Friday, March 8, 2013

Secrets of Friendship

Over the past decade we have been hearing more and more about girls bullying girls.  The words "mean girls" seem to be used more freely.  While we used to think of bullying as acts of physical aggression more frequently occurring among boys, more recently the focus has shifted to girls.  However, female bullying does not typically occur in the traditional form.  Girls don't usually punch each other...they rely more on words and the manipulation of friendships.  It's earned its own title, "relational aggression."

 Relational aggression can be define as "behavior among girls that is intended to harm someone by damaging or manipulating her relationships with others."  Relational aggression "actively excludes girls from making or maintaining friendships."  They use tactics such as rumors, exclusion, and gossip to get at another.  They know how to use these techniques in unobvious ways, so it is much more challenging to identify and may be more likely to go unnoticed.

With my 6th grade girls we spoke about relational aggression and the keys to having a successful friendship.  I found a great informational slide on Scrapbook of a School Counselor by Tabitha Panariso.  She hosts a "Girls Night Out" with her 5th & 6th graders one evening after school where they learn about relational aggression, watch "The Clique," and enjoy each others company.

During our discussion, we defined behaviors that other "friends" do instead of openly communicating their feelings.  Many girls identified these kind of things happening within their friendships and seeing them happen with other students at our school.  Any girl can wind up being involved in acts of relational aggression.  It does not just affect the "tough" or "weak" girls.  Interestingly, research has shown that girls who are involved in acts of relational aggression typically have experienced both sides of it.  Relational aggression rarely just involves one bully and one victim.  More often, it happens in girl groups, or in the presence of many girls who "stand by" either providing support for the bully or feeling uncomfortable about what is happening but afraid to stand up for the girl being hurt.

Then I told students that I am going to give them the secrets to a quality friendship that will last.  Inspired by Crazy Days Counseling, I passed out different objects and we inferred what they might represent in a good friendship. 
  1. The first item was a resealable plastic bag.  This represents "Zip Your Lips."  It is important to be trustworthy and keep things private in a friendship.
  2. The second item was a popsicle stick.  This represents "Sticks & Stones."  It is important to be careful with your words.  Choose carefully what you say because it is not always easily forgotten or forgived.
  3. The third item was a blank mailing label.  This represents "Stereotypes."  It is important to form your own opinions about others, rather than following the crowd and listening to rumors.
  4. The fourth item was a cotton ball.  This represents "Delicateness."  Remember that friends are there to lean on and protect each other.
  5. The fifth and final item was a list of affirmations.  This represents "Build Each Other Up."  Compliment yourself and others, smile.  Each student was given a list of 101 affirmations to peruse and choose ones that described them.  They could put them in their pocket, hide them in their sock drawer, or write it on their bathroom mirror to stay positive. 
What can we do to help our girls?
  •  Increase your awareness of relational aggression.  Knowledge is power.  Discuss the various types of bullying behaviors.  Point out that even the more covert behaviors are indeed bullying behaviors.
  • Outline consequences of this type of inappropriate behavior.
  • Observe your child.  Take notice of her verbal and nonverbal interactions with others.  If you hear or see something you feel is unacceptable, address it with your daughter and brainstorm more acceptable behaviors, and role play these scenarios.
  • Help your daughter understand that conflict is a natural occurrence in a friendship.  Encourage the use of communication in dealing with conflict.
  • Listen to your child.  If your child tells you she is being bullied, talk with her and get as many details as possible.  Stay calm and try not to get upset in her presence.  Send her the message that you are there to support her.  Commend her on her bravery for sharing what is on her mind.
  • Encourage your child to choose friends who treat her well and make her feel good inside and not just girls who may seem "cool."
  • Model respect and caring in your own interactions with your daughter, family, and friends.
  • Reinforce the importance of friendships.  Encourage play dates and social interactions outside of school.
  • Encourage assertive behavior.  Teach your child the difference between being aggressive (too much), passive (too little/not enough), and assertive (just right).  Practice having her stand up for herself first in safe family situations.  Encourage her to use these skills in peer situations as well.       
101 Affirmations

1. I can do whatever I focus my mind on.
2. I am awesome.
3. I am very intelligent.
4. I am a fast learner.
5. I am worthy.
6. I deeply love and accept myself.
7. I enjoy learning.
8. Learning is fun and exciting.
9. I understand the lessons taught in school completely and quickly.
10. I believe in myself and my abilities.
11. While I appreciate details, I am able to also see the big picture in things.
12. I have many gifts and talents.
13. I learn from my challenges and can always find ways to overcome them.
14. I am open to possibility.
15. I embrace my fears fully and calmly.
16. I make like-minded friends easily and naturally.
17. I am healthy and am growing up well.
18. I have persistence in what I believe in.
19. Miracles happen to me all the time.
20. I am very creative.
21. Ideas for problem solving come easily and quickly to me.
22. I am a great listener.
23. My family, friends and teachers love me for who I am.
24. I am unique and special.
25. Opportunities come to me in good time.
26. I may make mistakes sometimes but I choose to learn from them.
27. I accept myself even though I sometimes make mistakes.
28. Every day and in every way, I get better and better.
29. My intuition guides me in what I do.
30. I am calm, relaxed and peaceful.
31. I am always in the right place at the right time.
32. I enjoy being, feeling and thinking positive.
33. Problems challenge me to better myself in every way.
34. I trust myself in making great decisions.
35. I am loving kindness to all.
36. I do my best in my work and tasks.
37. I am present.
38. I trust in my ability to solve problems.
39. I enjoy my own company.
40. I accept compliments graciously and openly.
41. I am whole and complete.
42. I enjoy trying new ideas.
43. I embrace changes in peaceful, harmonious and positive ways.
44. I believe I can be whatever I want to be.
45. I can visualize very well.
46. I am vibrant and have lots of energy.
47. I am divinely protected.
48. I am kind, generous and loving.
49. I complete my school work on time every day.
50. I am deserving of love, trust and kindness.
51. I achieve great and successful results.
52. I am brave.
53. I experience beauty wherever I go.
54. I have got an awesome imagination.
55. I am able to solve problems creatively.
56. All is well in the world.
57. I am thankful for my blessings.
58. I have a healthy relationship with my teachers.
59. I choose to forgive all others for any mistakes they have done.
60. I feel confident and secure.
61. I enjoy letting events unfold in good time.
62. I have loving, positive and happy thoughts.
63. I express my ideas easily.
64. I am courageous even when things are unknown to me.
65. I reach my goals easily.
66. I am in charge of my own life.
67. I enjoy playing games with my friends.
68. I am gentle with myself.
69. I have many friends who like being near me.
70. The trees, flowers and birds are my friends.
71. I radiate love and compassion.
72. Miracles happen to me every day.
73. I am on my way to creating great wealth.
74. I am excellent in languages.
75. I am quick and accurate with Mathematics.
76. I am able to analyze and see clearly for problem solving.
77. I read, write and learn fast.
78. I absorb knowledge like a sponge and am able to apply what I have learnt.
79. I do my best for my studies.
80. I am attentive in class.
81. I am a natural in _________ (sports).
82. I am on top of my classes.
83. I enjoy challenging myself in new ideas, possibilities and directions.
84. I am a winner!
85. I turn failures into opportunities for success.
86. I handle all my responsibilities and tasks well.
87. I enjoy eating healthy snacks.
88. I love my body.
89. I am honest and trustworthy.
90. I choose to look for the best way forward for myself.
91. I am able to understand and solve complex problem sums or questions easily.
92. I enjoy experiencing life in multiple ways.
93. I love being healthy!
94. I manage my time well.
95. I like being punctual.
96. I enjoy having habits that will help me have a happy, healthy and successful life.
97. I listen to my gut or inner wisdom closely.
98. I am able to easily draw inspiration from nature and life.
99. I believe in my dreams.
100. I have an excellent memory.
101. I am Me, and I am Okay!


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