Rosalind Wiseman

“My 15-Year-Old Son Has No Friends!”

Written on May 30, 2012 at 11:39 am , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. My son is 15 and has no friends. He’s very shy and has become depressed and frustrated by his failure to be accepted. He stays home and spends all his time on the computer. I sent him to counseling but he said it was a waste of time. Please help—it is breaking my heart that his childhood is so unhappy!

A. Your son isn’t just depressed.You’re describing a kid who has extreme social anxiety and needs help. He must learn to express himself and develop social skills through a therapist who has been trained in working with boys. Try to get him into counseling again using a different approach. Say, “I realize I made a mistake about how we chose a counselor last time and I’m sorry. Let’s try again. I’d like to find five candidates you can interview beforehand. Perhaps you can setup a Skype chat.” If your son says he can’t think of any questions, suggest, “Have you worked with guys my age before?” and “Do you expect me to do most of the talking or do you give opinions?” Then remind your son that there’s no commitment—he can take it one step at a time.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

How to Avoid the Bait When Your Kid Picks a Fight with You

Written on May 23, 2012 at 1:03 pm , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Elijah, my 11-year-old son, woke up this morning determined to pick a fight with me. I know I should have been more mature, but I totally fell into his trap. In my defense, it was a challenging situation. I’d just walked by the dryer and realized that he had put a pair of dirty underwear and socks inside to “clean” them.

So I may have said something like this: “Did you really put your dirty underwear and socks in the dryer without washing them first?” I also probably rolled my eyes as I was talking.

Elijah, of course, rolled his eyes in response (don’t know where he got that from) and declared, “Mooooom, I don’t have any clean clothes. I’ve looked evvverrrywhere.”

“Elijah, do you see the two laundry baskets at your feet?”

He glanced down and instantly came back with a classic defense: “But none of those clothes fit!”

From there our conversation deteriorated into a full-blown fight about his refusal to wear anything but gym clothes to school, while the problem of no clean underwear wasn’t being solved and it was 7:25. That meant he had 20 minutes to eat breakfast, feed the dog and sit on the couch reading a book while one or both of his parents yelled at him to get himself together.

I was really irritated.

Let me explain myself. I don’t expect either of my sons to wear uncomfortable clothes like a suit and tie to school—which Elijah accused me of when we argued. I don’t like wearing tight, scratchy clothes either. I only buy soft clothes for my sons that they approve of first because I don’t want to spend money on clothes they aren’t going to wear. So I have very limited patience when my son is moaning about how horrible it is to wear soft linen pants and collared cotton shirts.

This also isn’t a personal style thing where I’m forcing him to look a particular way. If he wanted to wear black skinny jeans with a weird geometric patterned shirt, I’d be totally fine with that. If he wanted to gel his hair so it stuck out, that’d be fine too.

But in the midst of my annoyance I had a parenting epiphany that immediately turned the tables on him.

“You know, Elijah, I really want to continue this argument but we can’t do it now. So let’s schedule this fight for later today when you get back from school, and we’ll have all the time we need. How about I meet you back here around 8 p.m. after dinner? Then you can show me how wrong I am, how horrible your clothes are and how none of them fit you.” I handed him some clean underwear from the laundry basket at his feet and went downstairs.

Scheduling the argument for later worked wonderfully. As promised, I walked into his room around eight that night and said, “You ready to continue our disagreement? Because now we have the time to fully resolve this issue.”

“Yes! Because I’m so right.”

“You’re going to have to prove that to me, because I spent a lot of money on those clothes and you agreed to them.”

“But that was only to wear once for that wedding in July we had to go!”

“The agreement for our argument was that you had to prove it to me. Put the clothes on.”

The clothes fit beautifully and they were comfortable. Even he had to admit it—not by actually saying so out loud, of course, but just the opposite. He didn’t say a word. Now my challenge was to not leap up in a victory dance, saying, “I told you so” or “You look so handsome in these clothes!”

All I said was “Thanks for trying them on.”

This is what I’m taking away from my experience: Don’t let your children put you in a bad mood, especially at the beginning of the day when you don’t have the time.  If you catch yourself, solve the immediate problem and then schedule a time in the near future to discuss the overall problem.

Don’t wonder if your child is blind because he can’t see things right in front of his face. He can’t. Unless he really needs them to go out with his friends or play a video game.

And in a situation where you’re shown to be correct, don’t rub it in. The clean clothes are the reward.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

How To Talk To Your Kids About Cheating

Written on May 2, 2012 at 11:33 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

For the last year I’ve been working with NBC‘s Dateline on their “My Child Would Never Do That” series. We started with an episode on what your child would do if she was a bystander to bullying. The series has continued with topics like drunk driving and stranger danger.

For some of these episodes I’ve facilitated conversations between parents and kids to show how parents can guide their children through these tough topics. One of the most important insights I’ve taken away from doing this series is that

Last Sunday, the topic was kids and cheating. To help parents, I’ve come up with some tips.

How to Talk to Your Kids About Cheating

Teaching our children honesty and why not to cheat can be more complicated than it seems. Why? Because we live in a world of mixed messages where the external rewards of winning often seem to outweigh the internal rewards of achieving honestly. From reality show characters who boast, “I didn’t come here to make friends” as a way to justify undermining and deceiving competitors to athletes taking performance-enhancing drugs, our children often see adults acting out the opposite of what many parents want to teach their children.

Use the bad role models in the media as examples. When you see someone in the news who has cheated or been dishonest, ask your kids why they think their behavior is against your family values.

It’s not enough to tell your children to be honest or do the right thing. Talk to them about specific situations in which being honest will be hard—like seeing the questions before a test—and about what you expect them to do. Admit that it doesn’t always feel good to be honest.

If your child is caught cheating, here’s what you can do:

Dig deep. Sometimes children cheat because they feel tremendous pressure to get the high grade or win the game. You need to find out why it was so important to your child to achieve his goal that he was willing to do so dishonestly.

Remind him that the faster he admits what he’s done, the less anxious he’ll feel, and the less trouble he’ll probably get into.

Don’t let your anxiety rationalize getting your kid out of trouble. It’s easy to become too worried about the long-term impact of having something on a student’s permanent record, but if you truly want to raise a child with integrity and self-confidence he has to see that you (1) will hold him accountable when it matters and (2) believe he has the strength of character to get through the process.

Express disappointment, but see this as the learning opportunity it is. Your kid may get really angry at you for holding him accountable, and that’s okay.

Remember that most of us develop integrity through a process of being tested and having adults we respect guide us along the way.

And be sure to watch the last episode about racial discrimination. It airs Sunday May 6 at 7 p.m. EST. It’s guaranteed to be a great discussion starter with your kids. I know I’ll be watching and talking about it with mine.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

It Takes a Village to Stop Your Child from Sneaking

Written on April 26, 2012 at 11:16 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

My sister Zoe is 27, has no children and lives a fabulous New York life. She’s visiting me in DC for a few days, and as I write this she’s sitting here wearing the most fabulous Patricia Field dark pink glittering pants that perfectly match the color of her hair—well, two segments of it anyway.

You may think that my sister, with her lack of parenting experience and fabulous pants, wouldn’t know how to hold her own with kids. That would be a mistake. Because Zoe knows my children will try to exploit every opportunity to get what they want.

Today she called me while watching my kids, and I was reminded of how cool it is when siblings provide crucial parental backup.

Zoe: Are they allowed to watch TV right now?

Me: Of course not. What did they say?

Zoe: I asked Roane (the 9-year-old), “Did you ask your parents if you could watch TV?” And he said yes. So I said, “Are you telling me the truth?” And you know what he said? “Do I have to be 100% positive about my answers?”

Me: He really said that?

Zoe: Yup. So I told him that while that was a very good answer and he’s very cute, I was calling you to find out.

It was a small moment, really insignificant in the larger scheme of things. But such moments teach my boys some very important things about the adults in their family: We’re no fools. We will and do talk to each other. And although we love them unconditionally, that doesn’t mean we believe them unconditionally.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

AC360 Kids On Race: Why Telling Our Kids Racism is Bad Isn’t Enough

Written on April 9, 2012 at 10:04 am , by

Treat everyone the way you want to be treated.

 

 

I’ve never specifically talked to my kids about race but my kids know that everyone should be treated equally.

 

Unfortunately, these are the most common statements parents say about talking to their children about race.

I’m fully aware that people may read what I just wrote and think I’m out of my mind. In fact, I’d totally understand if you thought, “Why unfortunate? That’s exactly what parents should be saying to their kids.”

But the reality is that for most parents, that’s all we say. We keep it general because we often don’t understand or admit to ourselves our own feelings about race. So we believe we are imparting our values and that our children will turn around and value people equally regardless of race.

Well, the reality is a lot more complicated and uncomfortable, and if you watch Anderson Cooper’s special Kids on Race you’ll see what I mean. What the AC360 team did was empathetically but directly challenge all of us to confront the truth about what kids think about race. As the researchers they worked with showed, while we have made great improvements in reducing explicit racism, we have much farther to go to stop implicit racism: the biases we all have about people of different races.

AC360 asked Dr. Melanie Killen, a revered child psychologist and University of Maryland professor, to design and implement the study, help highlight and explain key findings and offer advice and explanations to parents who allowed their children to participate.

Specifically, the show investigates a concept known as “subconscious racial bias.” This is described as “a bias that kids pick up on from messages they hear at school, at home, the characters in the TV shows they watch, what they see online.” As Killen points, these are not overt feelings of racism, but rather “the things that we’re not aware of, the things that we do when we don’t realize it.”

And acknowledging and understanding how those biases work is essential if we are truly committed to making our culture less racist.

No doubt this a very uncomfortable thing to do. Think about how awkward people get about even talking about race difference. Like when a young child describes an African American person as a black person and the parent shushes the child. Or when we are describing a person of color to someone else and we’ll describe everything about them except one of their primary physical traits–the color of the skin. It’s laughable except for the fact that those shushed children learn that there’s something inherently so shameful about these people with darker skin that a physical characteristic can’t even be named and dancing around a subject never gets us to authentic dialogue.

As I watched the show, I caught myself wondering how my sons would answer the questions the researchers asked the kids in the show. But what I am certain about it that even though I’ve talked to them a lot about race, I wouldn’t be shocked if they answered like all the other kids and showed race bias against African Americans.

So tomorrow night my children will be very happy when I tell them they get to watch TV after they do their homework–and then we’ll watch the show and discuss it over dessert. I don’t want my children living in a race-blind society. I do want them living in a racism-aware society. Kids on Race is a great way to do help me do that.

How have you spoken to your kids about race? Share in the comments below.

“Bully” Movie Is Hard To Watch, But Must Be Seen

Written on March 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm , by

 

Today the documentary “Bully” opens around the country and I’m asking all parents and educators to go see it. Yes, it’s painful to watch and you’ll probably get angry. You may cry. There’s been a lot of coverage on bullying recently, but this is the first film that truly shows what children—and their families—endure when they’re targeted.

I admit that when the creator, Lee Hirsch, first told me about his plans for the project, I wished him luck but thought there was no way he’d be successful. Lee said he was going to ask school districts to let him ride buses and hang out in school hallways recording how kids treated each other. I immediately envisioned him being laughed out of the meetings with school administrators—if he got those meetings in the first place. He did get permission from one district, but for the wrong reason: Administrators there believed they had a model anti-bullying policy and wanted to show off how effective it was. Talk about pride before the fall.

It’s a mistake to think that a zero-tolerance policy or prevention program is all it takes to put an end to bullying. School, for better and worse, has always been about learning the power of group dynamics and whether adults can be depended on to uphold every person’s dignity. Conflict is inevitable, because at some point one person will use the power they have over another person to get their way. School is the battleground where children learn if it’s better to say nothing and hope for best, or if they should speak out—and if they do, whether there’s a price to be paid.

What “Bully” shows better than anything I’ve seen is the sad, inescapable truth: That the adults responsible for school safety and educational policy, due to both ignorance and lack of training, have failed to create a culture of respect. And our kids are suffering terribly as a result.

So go see it. Get angry. Weep for those families and then ask yourself how you can make a difference in your community. Watch it with your kids and ask what the movie means to them. Talk about the connection between racism and bullying, between homophobia and bullying. Have an honest conversation about all the wrong ways that clueless adults often respond, making the problem even worse.

“Bully” shows the pain that many kids are experiencing in communities across the country. Imagine the courage it takes for them to get through each and every day. Out of respect for them, we, at least, should have the courage to watch it.

Note: Many people have asked me about what age is appropriate to see “Bully.” I think 6th grade and above is fine. The film initially got an “R” rating because you hear kids say the F-bomb six times, but now it’s unrated, making it easier for schools to show it. And the AMC chain, in an unprecedented move, is allowing kids to see the movie with a note from a guardian.

Read our other posts about Bully.

 

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

Watch Cartoon Network’s New Documentary on Bullying with Your Kids

Written on March 15, 2012 at 10:02 pm , by

Have you been looking for a good way to start a conversation about bullying with your child? This Sunday, March 18, make it a family event to watch Cartoon Network’s new documentary film on bullying, called Speak Up. I’m so proud to tell you about this project because I’ve been working behind-the-scenes on its development. Plus, during and after the telecast, I’ll be answering questions online from parents and kids and talking further with families about key bullying issues at www.StopBullyingSpeakUp.com.

President Obama will be giving the openings statement to the 30-minute film, encouraging students, parents, and teachers to take a stand on bullying. Whatever your politics, it’s so important that our children see our President speak out against bullying. After seeing Mr. Obama speak at the White House Conference on Bullying last March, I can truly say that Mr. Obama cares deeply about this issue, not just as the President but as a father of two young girls.

The movie premieres commercial-free this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. ET (with an encore telecast at 8 p.m.), and shows candid interviews with kids, between 8 and 13, who either are or have been the target of bullies, bystanders in a bullying situation or even bullies themselves. Although it may not be easy, I suggest paying particular attention to the section where the kids share experiences of telling their parents about bullying. It’s always good to check in with your child to see how they feel about asking for help or telling you about a problem like bullying.  Ask them if they have suggestions for how you can improve your reactions and make it easier for them to reach out to you. It’s so important that our kids feel that they can share with us these difficult experiences and my sincere hope is that this film does a small part in doing that.

After the special, I hope you use the film as an on-going resource. To make that easier, Cartoon Network will post the special in its entirety on the website and you can see check it out on Xfinity, Facebook, iTunes and YouTube.com, for at least two weeks following the world premiere.

If you want to have a discussion with your child after you see it, here are some questions to get you started:

Which children said things you agreed with? Why?

Which children said things you disagreed with? Why?

Do you agree with Matt Willhem’s description of tattling or snitching and reporting?

 

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.”  She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

Parenting Dilemma: “My Kid Doesn’t Like His Cousin”

Written on March 9, 2012 at 2:45 pm , by

 

The kids and teens I work with have shared a situation that they would like me to address with you.

Has your child ever told you that they hate another kid in your extended family? Or a friend’s child because they’re mean and you’ve responded by saying, “But he’s really a good kid, he’s from such a nice family,”? Or “You know he has had some problems. You just need to treat him they way you want to be treated.”

I recently watched this happen between an 8th grade boy and his usually very astute mother. The boy was unhappy with his first cousin–the oldest child of this woman’s sister. As she responded to her son, he glanced in my direction with an unmistakable expression of  ”I-love-my-mom-but-can-you-believe-she-so-doesn’t-understand?”

I don’t know this mother very well but it was pretty easy to see where her comments were coming from. She clearly loves her sister, she’s worried about her nephew, and maybe there’s something else she knows about him that she can’t tell her son. The problem is, this mom stepped on what I call a “landmine.” Landmines are things we parents do and say, usually with the best intentions, that upset our kids and make them shut down. Like landmines in real life, you don’t realize they’re there until they’ve blown up in your face. And in this case, the mother was left with an upset child who felt like she brushed him off.

If your child ever comes to you with a similar problem, here’s how to avoid a landmine: Listen to your kid because his experience here is more important than yours. Yes, the other child may have some problems. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that you don’t have to deal with this kid–your child does. Think about it from your son’s perspective. This is an important moment for both of you. He’s telling you something that he knows you don’t necessarily want to hear. You want him to feel comfortable talking to you when he’s having problems. He won’t if you shut him down.

If you do step on a landmine, you can always go back and make it better. During the conversation–or after, when you realize what happened–you can go back to him and say, “I’ve been thinking about what I just said to you and I realized that I wasn’t really listening to you. I’m really sorry about that. Let me try that again…”

Now please don’t expect your child to respond with something like, “Mom, thanks so much for saying that. I’m so lucky to have such a great mom.” Much more likely, you’re going to get a shrug and, “Don’t worry about it.” But that answer is kid code for, “Thanks I really appreciate you apologizing, I see that you’re a human being and you make mistakes and now I feel even more comfortable talk to you when I have a problem.”

Then you have to promise me something. When your child walks out of the room, take a moment to give yourself credit for handling a difficult situation well and building the foundation for your child knowing that you are a source of comfort and guidance in difficult moments.

Have you ever been in a similar situation? How did you handle it? Share in the comments below.

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

It’s Never Ok to Say Gay When You Really Mean Stupid

Written on February 28, 2012 at 1:49 pm , by

Imagine you’re driving carpool. Your child is sitting shotgun, constantly scanning the radio for everyone’s perfect song. The other three kids are rehashing their day. Everything is good until you hear one of the boys say to another, “Dude, you better improve your basketball skills! Do you have any idea how gay you were in PE class today! If it gets any worse you’re going to have go play on the girls team!” You immediately tense, look in the rearview mirror to gauge the kids’ reaction, and wonder if you should say something. In that instant several thoughts go through your head. You know it was bad but kids say words like that all the time. All the other kids seem to be laughing. If you say something you’re going to embarrass your child. It’s inappropriate to set rules for other people’s kids. And then the moment passes and you feel like you’ve lost your opportunity.

You don’t say anything. Many well-meaning parents can relate to this scenario. But the hard truth is that this is the adult behavior that supports bullying. These are the actions that come across as not wanting to be “the parent” in difficult situations because you’re afraid your child will get angry with you.

If you want to do your part to stop bullying, you have to understand the dynamics at play in that car and you have to say something. You have to clearly communicate what you stand for. So here are some suggestions for how to manage the situation.

When you hear the rude comment, take a deep breath, focus on what you’re about to say as you pull the car over, and put it in park. Take your seat belt off, and turn to face the kids in the back seat, while ignoring your son’s silent begging or death stares. As you make eye contact with all of them say,

You: Josh, I just overheard you tell Mike that he was gay to insult the way he’s playing basketball.

Josh: It’s just what we say! It doesn’t mean the same thing now! Mike doesn’t mind do you?”

Mike: “No, they’re just messing with me. I know they don’t mean it.

You: Here’s the deal. Using words like gay, or like a girl to put someone down is just unacceptable.

Josh: But it’s not our fault if the girls are terrible at basketball that’s just a fact! And gay just means stupid.

You: That’s not the issue. The issue is using those words to make someone feel worthless and not as good as you are.

Josh gives you the stare that you are crazy and annoying. Your son stares out the window pretending he was born into a different family.

If any of you want to talk to your parents about what I just said, please do so. Everybody got it? Good—anyone want to drop by the park on the way home?

It’s also important to end by encouraging the kids to talk to their parents about what you said. Not only because it’s smart to be transparent when you have these teachable moments with other people’s children but it also protects you from any of the kids coming home and accusing you of “screaming and totally freaking out” to their parents.

By the way, this strategy works any time kids say inappropriate and/or mean things around you. I had one mother use this strategy in the car after years of silently putting up with her daughter and her friends trashing other girls. It was important for her to realize how her silence had contributed to the girls’ feeling that they could be so mean and cruel to others. Once she stood her ground, the girls’ behavior improved at home and school.

And one last point. Yes, in the moment when we speak out, we will absolutely embarrass children. In the short term, they won’t like us one bit for getting involved. But it’s only in these moments that our kids see evidence of what our values look like in action, that they really get what’s important to us. They understand that they have a mom or dad who is willing and able to take a public stand when you see people being cruel. That’s a lesson they can take with them for a lifetime.

 

Rosalind Wiseman helps families and schools with bullying prevention and media literacy. Her book “Queen Bees and Wannabes” inspired the hit movie “Mean Girls.” She writes the Ask Rosalind column for Family Circle, and blogs about parenting tweens and teens on Momster.com.

What Should You Do If Your Child Is Bullied by Your Friend’s Child?

Written on February 15, 2012 at 12:21 pm , by

When bullying happens between kids we often forget that parents face their own challenges about how to handle the problem. Things get even more tricky if you’re the parent of the target and you are friends with the parent of the bully. There’s lot of reasons why but here are a few. You may have known the bully since they were little and know the good sides of them. It can be easy to dismiss what your kid says because the bully may act nicely when you’re around. Or it could just come down to the last thing you’d like to do is tell a good friend that their kid is mean. Ironically people think that if you’re good friends, facing situations like these should be easier. But often the opposite is the case. We are usually more reluctant to bring it up, more disappointed, and we worry more about the outcome. The challenge is that these problems usually don’t just disappear;  even if they did, feelings can be hurt on both sides. So, to give you an idea of how I advise people in this situation, I want to share an email I recently received from a mom and my response.

 

 

Hi Rosalind,

Reaching out to get some advice regarding my daughter Rachel and a bully, Sophie, in her school. Sophie has been mean to her on and off the last few years.  Sophie is also on Rachel’s soccer team, so she sees her mostly at recess and then after school at soccer practice.  My husband and I are also friends with Sophie’s parents, which doesn’t help the situation much.  Sophie is now bullying Rachel daily, at recess and on occasion at soccer. We are not sure if we should talk to her parents first about the issue or go directly to her teacher and principal and bypass her parents?  We are concerned that if we tell her parents then Rachel will be blamed for telling on her and the parents may only ground Sophie for a few weeks and then leave it alone.

 

I would greatly appreciate your advice.

 

Thanks kindly,

Julie

 

Dear Julie,

The hard truth is that since you’re friends with Sophie’s parents, you have to talk to them. Here’s the reason, if they find out from the school that you complained about Sophie instead of reaching out to them first, they’ll feel betrayed and therefore much less likely to work with you to solve the problem. And frankly if they felt this way they’d be right. Good friends should be able to say difficult things to each other. Of course, having this conversation can be really challenging so you must be strategic. Your first step is to decide between you and your husband which of you is the calmer representative of the family. I know that mothers usually are the ones to step forward here, but I really want you to consider having your husband do it instead. But no matter who does it (or both of you can too) this conversation needs to be in person or on the phone.

Here’s what he can say, “Because we’re friends this is a little uncomfortable to bring up with you, but it’s really important. We need your help because Sophie is still being mean to Rachel. From what Rachel tells us, it happens during recess and soccer practice. Can you please talk to Sophie about this so this stops? Please know that I know these things can go both ways, so if Rachel ever does anything to Sophie that you want to bring to our attention, please don’t hesitate to tell us. Thanks so much! Hey so do you guys want to check out that movie we were talking about last week?

 

Of course, Sophie’s parents may get defensive or say something to push back. The important thing to remember is that once you have told them, you have done right by them and Rachel. If Sophie does continue to bully Rachel, then it makes sense to involve the school. I talk to many parents who are in similar situations and I am happy to report that more often than not, when the other parents are approached with respect, the situation improves. But even if it doesn’t, you still have to do this because Rachel needs to see that when she’s bullied you can effectively advocate for her.

 

Even middle aged men are afraid of mean girls

Written on February 9, 2012 at 7:27 pm , by

I’m always looking for ways to trigger adults into feeling what it’s like to be bullied walking the halls of school, eating in the cafeteria, sitting on the school bus, or having an embarrassing picture taken of you and texted to everyone you know. Why do I want parents to remember their painful school moments? Because if we don’t, we can’t relate to our kids.

Well, strangely enough I recently found a great example in this year’s GEICO Superbowl commercial. It’s a brilliant way to make adults remember the feeling of insecurity and self-consciousness so normal to adolescence. But it’s even better because it’s not asking the adult to remember what it was like when they were young. It’s way better than that. It shows how powerful mean girls are over an adult now.

The ad begins with the man acknowledging that the most powerful diet motivator there is, better than any expensive diet plan, is hiring three mean middle school girls to make sure he sticks with his diet. He completely admits that these diet police, with their cutting comments and spontaneous picture taking, will force him to stay in line.

This thirty-second ad delivers a message any adult should get; the man crumbles under the mean girl scrutiny like everyone else does. Everyone is equal under the domination of mean girls, even middle aged men.

Watch this with your kids and feel free to laugh. It’s funny precisely because we recognize the truth of the situation. We feel for the guy. Then after the laughs, ask your kids why do those girls have so much power? How exactly are they undermining him? Some Queen Bees I know would say that those girls are doing that guy a favor because they are pressuring him to stop having bad habits. But it’s persuasion based on shame and constant belittling. Is it right to shame someone into improving themselves? (By the way, that’s a great parenting question too)

Even better, get a girl to watch it with her dad and she can ask him what he’d do if he had three teen girls making snarky comments every time he ate? Would he be embarrassed to admit that these girls were getting under his skin? When he was a kid did he know someone who could make him feel insecure like that?

If you can, post any comments below from your conversations! I am looking forward to what you all have to say!

 

A Great New Advice Book for Teens and Their Parents

Written on January 26, 2012 at 6:44 pm , by

If you’re a parent of a teen you may have noticed that there are countless advice books out there. Some are good but some are a complete waste of time, so I wanted to share with you two excellent books that have recently come to my attention: Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Teens and Dear Dr. Wes: Real Life Advice for Parents of Teens. I was drawn to check out these books because they are a rare collaboration between  a licensed psychologist, Dr. Wes Crenshaw from Lawrence, Kansas, and a group of teen editors. They don’t disappoint. The content is honest, straightforward, and compassionate to both teens and their parents, but doesn’t hold back from challenging the reader to hold themselves accountable for the decisions they make. In a nutshell, you’re getting the best of both worlds, a trained expert on mental health issues and adolescent development with the real life “check” of the teens.

As an example, I’d like to share a quote from the introduction:

“For advice to be really good, it must have equal parts empathy and wisdom. Bad advice never challenges you to think. It just asks that you obey. Good advice is always benevolent-meaning it’s given with your best interests in mind, even if it makes you angry at the time. In fact, a lot of good advice will do just that, and a lot of bad advice will feel pretty good at the time you’re taking it.”

 

 

Dr. Wes and the teens tackle real life problems that kids and teens write to me about all the time. For instance:

I don’t like my teacher so I don’t work hard in her class. What should I do?

 

I am constantly being ditched by my best friends…what do I do?

 

How do you deal with a parent who blames you for everything and doesn’t own up to his or her own mistakes?

 

If you want to find out their answers, and maybe have some of your own questions answered, get these books. I really think they’ll help both parents and teens alike; not only for the information provided, but also as a great way to start conversations between you and the kids you love. It’s published by Family Psychological Press and it’s readily available on-line via Dr. Wes’ own website or in book stores.