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Why Kids Can Be Mean

It's sad, but some people feel important when they pick on others. Although kids shouldn't treat other kids this way, it helps to understand why it happens, and to know what you can do about it. If a mean person becomes a leader, that person may use the nasty things she or he says to control others. Kids who aren't in that group may feel pressure to be cruel so that they'll feel included, too. Or, they may be afraid that, if they don't join in, the leader will soon start picking on them.

If you ever find your-self accepted by kids who treat others badly, you may be tempted to act this way, too—even to kids who once were your friends. But do you really want to hang out with mean and disrespectful people—even if, at your school, they are considered the “in” crowd? After all, true friends would never push you to be mean to anyone else just so you could stay friends with them. So "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Never treat anyone like an outcast!

Remember how important it is to be independent. If the kids in a particular group won't accept you, try to ignore their meanness. Once they realize that they're not getting you down, they're likely to lose interest in being mean to you anyway. That's what happened to flutist Martha Aarons when she was in middle school. She was teased for being an excellent student and liking classical music. For a while she tried to learn more about popular music, but she still wasn't accepted. It wasn't until she attended a music camp the summer she was in eighth grade that she found a place where people had similar interests and she could be accepted for who she was. The name-calling stopped after that, or at least it didn't bother her as much anymore.

Rather than worry about the people who don't accept you, look for new friends who will. Get busy with things that interest you, like music, sports, or volunteer work. If you feel sad because you don't have friends, talk to a school counselor about it. Maybe she can organize a friendship session to help the kids talk out their differences. You can also turn to an adult you feel close to—someone whose understanding can help get you through these difficult times.

How Kind Is Too Kind?

Kindness can be a wonderful quality. It suggests that you're sensitive, understanding, empathetic, and good to others. People who are kind as children often grow into adults who continue to do good things. But it's also possible to be too kind. For example, say a friend of yours is struggling in school and asks you to give her answers to a homework assignment. The kind part of you may be tempted—especially if you see that she doesn't learn things as easily as you do. But if you give her your answers, she won't learn, and her schoolwork will suffer. This would hurt her confidence and self-esteem. Besides, the teacher could accuse you of cheating—which of course, you are. The truly kind thing to do is to tell your friend, "No, I can't give you the answers. But if you like, I'd be happy to help you figure it out."

Be prepared—your friend may get so annoyed, she may even want to stop being friends with you. But do you really want to hang onto a friend who not only wants you to cheat but who cuts you out of her life if you won't? Sometimes you have to say no to be true to yourself. Stay strong. Be clear about your values and make sure you take care of yourself.

And Lastly . . . Go for the Goal!

Many people (including psychologists) used to believe that all women should do in life is get married and have children. They believed that women didn't need careers outside the home or beliefs of their own. But that was then. This is now. Today, girls are expected to set goals for themselves and move out into the world. They're expected to decide for themselves who they want to be and what they want to do. This is a wonderful thing—but it isn't easy. Having goals can raise your self-esteem. It gives you a reason to work hard at school, sports, art, relationships, your religion, and doing what you believe is right.

Throughout your life, you'll find that setting goals can be exciting and fulfilling, and that sharing them with other people can be incredibly rewarding. Together or alone, you're always a winner when you set out to achieve your dreams.

Although you won't be able to control everything in your future (no one can), an I CAN girl is more likely to have a fulfilled, happy, and successful life.

2003 by Sylvia B. Rimm, President, Educational Assessment Service, Inc., W6050 Apple Rd, Watertown, WI 53098-3937. 1-800-795-7466. All rights reserved. This publication or parts thereof, may not be reproduced in any form without written permission of the author.
*Excerpted from See Jane Win™ for Girls: A Smart Girl's Guide to Success by Dr. Sylvia Rimm 2003. Used with permission from Free Spirit Publishing, Inc., Minneapolis, MN; 1-866-703-7322; www.freespirit.com. All rights reserved.

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