Tag: compassion

The Go To Go Girl!: What My Dreadlocks Taught Me About Practicing Compassion

With music up, ear buds in, working in a cafe in Oakland, I was interrupted by a woman. I noticed her the moment I walked in and stood in line to order my latte. She was striking. Colorful clothing and adorned by big statement jewelry. I also noticed her almost-mohawk hairstyle. Very cool. After sitting near her for about an hour, she walked over to me and asked me a question. I missed it because of the ear buds.

“I’m sorry?” I asked.

“Are you white?” she reiterated.

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Is it Really Bullying? Here’s How to Find Out…

Creating a “Bullying Awareness Month” is all about light.  It’s about shining light on the dark places – the places we haven’t wanted to look at in the past.  Bullying used to be something that adults just ignored and encouraged kids to do the same.  “Oh, those kids can be so mean.”  The best we could do was teach boys how to fight and girls how to grin and bear it.

Thank goodness we don’t do that anymore.  Well, I guess some of us do but at least it’s not socially acceptable.  It’s socially acceptable to call bullying out, to convene committees and task forces, to create plans to solve the problem.

We don’t put up with bullying anymore.

The Bully Free Zone

Now, we have a new problem.  In some communities, there is so much light being shone on bullying that it risks being overexposed and mis-used. We are all in the habit of labeling kids as “bullies” as opposed to labeling behavior as “bullying.”  Our friends at Kidpower define bullying as:

The most common definition of bullying is, “a repeated oppression, psychological or physical, of a less powerful person by a more powerful person or group of persons.” Bullying is different from aggression between people of equal power. However, someone can have less power than others for many reasons – being shy, being different, lacking confidence, having problems at home, or lacking physical strength.

When we consider this definition, we must consider that ALL of us are capable of bullying behaviors.  We are all navigating our power in the world all the time so we are all capable of making mistakes as we use our power in relationship to other people.  When we label kids as bullies, we create a very damaging disconnect between ourselves and “the bully.”  We throw compassion out the window and replace it with judgment and shame.  The angry mob is formed and the target becomes our kids.  “That kid is a bully…let’s get him!”  Not only do we disconnect from our children, we disconnect from any accountability that we may need to take around our own bullying behaviors.  “Oh please stop crying.  You misunderstood me.  I am not a bully.  How could what I did make you cry?!?”

Bullying vs. Conflict

I see it with girls all the time.  Many girls believe that their feelings should never be hurt.  If anyone does anything to hurt their feelings, that person immediately becomes a “bully.”   We are writing all month about how to help our daughters be safe, happy, and healthy in their relationships – to give and get respect.  When we know what healthy relationships look, feel, and act like, we protect ourselves from bullying.  Conflicts, disagreements, and big feelings are key elements of happy, healthy relationships.   They happen all the time.  And they should.  Bullying has no place in a healthy relationship.  When someone is being bullied, she is being victimized by another person who’s sole intention is to do them harm.  When someone is bullying, she is mis-using her power, holding her power over someone else, to make herself even more powerful.  Addressing bullying, then, means that we must learn to feel comfortable navigating conflict in our healthy relationships.

Talking to Your Daughter about Bullying

What can you do to help your daughter navigate bullying without blowing it out of proportion?

  1. Assume the Best Intentions: Remember, when your daughter comes to you about a relationship issue she is having, she is talking about another child.  Someone else’s baby who is, just like your daughter, going through a process of learning how to navigate his/her power in the world.  Assume that this child is not an “evil bully” and that s/he is just doing the best they can in their own process.
  2. Become the Trusted Adult: You want your daughter to be able to come to you with any trouble she is having.  You want her to know that she can trust you to be there for her, no matter what.  You can build this trust by staying calm and empathetic when listening to her stories.  This will be hard.  You will probably feel an instinct to come to her rescue, to solve her problems for her, and to bring your own emotions into the situation.  That’s okay.  You can notice those things are happening without letting them take over.
  3. Ask curious questions: When you show your daughter your calm and empathetic self, you are in a much better position to ask questions for sole purpose of gathering information about the situation instead of getting someone in trouble.  With the calmest, most neutral tone you can manage, ask questions like:
    1. What else happened?
    2. Tell me more about that.
    3. Is there anything you did to make the problem bigger?
    4. Is there anything you did to make the problem better?
  4. Build Her Resiliency Muscles: Your daughter will always, her whole life, be in relationships where her feelings will get hurt and she will hurt someone else’s feelings.  Unfortunately, there is nothing you can do to change that.  What you can do is help her learn how to be okay with having the feelings that don’t feel so good and moving through them.  Do you know about Emotion Coaching?  Check this out.
  5. Try to See the Bigger Picture:  Just from the sheer fact that you are reading this blog post, I know one thing for sure about your daughter.  I know that she comes from a home with incredible privilege.  She lives in a home where she has a parent or caregiver who is intentional about how to care for her and her social/emotional needs.  She comes from a home where there is a value around learning.  Your daughter is going to school, living in neighborhoods, and engaged in activities with a diverse group of kids.  And these kids come from all different types of households.  Many of these households do not (or, for some reason, cannot) hold or act on the same kinds of protections or values that you are.  This is important to keep in mind the next time you feel rage about how another child is treating your child.  Remember that adults model inappropriate mis-uses of power for kids ALL THE TIME.  ALL our children are doing their very best to make the right choices and don’t always succeed.  I’m not asking you to excuse harmful behavior, but I am suggesting that you see it in a larger context.

This post is #6 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!
For more incredible Go Girls! resources for helping your girl stay safe, happy, and healthy in her relationships, check out Kidpower and get your copy of Starring Celia.

Celia Says- “A Go Girl! takes center stage in her own life”

As an artist, I’ve had to work hard to imagine myself as the leading lady in my own life. Even as a newly published author and girl advocate with a fabulous slew of friends and wonderful family, I still get that critical voice in my head telling me “You don’t deserve it” or “you’ll never really make it.” I know it’s universal. All of us have that inner critic that wants to kick us into the background- the dark wings of the theater, watching everyone else make their dreams come true.

In Starring Celia, my main character learns to take center stage. Sure, it doesn’t happen automatically. In fact, there’s a moment early on where Celia can’t event imagine herself in a leading role- she tries, but her fantasy will only take her as far as servant to the Queen.

Illustrated by Thorina Rose from "Starring Celia" written by Allison Kenny
Illustrated by Thorina Rose from “Starring Celia” written by Allison Kenny

Suddenly, my daydream is interrupted by Quincy Dayton! How did she get inside my dream? There she is, sitting in a tall, red velvet chair with the White House dog at her feet. Quincy is ordering everyone around and they are listening.  Then she calls loudly for her servant and there I am, in ratty clothes, hunching over and feeding her ice cream with a silver spoon.

Stop! I hate this daydream! But I can’t stop picturing it.

The thing I love most about theater is that it helps us imagine ourselves in someone else’s shoes. As actors, we get to dream up a character and feel our way into that…a rehearsal for life. And because our character, Celia, is in a Glitter & Razz play, she gets to choose her own character. She keeps imagining herself center stage and eventually chooses the role of Vice President. By the end of the book, she can see herself surrounded by adoring fans, bright lights and applause. She’s strong, smiling, center stage…in her power. Sure, this was on a literal stage. But the feeling stayed with her. Back at school, Celia stares into the face of the girl who bullied her and keeps her cool. Makes a new choice. She changed her story about how powerful she actually gets to be in her real life.

Allison Takes it All in.CROPPEDA couple years ago, I got really interested in overcoming my own critical voices. I was determined to change some of the beliefs that were holding me back. I heard about a process for making “self-revelatory theater” through the Living Arts Counseling Center in Oakland. For about 6 months, I showed up to a church basement with a group of other determined artists. We wrote our stories. We shared them. We shaped them into 20 minute solo pieces where we got to wrestle with old beliefs and shape them into new endings.  Mine included a flashlight dance and singing to Nina Simone’s “Feeling Good.” When I stood before an invited audience of trusted friends and soaked up their deafening applause, something truly shifted in me. I felt like Celia…a Go Girl! standing center stage, believing I could do anything. Sure, it was just a play. But I’ve been different since. Lighter. Braver. More honest about what I need and want. Making that play actually did my world.  Time to head out and change theirs…

Share a “center stage” moment with me.  It doesn’t have to have any connection to the theater. When did you feel like your happiest, most authentic self? Where were you? What were you doing? Can you imagine yourself as the lead character in your own life?

Allison Signs & Smiles.Starring CeliaAllison Kenny is the author of “Starring Celia” and the co-founder of Go Girls! @ Glitter & Razz.  “Celia Says” is a series that brings to life the lessons she learned while writing the book.  She shares them as a way of helping you you to tap into your inner Go Girl! with courage and compassion.

Go Girls! Week in Review: April 20

This past week has been full.  Very full.  And it’s been a profound week…for all of us, hasn’t it?  From the Boston Marathon bombing, to the explosion in West, Texas to the Gun Control filibuster, we have seen folks come together under extreme duress and folks ripped apart over politics and ideology.  America’s compassion muscles have certainly been tested this week.  So much so that I woke up yesterday morning with the overwhelming need to share what we here at Go Girls! have been up to this week.  I hope you will see that we really are “walking our talk” and doing the work it takes to ignite the Compassion Revolution that we all so desperately need.

Here are 5 highlights from the past week:

1. Go Girls! Camp Staff Reunion & Gathering: Last Saturday, April 13, the incredible team of Lead Teaching Artists came to Allison and my home for brunch, hugs, and conversation in preparation for this summer’s camps.  We are so grateful to be working with this team of smart, passionate, dedicated, reflective, and talented women.  Take a look at the photo album from the event and the video we made (below).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hY5MpoMA2c]

OMG Online Course Logo2. Course Outline Complete for upcoming OMG UR My BFF: Helping Girls Navigate the Friendship Drama.  Allison and I are working on a brand new product that we can’t be more excited about.  Girl Advocates is a learning series we are developing to help parents, educators, and other caring adults come together to receive inspiration, information, and tools to help prepare our girls for happy, healthy lives.  We consider it “education for the compassion revolution.”  The course will be online and self-paced and will launch on May 15.  Learn more here…

3. Edutopia @ Glenview Elementary: For many years, I have been a big fan of the website, Edutopia.org (a program of the George Lucas Educational Foundation).  The site finds and features model programs and ideas for “what works in education.”  And according to the Foundation, our partner school, Glenview Elementary School in Oakland, WORKS!  Go Girls! has been a program at Glenview for the last 2 years now, and Allison, who is in charge of all of the amazing work that is happening there, was interviewed this past Thursday by the folks at Edutopia.  We will be part of a video documentary about what is working at Glenview to come out this summer or fall.  We’ll certainly keep you posted!

4. The Alphabet Rockers @ Go Girls!:  We have also been huge fans of the Alphabet Rockers, an educational hip hop crew, for many years and have dreamed of ways we might come together.  Finally, on Wednesday, we secured founder Kaitlin McGaw as a guest artist for our July 9-18 session at the JCC in Berkeley.  She will be adding her talent and expertise as a musician and teaching artists to our Onceuponatime & Ever After theme – teaching girls techniques in singing, beat boxing, and other forms of vocal performance as a way to share their stories.  The Rockers are headed out of town next week for a tour of Boston and NYC.  We wish them luck!

5. The Art of Empathy at the Mentoring Conference: On Thursday, I presented my workshop, The Art of Empathy, to an incredible group of professionals at Friends for Youth’s Annual Mentoring Conference in Santa Clara.  It was such an honor and a privilege to be able to spend this time with these folks, especially given everything that has happened this week in our country…in the world.  The workshop focused on how to practice and teach empathy with groups of children using the arts, theater, and play; how to be more empathetic as a mentor in an one-on-one relationship with a mentee; and how to use the practice of emotion coaching as a key empathy practice to help kids be more in charge of their own emotional health.