parenting advice

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.

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.

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.

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.

 

A Great New Advice Book for Teens and Their Parents

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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