13 THINGS STRONG KIDS DO by Amy Morin (Book Excerpt)

Chapter 2: They Empower Themselves

Jayden woke up on his last day of summer vacation wishing he could make his break last just a little longer. Tomorrow was his first day of junior high, and he was dreading it.

Not too long ago, he actually liked school. He got good grades and he had lots of friends.

But things changed last year when his friends start- ed teasing him all the time. For some reason, they liked making him look stupid. They’d ask questions like, “Who won the football game last night?” or, “Which basketball player was the highest scorer last year?”

Jayden never knew the answers. He didn’t even like professional sports.

At first he would simply say, “I don’t know.” But when he admitted that he didn’t know, his friends cracked up.

So he tried a new plan. He answered their questions by saying, “I don’t want to talk about that right now.” But his friends still made fun of him.

Finally he tried saying, “You’re only asking that because you don’t know the answer either!” That just made them laugh even harder.

Jayden felt so stupid that he made a plan to stop the mocking. He studied sports so he could answer any questions that came his way. He watched NFL games, read articles about NBA players, and collected baseball cards. He still didn’t like sports, but he was sick of not fitting in with the other guys.

When he tried to show off his new knowledge, it didn’t go well. At the lunch table, he said, “I think the Cowboys are going all the way this year!”

One of his friends chuckled and said, “Yeah? Why don’t you tell us how many times they won the Super Bowl already?”

When he couldn’t answer, another friend said, “Jayden learns one random football fact, and now he thinks he’s an expert!”

It had been an awful experience and Jayden didn’t want to go through anything like that ever again. But now he was headed to junior high! What if things were about to get even worse?

He pictured his friends laughing at him in the hall- ways. He imagined them telling everyone on the bus that he didn’t know the difference between the Yankees and the Red Sox. And he pictured them calling him names when he couldn’t recall the latest football stats.

As he thought more of the awful things that awaited him at school this year, Jayden pulled the blankets up over his head. All he wanted to do on his last day of summer vacation was to figure out how to get out of going back to school.

Check Yourself


You are in control of how you think, feel, and behave. But there might be times when you give someone else power over your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Check out these sentences. How many of them sound like you?

  • I get so angry at other people that I say and do mean things.
  • How I feel about myself depends on how other people feel about
  • I believe people who criticize
  • I act how I think other kids want me to
  • Sometimes I do things I wouldnt normally do because Im trying to fit
  • My mood depends on the mood of people around
  • If another kid makes fun of me for something, I try to change

How true do those things sound about you? The more they sound like you, the more likely you are to give away your personal power. We all do this sometimes, but doing it too much can be a real problem. In this chapter, we’ll talk about how to know when you’re giving people power over you. Then we will find out how you can keep your power, or empower yourself. When you learn to do this, you will get stronger and feel better!

But first, let’s go back to Jayden and the trouble with his friends. . . .

Closer Look

Jayden knew he couldn’t hide forever, but he didn’t know what else to do. He had given his friends power over the way he felt about himself and about school. He even let them control how he behaved.

Here’s how Jayden gave his friends power over him:


When Jayden’s friends teased him, he started thinking things like, “I’m so stupid! I must be a nerd since I don’t like sports.” He also pictured the guys teasing him even worse.


Jayden felt sad and embarrassed. He began dreading school! He was always scared that his friends would start in again at any moment.


He started watching and studying sports even though he didn’t really like them. Instead of having fun on his last day of summer vacation, he stayed in bed all day.

Jayden allowed his friends to affect his school life and his home life. He felt stuck because he let them take away his power. He needed to learn to empower him- self!

But before we talk about how to empower yourself, it’s important to understand the difference between giving away your power and empowering yourself.

Giving away your power might not seem like a big deal sometimes. But there are many reasons why it’s important to empower yourself! We’ll talk about those reasons next.


Why did Jayden feel so miserable? It was because the kids he called “friends” were treating him horribly. He spent a lot of time trying to change himself so they would stop teasing him.

But the more he tried to learn about sports, the worse he felt.

He was learning about sports because he was trying to impress his friends. That whole time he could have been doing something he actually liked. Then he would have been feeling much happier!

When you keep your power, you become the driver in your life instead of the passenger. Here’s why:

  • You decide how you feel about
  • You decide what kind of day you’re going to
  • You form your own
  • You determine your
  • You set the rules for how other people treat

When you empower yourself, you don’t depend on other people to feel good. You can decide to feel good even when someone else is in a bad mood. And you can decide who you want to be friends with, too.

Empowering yourself helps you be the strongest version of you. You’ll feel more comfortable being yourself when you have power.


Think about how your life could be different in the future if you keep your power.How might you think differently?

How might you feel differently?

What might you do differently?


Jayden walked into junior high filled with anxiety. He kept thinking, “Just get through the day without get- ting picked on!”He found his homeroom. He walked in and looked around nervously. He didn’t know anyone. But when Jayden found his desk, the kid next to him said, “What’s up? I’m Terrance. I guess I’m sitting next to you.”Jayden noticed the kid was wearing a T-shirt with his favorite band on it. “You like them?” he asked. He didn’t know anyone else who did.“Yeah, I love them!” Terrance said. “I went to their show this summer. It was epic!”The two boys spent the next ten minutes talking about their favorite music.When the bell rang, Terrance said, “Hey, come sit with us at lunch!”Jayden’s first reaction was to say, “Nah, I’m going to sit with my friends.” But before the words came out of his mouth, he remembered that his “friends” made lunch miserable most of the time. So he said, “Sure! Why not? See you there.”In that moment, Jayden realized maybe his old friends were not as important as he thought. If they re- ally liked him, they wouldn’t make fun of him. Today he would not give them any power.That didn’t mean his old friends were all bad. He could still hang out with them sometimes if he wanted to. But now he knew he could make new friends, too! It was awesome when he found new people who were into the same things he was. And he felt good about himself when he made his own choices. Jayden felt relieved. For the first time, he was excited about junior high. He thought, “Maybe this year will be great after all!”


Jayden had spent a lot of time thinking about the hurtful things his friends had said to him. And even when he was hanging out with them, he was always worried that they were going to ask him about sports again. He had to change his thinking to feel better.It’s tough to drown out negative thoughts—especially when other people say mean things. When some- one else calls you names or insults you, you might find their words swirling around in your head. And each time you think of them, you probably feel bad all over again. That way of thinking gives people power over you. You don’t want those negative people taking up space in your brain!Creating a catchphrase can help you drown out those negative thoughts and empower you to feel better. Your catchphrase is a short saying you can repeat to yourself whenever you need a little pep talk.The best catchphrases are short sentences that are easy to repeat.Here are some examples:

  • I’ve got this.”
  • “I’m good.”
  • “Act confident.”
  • “All I can do is my ”
  • Smile and make friends.

Make sure your catchphrase is something you can believe about yourself. Repeating something farfetched won’t do any good. This is not the time to tell yourself that you’re the fastest runner on the planet or the smart- est kid in the universe.Whenever you get someone else’s mean words stuck in your head, repeat your catchphrase to yourself to drown out their negativity. Every time you do this, you’ll empower yourself to feel better.Reflection:What’s a mean name or an insult that replays in your head and causes you to feel bad?

Now create your own catchphrase that you can re- peat when something unhelpful replays in your head. You can borrow one of the phrases above if you want, but you might be better off coming up with one in your own words.


Jayden felt bad about himself because he cared too much about his friends’ opinions. He thought if they liked sports, and he didn’t, then there must be something wrong with him. He gave them power over how he felt about himself. He started to feel better as soon as he realized he didn’t have to be like them in order to be okay. When someone says something that hurts your feelings, or they suggest that you should change, stop and think before you get caught up in your feelings. Criticism can hurt! But not all criticism is bad. Here’s the difference:

  • A kid who makes fun of your shirt is probably trying to make themselves feel better.
  • A coach who criticizes how you played the game is probably trying to help you become

It’s important to recognize the difference between helpful and unhelpful criticism. Think about this before you react to someone who criticizes you.Otherwise, you may get upset over something some- one says for no good reason! If you do, you give that person power over you. Here are some questions to ask yourself the next time you get a little criticism:

  • Is this person trying to help me become better? Or are they trying to make themselves feel better?
  • Do I value this person’s opinion?
  • What can I learn from what this person is saying?

Even helpful criticism can still hurt! For instance, let’s say that your dad says you aren’t doing a good job with your chores. Or a teacher says you need to work harder on your assignments. Things like this can be tough to hear.Take a deep breath before you reply. Hit pause for a minute or two.That little pause can prevent you from saying some- thing that will land you in trouble. It can give your brain a few seconds to calm down so you can respond in a helpful way. This is where you need to act brave!

The internationally bestselling author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, Amy Morin, empowers tweens, teaching them how to think, feel, and act stronger than ever! Perfect for fans of The Confidence Code for Girls, this book tackles mental strength in a relatable way. Filled with fun graphics and illustrations throughout. Visit https://www.harpercollins.com/products/13-things-strong-kids-do-think-big-feel-good-act-brave-amy-morin?variant=32126596218914.




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