Updated: Dec 25, 2019
Let’s face it, in today’s technologically advanced society, navigating through a teenage girl’s life is challenging. “Mean girl” culture is all over the media. Our teens are on the cusp of becoming adults, with their minds somewhere in between being an adult and being a child. Teaching a child to walk and talk can seem quite easy, after you have been faced with the emotional roller coaster ride of raising a teenage girl. If you have felt that raising or mentoring a teenage girl is like being on a roller coaster ride, I can assure you that the teenage girl does as well.
For some, my job of owning a dance studio and working with teenage girls, is someone's worst nightmare. For me, it is an honor. I get to do my little part in building our dancer's self-confidence and shaping these dancers into our leaders of tomorrow. And boy, have I learned a lot over the years. In fact, I think one of the most important lessons of life, that I have learned, is that life is a continuous learning process. I continue to grow and learn; and I am always willing to change my ways or expand my mind, when the opportunity to grow presents itself. Teaching kids about learning and growing is what I have spent a lifetime doing; and I don't just teach dance. In fact, a bigger part of my job is teaching life skills.
Navigating through relationships is challenging, even for adults. As a parent or mentor, our job is to help give our children the skills to successfully move onto to the next phase of life. They will have to face many different personal relationships throughout their lives, whether it be at home, with friends or at school or work. Conflict is unavoidable at any age, and difficult relationships are inevitable, and some circumstances will downright make them cringe. That said, one of the most beneficial skills we can teach our teen girls, before they enter adulthood, is how to navigate through relationships and conflict with confidence, while empowering them to be leaders in all areas of their life.
BULLYING VS. SOCIAL FRICTION
The first thing we need to help teach or children, and learn to recognize ourselves, is the difference between bullying and social friction. If you are a mom, or a dad or close mentor of a child, when your child is upset, the “mama bear” in all of us can come out. By nature, it is our instinct to protect our children. To make matters more difficult (in middle school and high school), social friction and hurt feelings are part of the territory. This can cause emotional distress for teens and for the parents and mentors watching over them.
Conflict is unavoidable (let me say that again, conflict is unavoidable), but it can be a place for growth. While there are times when parents or mentors could step in, it is our job to pave the way to adulthood by not dictating the exact route to take, but rather setting up some guidelines and guidance (bumper pads, so to say). We do not need to bubble wrap our teenagers, as this would be doing them a disservice, but we do need to help them develop emotional intelligence, leadership skills and confidence.
It is very easy to confuse conflict with bullying. Bullying should be reserved for repeated, one-way aggression against someone who cannot defend themselves effectively. It is a form of abuse and we need to help teach our kids what abuse is in order to protect them in the future. In bullying circumstances, parent and mentor intervention is most likely required.
What is more common, however, is that your teen will experience social friction, hurt feelings, feelings of inadequancies or feelings of uncomfortableness with their peers. This is conflict, not bullying. Social discord rarely involves bullying. This could range from a misunderstanding, a difference of opinion, a shared secret, a sense of being left out, words that may make you feel insecure or a lopsided friendship. This can cause hurt feelings, and maybe resentment, towards how another's actions or words may have made them feel (intended or unintended). Friction can also cause teens stress in how to address it properly. Teens are in a phase of their life, where how others perceive them is very important. Not to mention social media.
Our teens wish to have a positive social media presence, as well as a positive in-person presence. Everything that is negative, positive, embarrassing, real or made-up, can be posted for all to see in the blink of an eye. I always try to tell my kids, that a lot of what they see on social media is not real, and that people truly living "their best life" would not need to reaffirm their lives on social media so much, and would simply be out there "living life". I believe that happiness and successful relationships are found in one-on-one personal contacts.
Conflict is a common social ailment of human contact and interaction. If your child is facing conflict, we can help teach our kids strategies to manage the conflict and become effective leaders.
Good leaders have healthy and strong relationships with others, up and down the reporting ranks. They tend to have strong negotiating skills and tend to look for results that are good for everyone. They recognize our human differences. They understand that we all have our own story and they recognize that everyone faces their own set of challenges. Strong leadership skills takes practice.
Teens, especially girls, can sometimes fear public speaking or appearing bossy, or have a fear of being disliked. Girls in particular, tend to hate tackling conflicts by human nature. Conflict can be uncomfortable. These statements hit home for myself. I don’t hate minor conflict, however, I hate tackling more difficult conflicts, for fear I may hurt someone’s feelings or that they will dislike me. However, passive aggressiveness is not the best way to handle difficult situations. Facing conflict is the best. It is also okay to know when walk away from situations, when the time is right. This is part of learning how to resolve conflict.
Learning to navigate through conflicts and difficult situations is a good life skill, period. We will face many conflicts with people we find difficult throughout our life, but we will also face conflicts with our friends, as well as our colleagues and spouses. We will never be able to control another person’s behavior or responses, and quite honestly why would we want to (this would be very selfish on our part). However, we are in control of our own behavior.
We need to recognize that children and teens do not automatically know how to be a leader or how to resolve conflict. This requires teaching and training from home, school and other areas of their life. For many, it is not natural, but rather a learned behavior. A child doesn't learn to read overnight, therefore, we shouldn't expect that these skills will be learned overnight either. Teaching good leadership qualities and conflict resolution skills requires regular training, guidance, practice and nurturing.
Below are some great skills we can empower onto our teens that will help them navigate through conflicts and become the leaders of tomorrow.
Leadership Skills to teach our teens
1. Have confidence with your unspoken body language
2. Make eye contact.
3. Use a confident and firm voice
4. Say what you feel and ask for what you need
5. Ask questions
6. Apologize if you did something wrong
7. Know when to walk away
Steps to take when having difficult conversations:
1. Affirm the relationship and how important they are to you
2. Us an “I” statement - I feel __________ when you _____________ .
3. Admit your contribution – “ I know I don’t always __________, I am sorry for _______.
4. Solve it together
Let’s work together to raise a generation of strong young woman with confidence and effective leadership skills.
I wish you effective leadership skills. I wish you self-confidence. I wish you love and support.
I hope you find joy in celebrating each other’s diffences. I hope you always remember that what make us different makes us beautiful.
BE GOOD to others and yourself, your actions and words are noticed, BE SMART and never stop learning, BE NICE (you never know what battles another has or is facing) – BE YOU! You are amazing!
Kim Mader, Footworks Dance Company Director