Say This, Not That by Ilana Kukoff and Jessica Huddy

Competition and Cattiness

Dear Ilana and Jess: My daughter, Myra, is 15. Her friends have started getting very competitive with her and I think she’s taking the bait. How can I get her to opt out of cattiness and competition? – Stephanie

Dear Stephanie: The teen years are tricky and tenuous. There are many pitfalls and you just named two of them. Here are a few things you can do to help Myra rise above.

A great deal of identity formation happens during the teen years. Unfortunately, this means that it’s easy to become enmeshed with the people around us. Competition can be healthy; if we start it with ourselves. Help Myra get serious about minding her own business. Sit down together and have her write a list of things she’d like to accomplish in the next day, week, and year. Then, talk about concrete steps she can take to reach these goals. When she knows exactly what she wants, it’ll be harder to get distracted by what other people are doing.

Help Myra stay engaged. We all want (and need) down time, but too much of anything is a bad thing. Make sure that Myra isn’t devoting all leisure time to scrolling Instagram or watching videos on Tik Tok. If the schedule is too sparse, consider incorporating another extracurricular activity.

Expand the social circle. If Myra’s friends are truly toxic, it’s time to reexamine who she spends her time with. Remind Myra that real friends are mutually supportive and authentic. If her friends can’t be happy for her, and the reverse is true, then they’re doing each other a disservice.

Say This: “Myra, I want you to keep your eyes ahead. Forget about what ____ is doing for a second. We’re going to make a list of your long and short-term goals and talk about how to make them a reality.”

Not That: “Who cares what ____ is up to? It’s not a competition!”

Say This, Not That is based on the work of Cognition Builders: a global, educational company headed by Ilana Kukoff (Founder & CEO) and Jessica Yuppa Huddy (Chief Learning Officer). Everywhere from New York City to California to Shanghai to Zurich, the Cognition Builders team is called upon by A-list entertainers, politicians, CEOs, and CFOs to resolve the conflicts that upend everyday life. When their work is done, the families they serve are stronger than ever. With their new book, Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter Kukoff and Yuppa Huddy have selected the most common conversational mistakes parents make, and fixed them. For more information, please visit: To purchase Say This, Not That To Your Teenage Daughter visit: