Author Archives: grandpoobah

What Can Parents Do About Mean Girl Behavior

In Part 2 of 2 of her series on bullying, Samantha Parent Walravens provides pathways to discuss Mean Girl behavior with your teen girl, and steps to take if bullying is happening.


  1. Get the facts. Find out what’s happening, who’s doing it, how long it’s been going on, and if the teacher knows.
  2. Make sure your child knows that it’s not her fault.
  3. Talk about ways of responding to mean girls’ behavior. Role-play with her, acting out the different scenarios she might encounter.
  4. Encourage her to get involved in activities that focus on her talents and interests, especially activities outside of school and even outside of town. This will help her form new friendships outside of the “cliques” and put her with kids who share common interests. It may help your child realize that the mean girls are not “all that.”
  5. Tell her your own story if you were bullied as a child (and most of us were, in some way). What did you do in response? Did it work?

What Motivates Mean Girl Behavior

Samantha Parent Walravens gets to the heart of the “Mean Girl” culture, so that we can effectively address it. Instead of merely demonizing the behavior, understanding the motivations can be a first step to stopping it.


Reality TV shows like The Real Housewives of New York, The Jersey Shore, and The Hills feature real-life mean girls in action — publicly humiliating and spreading nasty rumors about each other, pitting friend against friend, excluding or rejecting former friends, and even engaging in physical aggression.

While watching these on-screen antics may be a guilty pleasure for some, most of us resent the mean girl’s unwieldy power and long to see her fall from grace. Think of the movies Heathers, Sixteen Candles, and Mean Girls, all of which feature the demise of the queen bee and the triumph of the downtrodden. Ah, how sweet revenge can be…

Why We Should Let Our Kids Fail

Samantha understands but warns against the tendency parents have to shelter their children from failure.

As parents, our natural instinct is to protect our children from harm, disappointment and failure. But doing so is not always in our kids’ best interests.

When my daughter was in fourth grade, her basketball team was on a 0-7-game losing streak with no apparent signs of a mid-season comeback. After a particularly dreadful loss, she ran off the court crying and told me that she wanted to quit.

Back in the Game

With the little ones growing up, many Marin mothers are taking advantage of their newfound freedom and starting a second career.

The College Counselor
Heidi de Chatellus, Insights to College

WHILE HELPING THE ELDEST of her three children through the college application process, Heidi de Chatellus had an epiphany.

“I realized how complex this process can be for parents,” she says, “and thought there was a real need out there in the community for quality help.”

After 10 years of being a stay-at-home mom, she got a certificate in college admissions and career planning at UC Berkeley (cost: $4,000) and put out her shingle as an independent college counselor. As part of her training, she interned in the college counseling office at Lycée Français in San Francisco to gain hands-on experience working with students.

Her job is more than full-time. “I work from my home office, more hours than I care to count,” she says. “My mornings are focused on researching, keeping abreast of developments in education and reading student work. The rest of the day is spent meeting students and families.” She also travels quite a bit, visiting more than 150 colleges around the country and meeting with admissions officers on a regular basis.

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Kids today are starting sports younger and training harder. But is the “more is better” attitude helping or hurting them?

IT’S SPRING, AND all over the county kids are waking up early and eating a good breakfast, and parents are filling up the gas tanks to drive across town, to cheer on their offspring as they play their little hearts out. Thousands of kids are breaking in their new cleats, softening their new baseball gloves or tightening a new super-aerodynamic pair of swim goggles. Oh, the joys of being a kid in Marin County. Most of these young athletes compete in what is often called a “rec” league, meaning the games are usually parents in their own town, teammates are often classmates and coaches are volunteer parents.

However, there is another group of Marin young people, also waking up and eating a good breakfast and preparing for a game, which on any given day could be in Sacramento, Concord or even Reno. These kids might have a particular talent or an early aptitude because they have been introduced to the sport by a sibling or by parents motivated to provide their kid the learning experience of being on a more competitive team. These children, often identified as early as 7 years old, are being steered to play for competitive travel teams that carry prestigious labels like Select, Club and Elite.

Meet the Women Changing the Face of Tech

From the “Elephant in the Valley” report revealing that 60% of women in Silicon Valley have been sexually harassed, to the meteoric spike of the #ILookLikeAnEngineer meme, to the immediate backlash over Sir Michael Moritz’s comments about not “lowering standards” to find qualified women to work at his VC firm, Sequoia Capital, to Netflix NFLX -2.62%, Amazon and other tech giants unveiling new parental leave policies, egg freezing and breast milk shipping, the “women in tech” issue is downright trendy.

But the depressing headlines about tech’s nagging and very real gender gap don’t really tell the whole story. Look below the surface, as we have, and you will discover powerful grassroots, entrepreneurial activity among women who haven’t been deterred by sexual harassment, hacker in a hoodie stereotypes and the lack of startup funding. These women aren’t asking for permission from Silicon Valley – or anyone – to seize the opportunity to make their mark in the innovation economy and what the World Economic Forum terms as the “Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

New Report Details Hurdles for Black Women Launching Tech Startups

On paper, Asmau Ahmed could easily be typecast in the role of promising tech startup founder: honors degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Virginia, MBA from Columbia University, patent holder and co-developer of a visual search engine that could revolutionize the way shoppers make decisions about everything from a lipstick shade to decorating a living room.

This is why she insists investors read her resume before they meet her in person.

“They get to judge me based on my credentials, not on what I look like or my gender, and that helps get the conversation started and get past the initial reservation — and there is an initial reservation when you see a black woman running a tech company,” the 37-year-old CEO says of her experience raising money to fund the growth of her company, Plum Perfect, which she founded in 2010.

3rd Annual Lesbians Who Tech Summit Brings Visibility to LGBT nnovators

At the Firewood Café off Castro Street in San Francisco, a roomful of women sat eating kale salads and gourmet pizzas topped with goat cheese and sundried tomatoes. They sipped iced tea with lemon and an occasional glass of bubbly. It looked like a gathering of “ladies who lunch,” except these ladies wore hoodies and high tops, sported buzz cuts and neon hair, and were embellished with body art instead of pearls. More importantly, they were kick-ass software engineers, founders of tech companies and advocates working tirelessly to make the technology industry more inclusive.

This year’s Lesbians Who Tech Summit was anything but conventional. And that’s how founder Leanne Pittsford wants it.

“I go to some of these women’s events and they are like stuffy and their heels are clacking, and people won’t talk to you,” Pittsford explains. “My call to action for women’s conferences is to have a little more fun, to not take ourselves too seriously. What makes our conference magical is that we’ll have an incredible interview with Kara Swisher (Executive Editor of Re/Code) then right after we’ll have a hula hoop contest.”

Meet the Former Welfare Mom Who Saved the Birthplace of Modern Computing

Computer scientist Dr. Sue Black is a force of nature. From working her way out of public housing with three young kids in tow, to earning a PhD in Engineering and becoming a professor at the University of Westminster in London, to publishing a book about how she helped save WWII code-breaking site Bletchley Park from ruin, to working tirelessly as an advocate for women in tech, she has accomplished more than most of us could hope to achieve in a lifetime.

Most recently, Dr. Black was appointed advisor of the UK Government’s Digital Service and was honored as an Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), a grade within the British order of chivalry. Here, Dr. Black talks to us about her early struggles, how she became passionate about computing and what she’s doing to promote diversity in tech.

How This Startup Coach Helps Founders Around The World Raise Millions

Win wallets first, then hearts. – Andrea Barrica, 500 Startups

Andrea Barrica has seen thousands of pitches in her role as venture partner and “pitch coach” at 500 Startups, a Silicon Valley accelerator and global seed fund. She’s traveled the world, from Ghana to Poland to the Philippines, to help startup founders develop and deliver winning pitches, which have garnered an estimated $50 million in combined investment to date.

We were fortunate to see Barrica in action recently as she coached the latest group of startups – Batch 16—which also happens to be the largest cohort in 500′s history, with 53 companies in total. In line with 500’s commitment to diversity in tech, 26% of the companies in this group have at least one female founder and 32% are from outside Silicon Valley or the U.S.

The Mid-Life Marriage Crisis: Are More Women Cheating?

Over the past few years, I’ve noticed that a growing number of married couples in my circle of 40-something friends are calling it quits. Unsurprisingly, infidelity is a factor in many of these break-ups. However, what is surprising to me is that in most of the cases, it’s the woman who is having the affair – not the man.

Today’s culture of infidelity is so drastically different from what I saw growing up in the 1980s, it could almost be considered a backlash. As a child, my friends and I saw how divorce left our mothers devastated and in dire financial straits, and we vowed never to let it happen to us. We worked hard in school, went to college and grad school, and pursued careers so that we would never have to be financially dependent on a man. We would not experience the pain that our mothers felt when they were cheated on, dumped for a younger version of themselves, and left with nothing.

Now, as we approach our mid-lives, it seems that we women are repeating the mistakes of our fathers. Why are we willing to risk everything – our marriages, our homes, our whole lifestyles – to have a romp in the sack with another man?

10 Tips for Getting Your Son Safely Through the Teen Years

ometimes I wonder if I’ll make it through the teenage years with two boys. Calgon, take me away…

Just when you’re thanking your lucky stars that you survived the toddler years, you blink and your active baby boy has become a teenager. As I’m sure other parents would attest, the teenage years make the “terrible twos” look like, well, child’s play.

On almost a daily basis, my girlfriends email me tragic stories of teenage boys doing stupid things, like the Georgia teen who drowned just hours after his high school graduation when his friends tied him to a shopping cart and pushed into a lake as part of a game.

Part of the problem is that the developing teenage brain is hardwired for risk. According to Dr. Amir Levine, a psychiatrist and neuroscientist at Columbia University, the expansion of grey matter in the adolescent brain stimulates neural pathways that make a young person more willing to try new things.

High Anxiety Navigating the often complicated and confusing world of college admissions.

THIS FALL, WHILE some families are off visiting pumpkin patches or tasting wines in Napa, others are sitting down to begin the grueling college application process. Parents of high school juniors and seniors are poring over brochures from ivy-walled colleges, students are racing to perfect college essays and get last-minute teacher recommendations, and admissions officers are off wooing students who show promise.

Anxiety has reached new levels in college admissions these days. Gone are the times when a 4.0 grade point average and a 1400 on the SAT all but guaranteed a space at Stanford or an Ivy League or UC school. Today, students with perfect grades and test scores are finding more closed doors than open ones. “You could have a 4.3 and 2200 SAT, but for selective schools like UC Berkeley and UCLA, it’s still going to be a reach,” says Laurie Favaro, a private college counselor in Marin.

The result? Students are studying harder, taking more AP courses than ever before and working with private college counselors who charge up to $400 per hour to help gain them a leg up on the competition.

“It’s a jungle out there,” says Gabrielle Glancy, an independent college consultant and former admissions director who has worked with students in the Bay Area for more than 25 years. She is also author of The Art of the College Essay, considered the book on that part of the application process.

“It’s much harder to get into college these days,” she says. “I recently started working with a student whose mom is a West Coast interviewer for Princeton. The mom told me confidentially she could never have gotten into Princeton if she applied today.”

Achieve a Healthier Work-Life Balance

“Today’s feminism it isn’t about women doing it all. It’s about women NOT having to do it all.” —Gloria Steinem (2008)

I began buying into the myth of “doing it all” at an early age. In my 20s, I had my checklist life in mind: start a lucrative career right after college, meet someone and fall in love, get married in my late 20s, get my career to a successful enough point that I can take some time off without losing footing, and then, of course, get pregnant and have my first child before the age of 32. It seemed like a realistic timeline of expectations and, according to the tenants of feminism, not only could I do it all—it was my right and even my duty as a woman to do it all.

With age, wisdom, and each successive child (I now have 4), I learned that by trying to do it all, especially at the same time, I was not doing anything at a level of 100 percent effort or enjoyment. There was simply too much to accomplish to feel 100 percent about anything other than my stress level.

Copyright © Samantha Parent Walravens