Friends or ‘Frenemies’?

As tweens or pre-adolescents move towards the teens they test boundaries with those they are closest to…their family. They push back against rules and test the waters outside of the immediate family unit and move towards the ever-important peer group.

And the peer group can be tricky to navigate. It can be a haven of connection and belonging. But it can also be cruel and nasty place of exclusion.

If your daughter has never experienced mean girl behaviour or has been a bit oblivious until now, it won’t last for long. 

Girls friendships tend to have a hierarchy. Unwritten rankings that the girls establish through their behaviour. Usually, the girl at the ‘top’ is the one who makes a lot of decisions for the group. Sometimes this role just naturally evolves, however as time passes, and the girls mature, this position can be challenged. The challenge may be intentional or the girl ‘at the top’ perceives a threat from someone in the group and this is where the friendship roller-coaster ride starts.

In order to be at the top of the hierarchy, or in the exclusive inner circle of the one in charge, you need to earn your place. And these exclusive places are earnt through proving your loyalty to the one in charge.

So how does the one at the top (or those in the exclusive inner circle) maintain the exclusive positions? There are many different ways they can hold onto it and it’s usually not done through good intention. A brief list of common strategies include:

  1. Deliberate exclusion: This can be easily visible and easy to spot, or, the more experienced the girls become, so do the ways they creatively exclude in order to cover it up with excuses or well meaning intention if questioned by adults. Examples include, “I didn’t know that she wanted to play with us” or “I was just kidding, we were playing”. Yes, sometimes these are legitimate, but if the issue is ongoing, there’s usually something bigger at play.
  2. Body language including in the classroom (and yard) when they think adults aren’t watching. This includes, eye rolling, mouthing words to their closest friends across the room.
  3. Friends yesterday but not today. This is a form of control and it is toxic. It’s not how a real friend behaves yet it can become common. It’s a way the girls ‘in charge’ keep others guessing. While they are doing this they have ‘control’ of the group.
  4. Rumours or gossiping or asking others in the group not to play with someone. This is another form of exclusion. By excluding the ‘threat’ they can no longer be a threat to the top job. 
  5. Keep their inner circle tight- the top of the social group will remain tight. There will be one or two girls, that the leader keeps close. This is intentional as it ensures she has a loyal support crew. A close, trusted few who deliver messages and support her role as the leader. Often however, these girls may not be aware of the role they are playing. 
  6. Being seen to have it all. Maintaining an outer image of uber-cool and totally put together.

So what can you do as a parent?


Firstly, if you become aware of your daughter behaving in this way. Call it. Name it. And hold her responsible. Underneath the need to exclude others and prove her position ‘at the top’ is an underlying feeling of not being good enough. So once it’s been called and named, she needs love. She needs connection and she needs to understand and practice ways to build friendships in respectful ways. Ways that respect her and her strengths and ways that support and build up others also.

If your daughter bears the brunt of this type of behaviour, listen to her. And listen with the intention to understand and empathise, not fix it (helping her fix it comes later). Seek first to understand.

Then, make it crystal clear to her how REAL FRIENDS behave. ALL THE TIME not just when it’s convenient. If your daughter doesn’t actually know how a true friend behaves, if it’s never actually been verbalised and made clear to her through examples and easy to understand conversation, often tweens just assume that manipulation and friendships with conditions are ‘normal’ because it has been their experience. If they have never had anyone actually articulate to them what they can expect from a true friendship, how do they know?

Secondly, let her know that she deserves to be treated with respect. With age most individuals learn to put boundaries up around friendships. For example, if you feel a friendship is all one way and your ‘friend’ never reciprocates you may set some boundaries and pull away a little or invest your energy elsewhwere. Or if you have a friend that has ignored you in the street one day but then wanted to go for a coffee the next day, you might call them on it or choose to spend time with those friends whose behaviour is consistently supportive. You have learnt that it’s ok to make these choices. Tweens and teens need to have this pointed out to them. Explicitly. Repeatedly.

Encourage a wide and diverse network of friends. Encourage interactions with friends outside of the tight, school group she might have created. Show her that there are many other people who see her beautiful qualities and love her for who she is. Even too, if this is strong female mentors like aunties or your best friend. Help her build supportive networks, while she is learning how to build them for herself.

Teach her that she is allowed to be assertive. Show her how to use it responsibly.

These are complex life lessons, but there is no need for our girls to have to wait to learn these skills. Imagine how much more enjoyable her tweens and teens could be if she actually knew how a friend should behave now? What if she learnt early that exclusion, manipulation and disrespect were never acceptable and are never ways that true, loyal friends behave.

Well she can, Powerful Me is designed to explicitly explain friend behaviour. She will clearly understand what a friend is and how they behave. She will get the message that she deserves to have true friends and it is safe for her to expect others to treat her well. It will give you conversations to build on with her and refer back to when you notice that her friendship dynamics are changing.

Powerful Me is also designed to build her self awareness. To help her see how valuable she is. That she is good enough. That she deserves the best.

Your daughter does not deserves frenemies or toxic friendships, she deserves loyal, lasting, fulfilling connections that build her self esteem and feeling of belonging. 

Powerful Me commences on Monday 14th August- Find out about it here. 

 

 

What’s Under The Behaviour?

It starts when they are babies doesn’t it? “What’s wrong?”, “Why are they crying”, “I’m not sure why they are doing that”. And it continues as they grow but it seems to get more complex.

When they are babies however, the need is usually a physical one: food, clothing, change of clothing, warmth, cool, noise, too much noise, sleep the list goes on. Or when all else fails it’s the searching for lost of cuddles and skin on skin connection.

But as my kids have grown up, don’t know if you feel it, meeting their physical needs becomes easier, because they can verbalise them. “Muuummm, I’m hungry” or “Muuuum there’s nothing in the pantry and I don’t feel like fruit” (I’m hoping It’s not just at my place, but meeting their emotional needs seems to creep up and become significantly more complex. It’s the way we evolve as humans. It’s what makes us a unique species. But this rationalisation does not always help when during an angry outburst and once your frustration passes you are left wondering what is going on.

Unlike when they were babies when the solutions to the tears was usually easier to diagnose and ‘fix’, the emotional outbursts and the behaviour that accompanies it from our pre-adolescent girls, are usually the outward expression of other inward issues.

Think of it this way. Have you ever had one of those days at work when you’ve held it together and had your professional face on in the office, only to arrive home and go off the handle at your partner, when they have barely even said ‘Hello’. After the outburst, once you’ve vented and had time to reflect, you might be able to see that the outburst had nothing at all to do with your partner and whatever insignificant thing it was that triggered the reaction but it was actually all about the underlying at issues at work that had you fuming all day on the inside.

Well, our kids are no different. Usually, the outward behaviour is the outlet for what’s going on, on the inside.

And what I have noticed in working with preadolescent or tween girls when they are having difficulty regulating their emotions at school (or at home), is the undercurrent of thinking and stories she is telling herself is that she is not good enough. And you might recognise that under the anger she is jealous, disappointed, scared or insert any other big, uncomfortable emotion here, but if she was able to articulate the real issue, the one that would surface after lots of ‘But why…’ questioning, it would bubble up to “I’m not __________ enough”.

I’m not pretty enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m not good enough. I’m not enough.

Heartbreaking hey. Because you know she has the greatest gifts on the inside just waiting to be shared with those lucky enough to meet her.

So how do you help?

You help her recognise the negative stories and self-talk that are going on in her head. You help her understand her emotions. You teach her to recognise how her bodies reacts when she is feeling different things. You give her messages about her strengths. You encourage her to take risks. You unpack what courage is, what it means and help her understand that it’s not always comfortable being courageous.

And therefore, I created Powerful Me. Because our girls can begin to develop this awareness now. When they are younger, giving them time to practice the skills and understand their worthiness right from the get-go. She doesn’t need to wait until she’s 42 with a heap of poor decisions under her belt because she didn’t learn how to manage her emotions and powerful self-early.

How empowering. To know that she is worthy of joy, love, friendship, respect an abundance from an early age.

It’s why Powerful Me is called Powerful Me. Because she is powerful, in all the right ways, when she realizes she is worthy.

Powerful Me is launching soon, get notified here. And thank you Brene Brown for the most beautiful quote EVER.

Bec xx

 

Worthiness, Brene Brown

The Grey Space

So, you’ve got to a point where you have this parenting thing mostly figured out.

She’s going well at school and her social group is stable. Maybe she has had a few ups and downs settling into school, but you figure it can only be up from here, right? She’s becoming more independent and both you and her are excited for the middle years of primary school.

Just a heads up. Things might be about to get bumpy! You’re hitting the tween landscape. It’s a bit of a grey space.

There are many reasons that the tween years are like the dark side and we could analyse it using different theories of psychology which all differ and vary.

There was Piaget who recognised that from age seven children encounter a major turning point in a cognitive development. It marks the beginning of logical, or as Piaget called it, Operational Thought. Operational thought means the child can work things out in their head rather than having to physically experience them.

So in effect, you may have a daughter who is still very much viewing the social dynamics in her world through a pre-operational lens (not reading ‘abstract’ social cues or relationship changes) yet her friends have moved into the operational stage. 

Using this theory, we can assume there will be some girls, who are oblivious to the changes until they happen. Until they are left out or the ‘rules’ of how the group work are no longer the same. Then there will be the girls who ARE the change. Who hit their lessons or developmental stages before others and are reading abstract cues early and reacting accordingly.

And all are perfectly imperfect.

So the good news?

Well Vygotsky and his Social Development Theory stressed the fundamental role of social interaction. He believed strongly that community plays a central role in the process of making meaning. In other words, we need social interaction to make meaning of the world and develop higher psychological functions. So, we need to experience a range of social interactions which produce a range of emotions, which may be described as positive or negative, to learn about ourselves and others in order to become capable of deeper thinking.

​​​Or maybe, from a more philosophical or spiritual perspective we can just accept that our daughters (and ourselves) will move through our life lessons as they unfold. They are neither good nor bad, they just are. And the lessons are gifts to help us move further towards being the shiny bright gems that we are meant to be.

Regardless of what resonates with you, you can begin to see and maybe accept that the turbulence you have hit (or maybe it is still coming) is totally normal. There is, or will be, a changing  dynamic in your daughters social group and the way she perceives her outer world.

But we can use these differences and social challenges to begin to teach our girls about changing relationships and how to manage emotions and behaviours to keep their interactions with peers helpful not harmful.
The Grey Space
The natural tendency of the human condition is to try to understand life and control it. And here is where it gets interesting. Naturally there are a variety of ways that young people (and grown ups for that matter) try to deal with various social scenarios and feelings. And, there are a wide variety of socially helpful and socially harmful strategies that girls utilise to regain some sense of control in their social circle.
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So regardless of where you and your daughter are, it’s a huge opportunity for growth when girls are mentored to navigate these changes and learn to trust themselves to confidently grow through it.

Bec x​​​​​​​

Who is Girl Empowered?

Hi I’m Bec.

Educator.

Life long learner.

Mum of three.

Wife of one.

Lover of fit.

Creator of Girl Empowered.

And Girl Empowered is like a new baby. In the very first stages of it’s life and like an excited new mother I am fizzing with the excitement of all that Girl Empowered has the potential to offer, yet daunted at the new life I have created. Not really knowing which direction it will take me but trusting that what Girl Empowered creates is not only relevant to mothers and parents everywhere but more importantly relevant and empowering for your daughter.

People ask me “Why girls?” I say “Why not?”

They ask ‘Why empowered?” I say, “Because they should be”.

And the line, “What about boys?” My answer: Yep, I have two and am married to one. Of course they are important. And don’t we want our boys connecting with strong, assured girls and women who operate from a place of self acceptance and confidence. That stand confidently in their gifts and gratefully acknowledge their shadows. That know who they are so they can truly know your sons.

Wow, that was deep for a bit….it’s how Girl Empowered rolls. Full of fun, joy, lightness and movement but also reflective, thoughtful and soul led.

It’s where sensible school meets heart led self development.

See, here you will find sensible content backed by research. You will also find sensible content backed by experience and a passionate belief that every girl/woman I have ever worked with has something important to share.

Finding it and giving themselves the permission to share it is another thing. Nurturing and loving it can be a challenge. And stepping up with courage takes practice.

Girl Empowered is about nurturing the whole of our tweens: The Emotional. The Physical. The Soulful.

Love to have you here.

Bec xx