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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Middle School Makeover Part 7

Middle School Makeover Part 7: Friends, Fights, and Bullies

First off, let me apologize for being a week late with the posting! I will post this one (from last week) tonight. I will post Part 8 on Saturday to have us back on track for next week!

Let’s start with scenario #3: Good Girls Gone Bad

Michelle explains that a lot of the problems that come from middle school girls excluding those they used to be friends with are a result of them trying to find their own place in relation to their new peers. “This causes some girls to go on the offensive to be sure they’re not the one who will be left out. Psychologists call this ‘relational aggression’, in which one girl seeks to hurt another by damaging her relationship with her peers, often through gossip or public humiliation” (page 98). While it may not completely make you feel better if your daughter is at the hurting side of this, it can be helpful to understand that there is a reason for this behavior other than just cold-heartedness. 

Some helpful tips for guiding your daughter through a tough time with friends:

--Empathize, but don’t go overboard
--Put more effort into making her comfortable, treat her to ice cream, forgive her for being more “snappy” than usual
--Don’t bad mouth the other girls. This is not a good habit to promote and she could take it as you criticizing her judgment.
--Encourage her to make new friends and spread out between social groups. This will prevent her from relying solely on one unstable clique.
--If these methods aren’t helpful don’t be afraid to seek a counselor’s advice or get professional help.

Scenario #4: There’s More than One Way to Be Cool

It can be tough for middle school boys to socialize if they are not interested in, or particularly talented at, group sports since they form such a natural camaraderie for young men. Michelle offers several suggestions for ways for your son to make connections without being an athlete. They are all listed on page 101, but some ideas include: learning to play an instrument, making money, learning to fix things like cars or bikes, or try other physical activities like hiking, archery, or rock climbing. Anything that promotes positive character building skills and builds your son’s confidence while opening up the possibility to make friends with similar passions is a great place to start!

The other side of this is how can you, as a mom, help your son if he is struggling socially?  Don’t worry! Michelle provides a list for that too:

--Encourage a deeper pursuit of your son’s interests (she give the example of a child who likes video games, see if this could translate into a passion for graphic design, CGI, etc)
--If your son is content without many friends, don’t push him.
--Spend a little time, effort, and money to help your son out. This doesn’t mean you have to go overboard but allowing a sleepover with cool snacks (to reference the example Michelle gives) can be a small price to pay to help him fit in to his peer environment.

The main goal is to help your son find a way to thrive in his surroundings, pursuing interests and hobbies he cares about, whether or not that brings him popularity.

Scenario #5: Put Downs and Comebacks

First things first, Michelle puts out a very specific definition of bullying to be clear what type of problem she is a addressing. To be sure there are no confusions, here it is again: “I define bullying as someone repeatedly using his power (social or physical) to degrade, harass, or humiliate someone else” (page 107).

This is not a situation to take lightly, but if your child is being bullied, here are some things you can do:

-- Remember that problem solving process from chapter 5? Use that to help your teen brainstorm ideas and solutions on their own to restore personal power.
­­­­--Let teachers and other involved adults know the situation to monitor progress and make sure things are becoming better, not worse.
--Do not call the parents of the bullies, no matter how badly you’d like to.
--Don’t over-victimize your kid, don’t share this information with your peers, it could add to his/her humiliation.
--Take the situation seriously. Find a qualified adult (counselor or outside therapist) to counsel your child if needed.
--Help your child nurture other positive friendships, activities, and hobbies that can rebuild confidence and forge new connections.

Michelle recommends staying as unflustered as possible by your child’s personal crisis as to not add more self-doubt or pressure. This will model a positive reaction and show your child he/she has your unwavering support.

Scenario #6: Not My Kid—Oh, Wait…

So you found out that your child has been a bully, or maybe has just been mean. The very first thing Michelle suggests doing is talking to your child to get his side of the story. From his reaction you may be able to gauge how badly he feels about his behavior, to give you an idea of how serious a problem you’re dealing with. Other things you can do (page 113) include:

--Set expectations for how others should be treated. Live up to those expectations and set a good example.
--Accept this as a mistake and don’t let it define your child moving forward. Model forgiveness.
--This is no one else’s business, don’t investigate through other families.
--The key to a consequence in this situation is unemotional and stern.
--Do not make her apologize publicly/ in person. This is awkward and unhelpful all around.

Similar to the advice given if your child is the victim of bullying, it is important to respond with love and compassion while still addressing the behavior. Don’t be afraid to seek outside counseling or help to make sure you get to the underlying issue if there is one.

Thoughts for Discussion:

In general, how do you respond when your child has issues with friends? Does he/she confide in you? Do you think Michelle’s suggestions would work for you and your child?
What activities outside of sports have helped your son connect with/make friends?

Has your child been bullied? What measures did you take and were they successful?

Has your child been a bully? How did you remedy the situation and help your child grow from the experience?

I'll see you Saturday with Part 8. As always we love hearing from you, feel free to comment any thoughts, ideas and reactions. Happy Reading!

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