So I used to be a Girl Scout leader here in my community. I still am, just on a much smaller scale. I started the troop when the girls were just in Kindergarten. When the girls started the 5th grade (their last year of elementary school), my co-leader, Jill, and I started to realize that in less than a year, these sweet girls would be thrust into middle school. Our girls were our oldest children and we had been hearing horrifying stories about middle school and about "mean girls". We decided to take action. We decided to prepare. We decided to tell these girls all the things that we wish we had known when we were in middle school, but no one talked about. One of the most important revelations as mother came to me as we set off on this journey to make these wonderful, sweet, intelligent young ladies...BULLET PROOF.
We researched tons of information about bullies and being bullied when a thought occurred to me. There are tons of information out there about campaigns to "eliminate bullies" and "stopping bullying", but there were curiously no articles or websites about how to teach children to mentally deal with bullies not outwardingly, but within themselves. No one I have ever talked to has ever considered the fact that there will always be bullies in one form or another. Internationally, they come as terrorists, at work they exist in those trying to possibly win your job or be offered a promotion at any cost. Then there is the tradtional shake-you-down-for-your-lunch-money bully that show up at school.
I believe that kids need to be taught that trying to eliminate bullies and bullying is a futile effort. I believe that you can try to achieve LESS bullying, but it will always exist. So, what do we do with something that is not pleasant, but will always exist? We find a way around it and sometimes we have to have the bravery to go through it. THIS is how we approached it with our Girl Scout troop.
1. Body Language will get you everywhere and it's a lesson to take with you all through your life. Walking down a middle school hallway can be daunting, but if you hold yourself up, keep your head up and walk with purpose, you make yourself less of a target. This is also applied many years later when you find yourself in a position of walking down a city street at night. My dad always taught me to look like I was more trouble than I was worth. I was pretty good at that since I probably am. LOL
2. We always treated out troop as a sisterhood. The problem was that our girls were starting to all have different interests and going different directions. They were all going their separate ways and starting other friendships out of school. We had them make a pact that they would always be there for each other, even if they didn't talk much or didn't run with the same type of kids. They were their own private support system. They all readily agreed.
3. This was one of the most important step, teaching the girls that they each have the ability to not allow the negative thoughts of other define them. They have the ability to keep these things out of their hearts, to not let these things in and lower their confidence. Kind of an advanced version of "sticks and stones". When you don't give a bully power by keeping them out of your emotions, your mind and your heart, they become neutralized. When the girls refused to let those "mean girls" reach into their souls, they were able to rise above and move on.
That was all taught in the 5th grade and applied by the girls in the 6th grade. Today these young ladies are in their last few weeks of middle school. Of the six that remain, all of them have been on the honor roll during all three years of middle school, three of them have consistently been placed in advanced placement classes, each of them is close with at least three or four of the other girls weaving an web of friendship that has many cross-overs, they have all been athletes in one sport or another, two of them will serve on Student Council during their Freshman year in 2014-2015, others will serve in Key Club, fingers crossed that they will all be in our school's award winning marching band and all are slated for two or three honors or advanced placement in high school.
I, in NO WAY, take resonsibility the girls' successes. Most of their successes have been from having wonderful, supportive parents, keeping good company and choosing their friends wisely and their own ambition and drive to be the best young ladies they can be. I DO feel that what we taught them, helped keep them from being distracted. It helped keep them focused on what was important and what would quickly become yesterday's news. Not having to worry about peer harrassment and maintaining a level of self confidence that is constantly fueled by the successes that come from not having to deal with said harrassment has made them into dynamos in their own right.
I am honored to know them and I am personally all the better for the priviledge of watching them travel this journey we call "growing up". It doesn't need to be littered with tear covered tissues and mental scars and low self-esteem. These girls made the decision to not travel that path. They are the anti-bully.
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