If you know the film Mean Girls you're no stranger to the concept that teen friendship groups can be fraught with problems. Whilst the film illustrates an extreme version of the issue any parent of girls will be familiar with the angst they can cause. With the help of the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman, Susie and I look at how you can coach your daughter positively through this tumultuous time. Below are top tips I gleaned from the book:
Wiseman breaks down the structure of these groups into roles.
The Queen Bee - the one who sets the tone for the group, and holds control.
The Sidekick - the one who backs up the Queen Bee.
The Banker - The one who collects information on members and uses it like a currency.
The Messenger - The one who passes on information to try and make peace between girls.
The Pleaser/Wannabe - The one who tries to please the others regardless of what she loses in the process.
The Torn Bystander - The one who sees what's happening but feels powerless to say anything.
The Target - The one who is undermined to consolidate power.
The Champion - The one who manages to have friends in different groups.
Power is wielded through teasing and gossip.
The job of the parent is to help your daughter recognise what's happening and help her to strategise.
How to do this:
S: Stop and strategise.
E: Explain to 'mean girl' what it was that she doesn't like about the way she has been treated.
A: Affirm her right to exist without being humiliated.
L: Lock in/Lock out of the relationship.
Bill of Rights:
· What does she want and need in a friendship? Trust, reliability..
· What are her rights in a friendship? To be treated respectfully, with kindness and honesty.
· What are her responsibilities? To treat her friends ethically.
· What would a friend have to do or be like for her to end the friendship?
· What are her friend’s rights and responsibilities? To listen, even when it’s not easy to hear.
See www.culturesofdignity.com for more information.
HOW TO GET YOUR TEEN TO KEEP GOING PAST THE FIRST HURDLE:
Research by Seligman, Peterson and Duckworth. shows that the most successful people have seven key character traits.
· Social intelligence
GRIT: something we develop, mostly through encountering failures that aren’t soul-crushing.
RESILIENCE: is the ability to bounce back. The brain actually changes as a result of our experiences.
Teach your teen that losing is something you do, not something you are. Mistakes are:
Self-acceptance: makes the person OK no matter what. Ways to coach self-acceptance:
· Validate and coach through all their emotions.
· Model and teach positive self-talk
· Use mindfulness to notice – not judge – our children.
Things to say out loud in front of teens:
· I’m OK being imper
Thanks for listening. Creating this podcast has been transformative for our family lives; we hope it does the same for yours.
Please subscribe if you like our podcast, and share it with anyone who might benefit.
You can review us on Apple podcasts by going to the show page, scrolling down to the bottom where you can click on a star then you can leave your message.
Our website has a blog, searchable episodes, and ways to contact us:
Susie is available for a free 15 minute consultation, and has a great blog:
Hello, I'm Rachel Richards former BBC correspondent parenting coach and mother of two teenagers and two older stepdaughters.Susie Asli:
And hi, I'm Susie as Lee, I'm qualified mindfulness instructor and psychotherapist and mother of three teenagers two of them are twins.Rachel Richards:
Welcome, pull up a chair tonight after all of your other responsibilities, and let's begin. Coming up later in the episode we talk about an issue raised by a school teacher. She says most of her kids seem to give up after their first attempt at anything, she is struggling to motivate them to push beyond that initial discomfort. But first, it's human nature to form groups, both for pleasure and defense. Any parent will tell you that these groups or cliques can be fraught with problems for their teens. In this episode, we're going to talk about the issue from a girl's perspective. But hopefully it's helpful to all parents. And if you're a parent who's seen your daughter going through hell, as a result of these groups, it can be profoundly upsetting, particularly if it brings back horrible memories. But here's the upside. It's a very important training ground for her, and will make her see the cost of trying to remain in a group against standing her ground when they're forcing her to do or be things she's uncomfortable with. It's going to profoundly influence her code of ethics and understanding of who she is. While you're listening to this. It's worth reflecting on your own experiences and how they've shaped your behavior. What do you think Suzy?Susie Asli:
Yeah, and I love that angle of looking at your own experiences, because I think they can still sit with us currently and feel quite painful. So when, when, when our daughters go through particular issues, suddenly were 14,Rachel Richards:
transported by now even resizes.Susie Asli:
And it might not be the same experience at all for her. So it's really important actually, that we just reflect on our own stuff so that we were able to separate it when we when we're dealing with our own.Rachel Richards:
Like in our first episode, we actually talked about our own baggage as parents. And it's very difficult to separate up what's happening now from how we experienced these things. And what's interesting about it is that when we talk about girl friendships, they do feel texturally different to the friendships that boys have. And you've got boys as well, yes, soSusie Asli:
I have have twins actually a boy and a girl twin, and they approach friendship. Unbelievably differently. It's fascinating, actually.Rachel Richards:
But I think that both groups tend to see these, what they call friendship groups, in inverted commas, that they're really a defensive alliance, they are friendships within these groups. But actually, when they form tight groups, it's all about being able to it's like a platoon of soldiers trying to survive, adolescents. And with girls in particular, it's a sense that you're either in the boat or you're out of the boat. And if you're out of the boat, you're drowning. And it can be it can feel very, very frightening for somebody who's sucked into that situation. Or if they're in a school where that's quite prevalent. Yes, when they don't know how to get into a boat, get a falling out of it,Susie Asli:
I think it can go in phases, I completely resonate with that. I think it can go in phases for mine anyway, where it, if it's going well and everything is fine, then then it's just a lovely support, and a beautiful place to be a teenager and and it's fun and silly and all of those lovely things. I think when it becomes tense. That's when it can become very quickly. Tricky. And I love the the idea that actually it's a training ground, it's really, really helpful space to learn, to learn some values and to learn some skills boundaries, for example, it's so important that we don't just, you know, let people walk on us. And that's really hard when you're 14 and you just want to fit in and belong. But it's really important.Rachel Richards:
So was link Wiseman wrote a seminal book on this topic called Queen Bees and Wannabes and I went back to it I did actually buy it years ago, because I have two older stepdaughters and I wanted to arm myself. So I've had I've had experience of both, you know, both sets of them going through this sort of experiments, and it varies enormously. So you know, for example, one of my daughters, she had she was at a school where they had two boarding houses for girls and they had been pitted against each other and she said, You know, it's really disappointing because you turn up at school and already, you've excluded half your female possible female friendships because they were in a different boarding house. So the structures around them can make a difference. But one of the points that was made in Queen Bees and Wannabes this book is I basically reread again because I needed to to think about this and she's brilliant. I have to say she's brilliant, is she says adolescence is a beauty pageant, and even if your daughter doesn't want to be a contestant, she has no choice. And this will be the same for boys to an extent but it's not quite as rigid and tightly constructed because girls are getting messages all the time about what being a girl means. And if you're outside of the box, that is your particular group, you'll be punished for it. Yeah, it's less than tense for boys for sure, yes. And girls are constantly comparing themselves to each other, the way she dresses and marks herself will mark her as being part of that group. And there is a structure within these groups that obviously will change and can shift quite a lot. But this book really outlines them very well. And I thought they were fascinating. And what's what would be great is if I talk about the different categories, and the people listening, can think about whether they were in any of these particular roles, if they've seen any of these particular roles, if they've got friends who were in that role, and are now still in that role.Susie Asli:
Yeah, yeah, please share, we love a category.Rachel Richards:
So there's the queen bee, who's the head of the group, and she's the person who sets the tone for the group. So she decides what clothes are acceptable, you know, what their, their meaning of their group is. And she can silence her peers with a look. And then turn around and be incredibly nice. You either with her or against her friendships are defined by her power and not mutual support. So so she's the one can be the one where everyone says she's really popular, but nobody's really likes her was a bit scared.Susie Asli:
Because she definitely wanted our high school, right? Yeah,Rachel Richards:
sure, we'll say much power. And then she's got a sidekick. So she's got someone else who kind of patrols around with her and make sure that, you know, she can talk to about things and will back her up. Then there's the banker, which I thought was a great term. And the banker is someone who collects information from different members of the group, or outside the group, and then spends it like its money. So the gossip, she uses it to actually control people and put them back in their places. Then there's the messenger, who trades personal information and gossip about others. But her motivation is to reconcile the parties in the conflict, she's trying to gather power by gaining recognition of being the person who's trying to smooth things over the pleaser and want to be is somebody who tries to gain favor from the queen bee, and anticipates what people want, but doesn't ask herself what she wants in return. So these girls are rewarded for being just being nice, you know, and they're nice to everybody. The torn bystander is someone who is not very good at saying no, they've got a rubber arm, they're looking at something that's not very nice, it's happening. And they just don't want to say anything. And her silence buys her social status. So she's in the group, and she just keeping quiet, then there's the target, who's the person that they will set upon, and they humiliate. And the hierarchy of the clique is maintained by having someone at the bottom, so someone's got to be there, or it's somebody outside. So this this sort of gossiping and working together, maintains the cohesion of the group. And that target won't always be the same, it will change.Susie Asli:
When I hear that that's, I mean, it's fascinating. And it's unbelievably it resonates in a way that's really uncomfortable. Because it's, I totally recognize that from when I was probably 1213, not older than you kind of, well, I was lucky enough to have a different a non toxic friendship group. But yeah, it resonates in a really uncomfortable way. And I'm just thinking about my daughter as well. Where she fits into that. Really interesting, fascinating.Rachel Richards:
Yes, and for me, when I read that there's a final category called the champion who isn't confined or controlled by this act like a woman box that's been created for this group. And she can take criticism doesn't make people choose friends, you know, she got more high self esteem. And personally, I don't remember when I was in school, actively being member of a group. But part of that was because I moved every year and a half, two years. And only we only stopped when I did go to secondary school, but I joined the secondary school late, and I was used by them to always be the target, because you do because you know that every time you started a new school, you know that you're the odd one out and people will use you to try and gain power or pick on you. And and actually I built some really great defenses. So I was always very pleasant and nice to people and very friendly. And at the same time, I just didn't get sucked into all of the you've got to wear this you've got to fit in. So I was never a smoker. I never felt peer pressure. I just I just looked on. And so once I can sort of see these things, in a way. I was lucky because I just never felt that pressure.Susie Asli:
No, I guess that there are pluses and minuses with that because that also sounds hard to be moving all the time. Yeah, I think it's really important as well to remember why these groups are formed at all like that's really be crucial. It's not just a pattern or a way of of being mean, it's a survival mechanism. Because, you know, as we've spoken about before, on this podcast, we all want to belong. We, as human beings, we want to feel that we belong, we want to be seen and heard for who we are. And for teenagers, that's times 50. Absolutely wants to be, especially maybe, especially girls,Rachel Richards:
because they're moving out of their home. Yeah. And they need to find a new tribe. Yeah,Susie Asli:
they need to need to feel that their belonging. So it's, it's not just, oh, I need to be in this group. It's like, if I'm not in this group, then who am I terrifying? So they would, you know, do use these strategies unconsciously to, to stay in the group. And I think, you know, the target and a lot of the other ones, they fluctuate, don't they they change depending on the weather, probably, or what the queen bees had for breakfast, you know?Rachel Richards:
Yes. And I believe it's, it's wonderful, because I have actually used talk to all my daughters about these roles. And they can, once you talk about them, it gives them power to be able to stand back and say, oh, so I and they can identify them. And in the book, she says, don't, you don't need to use my terms, you can get your daughter to come up with her own terms, because it may not fit perfectly with her group structure. But it's basically what am I seeing here. And once I can identify the role, and what they're trying to achieve, it makes it easier for me to navigate it,Susie Asli:
I think it's brilliant, I think it's brilliant, I'm gonna definitely talk to my daughter about it and have a look at that book. Because it makes it less personal. And it's a pattern that is happening outside of themselves, rather than it being a personal attack, which it also is, but, you know, and it depends on the characters of the girls it doesn't it I mean, it personalities are very different. That brings me very different. I have a daughter and and she wouldn't mind me saying this, she's quite aware of it. She's very, very sensitive. She's very sort of empathic. And so we've done when she was younger, and, and we revisit it sometimes she, she, she finds it hard to set boundaries. So we've done some role playing and you know, just trying to help her to, to, you know, learn that it's okay to to say no, so not quite sure which will, she'd be but she was definitely one of the she's probably the please, please Am I thinking the police it was probablyRachel Richards:
and actually the the great thing is you coaching her and showing her how she can actually then move beyond that particular role will give a set her up for life. Because once you can identify yourself in that group and see there are some positives and some negatives, it will then give you a structure for the rest of your life to think about how you navigate because you'll be able to spot the people. Okay, I can see what they're doing. And rather than just pleasing them, I can it's okay for me to disagree.Susie Asli:
Yes, because she likes being the pleaser. And then people always come to her for advice. And she likes beach likes having that role is and that's who she is, as well. But it also comes at a price, which is the boundary thing and the exhaustion of it. So yeah, it's really helpful too.Rachel Richards:
And you can tell the strength of a group by the punishment that will be meted out if you disagree with it with the queen bee, or with with a group structure. So if you decide to wear something that doesn't fit within the group, you will be punished. Yeah, or, you know, whatever the categories aren't. Interestingly, she points out that there are two key things that are used to keep the control and one is teasing. And one is gossip. And the teasing is interesting. Because of course, teasing is the cornerstone of great friendship. I look at the teasing that my husband and his friends hand out and it's vicious. But it's hilarious. And it's just part of their being a great mates and nobody really takes offense to expand Exactly. And this is great when you can and my daughters are even said Oh, it's you know, when you're great friends with someone when you can banter, nobody takes offense. Then there's unintentional bad teasing, where when the girl says actually Oh, that was really quite hurtful. The other girl will say, Oh, I'm so sorry. I really didn't mean to offend you. That's just unintentional. But there's a lot of what they call the cutting, teasing, where there's an attack on the most vulnerable area. And then when the girl tries to say, that was really upsetting the responses, can't you take a joke? Yeah. Or you know, what's wrong with you? You You're such a bitch.Susie Asli:
I also think you have to be quite emotionally mature to be able to say to somebody that what you just said really hurt me, please don't do that again. And I definitely wasn't able to do that at the age of 1314. Definitely not. So you have to be able to Yeah, maybe, you know, learn that it's actually okay to say that. But yeah, I don't thinkRachel Richards:
so. And I've seen a lot of, you know, the extent to which certain girls will go to a teacher and complain, rather than go directly to the other girl because they just they just don't feel empowered because they feel that girls aren't supposed to do that. And what we need to do is coach our daughters to say it's okay, yeah, it's okay to tell somebody and express it, because the boys will probably just punch each other.Susie Asli:
Yeah, and also the met with them that it's a banter that maybe just went too far rather than it has to be taken to a level where, where, you know, oh my goodness, you were bullying or you know something ridiculous when it was just learning isn't a learning Yes.Rachel Richards:
And that cuts out the the unintentional teasing where it was bad teasing, but they didn't actually realize because there will be an extent to which they stumble, these teenagers say these things.Susie Asli:
How much? How much of where is okay, and where is not? Where do I need to rein it in?Rachel Richards:
Yes. And coming to the gossip, but 99.9% of girls gossip. It's the lifeblood of cliques and popularity. It's fun. And what is gossip? So I used to live with one of my best male friends who, when I'd come home, he'd come he used to work in the attic and come hammering down the stairs and say, Hey, what's the gossip? Because he was bored. And he just wanted me to come up with and I felt the pressure to come up with something really funny and interesting. Yeah. And that's the thing when someone's because they either say, what's the gossip or they're looking for gossip? You kind of need to come up with something. So a girl who's got some good gossip, you know, good beef, then buys currently its currency. Right? Yeah.Susie Asli:
And maybe there's a difference between fun anecdotes, it's funny and and light. And then there's gossip, isn't there where you're putting somebody else down? And that becomes a bit? I don't know whether they were the the root of that is quite tribal, isn't it? It's when you're us against them. And and I found this story out. And we're all right, aren't we? Because we're not in it. But those people over there. And that that can be really toxic. So there are different kinds of talking about others.Rachel Richards:
Absolutely. And she breaks it down in the book where she says, There's venting, where you go to a friend, and you say, you just let off steam is a pressure cooker, and you just let it off. Or you say I'm so irritated with this person, because they did this blah, blah, blah. And then it that person then goes on until someone else that's gossip. Yeah. So it's actually talking to your daughter and say, so by the way, if you go and tell one person, how you're feeling about something, or someone comes and tells you, when you start handing that on to other people, you're now gossiping. Yeah. And think about the impact that might have and why you're doing it, what are you trying to buy with telling other peopleSusie Asli:
that's absolutely, and I've also experienced, around our dinner table, you know, someone will come in with a story about someone and, and, and it's how you respond to it as well, because sometimes it's just a funny story. And then it's haha, you'll laugh, but sometimes I've been told something by my kids where I actually think that was a really sensitive subject, and I've responded as such thing, you know, pull them, are they okay, you know, let's have a look at that. And, you know, I'm completely killed joying that story. But I think it's really important to show them that, you know, there was a line there with compassion, and no, you know, not judging them for telling it. But you know, just showing them that actually, maybe that's not a good sharing story. And and maybe you need to check in on with your mate and check there. Okay. So we can model that. Yeah, not all story is up for grabs.Rachel Richards:
These are very delicate areas, you have to sort of each time you have to pick apart things. What was was that really that bad? Or was it? Yeah, andSusie Asli:
are you laughing at something that's happened? Or are you laughing at them as a person? You know, how judgmental Are you being? Is it justified? It's a, it's a really fine line between a lot of those things?Rachel Richards:
Yeah. So the parents will involvement in terms of just explaining what gossip is and explaining how you deal with these things. strategizing, really is what you need to do going in and saying, Oh, well, I'll fix it up is what happens when they're little. And one of my daughters was brilliant, because she said, God, you know, it's much harder now. Because when you when I was little used to call up the parent and say, Should we have a playdate and everything was fine. And it's not like that. Now I have to fix it myself. And I said, yeah, yeah, you do. It's not my job. And but I can listen to you help you think through what's happening, and how you can deal with it.Susie Asli:
Yes, that's all we can do. Really. I mean, that's, and that's a really important role.Rachel Richards:
And it shows that you've got her back, if you will prepare to listen to what's going on in if they come to you with something. This is really a big thing. If they mentioned it to you don't dismiss it as something that's literally they said, it's not really anything. Don't believe it. If they've told you, it means that they want you to help them strategize it, they don't want you to tell them what to do. They want you to think through with them. How do I cope with what's going on? And in the book, there's a really great section that's where she that she calls seal SEL and it's an acronym for stop and strategize. So write down every detail so something's happened. Just sit down and you know, where were you Who was it? What did they say, you know, how did it make you feel? And this is important for them to unpack their feelings but also just in case it escalates and becomes a problem. Then you have information that you can hand on to somebody more authoritative. And then coach them on how they can explain to that person, what she doesn't like about what has happened, and what she wants that person to do you know what happens next? So rather than just saying you upset me, you need to go to say so. So this is what I want. Yeah.Susie Asli:
Or how does it mean? How did it make you feel from that so that it's not finger pointing? It's like, when you do that, that made me feel so and so.Rachel Richards:
Yeah. And she says, it's critical. Number one, that this doesn't happen electronically. I mean, I've watched some of these conversations. And, you know, my older daughters, the way that they conversed, is just half of it is shorthand. Yeah. How's anyone supposed to understand really what you mean? And also, the problem with electronic communication is it's amplified everything. So we've you send messages, and you're trying to have a discussion, that way, they can screenshot it, send it to other people? No, just No, at all. And also, if you're trying to tell the person they upset you, the important thing is to do it on their own. Because if they're in front of any of their other potty, then they will feel the need to stand their ground rather than do the right thing.Susie Asli:
Yeah. And and from a mindfulness perspective, as well. I mean, I think they're all really great strategies. But from a mindfulness perspective, it's kind of turning inwards, isn't it? How do I, how do I feel, you know, that kind of classic how to how to the people you're with make you feel like both while you're with them, but also really importantly, afterwards? Because we all know those people where we think, Oh, it's really lovely and fun. And then afterwards, actually, we're completely drained and depleted in a kind of off way. Sort of questioning? How do people make you feel? And do you want to repeat that? Yeah, that'sRachel Richards:
actually a really great point. So it's looking at so is this friendship group or this particular friendship? Really? What is it doing for me as it is, it's so exhausting, that I actually can't function?Susie Asli:
For me, it's kind of toxic in a way. And and teaching, you know, as adults and as kids that, you know, we don't have to stay there. No, we don't have to stay there. Or if we do want to stay there, which is also completely valid. How can we how can we take care of ourselves in that context? How do we need to set better boundaries? Do we need to add no dip in and out or? Or whatever it is, but we don't have to keep doing it. But we can't tell that until we've looked inwards,Rachel Richards:
which absolutely, and the dangers of being locked into a role where you suddenly realize this role doesn't serve me well, at all. I've got to always be entertaining, or I'm the square one and nobody, you know, I, I don't know how that happened. But somehow on that. And I've always said to my girls, you're you're who you are many things. Don't let their perception of you define you. Yeah, don't think you've got to stay that way. Just take say to them, I'm a teenager, and I'm changing. Yeah. And they are soSusie Asli:
the time like both with what they like doing, but also with who they are. I mean, the vibes that we send out are everything. Again, if we were not if that they change when you're 14 1516, like every week, yes. And what you look for stays the same.Rachel Richards:
Absolutely. And what you've touched on is the a bit of the seal is affirming your right to exist without having people humiliate her. So she needs or he even needs to say, You know what, I have a right to spend time in this group or in this school, without you making me feel humiliated, so that's not okay. And then locking in or locking out of the relationships. So like you said, have a thing is this actually what I really want, because each time we stumble, it gives us a chance to grow.Susie Asli:
But with the compassion as well, that actually at that age, it's terrifying to not be in. So yeah, even the awareness that this is an uncomfortable place for me to be, it doesn't really feel very nice for me. But the alternative is way worse. Yeah, and sort of trying to help themRachel Richards:
with and then ways that they can decompress when they you know, so that they can cope in the group and then just go home, or to,Susie Asli:
you know, get them to understand somehow and you know, most adults struggle with this as well. You are right on your own, you don't need, you don't need to be in a toxic relationship, you're better off andRachel Richards:
one of the points she makes in the book is that there are girl world rules about expressing your anger. And these are subliminal rules. And when I read them, I thought, Oh, God, of course. And they're things like in girl world, you can't be too overt about academic or athletic accomplishments. So unless you're in the girl World Group, which is all about athletics, so they will exist those groups where they're all the sporty girls, and they're just spending time together. Girls internalize and suffer silently until someone makes them explode. They tend to laugh it off to convince themselves that they don't have to take their feelings seriously. All they give the person the silent treatment. This is the one that guys always say, well, they give the person the silent treatment until the person notices and asks What, what's wrong, then they deny their anger and they say no, it's fine. It's fine. I'm okay. And then they get crossed with a person because they couldn't read their mind. Yeah, I've seen a lot of adults doing that. Oh,Susie Asli:
Got all that? I mean, I kind of hit a here those and I kind of hope that girls are moving beyond the you can't be sport, you can't be academic. And I think that is changing. But slowly, I'm sure that they can shine and whatever floats their boat without being, you know prejudiced against the anger issue I think is really interesting. I think it's, you know, girls are still supposed to be quiet and nice and compliant within a school setting, even though that's, I think, changing a lot outside. And which is, as we know, absolute rubbish. And so, so unhelpful. But anger is, is just seen as this horrible explosion, whereas OFTEN ANYWAY, anger is a secondary emotion. And there's probably something else underneath it, whether sadness or fear, or something is the core emotion and anger is an expression of that. But that we all feel anger, you know, but it needs to obviously be expressed in a in a helpful and healthy way. But how about we teach girls to do that, instead of telling them to be quiet and nice, nice, nice.Rachel Richards:
I've had teacher I've actually had a teacher say to me a while ago. Oh, you know, I've told them, they've got to be nice. And I just said, Look, with all due respect, please don't tell my daughter to be nice. That doesn't mean that what do you mean? What is nice? It's meaningless, you want to actually be much more clear in what is expected of her behavior. So let's, let's set some clear parameters of what is good and whatSusie Asli:
isn't. And you would never tell a boy, I'm sure she would never tell a group of boys just to be nice. They would, you know, and the Boyega thing is fascinating. And I will talk about that another time. But it's really different.Rachel Richards:
Yes, yes. And there's Bill of Rights, which I will stick into the podcast notes if I can find enough space, because there's always it's always a bit of a squeeze the space. But you know, it's in terms of what can you expect from your friendships, and you can just get your daughter to sit down I and your son? What do you think makes a good friend? What's a bad friend? What can you expect? And then, you know, what are the values of what you think is a good friend, because this is actually all about relationships? Generally, it's not just about friends, and it will shape their ethics and their future life, and then say to her, how does that friendship group that you're in match up to that?Susie Asli:
That's a brilliant way of doing it? Because then that's again, making them look inwards? What are their values? And that's such an important exercise for us all to know, what are our values? What do we think is important, but also maybe within a context of compassion, so that so that we don't have a like, a list of rules of oh, well, if you if you don't do that, then you're out. But you know, that it's also a learning platform, and we love our friends. And yes, they can mess up. But let's how to how can we learn to, to voice it? When if, okay, well, what you did made me feel like this, so that they're learning and it's not just in or out kind of scenario.Rachel Richards:
Absolutely. And then I've got another one, which is the true apology, which he talks about in his book. I mean, honestly, by the book, it's great, but it's quite, it's quite overwhelming, because there's so many scenarios that she goes through. So you'll learn a lot if you can actually sit and read it, or it's a very good book, but you know, explaining to your daughter what a true apology looks like. And one of them being that when someone apologizes to you don't just say, Oh, it's okay. Now, you thank them for the apology, because you may still be angry. And you need to be able to say, you know, I thank you for that apology. You made me do that. Feel this? And you know,Susie Asli:
that's interesting. Yeah. Because I think my daughter, definitely, she hadn't run in a while back quite a while back. And she got an apology finally. Which was great. And she just wanted it to be over. So she was very much it was okay, it's all fine. And I picked her up on it and said, It's not fine. Still there was it? I mean, it's really brilliant. She's apologized, but just you know, careful how you worded that, you know, thank you so much for the apology really appreciated. And maybe next time we can do this this.Rachel Richards:
Yes. So plan for action next time. Should we actually talk about it? Yeah. SoSusie Asli:
learning platform really isn't it? IsRachel Richards:
it is, as your daughter had a tumultuous time with friendship groups, is she floating on the outside or even checked out of the competition? Or are you one of the lucky parents whose daughter is in a school with this isn't a major issue. I posted a fantastic video about this called I've got your back on our private Facebook group. One of our listeners has even got her boys to watch it so that they have a better insight into girl world and the pressures they're under. We'd love to hear any of your thoughts on this topic and any other issues you would like us to cover privacy guaranteed. Find us on all social media platforms and help our teenagers untangle.com. Now a teacher I spoke with said that the one thing she struggles with most is her students all seem to give up at the very first hurdle. She wants us to look at what's happening, and strategies we as parents can use to encourage our teams be seen your kids giving up at the first hurdle.Susie Asli:
Yeah. And this subject, to be honest, triggers me slightly.Rachel Richards:
Which is always interesting. It's kind of it's a bit it's a bit like the previous one we did which is you You know, when you when your child wants to give something up that they've been perfecting for ages, different angle?Susie Asli:
Yeah, yeah, exactly. It's really similar to that. And it's really that balance between to do anything that is really worthwhile and satisfying, we have to step out of our comfort zone, which can feel as in the name uncomfortable. And, you know, maybe push ourselves a bit to do it and put the work in whatever that looks like. And then the other side is this idea of striving. And, and non striving is a big part of mindfulness. So when you know, when we're striving in a way, that's an unhealthy for us, we're just, you know, we're working, it's just really stressful, it's toxic. So I think there's also there's still a tradition of, you know, you can't be a quitter, you've got to keep going, you've got to do these things, you know, keep going, keep going, keep going, whatever the cost is. And I think it's really important not to do that, either. Because that's obviously not a helpful place to be. And I think as parents, we sometimes myself included, you know, we worry that they're giving everything up that we you know, where will that end and, but at the end of the day, kids are hungry to learn, they want to learn things, they want to do things. And we are a bit in a situation where we have stuck our kids, and this is my opinion, I'm slightly opinionated. We stick our kids in school very young, we shove a lot of information at them, and we expect them to sit for hours learning all this information, and then we go when they're eight, or why don't they want to learn anymore? Why Why? Why are they full? Why are they? Why are they disconnected from school? Not all of them. I know, but some of them. And it's, you know, that's not really rocket science, in my opinion. But really, if we leave them alone a bit more, then they will probably drift a bit. And then they'll go, oh, that that's what I want to learn. And that's the whole, you know, the whole, the whole thing about unschooling is that, you know, at some point, they'll go, I want to learn that, and then they'll learn it immediately. And I can see it with my eldest at the moment. He's, you know, he does his own thing. And driving is really important to him. So he's like, he's super motivated. So it's a fine balance, but we do have to step out of our comfort zones as well. So it is a balance.Rachel Richards:
Yeah. So it for us parents, I think there's there's a fear. And I think in terms of giving parents help, yes, to an extent letting your child make mistakes is very valuable. And you know, all the psychologists say this does work as a strategy rather than picking up everything. And because we're so fearful, stepping in and trying to fix them things we do need to let them make their own mistakes. Research by Seligman, Peterson and Duckworth looked into the most successful people, you're gonna be like. These are people who are capable of doing great things, whatever they are, you know, whether they're sport or work or music or anything, they say there are 24 behaviors, which can be grouped into seven key character traits. Are you ready?Susie Asli:
Yeah, we lasting more categories.Rachel Richards:
So the zest, grit, self control, hope, or optimism, curiosity, gratitude, social intelligence. And there's a sort of organization called KIPP NYC, which has designed a sort of big message saturation of the strengths that they've been sort of trying out in an educational environment. And they claim that this program, what they do is they take grade point average scores, which is these horrible measures that we use all the time on kids, and they put character Point Average Scores next to them. And so they they're constantly telling them about what the character traits are, that helped people and they say, the graduation rates of Kip alumni has have doubled. So if you're measuring people on graduation, it's successful. Yeah, that's a huge difference. But coming back to us as parents Brene Brown, the author of Gifts of Imperfection, who we love, she says we cannot give our children what we do not have ourselves. So this is a very, very important point, which is the way we talk about our own challenges and our own successes, is going to have a dramatic impact on our children. So if you're telling your children, your teenagers, they've got to do this, that and the other and they're seeing none of that in your own behavior. It's going to be a bit of a problem. And it's all very well saying like go out to work every day and I'm having to do stuff. It's sort of meaningless to them. And we've also got to combat what's happening in their lives. So for example, there's a YouTuber called Emma Chamberlain who one of my daughters pointed out, and she said, I love her because she's so authentic. She doesn't wear loads of makeup, she burps and farts and she just, you know, she's living this great life and she just talks about all her anxieties and things and she's bought a house with the proceeds. And she doesn't have to work. She's basically just, you know, YouTubing her life. And so I watched some of it. And I said, she's great because she is real. So I can see why she's appealing. And she has become massively successful. The big problem is the add on was, oh, and you know, look at what she's managed to buy. She's doing nothing. And I say, Well, you know, you say that, but she's literally living in a goldfish bowl, and she's probably working full days, trying to package herself.Susie Asli:
Yeah, YouTubers actually do spend a really, really long time doing what they do. And it make it look easy, because that's what they want it to look like. So theyRachel Richards:
make it look effortless. And, and actually, the girl is showing resilience. She's She she'll make mistakes with what she's doing. And then she tries again. And so actually, there is all of that is in these YouTubers, but it looks effortless. Yeah. And that's the difficult, that's the lie that our teenagers are being fed.Susie Asli:
I love the Brene Brown thing there. I mean, we have to bottle things if it's going to be authentic for our children. And I also think it's really important. I love all those words, the zest and that that list that you read out, I think they've done wonderful things, and if they help kids brilliant, but I also think it's really important that it the intention behind the words is, is crucial. If it's coming from a place of fear, where a lot of things do come when we're talking about our kids, and whether we want them to be a success, whatever that looks like. It's fear based often, you know, so you also have to have this deserted. And of course they have to do today on becomes another burden, which is really stressful. Or is it?Rachel Richards:
What have you ticked today? Yes. Basically,Susie Asli:
you're not doing that either? Or is it coming from a, you know, a more wholehearted place, if this is a really lovely value that I'd love for you to integrate into your life. And I'm I'm doing it to kind of thing, let's do it together.Rachel Richards:
That's a different way. It's also looking at yourself and saying, Okay, I don't get it. All right all the time. So here I am trying to exhibit grit and resilience. And there's the grit and resilience of the key ones that people all the big buzzwords aren't they. And grit is something we earn and develop through experience. You can't give somebody grit, they have to work it out themselves. And resilience is how we come out of or recover from hardship when things go wrong. Are we able to get up and, and actually, it's a wonderful brain development. Resilience is where when you fall over, and then you think, Okay, I've just got to get up and carry on your brain changes, there's neuroplasticity there. And while they're growing, while they're teenagers, if they can get experiences where they manage to get back on the horse. And, and because they want to actually achieve something, rather than the because they got a parent who's actually gonna, you know, don't get out thereSusie Asli:
needs to be within again, it's the intention behind it's the context of compassion that actually yes, it's really important to have grit and resilience, you know, they have wonderful characteristics. And some days, it's okay not to have it. Some days, it's okay to just lie down and go, do you know, what can't be asked today?Rachel Richards:
Yes. And too much stress actually damages the prefrontal cortex, which is the bit that's about self regulation. And, and it's, you know, when they, their brains are plastic, we need as much of that as we can, because they don't have an awful lot.Susie Asli:
They even smaller, so puttingRachel Richards:
them up on under too much stress actually will weaken that prefrontal cortex, and then they'll, they'll do other, you know, high risk behaviors. So it's actually better not to be pressurizing and stressing them. The biggest problem is that fear of failure, that's the thing that stops people. So if you think about teenagers, they're surrounded by these friendship groups that we've been talking about. And then they have to in front of them, do something that's hard, where they may not be very good at it. So what are you going to do? Are you going to put your neck on the line and say, are, you know, I'm going to try really hard at this? And then when I fail, I look, idiot, or if I say are no, I'm not bothered? Then you know, you've lost no face when you can't do it. You're like, I didn't really care. I didn't try. So it's actually easier to take that track. So Professor Martin Seligman talks about pessimistic people, and optimistic people and the pessimistic people tend to think of mistakes as personal. So it's because of who you are. They're permanent. And they're pervasive. They're everywhere. Whereas optimistic people will think of mistakes as impersonal. It's not they are not the mistake. They made a mistake is very different. They think about mistakes is very specific. So it was that's one thing that's happened that doesn't reflect on anything else that's happening. And it's short term. Yeah, it can be fixed.Susie Asli:
Yeah, that's a really interesting way of looking at it. It's not a personal thing is it and I guess you know, that links back to self worth, doesn't it if you if what you do is linked to, to yourself worth and making a mistake will, you know will cause feelings of shame and of feeling not good enough and really all sorts of uncomfortable things.Rachel Richards:
And the sentence I love is losing something you do not some someone you are. Yeah. And the problem is they will walk around and loser loser. Yeah, it does make it. But it really helps in adulthood because, you know, I was doing a lot of creative writing. And I remember the teacher saying, you've got to separate yourself from the writing. Yes, it's just writing. It's not you. And it's and I'm, I have no problem with separating myself from my writing, which is, you know, great helps me, it doesn't make it good.Susie Asli:
But yeah, so musician, I can relate to that as well. Because it's you know, you are you are actually expressing a part of yourself. And then it's really easy to take that personally. So I thinkRachel Richards:
we're getting at something here, when you, when you put something important into an activity, and really try you're really putting yourself on the line, because you feel that by really putting something into it. And then failing, that it says something about you. Yeah. Whereas what we need to say to our teenagers and to ourselves, is when you put something into it, and it doesn't work, it's got nothing to do. It's just, you know, try again, yeah, that particular strategy may not work, let's have another go. Yeah. And it takes time to get good at thingsSusie Asli:
and recognizing that you are, again, Brene, brown, recognizing that when you do that you are putting yourself in a position of vulnerability. And that is also needs to be taken care of, you know, you are making yourself vulnerable when you are, you know, when our teenagers are doing something that's important to them, or it's an exam that they want to do well, and it's that there's a risk in that. So that's why you hear often teenagers going or haven't really revised a horse and nothing, because they probably have, but they it's much easier to go, Well, I got a bad grade, but I didn't realize, yeah, I suppose it's not an eye with me, you know, busted my could have done it off for that. And I still got a D looksRachel Richards:
like it's interesting, isn't it that psychology. I mean, what we do as a family is we like to go on big hikes. And one of my daughters doesn't particularly like them. And particularly when they some of them are really extreme because we hike up mountains. And you know, my my, I say to you need to find techniques for coping with, you know, when you're not enjoying it when you experiencing discomfort. And we do these hard things out of the classroom and out of the difficult parts of our lives so that we know that we can confront things in the difficult part thatSusie Asli:
is so important. That's the one of my favorite parts of the mindfulness course I teach teenagers in schools is learning how to sit with discomfort. And we do just briefly we do two different things. And actually think is one of the most important things because we are as a society rubbish sitting with discomfort. And that's not the same as inviting people to sit with things that are intolerable or are not helpful for them. But little bits of discomfort are really important. So what we do is we I give them a piece of chili, and they sit and eat that. And then they you know, they use the tools that I've taught them breathing and regulation. And of course, they can spit it out if they don't want it. But it's learning how can you sit with a little bit of discomfort and knowing that it will pass. And the other one we do near the end of the course, which particularly the boys enjoy is they have to pass an electric shock ball around. Which is really, really fun. And they you know, the nerves of it. And it's you know, it's random electric shocks. And they're really mild, usually. But the the idea that they're going to have a bit of discomfort, what does that feel like? And then afterwards, how can you regulate because your nervous system has gone a bit AWOL? How can you regulate and come back to being Okay, again, and we as a society, not very good at that. So it's very important that we learn to sit with a little bit of discomfortRachel Richards:
and being able to know that it will pass and that you can move on beyond it and really interesting. So self acceptance is critical. And it makes a person okay, no matter what's going on. So these kids who are in classrooms, and they're sitting looking around at their mates, and they don't want to admit that they're quite like to try this, but they're scared of failing, we can coach them. And the ways to coach self acceptance are to validate and coach through all their emotions, like you said, Do you feel this? Okay? This is the way to cope with it, using the mindfulness to not to judge yourself and your other friends. And modeling and teaching positive self talk, for example, I've been confronted by my daughter because she said, Yeah, well, you got to finish things. You've got to finish them. I said, like, what are you? What are you getting out? And she said, you've got that big project at the back where you were going to make this massive herb garden and look at it, look at it. When are you going to finish that? And I said, Ah, now that's a really interesting one because I started out, I planned it all out. I'd read a book on herb gardens. This is amazing. I definitely need a herb garden. And I'd seen things on Instagram, you know, I did all of the work. And then when I started the project, I realized that the sunlight wasn't quite right and it's a learning experience is an iterative process. says because I am not a garden designer, if I bought a garden designer and they would have gone out and eaten, they're just not gonna work. But obviously, I don't know that stuff. So I'm and I'm not afraid of failing. So I'm not afraid that if I start this project, and it's not quite right, that I need to work. And so it said, so what I realized when I had that conversation was with her was there in the back of her mind, she had been really annoyed with me, because she thought, Oh, here you are, you just start things and you give them up willy nilly, nothing gets finished. But in actual fact, we need to be open about the process, the iterative process that happens in life, very often, there's some things are discrete projects, where they start and finish very quickly. And other things you set out on that path, and you have to you hit, you hit a bump, and you go, okay, it's fine. I'll just swerve. Yeah, I'll just, you know, I'm not gonna give up and just forget about it. It's reallySusie Asli:
important. Yeah, that reminds me of, or two things are in our home, I think probably the best learning for all of us was when my eldest had horrible back issues. And then he had to do physio, really boring physio exercises. And it took us a really long time to find out what was wrong. It was a long, boring story. And basically, I did physio with him for months, every evening. The accumulative effect of that was that it kind of made him feel better on his back, because he'll, but in the tight at the time, you know, using these tiny little exercises, and you think really is is going to help. But what a great learning that actually if you do tiny bit every day, then the bigger picture is, wow, it makes a huge difference. So I'm hopingRachel Richards:
less, I think we need to reinforce it by saying so did you know Yes, yes. I think quite often that it can get lost in all the noise of life. Yes. And that's what I had been getting wrong. But I hadn't actually said by the way, what I'm doing is this. Yes. And so coming back to the teenagers, they're going into school. Listen for what they say. For example, I'm crap at maths. Well, no, you're practicing some exercises. When you find that you can't do something you get a bad mark that just shows you what you haven't got your head around. Yeah. So let's just you know, so So now you know where to target to get better. I'm completely uncoordinated. I can't play netball. Well, no, if you keep practicing, you're going to get better. You know, you are going to give it sports. So for example, one of my daughters really is mal coordinated. Three of my toys. I stepped it was mold mal coordinated. I can't do any of that. Well, actually, you can either say okay, I'm going to find something that plays to my strengths. Yes. Or what I'm going to do is just keep practicing. And one of my daughters when she first started doing one particular sport, every single time she did it looked like she'd never done it in her life. Yeah. And it was almost comical. And I had to stand behind her and say it's okay, you're doing really well. This is amazing. It's amazing. Just to get her through that self. And now she's fantastic at it amazing. Because those those skills develop. Yeah, because she's doing it as ours, isn't it? Exactly. So it's about saying, Okay, who cares? If I'm in the D team? Yeah, I'm gonna go out there, have some fun and get, you know, get a bit sweaty and go and be with some mates and just run around a bit. So it's about sort of reframing it so they don't feel bad that they're in the D team. They feel like they're actually gaining from it,Susie Asli:
because we have they're up against the society that that kind of says, if you're good at something, you were a better person.Rachel Richards:
Or that you're instantly good at something you're talented or you're not. Yeah,Susie Asli:
yeah, absolutely black and white like that. And if they can understand and this is a really big ask for most of us, you know, they can understand that they are good enough just by being themselves as you are good enough, just as you are. I can'tRachel Richards:
think of a better way to end this segment. Coming up in our next episode, we take a look at parenting teens on your own. For some it's because one parent takes little interest or is absent because of work for many others like Susie is having to navigate stormy skies without a copilot. And our question comes from Simon who says my teenage son is mostly moody, with the odd spell of thunder. He brings everyone down. How do I know if it's just typical teenager or something worse? And what can I do about it? We'd love to hear from you. We can be found on Facebook, Instagram, and you can email us on help at teenagers untangled.com Don't forget to subscribe on places like Spotify and audible so you don't miss an episode. And tell your friends. Right you've made it to the end of this episode. Have a pat on the back and leaning close because I have one last thing that you need to know. You are a great parent. And you are enough just as you are. Goodbye. Bye bye for now.