Ever since I wrote an article about helping young women find their voice in the era of “mean girls,” I’ve searched out techniques on how to best teach my daughters about friendship. When conflict arises, how can they speak with assertiveness without being overly aggressive? Turns out I’m not the only one asking.
Redmond parenting expert Sheri Gazitt often works with teen girls and notes that friendship changes during the tween years. Girls grow increasingly less likely to tackle an issue with a friend, instead complaining about said issue to another friend.
“I call this ‘football team effect’: One group is on the side of one girl and another is on the other side,” Gazitt says. “The issue wouldn’t be so big if the girls had just talked face-to-face.”
Learning conflict resolution can help, adds Gazitt, who's the founder of Seattle parent coaching organization Teen Wise. Here's her four-step formula for dealing with conflict. Gazitt learned these tools as part of her training with Rachel Simmons, co-founder of California-based nonprofit Girls Leadership.
- Say something nice, such as acknowledging your friend’s importance: “I really appreciate our friendship and I love spending time with you.”
- State your feelings: “I felt unimportant, frustrated and sad when you canceled plans at the last minute.”
- Admit your contribution: “I’m sorry I was rude to you and that I told friends about this.”
- Suggest a way to solve the problem: “In the future, I would like it if you canceled plans earlier and made an attempt to reschedule. I’ll be kinder in return and talk to you instead of other friends.”
When Gazitt teaches girls this technique, she tells them this skill feels more natural the more often they use it, while noting they’ll be using it the rest of their lives. In my house, they’ve taken up permanent residence on our kitchen bulletin board.
Looking for more tween girl guidance?
Teen Wise is hosting a workshop, “You Got This! Middle School Made Easy”, for sixth-grade girls from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, September 10, at the Sammamish Teen Center.
This workshop includes the following one-hour sessions for girls:
- Organizing for School Success with Lynette Apley of Simply Placed — Talk about how girls can set themselves up for academic success
- Fantastic Friendships: The New Social Landscape with Sheri Gazitt — Explore how friendship connections become more about how interests line up, along with why some friendships end or change form
- Teens Tell All — Current seventh and eight graders will join the girls for lunch, giving them the inside scoop
- Mindset Matters: Your Approach to Life with Julie Ann Pickett of A Changed Mindset — Help teens take on a growth mindset by making choices instead of letting life happen to them and understanding that failure isn’t horrible
- Becoming Independent But Staying Close with Erin Aitken of Mother-Daughter-ology — Reminds participants that reaching out to parents when they need them is helpful as they become more independent
This five-hour program includes a special session for parents, too. From 2 to 3 p.m., learn how to change parenting tactics to make way for a daughter’s emerging independence while remaining close.
Pre-registration is required; the event costs $299. (Microsoft employees can use their benefits to cover the cost of registration.) While parents can drop their daughters off, they are required to attend the one-hour parent session.