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Meeting power with (a different kind of) power

I watched this presentation yesterday (video and slides are available from the link): Mean Girls (and Boys!): Why Young Children Act In Unkind Ways and How To Help, Claire Lerner, LICSW - Early Childhood Webinars

My favorite slides are here:

This talk was recommended to me by a staff from an Early Years program, who I met when my eldest was in preschool and my middle was a baby. I never saw her as very warm and fuzzy towards kids, but clearly she cares, and she has issues with the way the school does things, which is why she is not in the school system, and maybe I misread her. She shared this with me, along with great advice, to try to set our middle up for a better school year, next year.

What I find interesting from the slides I selected above, is that they define "schooling" as "an attempt to convince the other to change their ways", that is not why I send my kids to school! But it's probably why my efforts to shed light on things that need to change, tend to fail.

The talk shares that kids who are mean (or who use relational aggression) know what is right and wrong (so empathy training is not what they need), they will tell you correctly what is right and wrong, they know how the other feels, but they do things that are wrong (sometimes in a very sneaky way that follows the "rules" of "being nice") because they are insecure, have self-doubt, feel uncomfortable with the complexity of group dynamics, experienced a loss of power at home (i.e., the birth of a younger sibling), are highly sensitive and feel so out of control on the inside, so they are very controlling on the outside to try to gain more predictability, by bossing others around and making threats to tell the teacher. They fear rejection and are flooded with shame, so they behave in ways that we may find appalling, this triggers us, and they don't know how to change.

Also from the talk: they need non-judgmental empathy, they know when they are not liked by their teacher, telling kids how to feel is a losing battle, we need to allow them to need what they need. Lay some ground rules for group and solo activities, narrate what happened to them, and ask questions about how they think the other felt, and what they think they could have done. We need to be a good listener, reflect back how they feel, help them think it through and gain the skills, not tell them what to do. Show them that we care deeply about them and about things working out well. Get them to see their need and the needs of the others, and what their choices are. Unless the child is actively running away or hurting someone, it is ok to take a moment to think about how to approach the situation and it is ok to repair mistakes made in the past. This teaches self-regulation.

This goes hand in hand with my experiences yesterday, and the project I am working on with a friend for my middle child.

Yesterday, I realized that I get anxiety when I have small pockets of time where I could do some healing work on myself, but I could also be interrupted by my kids being upset with me for me having left them where they are (usually asleep in bed). I realized this comes from when I was a child, and my step father used to come into my room (my safe space), not because I did anything wrong, but because my mom left him, so he had to take it out on someone else. This is a big realization, both to know where my feelings come from, and to use my experience with him to remember how to use my power well.

This is why it is hard for me to feel good about being so well supported, because out of nowhere someone or something can come along and attack me. Hidden enemies, see my next article, which I will link below, when it is done.

This is a post I shared a while ago, because I was upset that people are using pride month as a way to make people who don't agree with pride uncomfortable:

The second experience that I had yesterday was, working with the school to set up a safe space for our youngest child, I watched their team puff their feathers, and add weight to their side of the conversation, unnecessarily, in my opinion. I realized this pattern has been there from the start. We always cc- the principal, at some point you will get gaslit with the party line that "we are all really good staff here", which does not help the parent or child who has a legitimate complaint.

I think we are a work in progress, but at times, revert to old behaviour, because we don't trust our ability with a new behaviour. I am referring to myself, as much as to them. My kids don't want to go to the principal's office, and neither do I. But, I am quite skilled to hear the tone of voice, and change my tone, to try to redirect the conversation to try to create a safer space for everyone. In the past, I have failed to function, and dissolved into tears, and that's not fun.

I cc- my husband on emails, because he is my coparent, and does not want to be left out of the conversation, so their cc may be the same, in a way, but either side may look like a power move, when it is done. I just received a kind email from the school, trying to reassure me and my child that the principals office is not to be feared. It takes time to build trust.

The activity we are building for my middle is based on the concepts from this app: NVC Check-In on the App Store (

And the following prompts, shared with me by a Child Life Specialist at ROCK (reach out center for kids), which my middle likes, paired with the opportunity to write or draw, to release some of the negative emotions, at least for a while, to create some space to be (recommended by ROCK, but also a concept of Esogetic Medicine):

I want to build skills in my child, to be able to be kind, and understanding, even if the other is not being kind or skilled, in a good way. Marshall Rosenberg (founder of NVC) talks about using giraffe language because giraffes have big hearts, in an environment that tends to speak jackal language. Here are some quotes:





This post was not shared with the amount of tact and "no enemy images" that is necessary to support change:

And, for the record, this post (and comment) probably didn't get the visibility it should have, because it guides people to truths that the social media algorithms would rather stay hidden (and some people get intimidated by reading too much or things they can't immediately understand):

I don't expect people to go to or read all the links I share, I just want to collect them somewhere, so they are accessible when needed.

The process we are building for my middle, is intended to help her identify what happened, how each party feels, what each party needs, what strategies were used, what the outcome was, and what could be tried next time.

At times, I feel the school system lacks the level of consciousness needed to support the mean child and the victim, to see that we are all mean at times and we are all victims, engaging in this behavior hurts everyone, and punishment (praise, or rewards) doesn't support learning or change, it just makes things worse. I've never had success enlightening principals with the negative impact I see from their actions (or the values of the school), and I think it's because of my comments shared here: and my post above that contains enemy imaging (the school system appears to be set up to break children and families, under the guise of being politically and socially correct). And seeing them that way, makes it as hard for them to trust me as it is for me to trust them. We are all a work in progress.

My child is the one on the forefront, not me, all I can do is arm my kids with the skills (when they are ready) and the knowledge and willingness to try. Hopefully we can make things better, if not just for my child, than for others too.

I always knew, from our Human Design, that my middle would teach me through the heart, as my eldest taught me through the head, and our youngest is teaching me through others. I realized the other day, as our youngest turned 4yrs, that I am destined to be 3 different moms, as each of them has their natal moon in a different astrological sign. For my eldest, I will be a slippery fish, spiritual, but hard to hold onto (Pisces). For my middle, I will be her equal, seeing the ugly sides of everything (Gemini). And for my youngest, I will learn the lesson I am here to learn, which is to be more balanced and fair (Libra).

More to come in my next article, about "Knowing where we Belong".

I hope this helps in the end, I hope the direction I am heading is more aligned with the path of my soul, which is why I shared the post above, that I feel got less visibility than I thought it should.


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