Some years are better than others, but for every year I’ve been involved with our Brownies, it happens. There are inseparable friends who stubbornly cling to one another, in spite of our efforts to mix up groups and facilitate new connections. We are a downtown unit, and our Brownies come from several neighbourhoods and attend many different schools. Sometimes the inseparable ones are old friends who now attend different schools and only see one another at Brownies. Other times, it’s the Brownies who live on the same street, go to the same school, the same after-school program and play on the same soccer team that HAVE to be together – ALL. THE. TIME. Often it’s just a twosome, but we’ve had the same challenge with little “cliques” of Brownies, too.
We’ve found this friend dynamic challenging because it can make others feel left out, it can make it harder for newer Brownies to integrate, and occasionally, provoke drama when there’s been a falling out. It’s not always the case, but we have also noticed it can be at its most intense with our second-year Brownies.
I will be honest. Sometimes we choose the path of least resistance and allow the inseparable ones to stay together. But we also have a couple of strategies that have worked year after year:
- ‘It’ sticks. Every Brownie’s name is written on a popsicle stick. We keep them in a can and pull them out whenever we need to pick a leader, or to make groups. The ‘It’ sticks are completely impartial. The Brownies recognize that there is no way to get around the randomness of the sticks.
- Free-flow meetings. Often when we have a range of small activity stations planned for the meeting, we let the girls move from one station to another at their own pace. We have found that the girls mix more naturally this way, as it’s their interest in a particular activity that becomes more important than who they are with.
- Make our own groups as a privilege. We usually only use this in the second half of the year. We give the Brownies advance notice that there will be groups for part of the meeting, and if they are able to make the groups themselves, we will allow them. That means if we say they need to make groups of four or five, we don’t end up with one group of eight and a couple of stragglers! By the second half of the year, they are usually able to problem solve together to get the groups right.
- Flexible and varied dynamics. We try to mix things up. Sometimes we will do things as a whole group, other times it’s individual activities, or in pairs, or in medium-sized groups.
- Compromise. At camp, we split up friends and cliques in tents or bunk rooms, but keep them together for patrols.
We sometimes wonder what’s best – avoid the drama altogether by letting friends stick together all the time, or breaking them up. I think managing the Brownie friend drama is for the best for the group as a whole, but it was really nice to get some feedback from someone closer to it. I recently asked a now much older Pathfinder – and former Brownie clique member – if she thought it was better to keep Brownie friends together or split them apart. Without a second’s hesitation, she said, “You have to split them apart. I remember how silly and difficult we could be when we were together. There’s always lots of chances to be together. And we are all still friends now.”
Do you have friend drama? Difficulty managing groups and pairs? What else works?
Guest post by Kathryn Lyons, with the 12th Ottawa Guiding Group, Sandy Hill, Ottawa. Kathryn has been a Guider with 12th Ottawa for five years, and with Brownies for the past three (check out her owl-shaped eye mask, right!). The accomplishments, support, encouragement and teamwork of each of her co-Guiders also make it more than worth it every year. Check out her previous posts: Sustainable crafting: Or, what can we do with all of that leftover fleece?; How do you organize all your Guiding stuff? A Billion Brownies; Watching Girl Greatness.