If I had to pick the one thing that matters most to human happiness, I would say that our relationships with other people matter more than anything else.
In Tuesday’s post, I featured the work of Dr. Christine Carter and her book Raising Happiness: 10 Simple Steps for More Joyful Kids and Happier Parents. Her Simple Step #2 is entitled “Build a Village.” This chapter breaks down why it is so important to your child’s overall health and happiness to be positively connected to other people and how you can help him/her be that way.
Over the course of this series of blog posts for Bullying Awareness Month, the overall through line might just be this…the stronger your daughter’s social/emotional skills are, the healthier her relationships will be, and the less likely she will be negatively impacted by bullying (either bully, bullied, or bystander).
1) Active Listening
Listen when someone is talking. Make eye contact. Ask the other person questions. You know for yourself that you feel more important, valued, and appreciated when someone is really listening to you. When you are with someone who makes you feel appreciated, you will most likely like that person, right?
I think this is the number 1 thing we can do to teach our girls to be connected to other kids because it is so easy to teach. All it takes is practice:
- Insist that your kids give you eye contact when you are talking to them. Here’s the trick – make sure you give them the same courtesy.
- Coach them through a 2-sided conversation. For example, “I just asked you how your day was and I listened to your answer. Now, it’s your turn to ask me how my day was and you will listen to my answer.” Here’s the trick – don’t talk too long. They are only kids. They will get bored if you go on too long.
- Celebrate them every time they are actively listening. “Thanks so much for listening to me talk about my day. I feel very special when you do that.”
2) Self Regulation
Our girls have big feelings. They are in the process of learning how to have big feelings without them getting out of control. We don’t want our daughter to get so angry that she takes it out physically and verbally on other kids. We don’t want our daughter to get so frustrated that she cries and whines whenever something doesn’t go her way. If you find this behavior annoying, so will her peers. The main way for you to help her is for you to make it VERY clear, on a consistent basis, that, although ALL her feelings are always okay, that not all of her behaviors are okay…especially in certain contexts. “It’s okay that you are angry, but it is not okay to yell at your brother.”
At Go Girls! Camp, we begin each day in a community circle where the girls have to experience a moment of silence together. We talk about how this is the time for them to transform their free play energy into focused energy. It’s a very successful practice. Most of the time kids take this moment very seriously. However, when they don’t, it’s a wonderful opportunity for modeling and reinforcing self-regulation. The rule is to be silent. That’s the boundary. So, when someone laughs or makes a silly noise, we either start the moment of silence again giving them another opportunity to practice making a safe behavior choice. This is teaching the girls that it is up to them to take care of themselves and that certain behaviors are appropriate at certain times.
3) Navigating Conflict
Kids will fight. As Christine Carter points out, kids are more comfortable with conflict than adults are. Conflict is not a problem. Conflict is a good thing. The problem is that kids have not yet learned how to work through conflicts. It’s our job as adults to teach them. People who can work through conflicts in peaceful, loving ways are well connected people, indeed.
At Go Girls! Camp, we use a Peace Place to work out conflicts. It’s a dedicated part of the room where a script hangs on the wall that helps girls work through conflicts. It’s a classic I-Statement: I Feel___When You___I Need You to___and I promise I will____.
Read this to learn more about what Christine says about this.
As a transition from “Kids Choice”, our free time time, to focused class time during our camps, we often give the girls an opportunity to share a celebration of someone who was kind to them during Kids Choice. We hear stuff like, “I celebrate Sarah because she played with me” or “I celebrate Zoe because she helped me clean up the animal toys even though she wasn’t even playing with them.” Kids appreciate kindness and generosity and want to be around it. Christine writes in her book, “My guess is that most parents hope their children are kind, but few deliberately teach kindness in conscious ways.” But, like all of these skills, kindness can be taught if we as adults are modeling kind behavior ourselves, telling our kids what it looks like, and celebrating them when they do it. “Raising Happiness” is chock full of ways to teach kindness to our kids.
5) Play and Have Fun
A good friend is someone who plays with me.
– 6 year old Go Girl!, 2013
Kids like kids who they can play with, have fun with. This may seem like a no-brainer but we are seeing more and more instances of kids who just don’t know how to play. We know the story. Modern kids are overscheduled, have a lot more distractions, spend less time outside, spend more time isolated from other kids, etc. etc. etc. My niece once told me about a girl in her class at school that she didn’t like very much because, “she has no imagination!”
Kids, whose only real work IS to play, to make-believe, are coming to us at Go Girls! not very good at it. When prompted to use their super power of imagination to make up stories or games or simply to play with wooden blocks or plastic animals during Kids Choice, we hear “I don’t know” or “what should I do right now.” In these situations, our job as adults is not to tell them what to play. That does not let them learn how to play. My teachers and I just keep asking questions – questions that will inspire their creative muscles:
- Only you know what to do. What do you think you should do right now?
- What does this block remind you of?
- What can you do with these blocks?
- What would happen if a zombie came in the room right now?
- What would happen if a zombie came into our story?
The play must come from them. From their ideas and their imaginations. The more they use their imagination muscles, the stronger they will be. And the stronger they are at playing, the more fun they will be to the other kids.
This post is #17 of 25 Tips to Teach Your Daughter to Respect Herself, Command Respect, and Respect Others. Wanna make sure you get all 25 Tips for Bullying Awareness Month? CLICK HERE and we’ll send ‘em right to your email!