parenting advice

A Compliment Can Last a Lifetime

Written on July 1, 2013 at 9:00 am , by

 

Even well-intentioned compliments can backfire. Praising your child’s personal qualities could make her feel valued only when she succeeds—especially if she has low self-esteem,according to a new study. Instead, admire her efforts and actions.

 

 

 

 

Author Jay Asher on Bullying

Written on October 28, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Guest blogger Jay Asher, author of the young adult novel Thirteen Reasons Why, on how to respond when someone who’s been bullied reaches out to you.

I speak at high schools and libraries across the country. It can be so inspiring to hear directly from my readers, both teens and adults, about what they liked and got out of my books. It can also be heartbreaking to hear how many of them have been through similar situations, or experienced similar emotions, as the main characters in my novel Thirteen Reasons Why. The male character is trying to understand and deal with a classmate’s suicide. The female character is the one who felt she couldn’t hold on any longer. The majority of the book is her character explaining the things she went through that brought her to the point of wanting her life to end.

Many times after visiting with my readers, I’ve returned to my hotel room and sat on the edge of my bed (without even turning on the TV!) to let everything I’d heard that day sink in. Readers come up to me after my presentations to get autographs, take photos, ask questions or share why they connected with the book. Sometimes it helped them understand a friend better. Sometimes it made them reconsider how they had been treating someone without knowing what else that person may have been dealing with. Too often, they tell me that my story was the first time they felt someone understood them. That’s always such a beautiful thing to hear, because the hope that there are people in the world who will understand is the first thing someone needs to have before they’ll reach out for help.

The thing that saddens me is that I know those readers are surrounded by people who will understand. So why don’t they realize it? It’s often because of the way we talk about bullying and all its accompanying issues. If they approach a parent, teacher or other adult for help or support after something another person has said or done and they’re told “Just ignore it,” or “That’s an unfortunate part of growing up,” or “I’m sure it wasn’t as bad as you make it seem,” or “Did you do anything to encourage it?” they’ll feel like no one understands. And sometimes they’ll feel like no one cares. Because the first person they turned to, the person they thought was most likely to understand or care, didn’t understand or care. At least, that’s how it appeared.

Yes, sometimes ignoring it is all that can be done. And bullying can be a horrible part of growing up. And many of us can be melodramatic. Sometimes we do things that even encourage bullying. But every situation is unique. Every person has a different threshold for what they can handle. Most people are also dealing with more than just one incident. If someone opens up about a painful experience and the first thing they hear is a cliché that doesn’t address their very real emotions, then the next time something happens, they’ll be less likely to trust that their thoughts will be understood or appreciated.

Those people they turned to probably did want to help, they just didn’t know how. We’ve become so used to falling back on clichéd responses that they’re the first words to come out of our mouths. They are conversation stoppers for conversations that need to be nurtured. The next time someone tells you that they’ve been bullied, stop what you’re doing. Stop the cliché that raced to the tip of your tongue from coming out of your mouth. And listen. Think about what they’re saying. Consider what else might be going on in their life. Realize that this could be the only time they’re going to reach out to someone.

Listening matters.

So does how we speak.

Jay Asher has worked at an independent bookstore, an outlet bookstore, a chain bookstore and two public libraries. He hopes, someday, to work for a used bookstore. When he is not writing, Jay plays guitar and goes camping. Thirteen Reasons Why is his first published novel.

 

Actor Bob Balaban on the Importance of Bully Movie

Written on October 27, 2012 at 10:00 am , by

Guest blogger Bob Balaban on the documentary Bully and bullying prevention.

In my new children’s book series, The Creature from the Seventh Grade, protagonist Charlie Drinkwater is mercilessly taunted by his oversize nemesis, Craig Dieterly. Although much of the book is inspired by my own childhood experiences, I am happy to say I was never bullied. Even though as a kid growing up in Chicago I fit the definition of underdog to a T—short, skinny, big-eared, awkward and brainy—I was never bullied. I had the good fortune to attend a tiny private school where I was in the mainstream and the kids on the football team were, ironically, far more likely to be considered outsiders than I was.

Until I saw Lee Hirsch’s deeply affecting documentary Bully last year (now available on Netflix), I was convinced that there were two types of bullying: the time-honored innocuous kind in which stupid overbearing lugs with names like Moose and Biff made a harmless nuisance of themselves as they tried to assert their authority over the weaker, smarter members of the class, and the much rarer, more destructive kind, in which sadistic pain-loving monsters destroyed the childhoods, and occasionally the very lives, of their anointed victims.

Bully obliterates the line between the two and makes it perfectly clear that zero tolerance is the only way to go. It tracks the cases of five abused kids, including two who committed suicide. Bullying is bad. It is never justified. And it isn’t a matter of “kids will be kids.” Its effects range from damaging to fatal. And it’s on the increase. See the movie. Show it to your teenage kids and their teachers. Tell your friends. You’ll be moved. You’ll be shocked. You won’t forget it.

Bullying often goes unreported and frequently survives the scrutiny of even the most well-meaning parents, teachers and guidance counselors. It is impossible to legislate against. It is considered by many to be a bogus issue invented by wimpy parents and their cry-baby offspring. Much like sexual harassment, it thrives on ignorance and apathy, and the commonly held notion that it’s a natural part of life and its victims are as much to blame for their horrific treatment as the perpetrators themselves. Throughout the documentary well-meaning parents advise their bullied children to “toughen up.” They tell them that they are encouraging the situation by not fighting back, that they have a valuable life lesson to learn by standing up for themselves.

The parents of one particularly abused child, cruelly nicknamed “Fish Face,” are brought to tears when finally shown documentary footage of their child being brutally assaulted on the school bus. They had no idea how serious his problem was. He had complained frequently, but he stopped reporting the incidents after his guidance counselor called him and his parents in to her office. She explained that she had ridden the bus specifically to look for signs of bullying and reported that the other students were polite and well-behaved, and that the victim was obviously confused. Or lying. Kids everywhere are facing the same reluctance on the part of their teachers and parents to take the problem seriously. And yet it is of epidemic proportions.

Bullies don’t exist in a vacuum. They echo the attitudes and prejudices of their parents, friends and teachers. The kids who are witness to their cruel behavior are generally too afraid or too complacent to say anything about it. Their silence is tacit approval and encourages bullies to keep on bullying. But like the little boy in “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” one lone protesting voice in the crowd really can stop a bully in his or her tracks.

We’ve got to encourage our kids to be that voice, to speak up if they’re witnesses to an incident. We must let them know that when we don’t say something, we become de facto bullies. That, as well as making our school and elected officials and public opinion makers aware of the seriousness and the urgency of the problem, are our best and only lines of defense.

Here is the trailer for Bully. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch it. If it moves you, watch it on Netflix, you’ll be glad you did. It’s far more eloquent than I could ever be.

Bob Balaban is an actor/producer/director/writer who has appeared in over a hundred movies, including the recent Moonrise Kingdom. He produced and co-starred in the Academy Award–winning movie Gosford Park, directed the award-winning off-Broadway play The Exonerated and is currently writing the Creature from the Seventh Grade series for Viking Children’s Books.

The Sex Talk and Your Teen: What’s Porn Got To Do With It?

Written on October 11, 2012 at 2:58 pm , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman offers advice on having “the sex talk” with kids for Planned Parenthood’s Let’s Talk Month.

Pornography: It’s the reason kids are uncomfortable talking to their parents about sex.

That’s what immediately came to mind when I read the Planned Parenthood and Family Circle survey finding that while half of all parents are comfortable having the sex talk with their kids, only 18% of teens said they feel very comfortable having the sex talk with their parents.

I thought this because I regularly talk to tweens and teens. I know how common it is for them to have questions about sex, so they type “kissing” into YouTube and a few seconds later they’ve clicked onto a porn site. I know that boys regularly show each other favorite porn sites—like their dads did with Playboys and Penthouses a generation ago.

According to Family Safe Media, the average age at which children are first exposed to pornography is 11—earlier than most parents think they need to talk to their kids about sexual decision making. Ninety percent of kids between 8 and 16 have seen pornography, usually while doing their homework.

Before you think, “Where are the parents?” or “Why don’t those parents have filtering devices on their computers?” realize that both questions are irrelevant. Kids have regular access to devices that allow them to research and share topics they’re curious about. And sex has always been and always will be a topic kids are curious about.

If you’re a parent and don’t know any of this, you’re going to approach the sex conversation from an entirely different context than your child. Imagine: You get over your discomfort and sit down with your child to impart your deeply held values about healthy sexual decisions—without keeping in mind that there’s a good possibility they’ve seen graphic, up-close sexual intercourse and oral sex.

Of course kids don’t want to tell us they’ve seen these images. What are they supposed to say? If they admit what they’ve seen, you’re probably going to respond by asking in a very intense, accusatory tone, “Who showed you those? Where were you? What exactly did you see?” They don’t want to have that conversation with you. Plus, they think if they tell you, you’ll react by taking away their phones or computers.

You can have all the filters on your computer you want, block the TV and take away their phones—it won’t matter. You can’t take away every portal to the Internet in your child’s life.

This is what I say: ”I know that if you want to see those pictures, you’re going to figure out how to do it. I could take away every computer in the house and every phone and it wouldn’t make a difference. Here’s why I don’t want you to watch porn. It brings you into a really complicated world where you’re being exposed to really messed-up images and messages about how men and women interact sexually. It’s also all fake. It’s a performance where women are supposed to look a certain way and always like whatever the guy wants to do and the guy never cares about the woman he’s with. I think you deserve to have more accurate information than what you’d see there. But you do have the right to have information about sex in a way that’s accurate and appropriate for you. If you have questions about sex, I want you to ask me or another adult who we both think is a good person to answer your questions.”

As a mom, it upsets me that I have to raise my children in a world where pornography is readily accessible to them. As a teacher, it upsets me that porn is giving our girls and boys unrealistic and often very unhealthy messages about sexuality that will influence them to some degree. But as upsetting as it is, we have to face what our world is like and respond in an informed way. If we don’t, we can’t be relevant in our children’s lives when they need our guidance the most.

Read more about having “the sex talk” with your teen here.

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.

Important New Book “Bully: An Action Plan”

Written on October 4, 2012 at 10:07 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

A year ago AC360’s town hall special Bullying: It Stops Here premiered. Several experts (myself included) and wonderful, brave children participated that day, and we showed clips of Bully, an extraordinary documentary profiling five young people who had been bullied. Working on that special and supporting the movie have been heartfelt projects for me, and I’ve watched with real pride how both have done an outstanding job of bringing attention to this problem.

I remember when I first saw the movie. I was so surprised, saddened and in some ways relieved that Lee Hirsch had captured on film what I unfortunately see too often: desperate kids, well-meaning adults who don’t know what to do, and parents who are torn between frustration—sometimes at their own children for being silent targets—and helpless fury at school administrators who do nothing, at best.

It’s a painful movie with no happy ending. There are no talking heads offering helpful strategies. For these understandable reasons, many people who saw the movie and would have liked to show it to their kids wanted more resources to pick up where the movie leaves off. That need has been answered: The creators of Bully recently published Bully: An Action Plan for Teachers, Parents and Communities to Combat the Bullying Crisis.

The book takes over where the movie ends. Interwoven with the stories of the children in the movie is advice from experts on how to recognize when your child is being bullied and what we can say as parents and educators. Particularly moving to me are the words of Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers: “Bully probably has been something of a reality check for many classroom teachers. Some teachers who see the film find themselves wondering if they’ve missed bullying in their classrooms and hallways: Have kids suffered because they didn’t notice? Is this behavior happening in their school? The fact that those questions are being asked and that educators are having ongoing conversations about the answers is another example of how the power of this documentary extends far beyond the individual stories it tells.”

In addition, experts such as Dr. Robyn Silverman, Peter Sharas and Michele Borba (as well as yours truly) offer commonsense ways for parents and educators to reach out to kids who are targets, bystanders and aggressors.

Our efforts are making a difference. Just watch this local news anchor passionately articulate her experience of being bullied by a viewer for being overweight. She’s a great example of how each one of us can transform a painful personal experience into a powerful opportunity for leadership. She and others like her are the kind of adults kids need to see more of.

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.

Parenting Q&A: My Son’s Having Difficulty With Our Move

Written on September 17, 2012 at 11:10 am , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Question: After losing our jobs, my husband and I decided to move to live with family until we got back on our feet. Our 10-year-old son is having a difficult time with the relocation: unable to make friends, arguing with us and even hitting himself. How can we help him?

Answer: Moving is always hard. Now imagine you’re 10 and your family is going through tremendous financial stress. Friendships can be key to feeling stable, but since he hasn’t been able to establish them there’s an added strain. I know money is tight, but don’t let that stop you from getting your son help because hitting himself is a sign that he’s in serious trouble. Find out if there’s a school counselor he can speak to. Or ask his pediatrician for a referral. Also, don’t dismiss his feelings with parental clichés like “If you just put out some effort, you’d make friends, no problem.” His emotions are understandable, and what he needs most is your support.

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.

Q&A: “My Dad’s New Family is Mean to Me”

Written on September 12, 2012 at 12:10 pm , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Question: I’m 13 years old and my parents are separated. I spend some weekends at my dad’s house and his new family is mean to me. My dad and his fiancée criticize me for being lazy and overweight. They often say they’re joking, but I’m in tears when I get home to my mom. How do I make them stop?

Answer: Unfortunately, I get many letters from kids in your situation and it comes down to one solution: You have to be more mature than your parent. If you want to tell your dad how you feel, bring someone with you whom your dad respects, like an uncle or grandmother. If you have to do it alone, be prepared to have your mom pick you up around the corner from his house in case the conversation doesn’t go well. When you tell him how you feel, don’t bring up everything he’s ever done. Describe patterns of behavior, like he insults your appearance and abilities, or his fiancée does and he backs her up. If he gets defensive or laughs, say, “I’d like to have a good relationship with  you. I have a right to my feelings, even if you disagree with them. How you’re reacting makes me not want to be here. So I’m going to leave and when you want to talk to me about it, let me know.” Then ask your ally to take you home. Remember, your goal is to live in an emotionally safe home. If your dad can’t give that to you right now, stay at your mom’s.

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.

Parenting Q&A: My Son Was Barred From Neighborhood Gatherings

Written on September 7, 2012 at 12:20 pm , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Question: Our 7-year-old son was banned from a neighbor’s house and then barred from all neighborhood gatherings. He has impulse control problems, which we’ve spoken to the other families about, and sees a counselor. But he still gets into trouble playing with local kids. What should we do?

Answer: Meeting and preparing other parents and counseling are all great moves. As painful as this is, you need to acknowledge that your son may have acted in a way that truly scared the other family, but they don’t know how to tell you. So I’d have one conversation with the parents directly involved in the incident and say, “My son mentioned that you banned him from your house. Is that true, and if so can you tell me why?” If they give you an answer, thank them, assure them that you respect their decision, and let them know you’ll continue working with him to improve his behavior. Then tell your son’s therapist what happened so that he or she can help him process his feelings and work on a strategy to address the problem.

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 We Embarrass Our Kids, and How to Stop

Written on August 13, 2012 at 12:43 pm , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

I can’t even sneeze without my child wanting to die of embarrassment! I can’t even breathe!

As parents of tweens and teens we tend to marvel and laugh about how embarrassed our children are of us. Okay, you’re allowed to sneeze and breathe however you want. But these aren’t the only ways we mortify our kids. I’ve recently come to the unfortunate conclusion that sometimes when our children are embarrassed of us, they’re right—even though our behavior is based on good intentions or understandable concern.

Let me give you a few examples. Look at them from a kid’s perspective and you’ll get it. And for the record, I’ve been guilty of every one.

 

An adult asks your child a question and you answer for her.

Let me set the scene: Your child is introduced to a new teacher, coach, your boss, who asks, “So what are you interested in?” Instantaneously you’re worried and thinking to yourself, Is he going to shrug his shoulders and mumble? Is he going to say he likes to play Call of Duty? Is she going to say, “What I really like doing is texting my friends?” So before your child can answer, you’re answering for her about her love of robotics club, student council or the team she’s trying out for next week. When your child stands there mute and then gets mad at you, you accuse her of being rude or a moody teen. But when you answer for her, she feels she’s being treated like she doesn’t have the capacity to answer for herself and you aren’t giving her a chance to practice presenting herself to other people.

You introduce your child by his deficits.

Imagine if your kid introduced you by saying, “Here’s my mother, Rosalind. She’s really shy.” Is it any wonder that the 15-year-old boy whose mother recently introduced him to me like this ran into his room? Yes, he might be shy, but it certainly didn’t help for his mom to point it out and increase his self-consciousness.

 

Oversharing.

She never cleans up her room. She’s on that phone texting all the time to her friends. It’s amazing how early puberty starts these days! It’s just so hard raising a teen isn’t it?

 

You shouldn’t be telling random people about your relationship with your child. This includes people in the grocery checkout line, strangers you strike up a conversation with, or even good friends if your son or daughter is around. When you’re having a problem that you really want to talk to another adult about, do it privately—away from your child.

While it’s hard to admit, our kids have the right to be angry and embarrassed if we discuss aspects of their lives that they consider intimate. They don’t want to be put into the box of being the moody teen. They want you to respect their privacy, and that means treating them respectfully in public.

***

If you’re guilty of any of the above, go to your child and say, “I’ve realized that sometimes I talk for you and don’t give you the opportunity to speak for yourself. From now on, I’m going to really try to stop myself. But if I don’t, I want you to say politely, ‘Mom, it’s okay. I’ve got it.’ I promise I’ll stop. And if I overshare, you can politely tell me to stop and I will.”

Yes, your child may not believe you’re capable of changing. He may not be able to resist expressing his doubt. Prove him wrong! I guarantee that your overall relationship will improve significantly. You may even get fewer of those annoying eye rolls and “Mom…you’re so embarrassing” comments.

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 Respond To Your Kid Being Sexually Harassed At School

Written on June 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Many readers of my June 7th blog asked what happened with Olivia, the girl who had written to me about how to tell her mom she was being sexually harassed at school. I checked in with Olivia a few days ago, and here is her response.

Hi Rosalind,

I ended up telling my mom the specifics, she was really understanding. I didn’t show her the article but I followed your advice in it. I realized that this boy who was so mean was truly not worth my time. He is just a learning experience and next time I will know how to handle things if this ever happens again. So grateful for all your advice.

-Olivia

 

Reading her reply, I was struck by how a terrible experience can be turned around. When Olivia was able to tell her mother what was specifically happening to her at school, her mom responded by being “really understanding.” That means she listened to Olivia without freaking out and letting her anger and anxiety get the best of her. But she wouldn’t have had the opportunity to show her daughter what a great mom she is if Olivia had kept quiet. And all Olivia would have been left with was what her mom had said when Olivia first tried to tell her about the situation: “That’s just the way boys are at this age.”

Instead, what Olivia took away from this experience is that if she tells her mom the complete truth about a problem she’s having, her mom can give her the support she needs and help her learn how to handle difficult situations. These are the moments that forever strengthen the relationship between parent and child.

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 Should My Daughter Deal with a Frenemy?”

Written on June 6, 2012 at 11:42 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. My daughter Amy is a fifth-grader and is relatively new to her school. Her friend Devyn has known another girl, Jen, since kindergarten. Jen seems to be jealous of Amy’s blossoming friendship with Devyn.We’ve had Jen over and she’s polite at our house, but in group settings she ignores Amy, teases her and makes faces.

A. Amy’s problem is a “friend” who is conditionally nice—the condition being they have to be alone. When they’re in a group, Jen acts mean to make herself seem more confident and powerful. Amy probably thinks things will get better if she’s kind to Jen or ignores the problem. But neither will work; she’ll only look weak. Here are her real choices: She can stop being friends with Jen all together or only hang out when they’re by themselves. Or she can work up the courage to tell Jen how she feels by saying, “I don’t want a conditional friendship. I want someone I can depend on.” Ultimately it’s up to your daughter to decide how to proceed. And it’s okay if she starts out in one direction and changes her mind. The important thing is for her to know she deserves to have friends who treat her the same no matter who’s around.

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.

Bullying and Parenting Advice from Rosalind Wiseman

Written on April 30, 2012 at 12:30 pm , by

Bullying is a hot topic right now. And for good reason. Lots of kids are suffering from bullying both at school and online from their peers. As a result, parents are trying to figure out how to best handle the situation. In an effort to create a dialogue on bullying, we hosted a live Facebook chat with teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman last week and invited you to ask her questions. During the chat, Rosalind, who specializes in bullying prevention, shared her tips and advice for parents who are faced with bullying issues. Here’s what happened during the chat:

Family Circle: Welcome to our live Bullying and Parenting Advice Chat with teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman. She’s here to offer advice and answer all of your bullying and parenting questions. Our digital director, Lisa Mandel, will be moderating the conversation. Please feel free to post your questions below for Rosalind.
Lisa Mandel: I’m Lisa Mandel, the Digital Director for FC. Welcome to our chat with parenting and bullying expert Rosalind Wiseman. Given that almost all kids are exposed to bullying— either because they’re bullied, they bully someone or have seen it happen –all of us parents need help dealing with this issue. Post your questions for Rosalind here.
Rosalind, I’ll ask the first question. What should a parent do if her child is targeted by bullies?
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Lisa, it’s a really important question. If your child tells you about being bullied I suggest you say, “I’m so sorry that’s happening to you, thanks for telling me, and together we’re going to work on figuring this out.” What I don’t want parents to say are things like “Just walk away, ignore it, don’t let them see it bothers you, you’re better than they are, they’re just jealous. We want to give guidance to our children for skill building and comfort.

Lisa Mandel: What do you do if you’re worried that your child is being bullied, but your child says nothing?
Rosalind Wiseman: If your child says nothing but you think they’re being bullied, privately go up to them and say: “Hey, Unfortunately it’s common for people to be mean to each other. But that doesn’t make it right. If it ever happens to you, you know you can talk to me about it right? Now don’t expect a conversation right away. Sometimes the child needs some time to think about what you said and get back to you.

Lorrie: I was just watching the news and was disgusted at the Bruins’ fans that used racial slurs on Twitter after last night game. How can we expect our children to not bully when adults are doing?
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Lorrie, I use those experiences when my children see someone be mean, or rude to say exactly what I am seeing that I don’t like and how their behavior goes against what our family stands for. I use it when I am driving and someone is flipping someone off or shouts cuss words out the window too.

Lisa: I’m concerned about cyber-bullying. I don’t want to spy on my kids online, but how do I know that they’re okay?
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Lisa, I really want you to think about applying the rules you teach your children in real life are the same as online. Of course, you should monitor what they’re getting and sending through their computers and mobile phones and Verizon and ATT both have parental control centers where you can see exactly what’s happening. And tell your kids you are doing that.

Tina: What is a true definition and a true meaning of bullying? My children, ages 15 and 10, attend a small school (126 peers k-12). We have 2 separate schools in our district, what I have a problem with is a child going home to parent and saying, so and so said I had bad breath today or said my hair looks funny and following day child is removed and put into other school. Shouldn’t the parent address the small issue with faculty and student and work it out first? To me, bullying falls under a very different circumstance.
Rosalind Wiseman: Tina, bullying is using power or strength of make someone feel worthless. It’s usually over a period of time. So in order for people to take bullying seriously we need to be clear about the definition.

Faith: My 5-year-old seems to be targeted by the same kid in his class, pushing, kicking, harsh words. The teachers response is to walk away. I contacted the principal when the child got a phone call home for 3 incidents against my son in the same day. The principal hasn’t let me know the situation details, and that was last week. If the school phones the parents of the child who got in trouble, why didn’t I, the parent of the child receiving the negative actions, get informed?? And how young does the bullying start??
Rosalind Wiseman: Faith, bullying happens when it happens regardless of age. As the parent of the target you have the right to be informed about what happened, what they did in the immediate time after and what their plan is for the future. You don’t have the right to ask what disciplinary procedures are happening with the child because they have to protect the confidentiality of the child—just as you’d want if you were on the other side of this.
Faith: Frankly, I don’t care what the disciplinary actions are; just that the school knew my child was the target and never informed me. It is a weekly thing that this particular child is kicking my son, or hitting him, or pushing him down….and this is the 2nd time I’ve voiced concerns and asked to be notified of any incidents. The teacher is retiring this year and seems to have a lackadaisical view of most everything. But when my child comes home with bruises and a black eye, don’t I have the right to know what’s going on??

Julie: What do you do when you tell your child to tattle to a grown up when they are bullied, but the school staff has been told by the principal not to do anything unless they themselves (staff) witness the incident?
Lisa Mandel: It seems like many schools are adopting the policy that a child’s word is not believable unless an adult corroborates it.
Rosalilnd Wiseman: For everyone who is battling schools with this issue. The laws don’t ever specify that an adult has to witness the abuse. So if the administrator says this then you need to remind them of the laws. You can also point them to what the US Department of ED says about this. They don’t say an adult has to be present.
Lisa Mandel: Here’s a link to an analysis of state bullying laws.
Rosalind Wiseman: Thanks Lisa!
Julie: I live in Canada. Our laws are different, I guess. Here in Canada, the schools bring the bully and victim together for a “chat” which, in my opinion, just re-victimizes the victims since al the bully does is lie.
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi Julie, I don’t think so. It’s worth checking out. I’ve worked in Canada a lot and it’s never come up in any of the policy conversations I’ve had or heard.
Julie: Because of school staff policy (If you didn’t witness it, you can’t intervene”), I have had to tell my child, “YO cannot draw first blood, but you CAN fight back and defend yourself.” Here in Canada, there is an anti-bullying bill just now working its way through parliament. Until it gets passed, there is nothing. Thus, it’s up to each individual school board to set policy. Ours…suck.
Rosalind Wiseman: Julie, yes in bullying situations or when that is even a possibility schools need to realize that bringing the target and bully together re-victimizes the target. It’s another example of how adults are part of the problem. If this happens to you, as in the school wants to do this, refuse and ask to meet with the counselor separately to prepare your child for a strategy where they can feel safe.
Julie: Too late. The school says it does not have to inform parents when they bring bully and victim together for a chat, so we found out about it after the fact. Now the bully is worse than ever, because he feels he got away with it.

Lisa Mandel: I like the idea of making sure your child feels safe. What can you tell parents who are worried that their child will be socially punished if they say something about the bullying?
Rosalind Wiseman: I know a lot of parents worry about social backlash if their kids come forward but what I tell kids is that that they have to make a decision in a difficult situation. Either they say nothing and the bullies continue or they say something and you have a chance of addressing it. And honestly, most kids aren’t completely ostracized only for coming forward. They are usually socially vulnerable for additional reasons. Obviously that doesn’t make it their fault, it’s just something to know as you think about it.

Julie: Rosalind, have you seen the new movie “Bully”? What were your thoughts?
Family Circle: Hi Julie, here is a blog post written by Rosalind about the movie “Bully.”
Rosalind Wiseman: “Bully” is an important movie that I think is worth watching for parents and teachers. I also think 7th grade and up can see it. It’s a good movie to begin the conversation about what bullying really looks like and how adults often without realizing it contribute to the problem.
Lisa Mandel: I’m planning to take my teenage sons to see it this weekend. I found it almost too disturbing to sit through. Very powerful.

Mary: What do you do when the school does nothing, nor does the school board? Also what do you do if the teacher is your child’s bully?
Angel: I would love to know what to do when a teacher is the one doing the bullying. We have one teacher in particular that loves to humiliate children in front of the class. Of course when I, and other parents have went to the school about it, we get the same response…”I’m sure that there is probably more to the story, and that the kids were causing trouble”…any suggestions?
Angel: I just want to say that I have twin 13-year-old girls, and they have witnessed some serious bullying over their last couple years in junior high. My girls have stood up for the “underdog” many times; even if it meant having others give them a hard time about it. I just wish the school system took it more seriously than they do.
Rosalind Wiseman: Angel, it’s not easy when kids or anyone for that matters stands up for what’s right.

Family Circle: Thank you for joining our Bullying and Parenting Advice Chat with teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman. We hope you enjoyed the chat and got some useful parenting advice. Thank you to Rosalind Wiseman for sharing your expertise, as well as our digital director Lisa Mandel for moderating the discussion. Thanks everyone!
Rosalind Wiseman: Thanks everyone!
Lisa Mandel: Rosalind, it was a pleasure having you. Please come back and chat with us again soon.
Julie: Thanks FC!

Stay tuned for our next chat with Rosalind Wiseman on our Facebook wall!

Check out these links for more parenting advice from Rosalind Wiseman:
“Bully” Movie is Hard to Watch, But Must Be Seen
Q&A: My Daughter Is Being Mean to Her Longtime Friends
Q&A: Should I Contact My Child’s School About a Problematic Teacher?

Jennifer Moncayo is web assistant for FamilyCircle.com.