MONEY Kids and Money

The Hidden Downside to Rewarding Your Kids for Good Behavior

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Giving your kids treats for getting an A at school or doing chores can come with surprising consequences, a new study suggests.

Next time you want to show your children you’re pleased with their perfect report card or good behavior, skip the visit to the toy shop.

Though your intention might be to reinforce responsible or thoughtful actions, new research suggests that providing treats like money, toys, or sweets can backfire on parents. A study published Wednesday in the Journal of Consumer Research found that children who receive more material rewards grow up to be more, well, materialistic.

“Parents don’t want their children to use possessions to define their self-worth or judge others, yet loving and supportive parents can also use material goods to express their love, paving the way for their children to grow up to be more likely than others to admire people with expensive possessions,” said authors Marsha Richins of the University of Missouri and Lan Nguyen Chaplin of the University of Illinois at Chicago.

By using possessions to reward—or, on the flip side, punish—children, parents may be setting the stage for long-term overconsumption, the study found. Children raised in households where acts of discipline involved giving or taking away belongings were more likely to continue rewarding and defining themselves with material things. They also grew up to admire people with expensive possessions and judge people based on what they own.

If that doesn’t sound bad enough, materialism in adulthood has also been linked to reduced feelings of well-being, marital problems, and financial difficulties, the authors noted.

Of course, many parents might wonder what they can do to reinforce good behavior without using material rewards. While the authors caution that using experiential rewards (say, a trip to Disneyland) can also make kids more materialistic, teaching your children to be grateful can mitigate the negative effects of any rewards you provide.

“One viable strategy might be to encourage gratitude in children—reward children, but also teach and encourage them to be thankful for the people and things in their lives,” they wrote. “Gratitude has been found to increase the value placed on connections to people, mindful growth, and social capital.”

For help walking the fine line between giving your child too much and giving them just enough, see how first-time dad and MONEY writer Taylor Tepper learned the secrets to not spoiling his child.

TIME Parenting

How to Parent Like an FBI Agent

Jose Luis Pelaez; Getty Images/Blend Images

No, you won't need any bugging devices

Ever feel like parenting would be a lot easier if you just had a full-time security team at your beck and call? And maybe an interrogation room?

You might not be able to swing that on this month’s budget, but Jack Schafer, a psychologist who and former FBI Special Agent, says parents can benefit from the tips of his trade. Here’s what he learned during 15 years conducting counterintelligence investigations – and how it applies to parenting.

Create the Illusion of Control
FBI agents are trained to de-escalate conflicts by giving subjects a choice, which helps them to feel like they’re in control. And “the feeling they have some control over a situation can work wonders, even for children,” Schafer writes in his recent book, The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over. Parents can do this, he says, without giving up any true authority. The trick: offer kids a choice between two options that both work for you. They can’t have anything they want for dinner. But do you know in advance you’re going to pick up food on the way home? Give them the option to choose between two good options.

Follow the Scarcity Principle
FBI profiling shows what many parents already know; that people tend to like things they can’t get much of. If you tell your kids not to do something, they want to do it even more. So how can a parent set clear boundaries without making kids eager to cross them? Let your kids know you trust them, Schafer says. When his daughter brought home a boyfriend she knew Shafer wouldn’t like, instead of forbidding her to see him, Shafer told her he trusted her to make the right decision. The boyfriend never made a reappearance.

Ask Indirect Questions
Especially as they get older, kids get suspicious they’re being interrogated, even when their parents don’t really work for the FBI. So asking direct questions isn’t always the best way to get the answers you’re looking for. Instead, use a classic FBI interrogation technique. “The best way to find out how your children really feel… is to ask them from a third-party perspective,” Shafer says. So if you want to know what your kids think about a sensitive topic, try bringing it up indirectly. Instead of asking, “Have you been drinking?” try starting a conversation with a hypothetical: “My friend’s son got caught drinking. What do you think his parents should do?” You might not get the answer you were looking for. But you’ll get to know your child.

Show Empathy
Another way FBI agents get people to open up is by letting someone know they understand what he or she is experiencing. “Demanding, threatening, or cajoling a response typically ends in a shields-up reaction” from kids, Shafer says. But empathetic statements, he’s found, can be much more effective, like: “You look like you are thinking about something pretty serious. You look as though something is really bothering you.” Greeted with this kind of empathy, kids will often share their thoughts freely. “Most teens want to tell their parents what’s bothering them,” Shafer says. “They just need a little encouragement and the belief that talking to you is their choice.”

Work the Case
The biggest thing parents can to connect with their kids? Just hang in there. In Shafer’s work, he’s observed that “The more time you spend with a person, the more influence they have over your thoughts and actions.” If parents aren’t around, kids start to take their cues from other kids. But “the more time parents spend with their children, the more likely the parents will be to influence them.”

Read next: How to Parent Like a German

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TIME

Sheryl Sandberg Wants Men to Lean In, Too

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Emely—Getty Images/Cultura RF Young girl dangling from her fathers arm

The new #LeanInTogether initiative promotes equality at work and at home

The latest Lean In initiative isn’t about women at work — it’s about men.

In the spirit of #HeForShe, Sheryl Sandberg and her team launched Lean In Together, a new campaign designed to help men promote gender equality at home and at work. It involves a partnership with NBA and WNBA stars, and includes specific tips for how men can Lean In, too.

They’ve also produced a short video with Makers, about how famous women like Hillary Clinton and Ruth Bader Ginsburg were able to achieve partly because of support from the men in their lives. As Sandberg puts it, “being a parent’s not a full-time job for a woman and a part-time job for a man.”

Here are the #LeanInTogether tips for how men can Lean In at home:

1) Be a 50/50 partner, by equally sharing household duties.

2) Be an active father, even if you’re not perfect — kids with active dads have better self esteem.

3) Close the wage gap at home, by not valuing chores done by boys (like taking out the trash) more than chores done by girls.

4) Challenge gender stereotypes, by making sure your kids play with diverse toys and see diverse characters in books and movies

5) Help your daughter lead. Not calling her “bossy” is a start — also encourage her to be assertive in other ways, like introducing herself to people.

6) Don’t tell your son to “man up,” which can be just as damaging as calling a girl “bossy.”

There are also some tips for Leaning In at work in a way that supports your female colleagues — check them out here.

Read next: More Sex—and 7 Other Benefits for Men who Help Out at Home

 

TIME Parenting

8 Simple Ways to Avoid Raising Spoiled Kids

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First up, get rid of that piggy bank.

No one intends to raise spoiled brats, but it’s sometimes hard to see the consequences of your actions several years down the road.

Ron Lieber, personal finance columnist for The New York Times, offers his advice on the subject in his new book The Opposite of Spoiled: Raising Kids Who Are Grounded, Generous and Smart about Money.

Here are his eight most practical tips:

Hand out on a regular allowance.

Commit to doling out the funds once a month or once a week, and offer raises on birthdays.

But there’s a catch: Allowance money shouldn’t be given to children as a reward for chores completed.

“If they do (their chores) poorly, there are plenty of valuable privileges we can take away, aside from withholding money. So allowance ought to stand on its own, not as a wage but as a teaching tool that gets sharper and more potent over a decade or so of annual raises and increasing responsibility,” says Lieber.

Instead, let allowance work as “practice money,” and let children learn about finances by controlling their own allowance.

Keep their money where they can see it

The cover of Lieber’s book shows three mason jars labeled spend, save and give. This is his preferred method for helping children track their finances.

“I hate piggy banks, and the problem begins with the metaphor itself. Pigs are dirty, and they eat a lot, so piggish behavior isn’t something to aspire to,” writes Lieber. “Meanwhile, ceramic or metal containers are problematic, since we want kids to be able to see what’s inside and watch it grow.”

Let them spend

Allow for a little bit of impulse, but also teach your children the difference between wants and needs. Show them where to draw the line between high quality and high dollar.

“My wife and I are still debating exactly where we’ll put the line,” Lieber writes. “I’m making the case for a broad-based ‘Land’s End Line.’ If we adopt it, that means we’d pay whatever Land’s End (my definition of a suitably mid-priced merchant that sells quality clothing) would charge for any clothing needs, even if an item comes from some other designer or shop. Anything with a price to the right of the Land’s End Line would be a want.”

Help them save, but only to a point

Money in the savings jar should be collected with a goal and timeline in mind, Lieber writes.

For younger children, the concept of time and goals are already fuzzy enough, so keep it short and specific.

For teenagers, their savings goals might be a bit loftier – it might be earmarked for a first car or senior class trip – and they might outgrow the jar system. Help them establish a savings account and transfer their allowance there automatically.

Use an app

Use Allowance Manager to make automatic weekly payments to your children’s accounts. They can spend their money with prepaid Allowance Cards and track their purchases with mobile and desktop apps.

Lieber also recommends FamZoo, another family banking app that also offers prepaid cards and money tracking functions. It also has an IOU feature that lets parents owe money to children and vice versa.

Show them how you use your money

Accordine to Lieber, a remarkable “64% of kids said they had no idea what their parents were giving, if anything,” so he suggests parents make an example of their charity while also giving kids a chance to get involved.

Let children help decide where mom and dad should donate money and time and teach them how to vet the worthiness of charities asking for money by evaluating if they provide essential services or goods to those in need.

Throw around less cash but more imagination

Lieber pokes at the problem with elaborate birthday parties and bar mitzvahs (for example, this stage show in honor of one Texan youngster) and Tooth Fairy inflation. It can all lead to materialism. But he offers some advice: Do things more modestly, but make them more special.

The Tooth Fairy can (and should!) visit to stay in line with lore, but Lieber encourages parents to put their own twist on the tale. Maybe your Tooth Fairy leaves glitter on the windowsill or gets caught on camera.

Birthdays are still cause for celebration, but in lieu of expensive gifts, Lieber suggests requesting party guests’ parents spend about half what they normally would and donate the other half to charity. This also eliminates the envy-inducing gift opening ceremony.

Finally, let grandparents break all the above rules

Accept that grandparents are the X factor. They’re bound to come through with the North Face jacket your teen is dreaming of while you’re striving to tow the Land’s End Line.

“We’ve found that grandparents will gleefully disrupt this attempt at standard setting with spontaneous bursts of generosity,” write Lieber. “Still, as long as it doesn’t happen too often, the continuum will hold if we parents apply it consistently.”

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Read next: How to Parent Like an FBI Agent

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TIME Parenting

The Sensitive-Dad Revolution

Kristin van Ogtrop was named Managing Editor of Real Simple magazine in 2003.

Will the English guys wearing fake belly babies help or hurt fathers?

Dear three pregnant dads, First, a question: Am I the only person who thinks there is something Napoleonic about your quest? After all, Napoleon is the man who famously said, “There is but one step from the sublime to the ridiculous.” So what if you’re not invading Russia? You are invading the realm of women the world over.

For those who aren’t familiar with your story, it goes like this: You are three 40-something British dads–Jonny Biggins, Jason Bramley and Steve Hanson–who have hatched a (possibly bonkers) plan to honor moms. For a month, you’re each wearing a 33-lb. belly-breast suit, 24/7, to simulate as best you can the sensation of being nine months pregnant. Call it sensitivity training for the modern father, just one part of a larger revolution in which dads are very, very involved. And–let’s be frank–it’ll be a traffic driver to your website, 3pregnantdads.com, which has convenient links to your e-commerce operation that sells personalized books.

I’ve decided–even though you used to work in advertising and are promoting a book for Mother’s Day, celebrated on March 15 in the U.K.–that I’m not going to be cynical about your motives. There is something sublime in your pursuit. You are all sons, and husbands of women who gave birth to your children. So indeed, you have much to be thankful for.

What you’re doing is even a bit heroic, if it yields some understanding of how uncomfortable pregnancy can be. Giving birth is its own kind of amazing torture that you won’t experience, but being pregnant lasts a lot longer and doesn’t get much play in the whole miracle-of-life narrative.

And you’re helping take dads to a whole new level, in accordance with the zeitgeist. As savvy marketers, you know that we’re in the midst of rebranding “men who have children.” This means we must all now take dads very seriously. If you watched the Super Bowl this year, you know that it was all about “dadvertising.” Meaning dads are no longer a clueless subhuman species who can’t change a diaper or remember the name of the pediatrician. Now dads are intelligent, feeling men who can adjust a Halloween costume, potty train a child and even pick up a teenager at school in a shiny new sedan.

You may have missed this during your period of confinement, as it were, but three weeks after the Super Bowl, the fourth annual Dad 2.0 Summit was held in San Francisco. The Dad 2.0 Summit is also very much about taking dads seriously. Absolutely no bumbling allowed in this annual, increasingly popular dadfest, which was cooked up four years ago by a blogger and an entrepreneur who thought their kind were getting a bad rap in the media. They also knew dads could monetize their ever larger digital footprint. Luckily, you Three Pregnant Dads are prepared for this new audience, thanks to your sophisticated blog, complete with frequent video entries.

But now for the ridiculous. First, you’ve got to admit that there is something deeply silly about your stunt drunken lark tribute. Not that I am opposed to the silliness of dads. To paraphrase Dr. Johnson, if a woman can’t laugh at her father, she can’t laugh at life. In fact, there would have been 45% less laughter in my childhood if not for my father. Yes, he is a funny man, intentionally and not. (He once got his hand caught in the ice machine in our freezer, and even though it was scary and painful at the time, we drag that old story out again whenever we need a good laugh.)

Second, with all that blogging about pregnancy, you verge on narcissistic, clueless, first-time-mom behavior. You know, when a woman of your acquaintance has a baby and acts like she invented childbirth. Super annoying.

And you three are, well, a bit like that. Oh: it’s really hard to tie your shoes! Your back really hurts! You can’t get a good night’s sleep! Next time, have a doctor give you an injection of progesterone and throw in a little third-trimester heartburn, and then let’s talk about discomfort and sleep deprivation.

But now all of that is nearly behind you, because you’re almost full term. On March 15 you will all “give birth.” My question is: Then what? Will you be able to keep the movement alive?

I have two suggestions. The first is sublime: Take an extra-long paternity leave, while convincing your co-workers that you do really care about your job. Don’t believe them when they say you are not leaning in.

And second: Learn to French-braid hair. It sounds ridiculous, but trust me. Mastering a French braid is a small accomplishment that represents the million insignificant-seeming things we do for our children throughout the course of our lives. And–like pregnancy itself–it isn’t easy. Only the very best dads can pull it off.

Respectfully yours,

Kristin van Ogtrop

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Opinion

The Problem With Dolce and Gabbana’s Motherhood-Themed Runway Show

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Catwalking/Getty Images Models walk the runway at the Dolce & Gabbana Autumn Winter 2015 fashion show during Milan Fashion Week on March 1, 2015 in Milan, Italy.

The designers' Milan Fashion Week show celebrated mothers — but not in the way our culture needs

Mother’s Day arrived early this year in Italy, where Milan Fashion Week is currently taking place. Sunday’s Dolce and Gabbana show, named “Viva la mamma!,” was entirely dedicated to celebrating motherhood. A handful of models walked the runway with their children and babies, while “Mama” by the Spice Girls played. Model Bianca Balti, heavily pregnant with her second child, even walked in the show. Designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have said the show was an homage to their own mothers.

The collection on display matched the mother-loving theme: ultra-feminine shapes — think full skirts and cinched waists — with loads of lace and florals. Many of the garments were emblazoned with the word “Mamma” or had children’s drawings printed across them, in the same vein as Angelina Jolie’s wedding veil.

It’s hard to deny the actual collection is stunning, but the idea of the show itself left me cold. Celebrating motherhood is all well and good, but this display was an entirely shallow endorsement of women that smacks of a gimmick. The theme might be sweet and largely inoffensive — after all, who doesn’t love moms? — but it also stuck to a particularly narrow definition of mothers. In D&G’s world, motherhood is the most limiting archetype of all, where women are radiant and impossibly beautiful, but not truly sexual.

Of course, it was nice to see a shape on the runway that falls outside the runway norm and isn’t pin-thin. One of the most justified and enduring criticisms of the fashion world is its reliance on ultra thin and, in some cases, unhealthy bodies. So props to Dolce and Gabbana, who asked Balti, clad in a form-fitting pink dress, to walk the runway. Alas, Balti was the only one on the runway who offered anything different, size-wise. (And, as others have pointed out, the models were mostly caucasian.) The rest of the models — even the new mothers — shared the typical model dimensions we’ve come to expect from fashion week.

But there’s a destructive side to flashily incorporating mothers-to-be and new mothers in a fashion show. In many ways our culture fetishizes mothers — and pregnancy — and the fashion and beauty industries are no different. Many women’s magazines and fashion websites have dedicated plenty of space to cataloging pregnant celebrities and their growing “bumps.” The very same publications devote even more attention to those women’s bodies after they give birth, either celebrating the return of a “pre-baby body” or tracking the struggle to bounce back to a so-called ideal.

Unfortunately, much of our culture’s focus on new motherhood and pregnancy ends up revolving around women’s bodies and how they look. That context is hard to separate in a fashion show — which displays women’s clothing on women’s bodies — that also tries to honor motherhood, no matter how well-intentioned.

Read next: World’s Most Famous Baby Photographer on the Power of Motherhood

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TIME Parenting

What Does It Mean to ‘Be A Man’?

Maria Shriver is a mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor covering the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. Jennifer Siebel Newsom is a filmmaker, advocate, and President and CEO of the non-profit organization The Representation Project, which inspires individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting gender stereotypes.

Our boys are in crisis, and it’s time to do something about it.

“Man up.” “Don’t be a sissy.” “Don’t cry.” “Talk like a man.” “Act like a man.” “Be a man.”

Millions of boys hear these words, these phrases, these commands, almost every day of their lives. They absorb the words and then spend a lifetime dealing with their effects. For our young boys, the path from boyhood to manhood is strewn with harmful words and stereotypes.

Our new film, The Mask You Live In, explores the confining stereotypes that boys are exposed to as they become men. Through personal narratives and expert commentary, the film delves into the destructive and often conflicting messages that boys are being subjected to on a daily basis. Messages that favor dominance over empathy. Physical strength over compassion. Violence over kindness. Sex over love.

It’s a hard time to be a boy, and the facts are something that should give us all pause. Today, boys are more likely to be expelled or kicked out of school than girls. Young men are only 43 percent of enrollees in post-secondary institutions. Boys are more likely to engage in violent crime, binge drinking, and drugs. Male campus sexual assault is commonplace, and mass shootings involving boys and men have become an epidemic. Jails are packed to the rafters with men. And men commit 79 percent of all suicides in the United States. The status quo is unacceptable.

We both have worked for women’s empowerment, and we are both mothers of boys. For years The Shriver Report has chronicled the shifting American family, revealing that the traditional dynamic has changed and both sexes now need a new language with which to communicate, and a new understanding of how to get along. Through our separate work with Miss Representation, The Representation Project and A Woman’s Nation, which produces The Shriver Report special editions, we’ve come together to tackle this next subject because we believe it’s no longer enough to just elevate our daughters. Boys and girls benefit when each is empowered and encouraged to be their most authentic selves.

Starting today, you can bring The Mask You Live In to your community by hosting a screening. Visit The Representation Project website for details. Our mission is to make the film available for all people to see, so these complex topics can be discussed in schools, businesses, foundations, community organizations and homes.

We hope the film spurs a national debate about how we can help our young boys. It’s incumbent upon all of us to better understand the pressures they face, the mixed messages they receive, and the lack of guidance that is available to them as they traverse the narrow path towards manhood.

The Mask You Live In is not about shaming men or telling them what to do. It’s about bringing us all together to support our boys and to address the alarming statistics around the ‘boy crisis’ in America.

We’ve come a long way since women were on Venus and men were on Mars. But we need to go further towards creating a more compassionate, caring, conscious culture for our girls and our boys. This is about understanding what is beneath the surface of our boys’ tough facades, helping them to “take off their masks,” asking them the questions to find out what’s really going on—and being strong enough to accept them for who they really are.

Our goal is to work towards a society of gender respect—adopting new language, throwing out stereotypes, and helping boys to share their true feelings. This can only help us move forward in the right direction.

We’ve taken the first steps – now we’re asking parents, teachers, coaches, and anyone mentoring young boys to join us.

Maria Shriver is a mother of four, a Peabody and Emmy Award-winning journalist and producer, a six-time New York Times best-selling author, and an NBC News Special Anchor covering the shifting roles, emerging power and evolving needs of women in modern life. She is the founder of A Woman’s Nation, which has produced a series of Shriver Reports that chronicle and explore seismic shifts in American culture and society affecting women today. She is also an Executive Producer of the Academy Award-winning film Still Alice, which tells the tale of a woman affected by early onset Alzheimer’s disease. In the coming weeks, Shriver will announce Maria Shriver’s Campaign to Wipe Out Alzheimer’s in partnership with A Woman’s Nation, the Alzheimer’s Association and a Global Community of Women.

Jennifer Siebel Newsom is a filmmaker, advocate, and President and CEO of the non-profit organization The Representation Project, which inspires individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting gender stereotypes. Her first film, Miss Representation, is an award-winning documentary which exposed the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence in America. Her second film, The Mask You Live In, premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2015. She is also an Executive Producer on The Invisible War and The Hunting Ground. She is married to California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and is the mother of three young children.

Read next: How To Shake Up Gender Norms

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TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Family

Dad Will Raise Quadruplets Alone After Wife Dies in Childbirth

Quadruplets born to Erica Morales at a Phoenix hospital on Jan. 15, 2015
Nicole Todman—AP Quadruplets born to Erica Morales at a Phoenix hospital on Jan. 15, 2015

"I went from having the best day of my life to the next morning experiencing the worst day of my life"

For one father, the happiest day of his life quickly turned tragic.

Carlos Morales, 29, was left devastated when his wife, Erica, died of blood loss on Jan. 16 while giving birth to their quadruplets two months prematurely.

“I went from having the best day of my life to the next morning experiencing the worst day of my life,” said Morales. “My four babies came into the world and then my wife died.”

But all four babies, though tiny at between two and three pounds apiece, were healthy — and Morales has since been taking baby-care classes at a local hospital. “I need to be prepared,” he said.

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Read the entire story at People.

TIME Parenting

6 Things You Should Know About Young Girls in School

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One day your child feels like part of the gang; the next she’s been elbowed out of the lunch table or left off the invitation list for a birthday party. Here’s what you need to know to get her through the clique years—and endless exclusive photo tagging—with fewer scars.

1. Cliquishness is ingrained—and it starts early. “We come from a hunter-gatherer society,” says Julie Paquette MacEvoy, an assistant professor of psychology at Boston College who studies children’s social and emotional development. “There was a greater chance of survival if you were part of a group. The urge to form cliques is evolutionarily ingrained.” By toddlerhood, this behavior starts to show up. A 2014 study published in Psychological Science showed that children as young as two will mimic their behavior to match that of their peers so they don’t stand out from the crowd. And not long after toddlerhood, we’re able to pinpoint the person in our group with whom we’re closest. “I don’t think we ever stop using that label [best friend],” says Rosalind Wiseman, a parenting educator and the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes ($10, amazon.com). Why are we so attached to it? “We need to have the sense that we matter. If we have a best friend, that means we count to someone.” And though children today certainly won’t perish if they don’t have a core group of buddies, there are benefits, like a boost to self-esteem and a sense of belonging, says Wiseman. Also, it just feels good to be included. That’s why it’s so painful to be left out.

2. There are two types of dominant personalities. They typically emerge during middle school: one is positive and fun to be around, and the other is influential but also manipulative, says Brett Laursen, a professor of psychology at Florida Atlantic University. If your child hangs out with a manipulative leader, she may feel demeaned fairly frequently. What helps: emphasizing the importance of thinking for herself and being her own person, not merely the sidekick of a bossy pal. “Have conversations about when it’s OK to give in and when it’s not,” says MacEvoy. For example, it’s fine to let the group’s leader decide which movie to watch if you don’t care, but it’s not OK for the queen bee to determine on her own who’s invited to go to the movie. If you happen to have a child who’s the leader of her clique, you can help her cultivate empathy by regularly asking her how her friends are feeling and doing.

3. Cliques can be physically painful. Research shows that exclusion triggers activity in the same part of the brain that controls physical pain, says Judith V. Jordan, Ph.D., an assistant professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School. For some kids, ejection from a friend group can be more painful than being rejected by a crush because that pain involves only one person. “When you’re pushed out of a clique, that’s an entire group of people who don’t value you, care about you, or want to hang out with you,” says MacEvoy.

4. Your child’s pain is easy to downplay—but don’t. Yes, you know clique trouble is a universal experience and we pretty much all survive. But it’s important to take your child’s grief seriously. If the situation seems to demand it, ask teachers for help in making sure the exclusion isn’t overt or cruel. (Have them keep an eye out for bullying and name calling.) At home, listen to your child’s daily recaps (if she’s willing to share) and empathize, says MacEvoy. Tell her you understand why she’s so upset and that you would be, too. But don’t go that extra step of disparaging or belittling other kids. As much as it may feel good to both of you in the moment, it sets the wrong example and could make reconciliation difficult for your child later.

5. Role play at home will make school easier. To help make the days ahead feel surmountable, ask your child if she would like to talk through hypothetical social scenarios. What should your child do if she has to eat lunch by herself? (Maybe she can read a book while she eats, or you two can talk about who else she could approach.) What should she do if one of the girls says something mean to her? (Walk away.) For younger kids (up to around age 11 or 12), this exercise tends to feel empowering, says MacEvoy. Teenagers may find it cheesy; offer them an ear instead. If there’s potential for your child to patch things up or make amends, discuss the reasons for the exclusion in the first place. “Often it involves a member of the opposite sex—especially in adolescence—or just sheer jealousy,” says MacEvoy. If your child offended just one member of her clique (and the rest of the girls are excluding her as an act of solidarity), encourage your kid to talk to the person with whom there’s a real problem. If they can make up, it may be possible for the whole group to get back together, albeit with a bit of tension in the ranks.

6. Sometimes you just have to find new friends. When a group has truly caused pain—or formally ousted your child—she may have no choice but to leave it behind and seek out new friends. If she’s feeling intimidated (and who wouldn’t be?), talk about trying to make just one new friend rather than entering a whole new clique. Think about it: There’s a world of difference between eating lunch alone and eating lunch across from someone else. Having additional friends is great, too, but children are much less lonely when they have even one supportive friend, says Steven R. Asher, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University, in Durham, North Carolina. It’s ultimately up to your child to find this new buddy (or buddies), but you can lay the groundwork. Nudge her toward a club, a sport, a volunteer activity, or even an after-school job where she can meet peers with similar interests. And take heart in the knowledge that this lonely state isn’t forever. Faris and his colleagues conducted an eight-week study in which they asked kids in the 8th through 12th grades to name their best friends every few weeks. “We found a shocking amount of turnover,” he says. In other words: Your child may feel excluded on Friday, but that doesn’t mean she’ll still be on the outs come Monday morning.

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This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.

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How to Parent Like a German

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An American mom finds some surprising habits

The first time I went to a playground in Berlin, I freaked. All the German parents were huddled together, drinking coffee, not paying attention to their children who were hanging off a wooden dragon 20 feet above a sand pit. Where were the piles of soft padded foam? The liability notices? The personal injury lawyers?

Achtung! Nein!” I cried in my bad German. Both kids and parents ignored me.

Contrary to stereotypes, most German parents I’ve met are the opposite of strict. They place a high value on independence and responsibility. Those parents at the park weren’t ignoring their children; they were trusting them. Berlin doesn’t need a “free range parenting” movement because free range is the norm.

Here are a few surprising things Berlin parents do:

Don’t push reading. Berlin’s kindergartens or “kitas” don’t emphasize academics. In fact, teachers and other parents discouraged me from teaching my children to read. I was told it was something special the kids learn together when they start grade school. Kindergarten was a time for play and social learning. But even in first grade, academics aren’t pushed very hard. Our grade school provides a half-day of instruction interrupted by two (two!) outdoor recesses. But don’t think this relaxed approach means a poor education: According to a 2012 assessment by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, German 15-year-olds perform well above the international average when it comes to reading, math and science while their more pressured American counterparts lag behind.

Encourage kids to play with fire. A note came home from school along with my excited second grader. They were doing a project on fire. Would I let her light candles and perform experiments with matches? Together we lit candles and burned things, safely. It was brilliant. Still, she was the only kid whose parent didn’t allow her to shoot off heavy duty fireworks on New Year’s Eve.

Let children go almost everywhere alone. Most grade school kids walk without their parents to school and around their neighborhoods. Some even take the subway alone. German parents are concerned about safety, of course, but they usually focus on traffic, not abductions.

The facts seem to be on the Germans’ side. Stranger abductions are extremely rare; there were only 115 a year in all of America, according to the most recent U.S. Department of Justice study. And walking around without parental supervision, or “independent mobility” as the researchers call it, is good for kids.

Party when school starts. One of my Berlin friends once told me that the three biggest life events are Einschulung (starting first grade), Jugendweihe (becoming a young adult) and getting married.

In Berlin, Einschulung is a huge celebration at the school—on a Saturday!—that includes getting a Zuckertute—a giant child-sized cone filled with everything from pencils to watches to candy. Then there’s another party afterwards with your family and friends. Einschulung is something children look forward to for years. It signals a major life change, and hopefully, an enthusiasm for learning.

Jugendweihe happens when a child turns 14. It involves a similar ceremony, party, and gifts, marking the next stage of growing up. With all the negativity heaped on adolescents, there’s something to be said for this way of celebrating young adulthood.

Take the kids outside everyday. According to a German saying “there is no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing.” The value of outside time is promoted in the schools, hence the “garten” in Kindergarten. It’s also obvious on Berlin’s numerous playgrounds. No matter how cold and grey it gets, and in Berlin it gets pretty cold, parents still bundle their kids up and take them to the park, or send them out on their own.

Which brings me back to that dragon—since moving here, I’ve tried to adopt some of the Berlin attitude, and my 8-year-old has climbed all over the dragon. But I still hesitate to let her walk alone in our very urban neighborhood.

I’ve taken one small step. I let her go to the bakery by herself. It’s just down the stairs and one door over. The first time she did this, she came back beaming, proudly handing me the rolls she bought herself.

I figured there was no need to tell her that her American mother was out on the balcony, watching her the whole time.

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