Today on Talk About it Tuesdays, I welcome Dr. Michelle Anthony, co-author of Little Girls Can Be Mean. Dr. Reyna Lindert and Dr. Michelle Anthony wrote this great guide to provide families and teachers with excellent resources to help our little ladies when it comes to bullying. I think I was in the right place at the right time when I read about this book on my blogger buddy Barbara’s blog, Corner on Character a few months ago. I ordered my signed copy from this website and have since marked it up with highlighter and sticky notes! That’s an indication that I WILL USE WHAT I have learned in a book! So, yes, I would highly recommend this book. I will stop talking so you can hear from one of the Dr. Anthony about this crucial topic in this interview.

Interviewer: Maria Dismondy
Author: Dr. Michelle Anthony
Being a writer myself, people always want to know how I got started writing. So, I must ask how YOU got started writing and where the idea for this book came from?

I think I fell into writing, actually. I am an educator at heart, and I began writing in order to reach a broader audience. This book came about when my own daughter was 6 and went almost a year in what began as a wonderful friendship but somewhere along the way became a very negative one. Worse for her (and ultimately me as her mother), was that she suffered alone and without support. At the time, I had no idea what was going on, didn’t know what to look for, and then scrambled to find ways to help. We wanted to help parents and other caring adults understand how and why meanness happens, and have a plan for what to do about it. We also wanted to help parents of elementary-aged children take advantage of the unique opportunity they have to influence and guide girls, before the teen years when peer influence takes over and pushes caring adults away.

Observe, Connect, Guide and Support to Act is your Four Step Approach. Can you give us an example of bullying and how this approach can help parents and teachers work through solving the problem?

Gosh, there are so many different ways that girls struggle with friends and social exclusion. The word bully can be a red herring in that it connotates a certain way of interacting and what girls struggle with is a very broad set of issues. Some classics would be being told you can’t sit at the lunch table with a group of friends, being excluded from a friendship, having a friend talk badly about you behind your back, etc. When kids bring these issues up, directly or indirectly, parents can take advantage of the Four Steps: Observe, Connect, Guide, and Support to Act.

Step 1: Observe your child in new ways and with new eyes, seeking to understand who she is socially. Recognize when things go awry: she suddenly stops liking favorite activities, starts more fights, complains of illness, etc.

Step 2: Connect with her, without taking over. Ask questions; empathize. Let her know you are on her side before switching into problem-solving mode. Making yourselves a team is the key to support and success.

Step 3: Guide her. Work together to create a doable list of possible actions she can take and then…

Step 4: Support Her to Act on one or two of the actions that she chooses. Be an interested but not overly invested observer and follow up with the Four Steps again to see if more connection, guidance, or support to take new actions is warranted.

When we come from the place of being teammates with our child or student, we begin problem solving and skill-building. More than telling kids what to do, or trying to order them out of a negative situation, we want kids to know they are not alone, to come to understand their struggles and motives, and to build the skills and resources to set their own goals and achieve them. Of course, if your child or another is in acute danger, your first priority is to keep them safe.

I have a lot of readers who are also teachers. I loved how you referenced pages in the Appendix for teachers. Can you tell teachers how this approach would be beneficial to them?

Teachers lose so much learning time to the distractions of social issues between students. When kids are mired in these confusing and negative interactions, they are unavailable for learning, and the community context teachers work so hard to create is compromised. Many of the activities in the book are easy add-ons to what teachers are already doing, and allow them to address social issues within the context of the teacher’s educational goals.

You discussed several situations faced by real girls in Part II of your book, The Heart of the Matter. I think this is the part of the book that will intrigue my readers to purchase your book and learn more. Can you choose one of these scenarios and share a little bit with my readers?

What we hear over and over from parents is how they could never come up with the stories that their daughters tell them about the friendship struggles or fights they have with their friends. InLittle Girls Can Be Mean, we go through a number of real-life examples that cover best friend fights, group wars, and when your daughter is the one acting meanly, across the ages from K-6thgrade. The purpose is to give parents a comprehensive view of what the 4 steps look link in each of these situations. More useful than any given situation, is what carries through across all of them”the power of the 4 steps to give parents and girls the tools and resources to face all kinds of social dynamics from very early on.

You can read more from Dr. Anthony in her interview with Barbara here.