Growing Courageous Kids

(& Parents!)

How being gifted means being different

Blogging on this site is generally on hold for now, but I came across this and wanted to save…the plight of gifted kids that do not also have gifted social intelligence. Good summary of salient points. I especially resonate due to the fact that I teach social & emotional intelligence to kids as a counselor/coach. Also a topic near and dear to my heart…as Kermit says, “It’s not easy being green!” (Different) even when you’ve become adept, due to EQ/SQ, at hiding it.

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Just an FYI if you stop by here. This blog is on a temporary hiatus (is that redundant?).  I’m still passionate about kids and all things learning, but don’t have a community yet to blog with and I’m spending my time on the other blogs…

You can go to for other writing

and is my personal blog

Until sometime next year!



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Chemistry & The New Girl (Guest Blog)

Chemistry and The New Girl in School: Formula for Relational Aggression

September 11th, 2012

By Jane Balvanz, MSE, RPT
Professional School Counselor

New GirlHaving or working with children makes us future-oriented.  We want the best for our kids, so we’re always preparing them for what may lie ahead.  We send them to school, so they can learn the skills necessary to become self-reliant adults.  At home they learn ways of being modeled by us.  And, anywhere they have friends or classmates, they are learning relationship skills in the here and now.

Two’s Company and Three’s a Whole Different Story

As the saying goes – two’s company and three’s a crowd – a triad of friends often has its troubles.  Early on, this is because kids are just learning to negotiate one-on-one friendships.  Adding one more to the mix is something they’re developmentally unprepared to do.  Time and exposure to more kids will help them develop relationship skills in groups.  Whereas some children have achieved this skill in preschool, it might take others until second grade.

Chemistry and Variables

When a new girl enters school, there’s always a shift in energy and relationships.  This is true for any age.  While this may be of lesser consequence to early elementary age girls, it becomes greater with age.  There are more variables.  Consider these: established groups, romantic interests, organized sports, clubs and organizations, sleepovers, competition for grades or other honors, long-lived friendships, established routines, and more.  Add a new girl to the mix, and the entire chemistry changes.

 Shifts Happen

The new girl has the possibility of becoming the target of relational aggression, but her impact is so much more.  I’ve seen this play out a million different ways.  There’s been the sophisticated, edgy new sixth grader who quickly became the leader of the pack.  She ran the show and decided who was the odd girl out week-by-week.  She hadn’t any seniority, but that didn’t matter.  She ruled.  Then there was the new one who was talented in dance and immediately dethroned the local Dancing Queen (DQ).  DQ rallied her forces and made this new girl’s life miserable.

Change Behind the Scenes

A more typical scenario, though, is the addition of a new girl whose mere presence widely changes the dynamics of many relationships.  Here’s an example.  Mary is the new girl and has readily been accepted into Ellen’s group consisting of Nia, Sarah, Jenn, Guadalupe, and Alice.  Mary’s presence loosens Ellen’s ties with Nia a bit.  No one even notices and no one minds.  Nia becomes closer to Fiona, a girl on her soccer team.  Because of the new group dynamics, Jenn and Sarah drift apart.  Though there’s nothing personal, Jenn finds another group more suitable to her. Keesha moves in and takes her place.  Mary and Keesha immediately become BFFs and do everything together.  So far, no harm, no foul, and the story could easily end here.

The Addition of One and the Domino Effect

What we’re dealing with is displacement from the addition of a new person.  It’s like adding a new ingredient to soup.  It changes everything.  Contents shift. Some may like it, some not.  So, let’s continue setting upright our line of dominoes.

Nia brings Fiona into the group.  Guadalupe and Fiona have never liked each other, and tension builds.  Guadalupe convinces Alice to triangulate against Fiona.  Ellen, who hates conflict, leaves all the drama behind by seeking quieter friends.  All the dominoes have fallen.

Does my scenario seem far-fetched?  I assure you it’s true, and I even simplified so you could follow it.  When you’re able to watch the same kids over time, you have the opportunity to watch how kids grow and change.  You also see how one teeny addition to a system – one girl – can make a big change.  Luckily, there was only one example relational aggression: Alice and Guadelupe against Fiona.

Helping Girls Learn to Adjust to Change and Avoid Relational Aggression

A new girl doesn’t mean automatic trouble, but her addition does mean change.  Even in adulthood, adding a new person to a work or social environment creates some type of displacement and change.  We learn to accept it and change, or we decide to leave that environment.  Our kids need to learn how to do this, too.  Here are some tips to help.

  1. Don’t try to make her every disappointment better.
  2. Do allow kids to make mistakes and learn from them.
  3. Don’t talk negatively about the girls your daughter hangs out with.
  4. Do let girls determine for themselves the strengths and weaknesses of their friends.
  5. Don’t offer gifts or rewards to help a girl through change.
  6. Do listen to and talk with a girl to process her feelings about change.
  7. Don’t join a girl’s pity party for herself.
  8. Do help her break down the problem into solvable or acceptable parts.
  9. Don’t warn a girl about every possible thing that could go wrong in a friendship.
  10. Do teach girls that friendships that don’t feel good need communication to figure out what’s wrong.  Do teach her to leave friendships that feel one-sided with unequal and negative power.

© 2012 A Way Through, LLC

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:

For the When Girls Hurt Girls® program:

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Wednesday Window: Changing Education Paradigms

It’s Wednesday, hump day, and I think a window into a bright mind is called for to get us over the mid-week slump. Thus, Wednesday Windows! Mostly this will be a video window, but not always. If you have something you would like to be shown on Wednesday Window, just let me know!

IF you have seen Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talks you will love this animated talk about education. He mentions ADHD, the industrial foundation of our education system and true divergent thinking. Enjoy!

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The Secret Powers of Time (Wednesday Windows)

This 10 minute video talks about some salient points regarding our kids and how their time perspective impacts their learning.

It’s Wednesday, hump day, and I think a window into a bright mind is called for to get us over the mid-week slump. Thus, Wednesday Windows! Mostly this will be a video window, but not always. If you have something you would like to be shown on Wednesday Window, just let me know!

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She’s Teaching Me

The first Montessori math game my homeschooled five-year-old taught me that afternoon was called Stair Steps. I was never entirely clear on the rules, but here’s the gist. We matched number rods with their corresponding number tile, and sang a song about each. Though the game’s rules were opaque, I was happy to be using the materials.

Materials that had sat on the shelf, collecting dust. My daughter was not interested in using them according to the instructions. Instructions that were (admittedly) rather dry and boring.

I tried to remember: She’s five. I was the same way when I was little. I let the math kit sit for a month, and then decided to experiment. I asked her: could she show me how she wants to use them?

That she is willing to do. She ran and got the box, then started teaching me stair steps.

So now we’re singing, and matching and stair-stepping. After a few minutes, I decide to sneak in even numbers and odd numbers. “The even ones you can divide in two evenly. Can you tell which are which?”

She runs her fingers over the stripes. “The even ones end in blue.”

“So which ones are even?”

“Ummm, two? And four?”

We find all the even and odd numbers. And then she tells me it is my turn to choose a number tile, so we move on, picking tiles and singing. Except whenever she tries to match a numeral with a number rod, I see her place her finger at the middle of the rod, seeing if it divided in two evenly.

After a few rounds of Stair Steps, I can tell she’s growing bored. “Can I choose a new game this time?” I ask.

She shakes her head no. “I have a new game. It’s a really good game.” She pauses, thinking. “First, you take out the tens.” She takes the longest rod and places it on the table. “Now the nine.” She starts building a perimeter.

My daughter lifts up the long “eight” rod, a thin cylinder marked with alternating stripes of red and blue, and uses it like a shuffleboard paddle. She shoves a number tile towards me.

I hear the rod scrape against the shiny finish of the table. “The number rods aren’t for pushing things. They’re for counting.”

“Okay,” she says happily. “I’ll use my pencil.”

The game wears on. Its rules are more arcane than Stair Steps. It involves placing the larger number rods (ten, eight, nine) around a cage, and setting the smaller ones, like zoo animals, inside that decimal fence. She puts the number tiles inside the cage too, in order.

There’s educational value to that, right? I wonder, hopefully. I am also wondering if the game will come to some sort of point. Soon.

“Now, we push the numbers up,” she said, using the pencil to move the tiles through a gap (door?) in the cage. The number tiles float free of their confinement, and move into the wilds of our kitchen table. The table is also littered with empty bowls, dirty napkins, and a cut-apart grocery circular. Also tape. There’s always tape involved in every endeavor in our house.

Right now, it would be great to do the dishes.

I breathe. I think about my long-term goals. She is using the materials on her own. She finds them engaging. She finds them fun. She is counting and ordering them, just like in the lesson plans that went with the kit. We’d reviewed odd and even. She has a rock-solid, concrete understanding of the quantity of each number and its corresponding numeral. So far, so good.

I know from experience what happens when I made our learning times about my agenda, my academic goals, and my time table. Usually, no learning gets done; I got increasingly stonewalled. But I have to admit, it doesn’t really surprise me. If I come to the table thinking she had nothing to teach me, why should her attitude be any different? If I wasn’t willing to let her play her own games, why should she be interested in mine?

I know, I know, I have a lot more math knowledge than she does. But I’m her mother, not her schoolteacher, and the more I remember it, the more I can keep my expectations in line. A teacher can devote only a tiny bit of their attention, authority, and energy to each kid in their care. Even a private tutor would have limited time. Me—I’m like God. I’m always there, always correcting, always demanding things: cleanliness, manners, kindness. To add learning to the mix? Well, it starts getting a little Big Brother.

And do I need to be her teacher? The thing is—I can see her straining for all kinds of math knowledge every day. I can see her observing the world with intent eyes. What if I wasn’t afraid of her learning at her own pace? What if I let her lead?  What if I had the expectation that she could and would teach me something?

She points to the cage. “See, Mama, with stair steps, we were learning to match the rods with the right number. And with this game, we’re seeing how the different numbers plus together.”

I inhale sharply. Had she just told me our learning objectives? Damn, the kid was canny. “You mean add together?” I ask.

She nodded, then pointed to the nine and the ten, lying next to each other. “Let’s count them, Mama.”

“Good idea, sweetheart.” We counted, and arrived at the sum together.

Heather Caliri is a writer based in San Diego. While her kids are distracted playing upstairs, she writes at Follow her on Twitter at @heathercaliri.

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BraveGirl Running...Life, Faith & Sport

Can you change your Monkey Mind?

I’m starting an experiment and inviting you to join me. The brain and the concept of change has always fascinated me intellectually, amazed me in working with clients and frustrated me personally as I watched  hard earned gains in certain areas of my life vanish after a bout of intense stress or depression.  Don’t you just hate that?

From studying the brain, I know that change is possible. We can “re-wire” our brains so that our default preferences are reset. Sometimes, it can happen instantly and other times it takes a bit of consistent repetition—a kind of reprogramming.  Regardless, I find it all goes better when other people are involved. Even the Buddhist monks, now famous for the changes in their brains from years and years of meditating, did a lot of that together as a group.

It’s time to join forces and…

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Coaching Students Who Are Bullied And Students Who Bully

Unfortunately, bullying has increased to a more sophisticated level over the years. We use the Second Step curriculum in the schools in my area to combat it. This post is taken from the organization: Committee for Children. For the original post, click here.

Coaching Students Who Are Bullied And Students Who Bully

Today’s blog is written by Dr. Kim Gulbrandson of Milwaukee Public Schools.

Since it is National Bullying Prevention Month, I’d like to check in and find out what strategies you use with students involved in bullying incidents. Separately coaching the student who bullied and the student who was bullied is only one of three components to an effective bully prevention program (the other two components are an effective bullying prevention curriculum and training of all school staff).

But coaching is important because it shows students that as adults, we are responding consistently to bullying situations and that we will help if students report. What are some of the things you do to support the coaching process? What follows are things that some Milwaukee Public Schools have considered or used.

Avoid Retaliation

Avoid telling the student who bullied any information about how you found out about the incident. It may increase the likelihood of retaliation.

Consider Timing

Be conscientious about how to pull the students from their classrooms for coaching. For example, if students are in the same class, pull them out at different times so it is not obvious what is happening. If students don’t feel their privacy is being protected, they might be afraid to report.

Work with Students on Solutions and Consequences

Have students help generate a list of possible solutions or consequences that could be used for those involved in bullying. Here’s a list of ideas.

For the student who bullied…

  • Completing a written contract that includes a plan for what to do differently
  •  Talking with another class about the negative effects of bullying
  • Writing a research paper about empathy
  • Helping with weekly anti-bullying announcements
  • Creating an anti-bullying slogan or anti-bullying posters for the school
  •  Doing something else when they feel like bullying, such as drawing or writing about it, telling a friend or adult how you feel, or running around the playground

For the student who was bullied…

  • Practicing asking the person bullying to stop (if you feel safe doing so)
  • Naming three people you can tell if it happens again
  • Practicing skill steps for making friends and asking to join a group
  • Identifying people to sit/stand/walk next to when the bullying is likely to occur

What other ideas do you have for good solutions or consequences for bullying? Posted by Committee for Children on Oct 13, 2011 4:32 PM PDT

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Courage v. Confidence

The Path to Personal Courage

What do you think about cultivating courage in your personal actions? How necessary is a high level of confidence to the task?

An element that is extremely useful for understanding concepts that are life-transforming comes from Thomas Leonard’s idea of coaching distinctions. Here we are looking at a post by Tom Morris using the famous analogy of Plato’s Cave to explore the difference between confidence and courage.

The only way out of the cave was well known to Plato, and was highly regarded by his student, Aristotle. It is the path of personal courage. Aristotle understood courage as a primary virtue, or strength, in human life. He saw it as a midway point between the extremes and vices of timidity and temerity – or the overly cautious capitulation to fear, on the one hand, and the irrational disregard of danger, on the other. Courage recognizes challenge, understands risk, and while fully cognizant of danger, moves forward with the insight that the best path to the future demands positive action now.

We’ve heard a lot of talk recently about the absence of confidence to be found throughout America, and our pressing need for much more. Confidence is an attitude expectant of success and is a universal facilitator of achievement in situations of uncertainty, as many of the great philosophers have understood. We do indeed need more of this quality than we’re demonstrating right now across the culture. But the virtue of courage can be even more important in a situation of dark threats and daunting anxieties. Deep within the cave, our first need is to be brave.

A courageous person does what’s right rather than what’s easy. He does what’s needed rather than what’s expected. He’s willing to take a chance to make a positive difference. He’s not rash in his actions, or careless in his commitments. And yet he’s not so cautious as to remain trapped in chains of fear. A confident person believes that his actions will succeed. A courageous person may start out only hoping that they will. He does what he thinks he should do, regardless of his degree of confidence. And then, quite often and wonderfully, the actions arising from that courage help to build up and justify the confidence that then works to support him as he goes on.

I love the distinction regarding how a courageous person may not have the confidence to act, yet still does; that courage compels one to move forward in the face of anxiety and fear; that the same courage then can increase our confidence when one is on the other side of the fear by stepping through inertia and moving forward.

What is one way that you acted courageously recently?

How do you instill this courage in your children?

Please share your comments below.

Have a courageous day!


What to do when your resistance is low to avoid meltdown

It’s one of those days: You’re sleep deprived, recovering from a cold, over-worked, having to deal with the most hated parts of your profession (What is it for you?), and you’re PMS-y (sorry men).

Sounds like melt-down,

shut down material to me.

How can you pull yourself out of the pit before

all out emotional catastrophe hits?

1. BE AWARE – Without this there is no hope. You know you are in trouble when your co-workers ask “Why are you so irritable today?” Or “What’s wrong with you?” and you are SURPRISED by the question! Take a few minutes and let yourself quiet before entering your work environment. Notice any feelings or sensations that are nipping at the edges of your consciousness. Take your noticing a step further and ask yourself questions, “Hmm, I’m feeling cranky, what’s up?” or “I’m not wanting to deal with ______ now. What is that telling me?”Look for information, not judgment. Now’s not the time to whack yourself in the head.

2. Take a time-out — you need to stop what you are doing, get off the merry-go-round, and re-assess your options. What activities can be put-off, rescheduled or deleted all together? Tone down to only the absolutely ESSENTIAL tasks while you are not at your optimal levels. For example, one Monday I had something scheduled every hour for 10 hours straight. Then PMS hit hard. I dropped ¾ of the activities and only kept the most necessary, unavoidable ones. I took time out for a “rest” in the afternoon between appointments so I could focus on the next step.

3. Use your “self-talk” arsenal. I’m an auditory learner so I take this advice very literally – I talk to myself out loud. If you don’t already use anti-catastrophizing tactics start now. These are borrowed from cognitive behavioral therapy and work wonder for changing your perspective and attitude.

a. Say the thought/feeling (i.e. “I can’t handle this! I hate this.”)

b. Question it (“Is this true?”)

c. Come up with proof for the doubt. (Well, I’ve handled this before and I can do it again.)

d. Turn the language around (I can handle this even if I do hate it!)

e. Find support to give yourself – find a lifeboat.. Ask “who or what can help me feel more capable (in control, aware, competent, etc.) in this situation?” ex: oh, so and so is an expert at this, I’ll call her and pick her brain before the meeting so I feel confident.

f. Identify the feeling behind the thought/lie (i.e. I’m scared of looking like a fool and this has me wanting to run and hide…)

g. Congratulate and reward yourself for being PRO-Active and not giving in to the mood gremlins that thrive on your stress.

Some healthy ways to reward yourself:

Cancel a meeting and go for a 20 minute walk on the beach with your shoes off. Feel the sand shifting along with your stress.

Call a friend you miss and have a 15 minute catch-up girl chat. Laugh a lot.

Exchange funny tweets!

Go get a spa treatment

Walk to your favorite “juice” spot and have a yummy smoothie, while standing in the sun for a few minutes.

Run home and play with your cat or your dog on your lunch break.

You’ve got the idea. Recover your smile and realize you successfully avoided over-reaction melt-down mode.

To increase your arsenal of tools to draw upon next time try incorporating some of the following into your life on a regular basis:

• Reflective journaling • Work with a life coach • Exercise regularly • Take up yoga or meditation • Prayer • Surround yourself with funny friends • Start a nurturing hobby like gardening, knitting, marathon racing, or bird-house building! • Express joy and gratitude daily • Join a supportive group situation where you can be vulnerable and safe. This could be an actual support group, an affiliation group, a church small group. Explore your options. Living intentionally in community, although challenging, is well worth the rewards.

What do you choose as your escape pressure valve? How many ideas have you tried? Tell me what has worked for you in the comments.

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