When I co-wrote The Angry Smile, I did not intend it to be a How-To book. In fact, I know lots of ways to be assertive, direct, and emotionally honest with others. But let’s face it, sometimes a situation calls for a little passive aggressive behavior…
My 8-year old daughter has a frenemy. She has known this un-friend–and experienced the girl’s on-again, off-again spitefulness–since they were in pre-school together. The girl, in fact, is the subject of a previous article that I posted on Psychology Today back in 2010, entitled Sticks and Stones: A Little Girl’s First Experience with Bullying.
Things haven’t changed much with this girl over the last four years. At times she is delightful and I must credit her with having an uncanny knack for charming her peers and making them want to please her. Even in her mean girl moments, she is so subtle and innocent-seeming (her extra-small stature seems to play into this) that I understand fully how she gets her covertly cruel jabs in before her targets even realize that they have been mistreated.
Unlucky for her, I study girl bullying, so I’m on to it.
My daughter is too–sort of. On at least a dozen occasions this year, my third grader has come home from school with stories about how the frenemy mocked what she was wearing or teased her about something she had made in art. As a spirited young upstander, my daughter is even more impassioned when she describes how the frenemy relentlessly bullies a classmate with special needs–and covers it up with a sugarcoated “Just kidding!” if an adult should overhear.
Being the therapist that I am, I always try to turn these conversations into opportunities for empathy and teachable moments about coping with mean behavior, reaching out to the bullied, and seeking out kind friendships. So, yes, I am very conscientiously teaching my daughter all of the right things to do. And above-the-radar, I do my best to be a great role model of kindness and assertive behavior.
Anyone who never acts undignified should stop reading at this point. Seriously–if you are compelled to lecture for a bit of misbehavior, it’s time to click away. Believe me, I don’t need you to tell me that my actions in the following situation were wrong. I know it. I chose it. That’s right–like most passive aggressive people, I was aware of what I was doing and yes, I took a little pleasure in it. That’s why I am bothering to tell you; it’s part soul-cleansing confession, part funny-what-a-Mama-bear (or Papa bear)-will-do-to-avenge-her-young.
So, simply put, I took my daughter and her frenemy to see a movie yesterday. Before the film, I bought them each a box of candy–Skittles for my daughter and Sour Patch Kids for the un-friend. Both thanked me graciously. At the end of the movie, the frenemy approached me and said the roof of her mouth was “all scratched up” from the Sour Patch Kids.
Perhaps it’ll be harder for her to use her mouth to say mean things now.
What? At least I didn’t send her home with a box of super-sour Sweetarts to wash it all down.
Signe Whitson is the author of Friendship & Other Weapons: Group Activities to Help Young Girls Aged 5-11 to Cope with Bullying, in which she provides engaging activity and discussion ideas to help kids assertively (not passive aggressively!) respond to girl bullying. For more information, please visit www.signewhitson.com, Follow her on Twitter @SigneWhitson, or Like her on Facebook.
Check out this newly released video from Relate, the UK’s largest provider of relationship support for couples, families, and kids. The Relate Talk to Us Campaign is designed to encourage parents to listen well to their kids and to understand the sources of the anger that are driving childrens’ needs for professional help.
Relate recently commissioned two surveys–one of counselors and one of young people–to find out what is really bothering our kids. Click here to read what professionals and kids are saying about the stressors in their lives.
In Life Space Crisis Intervention (LSCI) training, professionals who work with challenging students learn specific skills for understanding the dynamics of conflict and de-escalating student crises. What sets LSCI training apart from other in-service programs is its focus on the adult’s role in conflict and the opportunity professionals have to turn a crisis situation into a learning opportunity.
This video, featuring real-life footage from a high school in Boston, is a great example of how adults can sometimes escalate conflicts with students. LSCI teaches specific skills that help professionals understand the dynamics of escalating power struggles with students and control their responses to students so that all-too-common situations like this can be prevented.
For more information on LSCI training, please visit the LSCI link on this site or the LSCI Institute’s home page at www.lsci.org.
Check out the January edition of the International Bully Prevention E-Zine. GREAT read for adults and kids alike. And I’m not just saying that because an article of mine is included.
I love, love, love these rules! If I had a “theme rule” for How to Be Angry, it would be Rule 9:
Teach your daughter that she has the right to get loud. Make sure she knows girls can get angry, they can have opinions and they can throw “lady like” behavior out the window if necessary.
Have you ever been in a situation where you were so overwhelmed with feelings of anger that you were at a loss for words? You had the presence of mind to know all of the things that you shouldn’t say, but weren’t quite sure how to express your true feelings without damaging your relationship. Adults often struggle with effectively communicating angry feelings. For children, this challenge is doubly difficult; kids don’t want to get in trouble for expressing themselves aggressively, but they often lack the skills for communicating assertively.
For three specific skills parents can teach kids to cope with angry feelings effectively, please check me out on Yahoo! Shine:
Or check out How to Be Angry: An Assertive Anger Expression Group Guide for Kids & Teens for even more kid-friendly strategies.
The Conflict Cycle™ is Life Space Crisis Intervention’s (LSCI) major paradigm for understanding the dynamics of escalating power struggles between adults and children. In our training courses for parents and professionals, we explain that in times of stress and conflict, kids can create in adults their feelings, and, if not trained, adults will mirror their behaviors. In the heat of the moment, when adults do what comes naturally–what thousands of years of evolution have prepared their bodies to do–they often only make matters worse. That is why understanding the LSCI Conflict Cycle is the first line of defense against fueling further conflict.
This clip from NBC’s Parenthood is a perfect example of how Kristina gets caught in a Conflict Cycle and inadvertently mirrors Max’s behavior, thus escalating their power struggle. Ultimately, both mother and son lose out. The look of defeat on her face at the end of the clip says it all.
For more information on the LSCI Conflict Cycle and training for parents and professionals, please visit the LSCI link above or visit www.lsci.org
If you’ve ever been in a situation where you need to find the right words to tell a young girl that what she’s about to do is wrong…then check out this column in Teen Vogue, written by Odd Girl Out author, Rachel Simmons.
If you read my blog, you know I’m a big fan of her work and her wisdom–and this is a perfect example of why. I love how Rachel is so honest and forthright in her advice to the girls–while never talking down to them and always maintaining respect for their experiences.
My fingers are crossed that when the time comes, I–and all of my Mom friends–will be able to advise my own daughters this well!
Click here to check out this article, posted on the website Parents Are Important, featuring 7 skills parents can teach their kids, for standing up to bullying.