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Fool Me Once, Shame on You! Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me!

I recently asked my 11-year old what this saying meant… “Fool me once, shame on you! Fool me twice, shame on me!” He cocked his head and said, “Fool me once – I didn’t have anything to do with it. It’s not my problem.” For fool me twice, he said, “I shouldn’t have been around to see it happen again. It’s my fault if I let it happen again.” Albert Einstein once said “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. When Things Keep Getting Worse In my work with elementary and middle school girls, I often observe them on the receiving end of repeated hurtful friendship behaviors. A girl really, really, really wants the friendship, so she ignores the jabs, the disrespect, and the abuse. She keeps hoping things will get better. But oftentimes, things don’t get better; they get worse. I see a common tendency for girls to get stuck in an infinite loop of hurt. It goes like this… Hmmm… I didn’t like that she did that. I don’t want her to do it again. I hope she doesn’t. Wow. She did it again. I wish she’d stop. I’ll try to be nicer and do what she wants. Whew! I really don’t like this. How can I get her to stop? I’ll do anything to keep the friendship. Then, things may get a little better for a while. But soon, the relational aggression starts up again. The girl goes right back to step #1 above. Being a Mirror for Her As mentors in these girls’ lives, we have an opportunity to hold up a mirror for them. This metaphorical mirror allows girls to observe what is happening to them in their friendships. And more importantly, they can see how their thoughts and actions affect the outcome. So, how do we act as a mirror for girls who are repeatedly allowing themselves to be hurt by their friends? Here are some effective ways to show them what’s happening… Have them flow chart the hurtful behavior they are experiencing and their reactions (either in a free-form drawing or in a step-by-step list). Look for stories, cartoons, and movies that parallel their situation (Remember the old Road Runner cartoon? Wile E. Coyote is continuously getting tricked by the Road Runner. Watching these old cartoons on YouTube can be a great way to see an exaggerated example of letting yourself being repeatedly abused). Explore their self-talk. Ask questions like, “What goes through your mind when Sally hurts you like that?” Or, “What thoughts do you have when Marita does that?” A Replacement Thought Pattern A replacement for the infinite loop of hurt is a thought pattern of personal power. It sounds like this… Hmmm… I didn’t like that she did that. I’ll be wary around her to see if it was a one-time thing, or if this is a habit of hers. Wow. She did that again. It’s time for me to find someone to spend time with who makes me feel happy. Here’s the deal, though. As adults, we can’t MAKE girls be ready for change. Sometimes, it takes a while before a girl has been hurt enough to look at other options. Unless the relational aggression is severe (where we would obviously intervene), our job is to be that mirror and to be a resource of unconditional support. She’s ready when SHE’S ready. © 2009 A Way Through, LLC

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