Want to know the secret to getting young girls* to “behave”? Let them make the rules. Of course you have to do a bit of leg work before you let 5 and 6 year olds make the rules or you’ll just have grand decrees that everyone gets to eat lollipops and yell whenever they want!
We centered our Rule Making meeting around the Girl’s First Activity called Majority Rules. In this activity, girls make the rules! They take a vote and have must agree as a group to create the unit rules. This activity helps the girls understand of the importance of rules and how rules are made. This is essential for better compliance! Often, even though the reasoning for rules is very clear to us as adults, it’s not so clear to the girls. No one wants to follow an arbitrary rule! This way, the girls gain the power to make rules and feel the responsibility to follow them more acutely.
*I say young girls, but this activity could be tweaked for any aged unit. Every person benefits from a sense of agency and feeling like they have some power over what is happening to them.
So, here’s how we did it.
First, we introduced the idea of voting to the girls. Discussed whether or not they’ve maybe seen their parents vote, what a vote is and what it means. Then, to bring that idea home, I read to them a story out of Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls (If you don’t have this book, I highly recommend it for ages 5-18!). This story was about a suffragette.
After we explained voting and the importance of democracy, we tell them a story that begins, “There was a time when men believed women were put on earth only to serve them…and not worry about anything else…” The story goes on to explain that women couldn’t wear what they wanted, couldn’t be what they wanted, and certainly weren’t allowed to voice their opinions in the form of a vote!
Cue absolute outrage as can only be felt and expressed by 5 & 6 year olds! The unfairness! The fury! Their world can be very black and white at this stage, and their sense of right and wrong is quite concrete. This level of unfairness was absolutely unacceptable in their eyes!! As it should be, of course!
Which is when we bring them right back to the idea of making and voting on rules as a unit. They had every right to participate in this democratic procedure, and how keen they were now to exercise that right!
So after another discussion about how we are safe, how we fulfill our Spark promise to share and be a friend, and what kind of things we can do to make sure everyone has a chance to participate and be heard, off we went! Girls were voicing their ideas faster than I could even process it! So needless to say, the first idea I guided them towards was the idea that if we all want to be heard, we should probably make a rule about only one person talking at a time!
Each girl had a chance to say something about that rule if they wanted, and we could change wording or tweak it until it was our Best Idea. As their ideas coalesced into a rule, I would write it down on a white board, and then the girls could vote on that rule. And vote they did!
In the end we have this “Spark Rule” poster which comes to every meeting. Each girl felt super-proud of what they accomplished.
And you know what? It’s now mid-January, and my girls follow these rules very well. I think I can count on my one hand the number of times I’ve had to remind anyone of our rules!
So not only did we improve the girls’ communication and decision making skills, introduce them to the concepts of democracy, voting and social justice, we allowed them the control and the power they needed to succeed this year. Oh, and did I mention there’s a badge for that???…