Net Exchange Response
Title: Wanted: A curriculum for a girls' group that stresses
supportive rather than competitive relationships
Date Posted: 1/13/2006
Question: The concern is about the anger and struggle seen in girls as they compete for a boy
"at all costs." The request states: "I find that girls really don't trust each other, and for good
reason. I have been looking for curriculum for this problem. I contacted the authors of several of
the best sellers on this topic such as Queen Bees and Wanna Bees, Odd Girl Out, and the Ophelia
Project. I'm not finding anything that I can use. I'd like some experiential sessions for a girls
group ... the focus would be on female bonding, supporting one another, self -esteem and general
After receiving this request, we sent it to several people who we think might
be able to help. Below is our thoughts on this complex matter, followed by the first response that
has come in from one of the folks contacted.
Generally, we would begin with some process work to enhance the girls' motivational
readiness before a theme-focused curriculum is introduced. This phase of intervention is often
overlooked when folks move too quickly to specific themes. This seems essential in any case
where the girls are highly competitive and don't necessarily see the value in changing to ways
that support one another. It is almost always the case that some really aren't interested in
changing. That is, it is not their goal; they see it as primarily the goal of whoever is teaching the
curriculum. Thus, the first intervention steps often need to be ones that facilitate group
exploration of current relationships (competition with each other) and associated feelings,
thoughts, and actions. If during such readiness-focused sessions, some girls indicate that they
feel satisfied with the state of affairs (e.g., if it is really meeting their basic needs), they are
unlikely to engage productively in a curriculum designed to change their attitudes and behavior.
Those who are not happy with the state of affairs are the ones to invite into some experiential
sessions that have a "transparent" agenda. ("Would you like to be in a group that explores how
girls support or don't support each other and why?")
Therefore, with a view to enhancing motivational readiness, we think it is wise to offer 2-3
sessions and, in doing so, clarify with the girls the processes to be used and the objectives. These
sessions might be built around various stimuli that elicit a sequential discussion about:
Assuming some are interested in changing the situation, part of the last readiness building
session would encompass exploring with these girls various available curricula programs and
then involving them in decisions about which to adopt.
- how girls at the school compete and support each other
- why they compete
- how this makes them feel
- whether they see any advantages to supporting each other instead of competing
- whether they want to explore how to change things
- A response from the field: "The only groups that I am familiar with who cover this issue are
The Empower Program (created by the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes) - located here in
DC. And one other curriculum created by a local CMHC called 'G-Trem: Love and Life' which
is geared at girls with abuse histories. The creators of this program are Community Connections
which is run by Maxine Harris, a leader in the field of trauma and sexual abuse. Their contact
info is 202/546-1512. I think The Empower Program is a bit more well-rounded though. Those
are the only curriculums with which I am familiar on this topic. Neither have a strong 'female
bonding' component. Maybe they could supplement the group with an activity like an Outward
Bound program or team building ropes course of sorts ."
Other ideas about dealing with such matters may be culled from the resources included in the
Center's Quick Find online clearinghouse. See, for example, the topics:
Here's a bit of additional information from the colleague who made the request:
"For the past 3 years girls have asked for something, some group or club that helps them bond
instead of 'eat each other alive' as they put it. I brought in some therapists to run 'girls groups'
but that was on a small scale. The girls have already picked out the staff members they want to
be the 'club' or 'group' sponsors. Women they respect and see as role models. They realize there
is a problem. The most common fights are among girls who had been close in the past and for
competitive reasons are at each other's throats......the fine line between love and hate. We explore
the 'button pushing' of someone who you're close with.....only someone that close can get to you
in such a way, but it needs to be on a larger scale. The girls have already brought up topics and
ideas for guest speakers....I just need some guidelines and experiential stuff to bring to the
Suggested resources from Listserv Participants and consultation cadre members.
- "I have found that working with girls groups varies across the spectrum - often dependent on
many of the social contextual factors involved. One resource I have used and have had success
with involves the use of media awareness (social norms approach type) - Jean Kilborne has a
great movie, which infertility is getting outdated, with a curriculum you can download called
'Killing us softly.' http://www.mediaed.org/videos/MediaGenderAndDiversity/KillingUsSoftly3
I have had success with it working with high school females bringing a bonding level of
understanding of women in society and the ways they are exploited. Worth checking out, plus
the down loadable curriculum has some good group activities on self-awareness, body image."
- "I have found that it is important to have a mixture of group ritual, information/education that
is interactive and fun, and time to talk/share with each other.
- Ritual: Beginning and end of each session that also rewards attendance and reinforces
group rules and purpose. education: affirmation, values, diversity, decision making/goal setting,
friendship & peer pressure, self-esteem, media influences, health/unhealthy relationships,
pregnancy and STI prevention, anger management/stress reduction, and a termination party
(affirmation, summary, evaluation, celebration (pictures), and further resources and ways to stay
- >In AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project) we find that games can also help bridge mistrust
through laughter- 'Big Wind Blows.'
- Concentric circles- is a good tool for everyone to share with each without having to talk to
the whole group- inside circle faces outside circle, each person shares with their partner for 2
minutes then switch and becomes the listener. Outside circle can rotate and a new partnership
- I feel that follow up 'reunions' can be the most powerful part of the group down the road."
- "...explore the Stone Center at Wellesley College, which focuses heavily on issues facing
girls and women throughout development."
- "Although the curriculum isn't directly addressing competition issues, I think the Choices
books are worth looking at for running positive girl groups.
Choices and More Choices engagingly address the myths and hard realities young people
must face entering adulthood. The books detail the critical choices and challenges they must
consider in order to become productive, independent human beings. These self-discovery
books practically teach by themselves. Through the use of provocative exercises, charts,
interview techniques and other interactive methods, Choices and More Choices help develop
skills in the important areas of goal setting, skills identification, decision making,
assertiveness and career research.
For girls 11 to 15 years old, See 'More Choices: A Strategic Planning Guide for Mixing
Career and Family' (Traditionally, career planning and planning for a family have been
considered separately, as though there is no relationship between these two major spheres of life.
More Choices takes a new approach and shows how, with proper planning, it is possible to
support a family - and still find time to enjoy it. This is an ideal book for young women about to
choose a career, whether they are in high school, college or at re-entry level.)"
- "At Girls Inc. in Portland, OR, we have developed a comprehensive curriculum for use in girls
groups directly addressing relational aggression. Allies in Action is a nationally recognized
curriculum model designed to build positive girl to girl relationships through team building,
leadership, critical analysis, effective conflict coaching and skill building.
Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed, author of "Girl Fighting: Betrayal and Rejection Among Girls," describes
the Allies in Action as 'one of the few fully developed, evaluated, and effective programs in the
United States that addresses girls' complex social realities and offers the critical vocabulary and
tools girls need to confront stereotypes, work together, create safe spaces, and live on their own
terms. In a culture that increasingly offers "girl power" in the stereotypical form of nasty fighters
or popular meanies, Allies in Action builds on girls' capacity for loyalty, sense of fairness, and
pleasure in each others company to develop real power to live well and make the world a better
place.' The content outline for the curriculum as well as an order form to distribute to the listserv
can be obtained from firstname.lastname@example.org."
Submit a request or comment now.
UCLA Center for Mental Health in Schools
Dept. of Psychology, P.O.Box 951563, Los Angeles, CA 90095.
email: Linda Taylor ~ web: http://smhp.psych.ucla.edu