building self-esteem in girls
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.
I love this article. I love this writer. I love the simple, straightforward advice she gives to parents to take a stand against bullying–even when it’s easier not to and/or less embarrassing for their kids if they just let bad behavior slide. I want to be Rosalind Wiseman when I grow up. Check it out:
Moral of the story: be a champion for children!
Yes, in the moment when we speak out, we will absolutely embarrass children. In the short term, they won’t like us one bit for getting involved. But it’s only in these moments that our kids see evidence of what our values look like in action, that they really get what’s important to us. They understand that they have a mom or dad who is willing and able to take a public stand when you see people being cruel. That’s a lesson they can take with them for a lifetime.
On my “To Write” list is an article entitled “What to Do When Your Daughter’s Friend is a Mean Girl.” I have a classic example to tell and story to share…so hopefully I’ll sit down at some point and get the article written…but in the meantime, check out this great advice from Rachel Simmons on the same topic.
“Be kind to unkind people; they often need it the most.”
I was reminded of this truism when Tony Shin sent me this infographic on cyberbullying. While most books, articles, and programs focus (righteously!) on the targets of bullying, his work examines the roots of bullying, calling this a predictable psychological behavior whose roots are usually planted in early childhood. An interesting perspective. What do you think?
Created by: OnlineCounselingDegrees.net
Do you have a little one who likes to “do things right…” or else just not do them at all? Check out my article on galtime.com for important tips on how to parent a perfectionist:
When I watch my seven-year old daughter agonize over handwriting homework and berate herself for missing one question on her 30-problem math test, I thank the gods of “good enough” that perfectionism was never my thing. And I ask those same gods for advice on how to help my child overcome her need to be flawless.
If you, too, are the parent of a perfectionist, here are some tips that I have found to be most effective:
1. Play up personal strengths and play down competitions
In school and at home, my daughter loves to win. My husband insists that this is a great quality and I know that in many ways, her desire for excellence will serve her well. Yet I also know that too much of a good thing can be rough, especially for young kids who hold themselves to impossibly high standards. When my daughter seems singularly focused on being the ‘best” reader in her class or getting the “highest” score in math, we try to re-focus her energies on achieving personal bests and celebrating individual accomplishments instead. She is visibly calmer and more confident when she attends to her own goals rather than comparing herself to others.
Hearing stories day in and day out about bullying among children is enough to make anyone’s heart heavy, but meeting the terrific people who work tirelessly to halt aggression among kids is nothing short of inspiring. I’ve met quite a few heroes in the last few years, working in this field, but chief among them are the guys from Sweethearts & Heroes, who are bringing their unique, engaging anti-bullying, pro-Hero message to schools all across NY, VT, and beyond. Please check them out!
I wish I were able to get the whole news clip for you here…but believe me when I say it’s worth a visit to this CBS local news affiliate website to check out what the Dallas Children’s Theater’s resident playwright, Linda Daugherty, has to say about “The Secret Life of Girls.”
I’m headed to Dallas this weekend to see the play on Friday and then present a 75min. workshop based on Friendship & Other Weapons to a group of Moms and Daughters before Saturday’s performance of The Secret Life of Girls. Really looking forward to the trip!
Children’s author Trudy Ludwig is featured in this article about her recent school visits, talking to kids, professionals, and parents about bullying. LOVE this author, love her work. Please check her out:
I adore little girls who are confident in the knowledge that they can do anything and be anyone! Check out this empowering new PSA from the Girl Scouts and share it with a little girl you love.