Children, Stress, and Coping

Adults experience stress, children experience stress, we all experience stress from one source or another each day. School, family life, and social relationships are major sources of stress for children and adolescents.  Stressful situations and experiences may be either negative or positive.  Some potentially pleasurable sources of stress include going to a party or dance, winning an award, doing well academically, being the center of attention, having a special friend, and the addition of a child to the family. Beginning school, at any new level, is also a potential source of stress. 

Sometimes, children tell us that they are experiencing stress by using words such as, “I’m bored,” “No one likes me,” or “That work is dumb.” Sometimes they manifest stress in their facial expressions and demeanor. At times, they may either have trouble getting to sleep or sleep more. They may have a lowered resistance to illness. Irritability or anger may come more easily than is typical. Frequently, children demonstrate the impact of stress in their lives through behavior. They might seek items of comfort, such as a stuffed animal or another favorite toy or possession. They could show increased movement or become less active. They may seek more frequent closeness with their parent(s), may engage in endless questioning, or may act out aggressively. They sometimes shut down or demonstrate very resistant behavior. It is much easier to respond to a request with, “No, I won’t,” than to acknowledge,

“I can’t.”  

Generally, when children are experiencing stress, they need a place to feel safe and comfortable. Increased and consistent structure in their day-to-day life can also be beneficial. Ritual and routine are helpful. One-to-one time with a parent is invaluable. Often, children say little to parents who inquire about their day. However, once they begin to wind down and prepare for bed, it is not unusual then for children to want to have heart-to-heart conversations. 

When our children report or demonstrate through nonverbal means that they are experiencing stress, what tools do we have to share with them? How can we help? Studies reviewing the impact of relaxation training indicate that such instruction can have positive results. Two excellent sources to help children with relaxation are Stress Relief for Kids:Taming Your Dragons by Marti Belknap and A Boy and a Turtle: Visualization, Meditation, and Relaxation Bedtime Story  by Lori Lite. We can help our children improve their social relationships through helping them to acquire social problem-solving skills. Most social problem-solving involves steps in which individuals identify the problem, establish a goal, brainstorm options for solutions, contemplate the consequences (What might happen if I choose that option?), select one problem-solving option, and evaluate the results. An individual child may react to social stress by becoming overly passive or aggressive. Assertiveness is the midpoint in that continuum, and some techniques aimed at helping to reduce stress include teaching assertiveness skills. As parents and educators, we can help children become more assertive by discussing their personal rights and the rights of others, addressing helpful and hurtful thoughts that decrease or increase anxiety, modeling assertive behavior and role-playing, providing opportunities for practice, and positively reinforcing even small improvements in assertive behavior. When children report thoughts that are irrational (hurtful), it can be more helpful for us to reframe those thoughts than to rebut them (e.g., child’s statement: “Nobody likes me.” Adult responses: “You told me that you played with  ___ and ___ yesterday.” “Your teacher told me that ___ appreciates how kind you have been to him/her.”)

Though hearing us when they are feeling stress may be difficult for our children and seeing them under undue stress may be difficult for us, they do look to us as the adults to provide them with security and comfort, with knowledge and skills, with reasonable expectations and the encouragement to meet the goals they set. They need our support, and, at times, we may need the support of others.

May we be open to ways of helping our children grow,

From Innocence to Entitlement

From Innocence to Entitlement 1

This book is the most recent of the Love and Logic series that I have chosen to consider. My impression is that it is a wonderful “read” for all of us. In From Innocent to Entitlement, Jim Fay and Dawn Billings refer to the “therapeutic culture of parenting,” a concept gifted to us by the internationally, very highly esteemed Bill Doherty, who is a professor of Family Social Science at the University of Minnesota. The therapeutic culture of parenting presumes that the minds and spirits of children are quite fragile and very easily shattered. Many contemporary parents assume that if we just listen to our children enough, just reason with them enough,  they will make the appropriate choices in their lives, no matter their chronological age or maturational age. This approach to parenting puts pressure on all of us, but especially on our children. Many of us have lost the capacity to view “failure” as an opportunity, a “less-than-perfect performance” as a positive chance. Instead, when our children make a mistake, when they choose an option for which there are what we view as negative consequences, we rush to work harder ourselves. We treat them with softer kid gloves, hand out more positives and compliments, tell them how wonderful they are (which is true, but their behavior is not always wonderful), and strive to reduce the stress, to change the environment to meet their all-important needs. Even more extremely, at times we do not wait for them to err. Instead, we sweep the path in front of them, clearing the way. This approach, according to Fay and Billings, supports a major fallacy, the misconception that our children are not responsible for their behavior, character, integrity, or success, now or in the future. According to Fay and Billings, “one of the greatest teachers our children will ever have is the life experience born out of the natural consequences of their choices.” However, too many parents have a low tolerance for allowing natural consequences to occur, have a low frustration point themselves in terms of staying calm when their children are frustrated or discouraged. Our anxiety about being “good enough parents” often gets in the way.

There are four highly dangerous myths of the therapeutic parenting culture, Fay and Billings proffer. The first is the myth that children are fragile. However, research clearly indicates that children are not nearly as fragile as many adults believe. Instead, the behavior that suggests that they are fragile, that they cannot cope is the behavior that stems from adults having pushed them into entitlement. The out-of-control behavior, the anxiety driven behavior, the challenge with taking perspective, the difficulty with developing age-appropriate social skills – all those behaviors may, in part, be traced back to indulgence and inexperience with consistent consequences for otherwise-typically developing children. Research clearly indicates that children can remain quite resilient with even only one significant, caring person in their lives. Research also tells us that most children are highly resilient in the face of the day-to-day errors we all make in our parenting.

The second myth discussed by Fay and Billings is the myth that the uniqueness of children is more valuable than their ability to conform.  They maintain that “it takes [both] an ability to conform and an ability to express unique gifts and talents to become the contributing human beings that best serve others.” The ability for children to recognize their own strengths, to acknowledge their weaknesses, and to use the former to develop coping and problem-solving strategies is crucial to their development. We cannot pretend that they have no areas of development or behavior that require attention or shaping. That approach would be false, would take us from our goal of raising competent, caring children. Instead, it is incumbent on us to expect them to address the issues with our support, encouragement, and caring.

The third myth that Fay and Billings perceive to be embedded in the therapeutic parenting culture is that we, as parents, “do not have direct influence over our children, particularly teens.” If we accept this myth as true and valid, then we are free to desist from putting up the kind of fight necessary to facilitate our children’s growth and development. Fay and Billings’ assertion, consistent with research, is that our children benefit both from love and from limits. Our love must be unconditional, but our “like,” our approval, is not and cannot be if we are truthful with ourselves and with them. Ideally, we set limits for our children in the context of our love for them. In that context, they can learn to accept our limits, even to respect those limits, but, more importantly, to respect themselves.

The fourth myth addressed by Fay and Billings is that “self-esteem is critical for our children to succeed in life, and it is our job as parents and teachers to provide it” for them. Self-esteem, they assert, cannot be had until one holds others in esteem. A focus on “self” reflects the entitlement  of children that is intrinsic to the therapeutic parenting culture. Without acquiring skills for creating and maintaining reciprocal relationships in a community, without being able to take perspective, without mutuality, there is only self-indulgence and self-deceit, not self-esteem. Children who do not learn to take responsibility for their actions, their choices, and their mistakes are unable to take valid ownership of their strengths, their contributions, their successes. Without this balance, there is no esteem for others or for self. There is no respect, no integrity.

As we parent and as we teach, may we hold ourselves, our children, our students accountable. May we seek the wisdom and the experience to be gained from responsibility. May we seek to grow through knowledge and ownership of thoughts, feelings, and behavior. May we be supported in our efforts by our community and our faith.

 1  From Innocence to Entitlement: A Love and Logic Cure for the Tragedy of Entitlement, Jim Fay and Dawn Billings, Love and Logic Press Inc Golden, Colorado, 2005.

Adjusting the Tension

…easier said than done. The tension to which I refer is the tension inherent in maintaining a balance between keeping our children secure, making sure they have a safety net while simultaneously maintaining enough distance that we are able to accommodate their developing need for autonomy and independence. At every developmental stage there are tasks to be accomplished, skills to be mastered so that our children can move to the next stage with confidence and competence. If we attain that balance, our children will find themselves thriving in just the right “holding environment.” Just as we swaddle and hold infants to keep them comfortable and content, parenting older children requires that we hold them metaphorically. 

During the preschool years, in addition to the basic love and affection needed by all of us, children require limits and boundaries, a pattern of behavior to follow. They rely on simple, clear routines and guidelines and a safe environment for exploration in order to grow cognitively and socially. They need adults to help them delay gratification, to reinforce self-calming strategies, to help them learn to manage their impulsivity, and to provide calmness and consistency. To help them move on, we must let them move around, fall down, make mistakes, and get up. We must help them learn the difference between what is theirs and what isn’t, whether we are talking about physical space, personal boundaries, or possessions. 

In the early elementary grades, children continue to need warmth, affection, and nurturing. However, teachers do not provide the same amount of physical closeness that parents do. Their nurturing comes more in the form of their encouragement and praise, their guidance and challenging of the children’s interests. Parents and teachers alike continue to expect delay of gratification and impulse control. In maintaining a somewhat greater distance than parents, teachers help the children to set their own boundaries in the classroom community.  It is important for children to have adults model appropriate expression of feelings, teach the difference between what is “true” and what is “not true,” to help the children with acquiring basic self-advocacy skills and to reinforce the concept of compromise. They need us to model appropriate social behavior, to enforce rules, and to expect from them responsibility for their choices, their actions, and their possessions. In helping them move on, we work with them to explore their role in the family and the school community, to clarify their relationships with peers and adults, and to understand the kindness and reciprocity in true friendship.

In the later grades of elementary school,  children’s developmental tasks include building their social skills repertoire, developing stronger peer relations and more consistent groups of friends, and assuming increasing responsibility in tasks and relationships. To provide an appropriate holding environment during these years, parents and teachers acknowledge and promote self-sufficiency, competence, and role definition. We hold children responsible for their own feelings and their own behavior, and we appropriately reinforce the authority of adults in the home and school communities.

The “growing” of loving, competent, and happy adults begins at birth. We hold our children as they develop, allow them to make mistakes and learn lessons, encourage them to enhance self-esteem. We challenge them to become their best selves by providing optimal frustration, expectations for personal responsibility and accountability, and the luxury of time and patience while they learn who they can become. When they decide they can ride alone on their bike to the corner, we encourage them to ride all the way around the block and greet them on their return with a high five and a hug. We prepare them for their lives ahead by protecting them only so much on their journey. Slowly but surely, we allow them to be exposed to the frustrations and challenges of day-to-day living so that they can demonstrate resilience, competence, and satisfaction with themselves and the rest of their intimate community. 


A child needs to understand one of the basic truths about forgiveness: When we forgive, we are doing it first and foremost for ourselves.    

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach 

In appreciation of our being in the midst of the Ten Days of Awe, I would like to share with you some of Rabbi Boteach’s recommended conversations to have with our children, it seems especially fitting to begin with forgiveness. Part of forgiveness is about helping the forgiven person to feel better, about re-establishing the connection between two people. However, the main reason for us to forgive others is for ourselves –“so that we don’t let [anger] poison our hearts and turn them to stone. The reason that forgiveness is so important, and the reason it is such a central theme of Judaism, is because we believe that you can’t be fully human if you don’t forgive.” 

Rabbi Boteach, in his chapter on forgiveness, acknowledged several errors that he had made  in the family home he was working so hard to make better and more kind than the one in which he grew up. He and his family were traveling across the southern part of the US on a radio tour. One Shabbat evening, after a wonderful meal out in the woods (the family was traveling in their RV – nine family members and two friends), Rabbi Boteach sat the family down around the campfire, telling them he had some important thoughts to share and would take 20 minutes and then would give them 40 minutes to respond. He talked with them about his imperfection, despite his strongest desires not to make the errors he acknowledged. He reflected his awareness that his errors had caused the children to distance themselves from him. He asked forgiveness and promised to work even harder. During the time his children responded, Rabbi Boteach learned a great deal. He not only received validation about how much his shouting and volatile temper had hurt them, but he also learned that he didn’t listen as well as he would have liked, that they didn’t want him to smoke cigars, even occasionally, and most devastating of all to him, he learned that not only had he been disrespectful to his wife, but also that his children had witnessed his actions. Then the family indicated that they didn’t want him to apologize while continuing the same behaviors; they simply wanted him to cease his hurtful actions.  He promised to do so and experienced far greater success than he had in the past. At the end of the discussion, Rabbi Boteach offered this comment to his children and wife: An unforgiving heart is a heavy heart. When you don’t forgive someone, you become bitter, and that feeling festers, affecting you more than it affects them. When you forgive, the one you are truly freeing is yourself.  

Now, at this very important and holy time of our year, may we gain wisdom, courage and strength from Rabbi Boteach. May we follow his path toward finding our own humanity, our own gentleness, and our own sense of forgiveness toward those who have wronged us. May we, as parents, always remember that our “children will seldom talk to [us] about the [big] things that hurt them, and as human beings, may we always remember that “one mustn’t always judge people by what they do, but by how far they’ve come. Not by the destination, but by the journey.” 


It may sound a paradoxical thing to say – for surely never has a generation of children occupied more sheer hours of parental  time – but the truth is that we neglected you. We allowed you a charade of trivial freedoms in order to avoid making those impositions on you that are in the end both the training ground and proving ground for true independence. We pronounced you strong when you were still weak in order to avoid the struggles with you that would have fed your true strength. We proclaimed  you sound when you were foolish in order to avoid taking part in the long, slow, slogging effort that is the only route to genuine maturity of mind and feeling.                                                                           

Midge Decter, Liberal Parents/Radical Children, quoted in The Quotable Jewish Woman: Wisdom, Inspiration and Humor  from the Mind & Heart, edited and compiled by Elaine Bernstein Partnow, Jewish Lights Publishing, 2004

Ms. Decter offered her comment in 1975. Is it possible that in 33 years, we have learned no more?  Is it possible that we have spent the last 33 years constantly sweeping the path in front of our children so that they would not stumble, let alone tumble? Is it possible that hundreds of thousands of children, beginning the Tuesday after Labor Day, begin school in the United States following a bus ride of from 10 to 30 minutes or more while Day School children are accompanied to their classrooms by parents. Is it possible that some parents, clearly of good intention, not only carry their children’s backpacks but also unpack them, placing each item in its rightful place?

How is it that we are still unfamiliar with helpful research, or, if we are familiar with it, that something mysterious interferes with either our interpretation or our memory? I speak of the research that tells us time and again that even the most intellectually capable children in our midst will not attain what their capability predicts if they are hampered by organizational challenges, if they do not learn to monitor the passing of time, if they do not take responsibility for their own choices, actions, and behavior.

How many of our children know how to set alarm clocks by third grade? How many even know what time they get up in the morning? How many lay their clothes out the night before, help to make a lunch, can tell us the steps they follow in getting ready for bed at night or ready for school in the morning? How many unpack their backpacks, either with parents or alone? These behaviors are the beginning tasks of self-organization. Who will expect our children to master these tasks if not we? Certainly, some children have learning challenges that make organization even more difficult. However, we need to start somewhere with each child. We need to have basic expectations, and we need to know what those expectations are and why we hold them. 

How are we doing at organizing ourselves and modeling the value of planning and organization? How many of us have a folder or binder where we keep important school papers and notices? How many of us have a place in our home for supplies that may be needed for homework? How many of us have a regular time and routine for supporting our children as they approach and complete their homework? How many of us begin early with our children to help them come up with a plan for what to do with assignments and completed homework? How many of us ask them what their plan is so that they remember to turn the work in? How many of us have a large, family activity calendar posted for each family member to see and pictorial cues on the calendar for younger children? 

As I was coparenting with my husband when our children were young, I could not have answered affirmatively to all these questions. My, how I have learned! How can we, the Day School staff, with our accumulated years of teaching and parenting, offer you support as you set organizational goals for yourselves and your children?  Whatever your answers, please let us know. We share your desire to have your children realize their full potential, for only through our partnering, will your children and our students do their best.



So what if it drizzles

And dribbles and drips?

I’ll splash in the garden,

I’ll dance on the roof.

Let it rain on my skin,

It can’t get in—

I’m waterproof.   

(Shel Silverstein, Falling Up, p. 108, Harper Collins Publishers, New York, 1996)

I have always thought of Shel Silverstein as someone who not only understands children, but as someone who also understands and lives in childhood. Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, author of 10 Conversations You Need to Have with Your Children, Regan Books, New York, 2006), writes:





Rabbi Boteach informed his children that their saba, his father, needed to be a man from the time he was a boy, that he had braced himself to deal with the world as the man in the family, and, consequently, had never experienced his childhood, hand never enjoyed any “inner youthfulness.” (p. 36) So, he told his children, it was their job to teach their saba about childhood, to play with him. Rabbi Boteach maintains that childhood “isn’t just a transient phase—that it isn’t meant to be ephemeral…[Childhood] is a critical phase in life, one that [we] are supposed to internalize tnd carry with [us] into the future.” (p.37) Rabbi Boteach desired for his own children that they grow up to be mature, responsible adults but that they also keep a child at their center, as their inner core. He taught them about the cherubim at the gates of the Garden of Eden and told them that leaving the Garden means growing up, facing hardship, disappointment, and pain. Even so, he promised his children, if they remembered to keep their inner child alive, if they would “cultivate and nourish” it, that child would always lead them back to Paradise. They would “always have Eden on the inside…and would never give up hope, because [they had] been to Paradise and [could] revisit it as often” as they liked. (p. 38)

Rabbi Boteach extols the perfect person as one who “has managed to fuse the child with the adult,” as someone who demonstrates the virtues of being an adult: responsibility, capability, strength, ability to learn from the breadth of life and to gain wisdom from experience.”  (p.39)

However, he acknowledges the disadvantages of adulthood: a history of having been hurt and the presence of scars; increasing ambition and aggressiveness accompanied by increasing cynicism; knowledge ot the power of others to betray trust; decreasing sensitivity, and the awareness that people are not necessarily as kind and good as we would desire. Adults, Rabbi Boteach explains, “tend to lose interest in playing with others. “ They lose the positive characteristics of children: The love of sharing, the openness, the tenderness, the novelty, the curiosity about life, and the spontaneity. While children “haven’t been diminished by setbacks…[are] not self-conscious about being need, or about showing [others] that they want love.” (p.39)

The lessons of staying in the moment; f living life to its fullest; of experiencing joy and laughter as to their fullest; of taking time and making time for each other and for fun—these are the lessons we can give our children as we move through this joyous festival of Sukkot and into the New Year.

Sand Castles and Stone

Sand Castles and Stone [1]

The United States is at the end of an historical week, a week of attribution, anticipation, and aspiration; a week of excitement, energy, and enthusiasm; a week of hoopla, handshaking, and hope.  Now comes Shabbat, a day of rest, and then the hard work really hits Washington and the rest of us between they eyes. And the eyes of the world are upon us, a nation whose integrity and sense of moral development has been questioned time and again in recent years. This moment is our moment of opportunity, our moment of challenge. Will our nation, previously steadfast and sturdy, find its way back to the principles on which it was founded, the foundations on which it was built? Will those who were born and raised here welcome the same chances and gifts of those who have come to our shores to escape unthinkable tribulations of terror? Will we really pull together, or will most go down alone? Our country is facing a “developmental crisis.” What will bind us to unity, what resources will we use and how will we use them, to accomplish the greatest outcome for the greatest number? Will we provide an environment for our people, for all people, that continues to support our well being and theirs?

In “Sand Castles and the Comfort of Stone,” an article in the October edition of Connections published by the Council for Spiritual and Ethical Education, author  Rev. Michael E.C. Spencer, an Episcopal priest and Dean of Chapel at St., Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire,  speaks of “towers and turrets,” stone and stability. He talks about the joy of making sandcastles, though the joy is fleeting as the tide washes in. He speaks of the great castles of England and Europe, enduring and strong because of their solid foundation. Those foundations, he asserts, are not without cracks, the healthy settlement cracks that ensure structural endurance. Certainly, repair has been done, with the same level of knowledge, skill, and artistry that was utilized in the laying of the foundation. Then Rev. Spencer thinks about the earthquakes of San Francisco, the crucial design of the foundations of West Coast structures, developed to withstand shifting and shaking, developed to ensure stability attributable to flexibility, to the capacity of the foundations to “give.”

Surely, if ever the human race (regardless of the faith of its members), if ever Americans, if ever Jews have stood on shifting sands and shaking ground, this time is one of them. We have desired, in every generation, a better life, a better world for our children. We have worked hard toward those goals. Now, we face significant risk, and our children face significant risk. Can we stand on a firm foundation, one that will be stronger for its healthy cracks, one that will reveal the capacity to give, to realize the benefits of calculated flexibility? What is the foundation on which our children stand? Are we examining it from time to time, doing critical repairs? 

Our children will survive and flourish if they are able to demonstrate, to utilize, to generalize from their knowledge and skills, from their values, from their moral mandates, the ones you give, the ones that faith has given us, the ones we continue to teach and reinforce at HMJDS, and the ones that will keep them centered as they move along their life path.

May our new President, our people, and the world find peace and prosperity over time through the work of individuals who continue to build while checking the foundation of our structures from time to time. May our efforts and those of all human kind be blessed.

[1] Taken from the title of an article by The  Rev. Michael E.C. Spencer, “Sand Castles and the Comfort of Stone,” CSEE Connections, October, 2008.

Female Bullies

Several HMJDS faculty members, including myself, had the privilege of enjoying Rachel Simmons address female aggression at the regional ISACS Conference this past Friday in St. Paul. Her demeanor was refreshing, her presentation crucial and timely, and her message undeniable. The author of Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls  (Orlando, 2002: Harcourt Inc.) presented her message validated through research with spontaneity and truthfulness that made many females in the audience laugh in recognition of challenging times gone by. While Ms. Simmons focused on Odd Girl Out,  she has also written Odd Girl Speaks

Out: Girls Write about Bullies, Cliques, Popularity, and Jealousy and A Study of a Group of

Children of Exceptionally High Intelligence Quotient in Situations Partaking of the Nature of Suggestion. The popular literature has been expanded by Rosalind Wiseman, author of  Queen Bees & Wannabees  and  Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads.  


These books focus on the message that in loving our children, female and male, and in seeking to raise them to be moral, ethical, social adults, we need to depart from our views of bullies as aggressive boys who use actions rather than words to defend their turf, to deal with insecurities, and to establish the leaders and followers. We need to recognize that quiet, often-under-the-radar behavior on the part of girls; social engineering, and subtle actions are just as aggressive and dangerous as the behaviors demonstrated by boys.


Ms. Simmons spoke of “relational aggession, the use of friendship as a weapon: Do this or I won’t be your friend anymore.” She also defined “social aggression as damage to relationships and social status; gossip and rumor.” She thoughtfully reminded us of the many times most of us have heard, “Just kidding,” from a supposedly good friend who had just said something cruel. This behavior she identified as “indirect aggression: when the intent is allegedly not hurtful or is anonymously aggressive.” Finally, she brought us home with a strong landing on our bottoms in mentioning “aggressive body language: nonverbal gesturing, eye rolling, silent treatment, mean looks and noises.”


According to Ms. Simmons, the functionality of girls is defined by their relationships and warned of the serious consequences that occur when interactions take a turn for the worst, when words destroy relationships (“It is there that aggression lives” in female behavior), and when self-esteem lands on the floor. “Girls,” she asserted, “don’t tell each other what they have done wrong or give each other a chance to fix it. They don’t make eye contact, don’t own their responsibility in hurting others, and disengage from consequences, showing [little if any] empathy.” 


Her message is reiterated by Carly Young in Mean Girls: Dealing with Female Aggression, a special report to LifeScript (;  November 30, 2006). She talks about “whispering that stops when [a girl] walks into the room, eyes rolling when

[she] cracks a joke, stony silence when [she] tries to make conversation.” She maintains that “female aggression, cruel behavior is so common that it doesn’t end after high school” but can happen almost anywhere from the water cooler to the PTA meeting. Denese Gray, manager of Equal Opportunity at James Cook University in Australia, is cited by Ms. Young as describing typical female bullies as “devious, vindictive, having a selective memory, needing to control, and excelling at twisting the truth.” They are experts at “backstabbing, giving the cold shoulder” and showing their aggression in passive ways. “They adore gossip,” reports Dr. Cheryl Dellasega, author of  Girl Wars  (Fireside, 2003), also quoted by Ms. Young. 


Research has been done here at the University of Minnesota on female aggression in  preschool.The authors of “Relational and Overt Aggression in Preschool,” N.R. Crick and J.F. Casas (University of Minnesota) and M. Mosher (California School of Professional Psychology) videotaped the interaction of preschool children in a standardized situation and found that relational aggression appears at young ages and can be distinguished from overt aggression.

They concluded that preschool girls are more relationally and less overtly aggressive than boys. 


So what are we, teachers and parents, to do? Dr. Dellasega recommends that we help girls to accept that they may never be good friends with some others, to find a positive female role model, to find something that gives them a  “bigger sense of purpose,”  and not to force their way into a group that is unaccepting. Author Michael Thompson (Mom, They’re  Teasing Me: Helping Your Child Solve Social Problems Random House, 2004, and Raising Cain, Random House

2000, as well as publications for National Association of Independent Schools [NAIS], of which HMJDS is a member), we can help girls cope by encouraging them to focus on friendship, by emphasizing kindness, empathy, and inclusion ourselves, and by discussing peer pressure with them. We can console them, role play and demonstrate positive body language for them, and we can expect them to apologize to their make reparation to their victims in our presence. 


At HMJDS, we also model, teach, encourage, and reinforce appropriate verbal expression of feelings, self-advocacy, problem-solving, and “telling” as opposed to tattling (the former being what we do when we or someone else is being hurt or is in danger and the latter being what we do simply to get others in trouble). 


We take this matter of female aggression as seriously as we take hitting and name calling. We understand that our partnership with you  in this matter, as in all others, begins at the time of admission. We commit to you our ongoing responsibility and dedication to responding immediately when we hear of any aggression and we invite your children and you to share relevant concerns with us just as immediately.