By Jane Balvanz, MSE, RPT
Professional School Counselor
Over the years, as I’ve learned and taught about relational aggression, I’ve come to understand that there’s a small percentage of girls (and boys) who seem to escape it. They are rarely on the receiving or giving end. I’ve no hard data on the exact percentage, but through casual inventory in many classrooms over several decades, the soft data shows it’s usually one or two kids out of 30.
My inventory is simple. I ask this question to grades 5-12 classrooms, “Who is someone your age that seems to get along with and is liked by everyone? “ This question will ensure a lively discussion! I then ask the students what qualities that person possesses to cause this effect. With little variation, I get the following answers:
- She’s nice to everyone.
- She doesn’t talk badly about others.
- She seems to fit into any group.
- She’s not interested in the drama.
- She helps others.
- She’s honest.
- She doesn’t get involved in gossip or rumors
I next ask the question, “What does this information mean for you and your friendships?” This gives the students more time for discussion and self-reflection on ways they want to be.
I came up with this survey once when thinking about an old friend, Patty Martin.
I don’t know how it was for her, but it was good for me…being Patty Martin’s friend. During grade school, I didn’t know her well. We went to different schools, but our families went to the same church. So, we knew each other a little from Catechism. Starting in junior high, we got to know each other better. All the incoming seventh graders flowed through the tributaries of their elementary schools and poured into the Junior-Senior High School, all under one roof. It was small town Iowa, and the Beatles had just invaded the US.
Patty always had a twinkle in her eye, and if you got her with a good joke, her nose would crinkle with her big smile. That was well worth the wait! She was smart, like Big- Bang-Theory-Amy-Farrah-Fowler smart, except she has the social graces Amy lacks. Patty was humble about her grades.
Patty came from a farm with four older siblings and two younger. She lived in a palatial farmhouse and did chores. One of my fondest memories was her ski party at her parents’ farm. I recall one pair of skis, several girls, and hot chocolate. We all shared the skis and had a ball trying to navigate one of the bigger hills on the Martin property. Ski Iowa!
I remember Patty as generous with her time and abilities. While I crammed for algebra and chemistry tests, Patty was there to help me study. This was not unique to me, for she helped everyone. I noticed it as a teen but didn’t think of it much then, but Patty didn’t enter into the usual junior high or high school drama. I would think she was pretty near perfect, but her brother Bill assures me she was not.
So, Patty Martin, if you ever read this, please know that I have a friendship inventory named after you. You were (and probably are still) a role model for the seven qualities that keep emotional bullying at bay. Your example lives on and reaches more students than you could ever know. Thanks for being you.
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You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it: Bullying strategists Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish GAPRA’s bi-weekly articles. If you’re ready to guide children in grades K – 12 through painful friendships and emotional bullying:
For help with emotional bullying: www.GAPRAconnect.com
For the When Girls Hurt Girls® program: www.AWayThrough.com