Parenting

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.

Shopping for a Prom Dress: The Odyssey Begins

Written on April 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm , by

Guest blogger Marian Merritt, member of Family Circle’s Tween/Teen Advisory Board, on her “prom mom” experiences.

My nearly 18 year old daughter (I’ll call her “M”) is a high school senior and beginning to plan for the penultimate ritual of finishing high school: the prom. So apparently, that makes me a “prom mom”! And I’m feeling such a bittersweet rush of emotions about this. I suppose that’s normal. Unbidden, fog-laden memories of my own prom come whispering. The dress I selected, after hours spent in the over-lit dressing rooms of now-long-since-gone Los Angeles department stores like Robinson’s, Orbach’s and Bonwit-Teller. Scandia, the glamorous restaurant my prom party went to, is also no longer around.

You may be interested or even shocked to know that my daughter’s high school doesn’t actually allow or sanction the prom. My daughter’s school is a religious one and doesn’t approve of dances. As a result, this is the “MORP” (prom spelled backwards) and is put on by the students themselves, with parents as adult chaperones. The principal is fairly modern and hesitant to speak too harshly against the evening so he limits his concerns to the possibility of foolish and dangerous behavior like underage drinking and the unnecessary expenses for the families of his students. And the principal’s concerns are not unfounded; some of the parents I’ve spoken with are opposed to the prom because it can be so expensive. I’m much more sentimental and am looking forward to the affair even if we have to monitor the spending to not go overboard. I have every expectation that my daughter and her friends will simply have a good time in one last lovely party before they all scatter to colleges, gap year programs and other endeavors near and far.

My daughter’s class is very small and extremely close-knit and she has been dating a boy from another school for several months now. I’m happy for her that the prom will be a celebration of these long friendships and that she will get to go with someone she’s close to. The June event is still several months away but preparing for prom is a journey, a process, and there’s actually a lot to do to help her plan this wonderful evening.

So where are we in all this? M is still at square one, finding the perfect dress. Have you ever met a teen who said “yes” to the first prom dress they saw? If so, she’s not my daughter. So far, M’s been to malls near and far with her friends, looked online and in magazines, hoping to find that ideal combination of glamour and comfort in a dress that flatters her figure, hides her (perceived) flaws and comes in a price tag we can afford. She’s been emailing me links to websites, photos of her in store dressing rooms and showed me clippings of gowns. But so far, she hasn’t allowed me to go shopping with her. I know why. It’s because, as a busy working mom, I tend to make decisions quickly. I get impatient with shopping and after a few hours, my feet hurt. (Just reading that in print makes me feel old.)

Today, that changes. M has asked me to take a long lunch and go with her to a mall nearby for some dress shopping. And if that proves unfruitful, we have a trip back East in a week to look at some of her colleges. Maybe, during some of our downtime we can visit a few stores together. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to discover a little boutique in SoHo or a shop in Philadelphia with that unique, perfect, not-too-expensive dress? And to have that experience together? Not only because it will be such a pleasure to help her find this dream dress, but also because the chance to spend time with her is fleeting. She’s so busy, so consumed with decisions about college or perhaps a gap year program, with AP tests and softball practice, with community service hours and socializing, I’m grateful for our family dinners so at least we see her from time to time.

But if I let you in on a secret, the best part so far of being a prom mom is finding out that my big girl, my nearly-old-enough-to-vote daughter still wants my advice and maybe even my approval. M is concerned about spending too much on a dress she knows she’ll only wear once. She’s really so mature and so considerate, it’s one of those “you’re making me proud” moments that can sneak up on you.  And that make you feel like you’re doing something right after all.

Marian Merritt is a mother of three (two teens and a tween) and works for security company Norton by Symantec. You can read her internet safety blog at www.norton.com/askmarian. She serves on Family  Circle’s Tween/Teen Advisory Board and has written the award-winning Norton Family Online Safety Guide, now in its third edition.

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.

Saying “No” to Your Kids’ Material Demands

Written on April 2, 2012 at 6:02 pm , by

 

By Stacey L. Bradford

Recently my daughter begged me for an American Girl doll. Fortunately, a simple no was all it took to end the discussion. But I realize in a few years it won’t be so easy to deny her, particularly when the new toy or gadget is something all her friends have. What’s funny is that I always thought if I gave her enough love she’d never compare herself to other people. Boy was I naive.

In fact, kids are neurologically hardwired to crave the same stuff as their peers. “As tweens approach middle school, they passionately seek acceptance from friends,” says Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., author of The Blessing of a B-Minus. It doesn’t take long for them to realize that one way to fit in is to dress like everyone else. “That explains their ‘need’ for the right stuff,” Mogel says.

While I don’t want to impact my daughter’s social life—and I cringe at the thought of consumerism playing a role—I do hope to safeguard her from irresponsible spending decisions using this approach.

1. Define Your Values: Parents should outline their family’s values with their kids, says Gregory Jantz, Ph.D., author of When Your Teenager Becomes the Stranger in Your House. Draft a mission statement and try to live by its principles. Jantz’s family’s statement, for example, includes having a strong work ethic. So when his boys requested a Nintendo DS system, he reminded them of their family’s commitment to hard work and asked how they -intended to earn it. “Simply telling teens they can’t have something doesn’t work,” Jantz says. “You’re dealing with constant comparisons to their friends.”

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that those friends’ parents may believe in a different set of principles than you do. In other words, they give their kids just about anything. The best way to counteract that is to refrain from criticizing them in front of your kid, says Jantz. Instead, explain that every family has its own rules and you are doing what you think is best.

2. Set Limits: It’s also necessary to create and enforce financial limits, says Mogel. This teaches kids that there are restrictions on how much your family can afford. Implement a spending cap of, say, $200 for a back-to-school wardrobe and ask your teen for input on how she would like to allocate it. And under no circumstances should you apologize for setting a budget.

3. Empower Through Earning: There will be times when your kids’ desires exceed their limits, or when they’ll want something you cannot afford. As long as the product doesn’t go against your values, help your kid come up with a plan to purchase it. For example, if your son wants a reasonably priced digital camera, assign him some extra projects around the house. By earning small amounts of money over time, he can save up to buy the camera himself—and he’ll probably appreciate it more if he’s forking over his own cash.

4. Retain Veto Power: Remember that you always have the right to say no, whether or not your family can afford something. You don’t have to justify your decision to not let your 13-year-old get an iPad—even if he saved up for it. Your job during these years is to send your kids off to college prepared to make smart, sensible spending choices on their own.

What have you refused to buy your kid? Share in the comments below.

Financial expert Stacey L. Bradford is an award-winning journalist and author. When she isn’t writing, she’s busy teaching her kids the value of a dollar.

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.

Young Girls Are Posting “Am I Ugly?” Videos on YouTube

Written on February 28, 2012 at 4:31 pm , by

Pre-teen and teenage years have always been fraught with insecurity. But rather than seeking a confidence boost from close friends, many kids are turning to strangers on the internet. A recent article on the Huffington Post reports on a disturbing new trend: Young girls are posting videos of themselves on YouTube with a simple question–”Am I ugly or pretty?”

Responses in the comments section range from encouraging to obscene. Not surprisingly, many are concerned that the posters, who are often younger than the site’s required age (13), might not be able to handle the unabashed–and often vicious–anonymous feedback. To prevent long-lasting issues with self-image, some are calling for parents to monitor their children’s usage of the site. Pushback is also coming from teens and preteens, themselves. Some are creating and uploading videos in response to the trend, questioning its purpose.

While our lives are becoming increasingly public–Facebook profiles, YouTube pages, and personal blogs, for starters–it might seem natural to seek public affirmation to assuage our private fears. Yet, the what’s posted on the internet is permanent. So, too, can be the effects of hurtful comments, especially during the tumultuous tween and teen years.

Parents, are you concerned about this trend? Do you monitor your child’s internet use? What suggestions do you have for bolstering children’s self esteem and creating a positive body image?

–Carly Okyle, guest blogger

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.

 

Wacky School Fundraisers That Raised Lots of Money

Written on February 3, 2012 at 4:41 pm , by

 

Hi, everyone. I’m Jonna, the articles director at Family Circle and the editor who handled the school fundraising story in our March issue. I’m somewhat new to the school fundraising deal because until this past September, my oldest son was enrolled in a private school that charged a hefty tuition but did no fundraising whatsoever. Yes, you read that right. No fundraising at all. You paid the tuition and that was that. Believe me, it’s only now that I see how great I had it. Now that I am the parent of a public school second grader, I totally get how relentless the fundraising is. And frankly, for the amount of money my husband and I pay in state, city and local taxes, it makes me furious that education gets so short-shrifted and we as parents are charged to make up the difference. We are fortunate in that, we CAN, with a lot of effort on everyone’s part. But what about schools without a dedicated parent population, how does that work then? Then there’s also to Guilt factor: As in, I Feel Guilty if I don’t participate in every fundraiser to the utmost. As a working parent, I have enough to feel guilty about and don’t need something else. So I buy umpteen raffle tickets. I order bakery sweets that I literally give away untouched because I don’t want the calories. And on. And on. So I feel like I’m “helping” and my son does too. I have only been at this for coming up on 6 months. I can’t even imagine how aggravating it will seem in a year or three.

So that’s my rant. (Nice to meet you!) What I am actually going to talk about is wacky-sounding fundraisers, ways to bring in money that don’t scream same-old same-old, been there-done that, however you want to put it. We cover a few in the story and asked our Facebook crew to chime in.

Michelle Miller mentioned a Rock-a-thon, where kids got pledges and rocked in rocking chairs all night. Seems interesting, provided you have access to the right facility and more importantly, the means to pull off the supervision required for an overnight event.

Reader Marilyn Chapman talked up Change for Change, when the principal, teachers and students stood out in front of the school every morning for a week with containers to collect spare change. Each container was marked with a grade level, and the grade that pulled in the most coins got a popcorn party, meaning, virtually every cent collected was profit. Sounds interesting.

From Sarah Rodgers Bechtol came word of a pickle sale, which appeals to me personally because, well, I LOVE PICKLES.

One other response that caught my eye was from Leslie Letourneau Keenan, who suggested something called Bag2School, which buys unwanted clothing and textiles for a set price per pound. On one hand that sounded potentially worthwhile, though part of me feels that no-longer-needed clothes should really go to the needy. Looks like no conflict for me at the moment, Bag2School seem to only operate in the UK.

Anyway, I am looking for fresh, fun, not-terribly-difficult-to-pull-off ideas to pitch to my PTA. Got one? Please comment!

How Do You Help Your Kids Overcome Rejection?

Written on January 31, 2012 at 6:46 pm , by

Break-ups. Friendship falling outs. Getting passed over for a promotion. Even for us adults, dealing with disappointment isn’t easy–and, in most cases, we’ve been there before and know what we need to get over it, whether it’s time, support from friends and family members, or just keeping busy and staying positive.

But for a teen getting dumped by her first love or receiving a thin envelope from his dream college, the experience can be crushing–especially because it’s something they’ve never dealt with before.

In “How to Help Teens Deal with Rejection,” in Family Circle‘s March issue, writer Ashlea Halpern gets experts’ advice on helping your kid through those social, romantic, extracurricular and academic letdowns that make them feel like their world is ending. Check out the full article here, then tell us:

What crushing disappointments have you helped your kids overcome? Would you have done anything differently? Share in the comments below.