Rosalind Wiseman

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.

Best Ways To Avoid a Trash Talking Teen

Written on August 30, 2012 at 12:04 pm , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

A girl I’m trying my best to avoid does nothing but talk trash to me and brings up my bad past to get on my nerves. I have an anger problem and I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and be a better person. How can I move on if I’m reminded everyday of mistakes I’ve made in the past. Please help me, Haley

Haley, it’s always annoying to have people in your life that are determined to bring you down. And it’s easy to say, “I’m not going to let them get to me,” but way, way harder to actually do that in real life.

Think about it like this:
1. You’re smart enough to realize how this girl is trying to manipulate you. This is critical because a lot of people in your situation would be so angry and reactive that they wouldn’t be able to see these dynamics. If you can’t see it than you can’t manage yourself effectively.

2. Whatever you did or happened to you that gave you a bad reputation, you need to remember that you found the strength to want something better for yourself.

3. The trash-talking girl wants you back in that bad place. It doesn’t matter why. So yes, she could be insecure and have a bad home life but that fact doesn’t take away from what she’s doing to you.

Deal with it like this:
This may sound weird but when I’m in your situation (and it’s happened to me, too) I have a playlist that I listen to or sing in my head. On my phone I call it my “Strength and Inspiration” playlist. I want you to choose five songs that make you feel strong in a positive way (don’t choose songs that make you feel like you want revenge). As soon as you see her or when she says some snarky comment to you or about you, play one of your songs or sing it in your head.

In the spirit of full disclosure I’ll share with you some of my songs.

Work That Mary J. Blige
Something Beautiful Trombone Shorty
I am not my Hair India Arie and Akon
What it’s Like Whitey Ford Sings the Blues
It Don’t Come Easy Bettye Levette

Also, pay attention to any messengers, the people who tell you that the girl talks behind your back. Always ask yourself what their motivation is: Are they telling you because they care about you or because they want to increase the drama?

Here’s a sample script that may help you based on my SEAL strategy (Stop, Explain, Affirm, Lock). The “push back” is what the other person would probably say to get you mad or distracted. The situation is when someone just came up to you and said, “Did you hear what’ horrible girl’ is saying about you now?”

STOP: Play your song in your head and breathe so your heart slows down. Ask yourself what the messenger’s motivation is. If you think she’s a drama starter answer her with: Thanks for telling me. Please don’t talk about this with others. You’re doing this because you don’t want to feed the fire.

Then, to ‘horrible girl,’ EXPLAIN: I’m hearing that you’re talking X about me. I’m not asking to tell me if the gossip is true. I’m asking that if any part of it’s true that you stop.

Push back: She laughs. “There’s nothing going on. I have no idea what you’re talking about.

Affirm (your right to be treated with dignity): Then I’d expect the things I’m hearing to end.

Push back: Well even if I’m not saying anything I can’t stop what other people say.

Lock: Look, I’m coming to you and asking you to lay off. That’s not an easy thing to do. Obviously, I can’t control what you do but that’s what I’m asking. What I can control is myself. You can try to make me feel bad but I’m not going to let you.

Then you walk away with your song in your head.

One last thing: as tempting as it is, don’t complain about her to other kids. If you need to vent (and I’d totally understand if you did) talk to a sibling or a person in your family that you’re close to. Pick someone who’s good at listening and helps you think through things.

Remember, if you do any part of this, that’s success. This is an extremely difficult situation but if you can face this you can pretty much face anything.

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.

“I’m a 13-Year Old Girl. Everyone Harasses Me About My Chest Size”

Written on June 13, 2012 at 11:55 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. I am a 13-year-old girl in a difficult situation. I know boys are obsessed with breasts. But even my girlfriends harass me about my chest size and spread rumors that I stuff my bra. Why do kids do this if they know it hurts so much?

A. Unfortunately, you’re on the receiving end of everyone else’s body-image insecurities. For the boys you represent sexuality, and they’re confused and terrified of the power you have over them. As for the girls, our culture says they need big breasts to be beautiful, so they’re probably comparing themselves to you and resenting the attention you’re getting—even if you don’t like it. You must ask your friends to be your allies. Say, “I need you to believe me that comments about my chest make me feel really self-conscious. Please back me up when people say mean things to me.” To the boys say, “Look at my eyes when you’re talking to me. Yes, I have breasts. All women do. Deal with it.”

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.

What Your Kids Aren’t Telling You About Being Bullied

Written on June 7, 2012 at 3:20 pm , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

One of the scariest realities of parenting is this: If your kids experience bullying or any kind of abuse, the worse it is, the less likely they are going to tell you about it. Even if they do, they’ll describe their experiences in such general terms that it can be hard for any well-meaning parent to read between the lines and respond effectively. This email I received from a 13-year-old girl illustrates the point.

At my school, I encountered many mean boys in my class but one, named Derek, was the worst (and not coincidentally, the most popular). He sexually harassed me every day and even though I told him to stop, he never did. He made coming to school so miserable that I hated going. I have talked to my mom but I never really said how awful he was, just that he teased me. She told me he wasn’t worth my time and that boys are just like this at this age. Should I just forget about it? Tell other people? I feel like what he did has hurt my self-esteem and made me have all this built-up anger inside.

Like many parents, Olivia’s mom responded in generalities when she heard that a boy was teasing her daughter. As I’ve said before, telling a child “He’s not worth your time” or “Ignore it” is ineffective because she’s already been trying to ignore it. And telling your daughter “That’s just the way boys are at this age” is basically another way of saying boys will be boys and you just have to accept it. But if Olivia’s mom had had a clearer picture of what was actually going on, her reaction probably would have been different.

This is what Olivia wrote when I asked her to tell me specifically what Derek was doing to her.

Dear Rosalind, I came up with a list of things that he did during the semester:

Blocked my path and wouldn’t let me leave

Blew in my ear

Pushed me over or into other male students

Snapped my bra

Said stuff like “How did that feel?” and “Betcha liked that, huh?” and “What would you do if I grabbed your butt?”

Tripped me

Made explicit gestures to me in class

If I was bending over to pick something up, he would get right up against me

Dared another boy to feel me up but he didn’t do it

Laughed about the things he did on Facebook

Kept telling people that I “made out with 5 guys,” which isn’t true

Said that I was a slut for “dressing inappropriately” (which is also not true—I have strict parents who would never let that happen)

Slapped my butt in the hallway and then said, “It was someone else! You’re just blaming me because you wish I would do that to you. Pervert.”

Made comments that my chest was too small to his friends and then when I said, “Excuse me?” he would accuse me of eavesdropping

Rub up against me

Wrote notes like “suck my nuts” on my binder or on a piece of paper at my desk

If I ever complained about it, I was a “whiny complainer” who was easily offended.

Are you wondering where Olivia’s teachers were? Here’s an example of how complicated “catching” the bully can be.

When the teachers saw him talking to me they would ask why we were talking but I would lie for him because 9/10 of my teachers are 50-year-old males and that’s embarrassing.

I asked Olivia to tell you how she thinks a parent should respond.

Take the time to listen to your daughter without interrupting with your comments right away. Then, after your daughter is done talking, ask her what she thinks is the best way to handle the situation.

I have an additional suggestion. Remember that what you initially hear is only the beginning. Your child could easily be embarrassed or ashamed to tell you the specifics. She also may keep things general to gauge your reaction. (Are you going to freak out? Listen to her? Ask a million questions?) So the first thing to say is “I’m so sorry. Do you feel comfortable telling me a few specifics of what he’s saying or doing? If you don’t feel comfortable telling me, you can write it down and give it to me later.”

Once you get a better picture of what’s occurring, you can respond to your child in a way that fits the situation and help her when she so desperately needs you.

If your child, or someone you know is in a situation similar to Olivia’s read more about how to deal with bullying here.

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.

“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.