How do you respond to a Mean Girl?

On the final day of Friendship Camp we defined Relational Aggression.

Remember how on Day Two the girls decided that boys fight physically and girls fight emotionally?

Relational Aggression, or RA, is a  fancy term for girls using relationships to mistreat each other- (silent treatment, exclusion, isolation, rumors, cliques, I won't be your friend if, etc).

We role played quite a bit using the MEAN GIRL, the TARGET, and the BYSTANDERS. Talked about feelings of each, motives of each and OPTIONS for girls to use if they are in any of those situations.

The girls were challenged all week to be SHE-ROS and to come to defense of yourself AND others when people are being mean. We had a black cape they got to wear when we role played :) The world needs more She-ros who are brave enough to stand up for something!

FYI- here are some tactics we shared that your daughter can use:


No matter how much you have to fake, respond in confidence. She is less likely to pick on you if you appear confident. Even if you have to go around the corner and break down when she's gone.

Look her in the eye. If you're too scared for that, look at her nose or the top of her head. It'll look like you're looking her in the eye.

Remove yourself from the situation. A simple confident "that's not true" or "stop it" followed by leaving is fine.

Use humor to diffuse the situation.


All girls will be bystanders at some point, and they actually have a lot of power. Typically, bystanders are afraid to say anything to stop the meanness, because they know they could then become the target of meanness too. But better to be brave and be a she-ro.

We talked about having EMPATHY for the Target and doing something about it.

Simply say something to the MG. "hey lay off" or "hey that's not true" or "what are you doing? leave her alone". 

Body language- just go stand by the target. They won't feel alone and now MG is looking at two people instead of one.

Bystanders band together and leave MG.

Go up to target and say "hey let's go to class" and walk off with them- just help them get out of the situation.

If it's a really bad situation, tell an adult.

At the end of the day we videoed girls telling some things they learned this week. I was so happy to hear them quickly say solid practical things they left with! Woo hoo!


A Big Friendship Secret...Sssshhhhhh!

Yesterday I highlighted Day One of our Friendship Camp.  Even snuck in a few cute pics. Day Two was even more fun as we had activities that helped us really get to know each other, and we got into some nitty gritty stuff about the issues girls fight about.

We had lively discussion about how boys fight versus how girls fight.  The perceptive and brilliant girls came up with their own conclusion (I just asked three questions and let them talk). Conclusion? Boys fight physically vs. girls fighting mentally and emotionally (aIthough unfortunately girl physical fighting isn't completely unusual.)

Girls discussed this at their table with a group first, then we discussed it as a group.

 Another interesting dialogue was based on the pros and cons of having one best friend - and the pros of having a variety of friends in our lives.

At this upper elementary age, it seems the most common thing I come across is friends fighting with each other about who is friends with whom.

The strength and frequency of this problem frustrates me as I watch girls stress over it....

SO I told the girls A BIG SECRET. 

Friends are gifts. We don't own each other. 

What?!? (explain please)

You are allowed to have more than one friend!

And your friends are allowed to have more than just you as a friend!

Isn't that good news?!

So why are you giving your best friend a hard time because she spent time with another girl yesterday?

And why are you stressing out that your best friend doesn't want you to ever invite a different friend over to hang out?

"If you're going to be friends with her, then I'm not going to be friends with you." (most common line ever).

What if your answer was "Ok."? Not a mean OK, just "ok". (As in- instead of having to receive her words as a panicked threat, it's more like "wow, ok, that's sad, I'll miss you but I wanna be friends with her, so I guess that means we can't hang out anymore if you're making me wow, sad, let me know when you change your mind cuz I like you both" kind of thing. Make sense? :D

What would happen? (is that plausible?)

Nobody owns you. You don't own anyone. Friends are gifts that are given into our lives and we should treat them with care. And you should be expected to be treated with care.

Not an earthshaking revelation...but maybe a small enough of one to trigger a new thought...a bit of good news...a new shift in perspective. Some girls seemed to light up a bit when they realized they don't have to stay stuck in the murk and mire of the drama of who vs. who vs. who is with who. "Wait! I don't have to play this?!"
And it's definitely not a RUDE thing! We don't have to get sassy and full of an "Nobody owns ME!" attitude!

But we can do a simple mental shift and release ourselves from feeling the pressure of being dominated by someone. Or from our own attempts to control other people. 
It doesn't solve everything, but it does give a beginning point.
The idea I tried to share is that there's enough love to go around. If we can grow towards being accepting of the fact that we can all have many friends, and that we don't have to feel threatened by someone else, the world would be an easier place.

That's a lofty goal for some at this age, (and adult age haha) but it doesn't change the truth of it. Giving an explanation and a standard to rise to is helpful.


Helping Your Daughter Choose Good Friends

What a fun time we had. Many more opportunities to come, Girls 101 is just getting started!

(yes my name tag is on my skin, it wouldn't stick to my clothes)

Day one of Friendship Camp was approached by 15 fourth and fifth grade girls (most of whom didn't know each other) with the hope of fun, the slight awkwardness of not knowing people, and with a little relief that there was something to do INSIDE during the deluge of rain we received over Spring Break.

Our very brave very first volunteer got to get COVERED UP. Because there was a room full of girls that don't know each other, we wrote down thoughts that we think but don't say out loud....judgements or opinions we make at times without truly knowing someone. Ex. I don't need any more friends, I'm too shy to say anything, you look like you already know people, I think I'm cooler than you, you go to that other rival school, you look funny, etc etc. Some of the feelings are valid and we learn to work past them, but many are unfair judgments against people that blind us from new friends and opportunities!

The girls had to decide which thoughts to leave at the door! Well mission accomplished, because by lunch girls who had just met were laughing and talking it up!

As the girls spent time getting to know one another, a lengthy discussion was based around what qualities we enjoy in friends, as well as what types of things cause friction in friendships.

An object lesson involved writing down the positive and negative traits on individual circles and gluing them on a silhouette of a person. The good traits went inside, and the negative traits went outside. 

We discussed how everyone makes mistakes (and will at times do things on the outer parts!) so friends have to be open to talking through and forgiving each other. But also, if we are hanging out with a friend that does mostly negative all of the time, that sometimes we have to rethink if that is a good friendship.  Are we constantly disappointed or in conflict with a friend, or is it just occasional? Can you usually work it out together or does it just get worse?

Then the biggest question is, where do we ourselves fit? Am I mostly exhibiting the good character traits? Do I try and make the negative traits minimal? And then, where do my friends fit?

We are not judging people, but learning how to choose good relationships based on what makes healthy friendships.  All make mistakes and we must learn to discuss and forgive.

But we do have a choice of who to spend large amounts of time with and who to invest our lives in.

Who we hang out with determines much of who we become!

Discussion Starter:

Draw a big circle. What's important to you in a friendship? Think about your favorite friends. Name 5 reasons why they make a good friend and write those inside of the circle.

Now try and name 5 things that girls do that make friendships difficult- traits that girls have that make you not want to be friends with them.  Write those 5 negative traits outside of the circle.

As you look at your picture, where do you fit most of the time? Where do your friends fit most of the time?

Do you understand that everyone makes mistakes, but hopefully the majority of our behavior is positive.


Take a Peek Inside Friendship Camp!

Welcome to Friendship Camp! Come on inside!

Take a look at this adorable venue we spent 3 days in. I highly recommend it! 
The Blue Cottage in Jenks.

I am way too tired from 3 days of fun to blog much about it tonight, but I couldn't wait to get a few pictures up of these fabulous girls. Six schools from our area are represented here! 

We had a great time learning about how to be a better friend,  how to handle conflict in friendships, 
and how to deal with Mean Girl drama!

I'll be posting some of those tidbits over the next few days.

Thanks to my wonderful assistant, my daughter! :)
I couldn't have done it without her!

Wise Stuff from a Humorous Ph.D.

SUCH a busy couple of weeks...blogging may suffer a bit. Will attempt to keep it strong!  Ramping up for our community workshops, AND I'm planning my daughter's big 16th birthday! Fun stuff. Good stuff.

In the midst of all that, I'm SOOOO glad I took the time to go hear a speaker at Holland Hall last night. Dr. Wendy Mogel is an internationally acclaimed clinical psychologist, parenting expert and the author of the New York Times bestselling parenting book, The Blessing of a Skinned Knee. Her new book, The Blessing of a B Minus, is about raising teenagers. (I copied that off her website because I'm hoping everyone goes and checks her stuff out!!)

She is hilarious first of all. Made it all just so funny. Raising teenagers can be so entertaining from her perspective. We were laughing and relating, yet gaining practical tools and confidence along the way. My favorite part is that her advice sounded so common-sensical (is that a word?) and so different from many sources I hear that kind of rub me the wrong way.

She's so calm. And relaxed. It's really all okay. Everyone survives and most teens turn into decent human beings. That's good news!! I love her approach.

Her basic theme of life has to do with NOT overparenting (a balanced approach of course. We have to know what's going on and be "strict and kind"). But instead of trying to save our children from all possibility of suffering or pain, she says not all pain is bad. Life is hard sometimes. Pain is where our children can become equipped to deal with real life.

Sentences I perked up on:

1.  Parents want to prepare their children to be a problem solver, but don't want them to have any problems to solve.

2.  Prepare your child for the road, not the road for the child.

3.  W.A.I.T. "Why am I talking?" (listen more)

4.  H.A.L.T. (Am I hungry, angry, lonely or tired when I'm trying to deal with teen issues? Solve that first).

5.  Let your teen daughter hear you compliment other women more. Praise normal women in front of them. Praise women for their kindness and character. They will see these ladies as the role models.

So much more. I hope that perks your interest enough to make you go read her book. I am!


Quiet, Stillness, Support...

This last weekend girls were prayed for at a prayer meeting just for them...girls both in high school and college. The goal is just to provide an atmosphere of quiet, stillness, and support in prayer.

God gave, through Scripture and prayer, some wonderful images of His relationship with each of them.

If you don't believe in God speaking to you through prayer, this may not make sense to you. But we had a room full of young girls, who by choice are living lives in relationship with Jesus, who find their purpose and identity in Him. They are filled with hope and confidence in their futures. And a security of relationship with God.

Not everyone believes this way, which I get and that's okay. But for those who do, or who seek for something like this, nights like this are such an encouragement. Such a boost for girls to see God intimately involved in relationship with them.

Photo credit: Joy Magee

"You're nestled under His wing, in comfort and protection, as He battles above, on your behalf."

Encouragment  received that she is on the right track, He's pleased she is determined to serve Him. He's right there with her as she makes daily decisions. She can be confident that she will make good decisions as she stays consistent.

"You don't have to know everything now. God's got it figured out ahead of you. Rest. Be at peace."

God appreciates her being one of those who seek Him and seek to understand Him.

"The road may be lonely as you make decisions that separate you from others, but it won't be lonely with Him. He's got your back."

"Good things to come- don't let go of the dream, it's still valid and still there."

What better thing can you ask to hear from high school and college aged girls than "Can we do this every month??" (and I never remember to take pictures at these meetings! or I'd post these lovely ladies!)

Girls seeking prayer. Seeking God.

God proving Himself  faithful, involved and caring.

Donna Greene, who has worked with teen girls for well over 30 years, says in her book "Growing Godly Women":

"The Bible helps a girl to look deep within her soul in order to find and begin to know her true self. She learns to acknowledge her own unique gifts and accept her true feelings and limitations. She begins to make decisions about values, standards, and commands from God. What is socially acceptable does not necessarily match God's Word. The Bible teaches her a process, which includes knowing the difference between thinking and feeling, between hearing her own voice and that of another person rather than the will of the Lord. God's Word shows a girl the difference between immediate gratification and long-term goals. Culture may change but God's guidelines do not. They help a girl chart a course based upon the road which, although narrow, leads to joy, confidence, personal satisfaction and peace."

Many, many sources, whether they consider themselves "Christian" or not,  agree that teens have a need to understand and experience spiritual things.  It helps them process life.

Ladies in my local area, if you have never heard of or been to an iRefresh prayer meeting, I encourage you to check out one of these monthly meetings, for a similar experience for women. Look at their website at


Is Girl Drama Inevitable??

As the preparations continue for an upcoming community workshop on girl friendships, I'm breezing through the book "Girl Wars" again by Cheryl Dellasega. So here's a few lines from what I'm reading this morning!

5 Random sentences that are interesting:

1. "Today's young women are subtly influenced to interact in ways that reduce rather than enhance their underlying power to connect with one another."

(the thing is, girls are actually designed to be good connectors. but in many atmospheres though they are "taught" to be competitive instead. the opposite.)

2. "Bombarded with messages about their physical appearance at an early age, they are expected to dress provocatively while maintaining straight "A" averages and excelling at sports."

(have heard it said this way too- expected to dress sexy but not act out on it, expected to get good grades, but have shallow interests, etc etc)

3. "They are labeled as mean "Queen Bees" but given no alternatives for more positive behaviors."

(if girls are not learning good behaviors from someone close, they will most likely be mimicking what is portrayed in media, which is not very positive. good behavior is not hard for those who see it lived out in family and close friends, and who learn from early age to respect other people. sometimes bad behavior isn't intentional, but when girls are caused to stop, think about and discuss things, they see the difference and can choose good over bad. they can relearn).

4. "Role models for today's teens are not powerful women who have succeeded because of their persistence and kindness to others, but rather superstar singers acting like sexy schoolgirls".

(enough said).

5. "No wonder young women find themselves in a state of extreme confusion, unsure of how to relate to either themselves or others".

(agree. very confusing to girls. be sexy, don't have sex. be young, be old. be smart, play dumb. be skinny, be happy with yourself. be nice, stand up for yourself.)

(continued excerpt): "The good news is that all across the country, mothers, girls and others are finding ways to help adolescents feel more secure about their own abilities and safe in their relationships with others. Slowly, their efforts are changing the "girl poisoning culture". There are groups around the country meeting with girls, teaching character and life skills. The number is still too small, but growing! It makes a world of difference to just meet and have a place that girls can talk through issues in life that are confusing. That's one of the things we'll be doing at this community workshop. Talking about healthy relationships, and how to deal with what is sometimes "accepted" as normal girl behavior (meanness), but shouldn't be.

Which leads me to the final quote from Girl Wars:

"We believe girls are NOT inherently cruel, and that although behaviors such as jealousy, gossiping, and joining cliques may be normal in terms of what we expect, they are not what we have to accept."

She says that after all her work and research, she believes "not only can girls be kind, they feel better about themselves when they are".


Mom of 6 - As They Transition to Adulthood

Meet Karen. Karen and I had the fun of being friends back in college, as were our husbands. Karen and her hubby Terry got married soon after and are living a full adventurous life, raising 6 kids together (just 6 of their many adventures).

Karen and I lived on the same floor as freshman...aaahh, that fun freshman year. I believe we were both a little loud and possibly crazy, but I'll vote for her being even moreso...wonder how she would vote! When I remember Karen on the wing, I think of silly fun, animated talking and a clear New York accent. And quality. Very quality person. I can imagine she'd be a very fun mom! (I just searched for a picture of us from college, but lucky for you my picture organizational skills suffer).

We have only reconnected as adults through Facebook and then had the fun of seeing each other recently for the first time since college, at a friends wedding. I got to meet some of her beautiful girls! She also has a fun family blog called KOOL DAZE, following the full life of parenting a large family in her "free spirited, fun loving ways". You can find it at Check out her blog, you'll enjoy!

I asked her to share 5 things she's glad she's done, looking back as her kids are quickly turning into adults. Here is what she shared, in her words. Enjoy!

"Parenting has been some of the most challenging, exciting, heartbreaking, frustrating, exhausting, but mostly rewarding adventures I’ve known. At this point I can say that I’ve actually been parenting for about half my life. I had my first baby when I was 23, and I’ve now reached the glorious age of 44 [gasp]. My sixth and last baby, Caleigh, recently turned 10 [double gasp]. Holy smokes, how did that happen so fast??

I am not disappointed to leave those infant, toddler, and preschool stages behind. The parenting challenges of those stages were so very different than the challenges of parenting teens and young adults. And quite frankly, I like the latter stages more. They have NOT been without MAJOR challenges--trust me when I say that. The pitfalls of teens and young adults have been just a bit more serious than say... finding poop smeared on the bedroom wall, or having to deal with a biting toddler. Ahhh, weren’t those the good ole days? I suppose I enjoy parenting more now because I’ve come such a loooong way in my personal growth as a parent. That and the fact that I journaled like crazy during my own high school and college years. Its helped me remember my own experiences and what the kids must be going through.

So, what are 5 things I am thankful I did in raising my kids, now that they are beginning to enter adulthood?

I’M THANKFUL I’VE LAUGHED A LOT--Its sheer delight to see that my kids have grasped the value and ability to laugh. In the Hochstedler home we all have a fairly good sense of humor. None of us are comedians, but we like to joke and have fun. We tend to hang out with people who laugh a lot, too. My kids crack me up all the time. Its pure joy. In our home, we think its especially important to be able to laugh at yourself because it breaks down self-righteous thinking and pride. We try to promote humility. Humility with a chuckle. Its especially fulfilling when we can look back on a bad situation and have a good laugh because its been walked through with success in the end. Having the ability to laugh about things helps my kids to not be afraid of having an honest look at themselves, especially when dealing with a difficult situation.

OPENNESS AND HONESTY is a big one. I can say this, my kids have a whole variety of levels when it comes to being open and honest with me. It all depends if they are trying to hide something--and we have gone through some heartbreaking times of dishonesty and rebellion--and sometimes they just need to vent a little. I can’t describe to you the joy that fills my soul when one of my kids finds a desire to open up to me. That’s when the honesty shows up, too. Its a double whammy, in a good way. It also means they are being honest with themselves. When they open up after a season of rebellious thinking, I don’t always like what I hear, but God gives me the grace to be patient, understanding and to be a good listener. Being genuine is really what it amounts to. “Don’t just say what you think I want to hear. Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. Be genuine. Say what’s really going on inside. Its the only way you will find your true destiny.” I put no value in keeping up an image to hide what’s really there. I really don’t care what other people think.

DEMONSTRATING COMPASSION has been key. I have spent a lot of time talking with my kids about situations that arise among their circle of friends and at school, as well as things going on at home or in the extended family. Some parents would never be as open with their kids as I am with mine. Its a personal choice. Its who I am. Of course, I use discretion, but its a great teaching moment when, in a frustrating circumstance, I can be able to clearly point out how someone’s behavior effects everyone. And how our own behavior has an impact as well. During these dialogues I can explain my stand on a matter in a non confrontational way and hopefully lead them to making better choices for themselves. Sometimes I’ll find one of my kids put off by my “assessment” of an incident. They will feel I’m being judgmental of their friends because I’m direct about my views. So I’ll try to find ways to reference that person during other conversations and demonstrate my own heart of compassion and understanding for them e.g. point out a bad behavior I disapprove of, but share that I understand reasons why their friend is struggling and what my hope is for that person. Time and again my kids have recognized where they are being judgmental which allows God to change their viewpoint. They gain the ability to disapprove of negative behavior but still have compassion for the person. That is a victory. (Two of my daughters have mentioned a desire to become a counselors. Go figure).

YAY FOR INDEPENDENCE. My kids have all learned the value of independence fairly early! I am not a mom who likes to wait on them (or anyone) hand and foot. NOPE! I like to have fun!! ha ha My husband learned to cook early on in our marriage and makes dinner about as often as I do. We both enjoy cooking, just not all the time. My kids have all learned how to do their homework independently, do laundry, cook, clean the house (although their definition of “clean” is debatable) travel, make money, do their own banking, etc. I refuse to do it all for everyone. It sounds selfish, but actually its been very good for my kids. They have a strong work ethic. Years ago, the boys took their first trip alone to NYC (2 hours away) by themselves at 14 and 15 years old. They made a few “memorable mistakes” during those adventures, which made me want to forbid them from every going again, but, alas, the foolishness was their learning curve for the next try. They are certainly unafraid to find their own way in new territory. I like that. My sons both have great jobs and have worked since they were 13. They wanted their own money, so we encouraged it. My two oldest daughters have great jobs during the summer and part-time work in the winter. The next daughter is thinking about where she can start working now. They make me proud.

My husband and I never allowed our increasing family size to keep us from being adventurous. For example, in 1993 we spent a month in India with our 2 yr old and 6 month old, heading up 4 teams of teenagers on a mission trip (my 2 yr old came back from that trip with a biting problem). Later we went to Dominican Republic on a mission with our 10 mo old daughter and several teens from the church. After that was Guatemala. I was 6 months pregnant for that one. In 2002, we moved our whole family to a completely different community for a year. The kids loved it. My husband and the boys started dirt biking and now its motorcycles. I’ve led my girls into the musical theater world. We all go to the slopes for boarding and skiing. Terry and I have taken many adventurous trips without the kids, too. We have to make them a little jealous and star-stuck at times. And now THEY are starting to take trips without us. Nate, 18 yrs old, recently took a 2-month trip to Costa Rica all on his own. He made some life-long friends and absolutely loved it. We, of course, had to visit him for his last week there. ;-)

Its so exciting and scary to watch each of the 6 kids struggle along and find their way into adulthood. Its amazing to see so much of Terry and me in them and we are certainly blessed to have so many tries at this parenting thing. Maybe we’ll get it right by the sixth one. Its a good thing they’re in God’s hands.

BTW, the 6th item I would have added to my list would be how our home has always had its doors open to many, many young people through the years. I have a lot more the six kids if you count the extra's we've treated as our own. Our kids have all the more siblings, I suppose. I'm just glad I don't have to pay for their college too.

(Jolene, their exchange student from Germany is to Karen's right, at Karen's son's graduation).


She Got Out.

So excited to share this with you- a message I just received this weekend.

I will say that the Awareness posts were my least read blogs, but I knew they would be. I knew I might lose some readers by posting so much on a yucky topic. Most don't want to think about it! Why would we? But I believe so much that it's a problem more common than we realize, that it's worth the risk to take the subject on. We've got to educate ourselves and be prepared to help people.

Then this amazing message came to my inbox this weekend, and I did the happy dance. So grateful for good endings. I only changed the cities mentioned to keep it anonymous. Read it here for yourself:

"I was going through your blog (as I do on a regular basis :) and I noticed your posts about Teen Dating Violence Month.

This was so "on time" as my mother would say. I recently had a friend (it really was a friend, not myself, thank God) who went through an abusive relationship, and she was lucky enough to get out. The hard part was that she was completely out of touch with everyone here in Houston, because she was now in Dallas with her boyfriend. I had noticed some signs previously, but I had no real "proof" because she was forced by this boyfriend not to talk to anyone in Houston. When she finally reached out to me, I tried to convince her that she was better than that. She's a wonderful person, and no one deserves to be treated that way. She's happily out of the relationship, and is focusing on building up her confidence and getting back to a sense of normalcy.

I'm sharing this with you to let you know that your blog helped me realize that as much as I felt helpless, I was able to read the stories on your blog to get a sense of what she was feeling. It's hard watching your friend get hurt, but helping her out of it makes you realize how much friendship really does change lives".

I'm so proud of both of these girls. One for reaching out for help even though it must have been scary, then listening to reason and getting herself out of a bad situation. And for the girl who shared this story, for doing the difficult thing and getting involved in a hard situation, in order to help her friend.

It's so much easier to look the other way sometimes. But lives can be changed.

I'm also very proud of the two ladies who shared their stories, when it would have been easier to bury the story in shame and try to forget. Yet both of these ladies have said that if it can help one person, they would rather share their story. And guess what? It did help one person. Because they shared how they felt while being in the middle of an abusive relationship, my friend could begin to understand how her friend felt, and figure out how to help her.

One girl is finding her way out of an abusive dating relationship and back to normalcy, one friend now feels more empowered in that she actually helped a friend in need, and felt equipped to do so.

I think this is a wonderful ending to all of our posts during February Awareness Month.

If you haven't watched "Reviving Ophelia", the Lifetime movie tackling this subject by making a fiction movie that appeals to girls, buy it on iTunes now and watch it. You can find it at