel against her. It’s probable the Unlikeable Girl (or boy) will become a likely target of bullying.  

 Slipping Through the Cracks 

You might wonder how a student can go from kindergarten through sixth grade without changing or even being aware of her behaviors that drive other kids away.  It happens more often than you think.  When signs first appear that kindergarten peers dislike a classmate, there are many variables.  The school environment is new, and the child and teacher are getting to know each other.  Students are learning about their classmates.  It’s hard to tell whether behaviors are due to maturity levels or are a warning of things to come.

By first grade, the child is more familiar with school and classmates.  The class chemistry has changed, and the student should be a little more mature.  Developmental differences among children can still vary widely, though.  Lack of friends now signals a growing concern, and having no friends by second grade should be a glaring red flag.  Whether a child receives the social help she needs now or not depends on several factors.

Hearts Breaking All Over the Place 

Hearts break all over the place when there is an Unlikeable Child.  It’s excruciating to hear other children don’t like your child.  It’s also almost as unbearable for educators to deliver the news.  Because some parents have trouble accepting the news, educators might “soften” the blow by not revealing the complete extent of their concerns.  Time is lost as the student slips further through the cracks.  The atmosphere becomes riper for the child to continue negative social behaviors that can become deeply engrained habits.  Other children have more time to witness the behaviors, form opinions, and to perhaps develop bullying behaviors in response.

A Mental Health Concern 

A sense of belonging is necessary to one’s happiness.  Very few people set out to isolate themselves.  When children display behaviors that repel other kids, an intervention can be as simple as identifying the behaviors and teaching replacement skills.  It could be a mental health issue, though, on the other end of the continuum.  When thinking back to those Unlikeable Children in your life, the ones who became isolated and stayed that way probably had mental health problems.  If mental health concerns didn’t cause the social isolation, the social isolation itself could cause mental health problems.  It’s a chicken and egg thing, but no matter, the result is the same.  The child remained without friends.

Preventing Children from Becoming Unlikeable

1.  Talk about friendship skills with your child.  Use teachable moments to point out behaviors that make or break friendships.

2.  Ask your child how she perceives her friendships. Learn her definitions of friends and friendship. 

3.  Be curious about recess and lunch.  Ask her about the games she played at recess or about the topic of conversation at lunch.  Her answers should allow you to determine if she has been included in recess games or if anyone sat by her at lunch. 

4.  Participate in building an atmosphere of trust between home and school.  Schools and parents alike must be able to trust each other in order to help children.  Addressing friendship skills deficits is uncomfortable for both parents and staff.  If you find yourself or the school participating in a blame game, return to the goal – helping your child with friendship skills – and regroup.

5. Carry out your part of the home-school plan.  If you have agreed to an at-home component of a school plan to help your child attain better friendship skills, be impeccable with your word.  Do what you agree to do. Lack of follow up at home disconnects the entire plan and sets your child up for failure.

6.  Seek help outside the school setting.  When the home-school connection has exhausted all possibilities, it’s time to add another partnership.  Contact your family physician or mental health provider.  It’s much better to rule out a physical or emotional problem or to catch one early than it is to play catch up.   

© 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

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011210articleA two-year-old child died recently.  He drowned in a swimming pool, a parent’s true nightmare. Controversy immediately arose online, because the child’s mother tweeted the accident and eventually announced his death.  Her Twitter timeline showed she had been tweeting most of the day.

In reaction, online moms tweeted support and made suggestions about fundraising for the bereaved family.  Others questioned the validity of the death before it was confirmed and cautioned about sending money in case it might be a hoax.  Once the death was verified, two clear factions formed.  One supported the grieving mother and her choice of tweeting shortly before and after her son’s death.  The other questioned the mother’s parenting abilities, suggesting her attention to Twitter led to her son’s death.  It devolved from there and went viral.  Words became weapons.

Passion and Drama in 140 Characters or Less
The Internet is a wonderful tool that offers ways to give and receive information in a heartbeat.  It can also be used to extend help or inflict hurt.  In this case, relational aggression (emotional bullying) started within seconds of a mom announcing her child fell into a pool.  Twitter is fast.  Information flies as rapidly as you can type 140 characters and press send.  Even though many heads of reason and compassion were part of this situation, passion and drama took over.  Incivility prevailed.

There were tweeted threats (some serious), name-calling, campaigns, taunting, and cyber defaming.  National news took notice and various blogs called the participants “mean girls.”  These weren’t girls, though.  They were grown women.

Do Mean Girls Grow Up to Be Mean Women?

I want to answer that question with a resounding, “No,” but I can’t.  I can’t answer it affirmatively, either.  We humans all try on the roles of Bully, Bystander, and Target like costumes at some point in our lives.  We decide what serves us best.  No one wants to think herself or himself a bully; some of us are, though.  A plethora of literature exists telling us how to deal with adult bullies: bully bosses, difficult people, and abusive partners. 

Children Live What They Learn (and They Know More Than We Think)

Adults play a huge role in children’s lives, and parents are their most important teachers. Children absorb the parts of us we’re proud of as well as the parts we wish not to reveal.  If any girls were watching this Twitter war (and I bet some were), they would have witnessed prime examples of grownups bullying.  When we teach our girls to display a certain level of human respect and kindness but don’t practice what we preach, they become confused.  What if our kids don’t actually see us acting incongruous to what we expect from them?  They intuit it.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned in over twenty-five years of working with kids, it’s that they see and hear more than we think.  If we live hypocritically, they eventually figure it out.

What Example Do You Want to Set?

As parents or individuals who work with girls, we have to live what we want them to learn.  We need to be authentic and demonstrate respect for others.  If we want to help our girls avoid earning the label of “mean girl,” we need to lead by example.  Here are five basic tips for parents and other adults who influence children to keep in mind online or in real life (IRL).

  1. Avoid character assassinations.  Speak or write of behaviors you find objectionable rather than people you don’t like.
  2. Watch what you write online.  It may be your blog or your tweets, but making disparaging remarks about others is bullying.  Sometimes little girls petulantly say, “It’s my house, and I can do what I want.”  We know that tends to be a precursor to upcoming bullying behavior.  Some bloggers write, “It’s my blog, and I can say what I want.”  They’re right.  They can say what they like. Anyone can say what they want when they want, and bullying is still bullying. 
  3. Think before you speak or write.  If you can’t say something positive about others, keep quiet and think about it.  Think for a long, long time.  Keep thinking.
  4. Think of your words as toothpaste.  Once you squeeze toothpaste out of the tube, it’s out.  There’s no getting it back in. The same can be said about words – once out they can’t be unsaid.  Once they’re online, they’re permanent.
  5. Apologize when you mess up.  We’ve all said or written things we regret.  Girls need to see adults own up to their mistakes.  It helps them realize we all make mistakes and are accountable for them online and off.  Do what you can to mend the situation.
  6. Imagine your legacy. Test your words to see if they represent how you want to be defined.  If your words would land you in the principal’s office as a kid, posting them online will probably earn you the reputation of Bully or Trash Talker rather the Speaker of Truth or Defender of the First Amendment.  How do you want to be remembered?

© 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

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121509cartDo you know what really frustrates kids?  It’s telling them to ignore a problem.  Asking children to ignore something that is bothersome doesn’t make sense to them.  Why should it?  It’s emotionally counterintuitive.  That being said, it’s still important to teach children to use the problem-solving strategy of ignoring.  

The Why of Ignoring

Problems are solved daily by ignoring.  Someone too chatty with you on the subway?  Ignore it, but move as soon as you can. Somebody bump into you with his grocery cart?  It’s not worth the effort mentioning.  You’re an adult, and you understand these things. Children need an explanation, though, if they’re going to understand the value of ignoring unwanted behavior.  

We do a great job telling kids to ignore, but we don’t do an adequate job explaining why.  It’s as if we assume they’ll know.  When kids can’t make a connection between a strategy and an outcome, they are less likely to try the strategy.

Explain the Meaning and Value of Ignoring

Help children understand that most irritating things others do aren’t meant to hurt. Other times mean behaviors can happen on purpose. Use those metaphorical grocery cart bumps as teachable moments to demonstrate why you choose to ignore some things you find unpleasant.  Let’s check out what it might sound like.

Did you notice that person bumped into me?  I chose to ignore it.  It wasn’t a big deal to me, and it was over in seconds.  On a scale of 1 – 5, I’d rate it a one for being a very small problem.  When I ask you to ignore something, I do this because the problem is small. Ignoring it will probably help keep it small.  Here’s what might have happened if I hadn’t ignored being bumped. 

I could have stopped the person and asked if he knew he bumped into me. He would have to stop a moment and think of the answer.  Then he would answer me, and I’d have to think of what I wanted to say next. The problem could get bigger now or it could get smaller.  I could tell him I didn’t like being bumped or let it go.  Either way I’ve spent more time on the problem than if I had ignored it. On a scale of 1 – 5, I would say the simple problem became a two because it took up more of my time.

Why Ignoring May Be Difficult for Girls

Brain-based research informs us girls are inclined toward  verbal communication and skilled at it as well. It’s their main means for connection. Girls are also wired to recall emotionally charged situations. Thus, an emerging problem can conjure up emotions from past experiences and complicate a new situation, making it harder to ignore.  The urge to address the problem, directly or indirectly, is strong.  

Ignoring Relational Aggression

When girls are on the receiving end of relational aggression, ignoring can be the best strategy if:

  •  The relational aggression is new as opposed to a long-standing problem.
  •  The relational aggression is minor to moderate, something a girl can handle herself.
  • Ignoring will diffuse the problem. 

The Sound of Silence

Inform girls that actions speak louder than words, and ignoring is an act of silence. Though ignoring is quiet, the messages it sends are quite clear.  It implies one or more of the following:

  • Your bullying is not working with me.
  • What you did or said doesn’t bother me.
  • This is not worth my time.
  • I have more important things to do.
  • I don’t have to give you any attention.

       A bully will wonder: 

  • Did she see or hear me?
  • What is she thinking?
  • Did my bullying bother her?
  • Why didn’t she do anything?
  • Did she notice me?  
  • Did she know I meant to hurt her?

With your guidance, girls will come to understand why ignoring can be a good solution when faced with relational aggression.  It won’t be a mystery or just something an adult  suggests.  Addressing a bullying action with purposeful non-action (ignoring), is a paradoxical solution girls can understand and employ successfully. 

© 2009 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

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