Thursday, January 30, 2014

Great Reminders For Parents: "Raising a Kind Daughter" and "Are You Teaching Your Daughter to Be a Mean Girl" (articles by HP's Kampakis and Frandsen)...

I wanted to share the following Huffington Post articles for some great reminders to parents (of both girls AND boys).  Both Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis and Lyndsi Frandsen (see articles below) discuss the importance of modeling kind behavior at home, not only toward one other, but about one another.  Particularly in light of the current anti-bullying initiatives and programs sweeping the nation, these guidelines are relevant and noteworthy for combating mean behavior...We have all been there before in some way, shape, or form: either a participant in, a victim of, or a witness to the mean girl (or mean boy) sport.  We have all been told a million times that the mean girl is mean because she is unhappy and insecure, but it doesn't change the psychological/emotional harm her behaviors inflict upon others.

Personally, I feel very fortunate that while growing up, I had very supportive, fun-loving, and tried-and-true girlfriends that I still cherish today.  We were there for each other through laughter and tears.  We watched one another succeed and fail, and cheered each other on through triumph and defeat, whether it was academics, sports, or relationships... I can only hope that my daughter will be lucky enough to experience the joy of good friendships during her elementary, high school, and college years (and beyond)....

Likewise, I am thankful that my memories of any mean-girl scenarios did not last more than a recess, (or perhaps a week-long series of recesses).  Fortunately, I do not recall ever being seriously traumatized by any one 'mean-girl'.  AND, these scenarios occurred over a period of say, 2-3 years, that seem typical of middle-school girl behavior.  Silly 4th-5th-6th grade non-sense in the form of 'who are we going to dump this week?' ....And, I am pretty sure that everyone fell 'victim' at one point or another.  I am sure it was plenty dramatic and painful for anyone who got 'dumped' for the week, but it was temporary and fleeting, and certainly comical when we look back on it.  There was, of course, the occasional 'teasing' that went on among our friends.  But, the perpetrators always confessed that this excessive teasing originated from jealousy (as if that was supposed to be a compliment or something, but hey, at least there was acknowledgement of the source of this behavior!)

Yet, so many others tell countless tales of 'that one mean girl' from elementary or high school that seriously tainted their school experience and adolescent years.   How sad that their memory of elementary or high school should be so tarnished from such mean behavior by one insecure, miserable bully? I often wonder whether these mean girls actually do 'grow up' to be mean adults or if they grow out of it.

As a side note, any mother can attest to the fact that there is no other endeavor in life that will rock your confidence more than motherhood...It naturally brings feelings of insecurity, frustration, and utter cluelessness.  As such, if mean behavior is so rooted in insecurity, this 'mean-judgemental-gossipy-mom' phenomenon would naturally follow suit, if we are not mindful of our behavior.  Frandsen has concluded that the mean girl does not grow out of it, as she states, "mean girls grow up to be mean moms."  I can only hope this is not ALWAYS the case.  Yet, it does bring to mind the following story.

A good friend of mine (let's call her Jane) has an interesting experience of re-uniting with her former elementary school bully at her daughter's 'meet-the-fellow-kindergarten-parents' meeting. You can only imagine the pit in Jane's stomach upon learning that her daughter would be in the same class with her former bully's daughter.  Surprisingly, when they initially met after so many years, the former bully apologized to Jane for her mean-girl behavior from 25 years ago!  Jane was thoroughly impressed and relieved to hear her acknowledgement and regret, and therefore of course forgave her.  YET, as the school year progressed, the former bully's daughter gradually began to bully Jane's daughter.  How crazy that this same cycle is repeating itself?!  This makes me suspect Franden's theory might be (sadly) true.

On the other hand, the following two articles provide encouraging reminders that we can be kinder to one another, (and therefore better role-models to our children) if we are more aware of the sources of this behavior.  I have to think it is never too late to grow up, set our insecurities aside (and learn to laugh at ourselves a bit), put our big-girl pants on, and remember to play nice ; )

Raising a Kind Daughter

by Kari Kubiszyn Kampakis
When my daughter Ella was in fourth grade, she got in the car one day after school and announced her plan to run for student council.
At her school each class has a representative, and I was thrilled she planned to put her name in the hat. Even if she didn't win, it would be a good experience.
She told me almost every girl in her class was running, as well as one or two boys. As kindly as possible, I mentioned the boys might have an advantage since the girl votes could be split, as that can happen in elections. I told Ella I was proud of her for putting herself out there, and that she'd make a great representative if elected.
The next day after school, Ella mentioned a dilemma she and her friend Annie had "figured out." On Friday all candidates had to give a speech. Since our family was going to the beach Friday, Ella wouldn't be there to give hers.
"But Annie had a great idea," Ella said, referencing one of her best friends, who was in Ella's class that year. "She suggested that I do a video speech, and she'll play it for everyone."
I was very touched by this suggestion from Annie. Why? Because Annie was running against Ella for student council. Yet instead of treating Ella like a competitor, she treated her like a friend.
Ella's teacher agreed to the video speech, so we made it and sent it on. I didn't think much more about the election until Friday afternoon around 3 p.m., when I was soaking up an ocean view of the Gulf Coast and received an email from Ella's teacher. She had great news: Ella had won the election! Her classmates had voted her onto student council.
Our family hugged and congratulated Ella. I could tell by the shy smile on her face what her peers' vote of confidence meant to her. About ten minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was Annie's mom (one of my close friends) calling us from her cell.
"We are so thrilled about Ella!" she said, her voice joyful and triumphant. "It was the first thing Annie told me when she got in the car! She's sooooo excited! We couldn't be happier if it happened to her!"
The phone call didn't surprise me, because that was typical for this family. What caught me off-guard was the timing of the call. These were 10-year-olds, after all, and 10-year-old emotions can be fragile. Their automatic instinct isn't always happiness for a friend who got something they wanted, too. Had the tables been turned, I'm not sure the call would have happened so fast. We may have had to work through a little disappointment -- if even for a minute -- before focusing on our friend.
But to Annie and her mom, a victory for Annie's best friend was a victory for Annie. A win for one was a win for both. If you ask me, that's the perfect illustration of true friendship. It's how it should work at every level.
All four of my girls have found friends similar to Annie. While no friendship is perfect, I've been surprised by some of the kindness I've seen at young ages. They know how to look out for a friend. They get it. And can I tell you what their kind friends all have in common? Kind mothers. Time and time again, I've become friends with the moms I meet through my children's beloved friends because they're good souls. I don't think it's a coincidence their children are, too.
We all want to raise kind daughters. We want them to be good friends and have good friends. While I give Annie full credit for supporting Ella -- she suggested the video, after all, and was quick to celebrate her win -- I know she didn't pull that mindset out of thin air. She picked it up from her family because that's how they think.
A win for a friend is a win for both.
Kindness among young girls doesn't start on the playground or in the locker room -- it starts at home. Most notably, it starts with kind mothers raising kind daughters. Our girls see how we treat our friends. They also notice how we treat their friends.
If we treat their friends as competitors, our daughters will, too. If we love their friends like we love our own children, they're more likely to see them as sisters and part of the family.
Keep in mind it wasn't just Annie cheering when Ella won student council. It was Annie's mom, too. She was just as enthusiastic. Can I tell you what that meant to me? Can you imagine the trust that added to our relationship?
Quite honestly, I think it's rare for both a mother and daughter to instinctively rejoice as these two did. Then again, maybe it just proves the point.
We moms rub off on our girls. Over time our way of thinking becomes their way of thinking. If we want to raise kind daughters, we need to start by being kind mothers.

"Are You Teaching Your Daughter to Be a Mean Girl?

By Lyndsi Frandsen
One night, during my senior year of high school, I received a text message from a group of girls telling me I was fat and needed to lose weight.
At the time I felt bad and embarrassed for them. It honestly stunned me that people could be so downright mean and insecure.
Now that I am married with a daughter of my own, my thoughts about it have slightly shifted. I find myself wondering about those girls' moms. Where were they? And why didn't they teach their daughters to be kind?
Years later, I ran into one of those girls at the store. We both had our young daughters with us. I didn't have ill feelings toward her and honestly assumed that we had both moved past the petty immaturity that tends to accompany those high school relationships. We were both wives and mothers now. Surely things that happened then would seem silly now -- even laughable. So, in passing, I said hello.
With a cold glance, and without a word, she walked away.
I was stunned.
It was at that moment, I realized two things:
1. Mean girls grow up to be mean moms.
2. Little girls learn from their moms how to be mean girls.
This "mean girl" gene doesn't come on intentionally. I don't think there are many people who pride themselves on being mean. However, we live in a technology-driven world that, in my opinion, breeds competitive feelings and makes that mean behavior all too common.
Social media has created an atmosphere where people feel entitled to peek in on every aspect of your life. People feel entitled to say whatever they want. I cannot tell you how many times I have observed mothers, via social media, being downright nasty to one another about anything and everything. It is shocking and sad. But if it starts with us, it has to end with us. It's our responsibility, as mothers, to do everything in our power to make sure we aren't (even unknowingly) raising mean girls.
Be aware of yourself. Being a teacher, I can assure you that your children hear you. (And often quote you.) They observe you. They mimic you. They hear you tell your husband how that woman on Facebook "is so full of herself." They listen when you are on the phone with your girlfriend gossiping about the mom down the street. They even take in the critical things you say about your own appearance. They hear you. And then they become a product of everything they hear -- a product of you.
Teach them how to give a compliment. Doesn't this seem so simple? Complimenting is a lost art. We live in a self-centered society, and it shows. By teaching your children how to compliment others (and themselves), you are encouraging them to find things they like about other people.
Encourage positive conversation. I am a firm believer that when we start being pessimistic and negative, we train our brains to automatically think that way. By encouraging and participating in positive conversations with our daughters, we can help train them to think in an optimistic way. It's hard to be mean when you see life and see others in a positive light.
Teach them to root for the underdog. I have my mom to thank for this life lesson. When we were growing up, my mom would always remind us to "root/cheer/vote for the underdog." Whether it was during student council elections, team tryouts or just a regular day, she would always say that to us as we got out of the car. Promoting this message teaches children to be aware of others. It will teach them kindness and empathy. And think of it this way: At some point in time, we will all be the underdog. How would you want to be treated?
Praise niceness. Nice is a simple world. So simple, its powerful meaning often goes unnoticed. Growing up, "Because Nice Matters" was our family motto. My mom plastered the phrase all around the house, and now I have done the same. Being nice does matter. We need to make kindness a conscious lesson. We need to compliment our daughters when they demonstrate kindness. In a world that values looks, achievements, accomplishments and awards, let your home value kindness.
I hope one day, if I run into that high school acquaintance again, she will accept the smile I throw her way. But even if she doesn't, I'm just going to keep on smiling. After all, nobody is perfect. But everyone can be nice.

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