Parenting

When Dads Need Help Understanding Tween Girls

Written on November 3, 2014 at 10:24 am , by

Carpools are supposed to make everyone’s lives easier, but this one ride may have caused more trouble than it was worth. Check out our parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman’s correspondence with a mom who was upset by a dad who made her daughter feel like an outsider.

Dear Rosalind,

The father on carpool duty picked up my daughter and his from dance class and then took them to a party my daughter wasn’t invited to. When he dropped his daughter off, the windows opened, everyone saw my girl and she was humiliated. She is rightfully questioning whether this girl is a thoughtful friend, while I’m left wondering how to talk to the parents about this so the same situation doesn’t happen again. It’s hard enough to navigate new friendships and the party circuit without parents undermining your kid.

Signed,
Disappointed by Carpool Dad

 

Hi, Disappointed,

I am not excusing his behavior, but I always try to understand why a parent would do something that’s insensitive to a child. Once I understand it, it’s easier to figure out how to talk to the parent so it doesn’t happen again.

In this case, I am guessing that the dad didn’t have a clue what was going on until it was unfolding. Even if he did, he probably did what a lot of us do in awkward social situations: pretend it’s not happening. Think about it from his perspective. He’s picking up carpool and when he realizes that your daughter isn’t invited, he’s between a rock and a hard place. If he had called you from the car, that would have been worse for your daughter. If he hadn’t put her in his car, he would have had to leave her at practice. So my question to you is: What would you have liked him to do?

And regarding your daughter’s friends who attended the party, unless they’ve been excluding her in other ways, they could have felt awkward about the whole thing too. I totally understand that your daughter felt terrible and left out. However, I think this is one of those times (unless there is a pattern where the girls are being mean to her) when you acknowledge how crappy the situation is but she’s strong enough to feel those bad feelings, admit them and then move on.

Look forward to hearing back from you and I hope at least some of my advice is helpful.

Best,
Rosalind 

 

Dear Rosalind:

Ideally, I would have liked the father to bring my daughter home before dropping off his daughter at the party. We have seven elementary schools that feed into three middle schools, so there are new faces right now, and new friendships forming/shifting. My daughter was upset not to be invited, but not devastated. She didn’t think much of her friend going on and on about the party in the carpool ride. She interpreted that as rudeness and thought her friend should know better. She was most embarrassed by being seen in the car by friends she did know who were already at the party. She hasn’t let it bother her since and has moved on—a good sign.

Anyway, I resolved this with the parents, by text, and I’ll paraphrase.

Me: With that party, last week was rough on my daughter, so just wanted to let you know that it’s not a problem to shoot me a text or call, even last minute, if it’s not convenient to bring her home, or if plans change, it’s easy for me to come down to the dance studio. I know how quickly plans change with tweens on a Friday evening!

Other mom: I’m so sorry about that. I was away when the last minute request came for my daughter to go to the party and I was trying to communicate everything to my husband but was busy and didn’t think about all the implications.

Me: I absolutely know there was no ill intention, just wanted us all on the same page for the carpool to work for all the girls.

 

Now, here’s my bottom line after the back-and-forth with this mom: What I love about this parent is that she’s role modeling appropriate involvement in her tween daughter’s life. She recognizes her daughter was upset but not devastated. She reaches out to the other parent to share her concern but is clear about wanting to move forward for all the girls. The only thing I would like even more is if the dad was involved as well. We need to bring dads into these situations more often, especially when they are directly involved, as this dad was. I get that this can be hard, but I’d like to encourage dads to be involved in the social dynamics that can come up.

How would you handle this carpool conundrum? Post a comment and tell me.

Rosalind Wiseman is the author of the new best seller Masterminds and Wingmen as well as Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads. For more info, go to rosalindwiseman.com. Read more of Rosalind’s parenting advice here

Do you have a parenting question? Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.

 

Author Jay Asher on Bullying

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listening matters.

So does how we speak.

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

 

Actor Bob Balaban on the Importance of Bully Movie

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting a Teen to Cook

Written on October 22, 2012 at 3:58 pm , by

 

 

Wouldn’t it be great to come home from work and discover that the kids had cooked a wonderful dinner and all I had to do was gush praise and eat? (And maybe do some dishes.) They have a bit more time in the afternoons several days a week than I do. But they prefer to spend their free time playing video games. And when I get home, I have to throw dinner together and pull them away from games. I’m trying to make things more equitable. But I’m not having a lot of luck.

But what if the video game they were playing encouraged them to cook their favorite foods—and taught them how? I recently met with the folks behind GirlsGoGames.com, a casual gaming site that offers free games just for girls, and that’s exactly what they told me the idea is behind their game Sarah’s Cooking Class.

My daughter already enjoys the quick, casual games at GirlsGoGames.com. So I asked her if she had played Sarah’s Cooking Class. Being a teenager, she rolled her eyes and told me that sounded “lame.” But then she realized that I was actually suggesting she take a few minutes to play video games. So she quickly changed her tune and volunteered to play it and let me know what she thought.

“That was fun,” she told me 20 minutes later. “Can I make sushi for dinner?” California rolls are one of her favorite foods. So, naturally, she had played that recipe. And while playing, she had learned what ingredients she needed to make her favorite meal, how to prep the sushi rice, how to cut the ingredients, and some technique for rolling and serving the rolls.

She gave me a list of ingredients. (The game provides a recipe.) And we are planning to make them together tonight. My hope is that, once she has the ingredients in house and we’ve been through it once or twice together, she will be willing to do it by herself when I’m too busy.

I know what you are thinking. But I can hope, can’t I?

Christina Tynan-Wood writes the Family Tech column for Family Circle, and is the author of “How to Be a Geek Goddess.” You can find her at GeekGirlfriends.com, as well as here on Momster.com. Follow her on Twitter: @xtinatynanwood.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Important New Book “Bully: An Action Plan”

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

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read our other posts about “Bully.”

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

Parenting Q&A: “I Can’t Afford to Give My Kids Everything. Will They Suffer Emotionally?”

Written on October 2, 2012 at 3:39 pm , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. How do you keep your family happy? And by “happy,” I mean comfortable without cost. Times are tough now, but I don’t want my kids to suffer emotionally because I can’t afford to give them everything.

A. Although life can be horribly stressful when money is tight, it’s so clear to me from my work around the country that having a lot of cash is no guarantee of a child’s contentment or a family’s harmony. So I’d like you to consider redefining happiness as striving for these four things in life: curiosity, hope of success in something you feel good about, being a part of something beyond yourself, and feeling connected to your loved ones and your community. I’ve found that’s where true joy lies for adults and kids. And if your children still complain about not getting the latest iPhone, have an honest conversation with them that includes a look at the family budget. When you do this calmly, your kids are more likely to accept (and appreciate) why their entire Christmas list isn’t going to end up under the tree next month.

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.

Your Thoughts: Do Kids Really Need Homework?

Written on August 28, 2012 at 9:02 am , by

When we (the editors of Family Circle) started kicking around the idea of a piece on homework, I grabbed the reins because it’s a huge issue in my household. To put it bluntly, after a full day of school, my 8-year-old son doesn’t want to do more work—and frankly, I’m not at all convinced he should have to. I mean, he hasn’t even reached a double-digit age yet. Shouldn’t seven hours of school cover it for younger kids academically?

Apparently not, as evidenced by his homework assignments in multiple subjects. This necessitates me having to suggest, ask, nudge, prod, and finally, flat-out demand that he do the work, which is a dynamic between us that I have come to loathe at the end of the day. (If he’s forgotten a book he needs, because of the crush to pack up quickly, that’s a whole other source of aggravation.)

Of course, absolutely and without exception, whether it is technically “assigned” or not, I would insist he spend time every day reading. I would think that would go without saying, but I will say it lest anyone be tempted to call me out on the reading issue. When I say “homework,” I’m referring to worksheets and similar tasks.

Anyway, I’m fascinated with the writings of educator Alfie Kohn, who makes a convincing case against after-hours assignments. In his piece in Family Circle‘s October issue, he writes:

Doing homework has no statistical relationship to achievement in elementary school. In high school, some studies do find a correlation between homework and test scores, but it’s usually fairly small. And in any case, it’s far from clear that the former causes the latter. And if you’re wondering, not a single study has ever supported the folk wisdom that homework teaches good work habits or develops positive character traits such as self-discipline, responsibility or independence.

Other educational experts obviously, and vocally, disagree. In my mind, the topic at least merits spirited debate, rather than just rote compliance.

So speak up! Tell us your stance on homework in the comments below.

Jonna Gallo Weppler is articles director at Family Circle magazine.

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.

Raising Independent Kids: Would You Let Your Teens Attend Pro Ball Games By Themselves?

Written on June 13, 2012 at 10:08 am , by

 

Tonight I’m letting my son Nick and his best friend, Max, go to a Yankees game by themselves for the first time. This involves an hour-long train ride from our hometown to the Yankee Stadium stop in the Bronx; then they’ll have to walk about eight blocks to the actual stadium, find their way to their seats, buy themselves dinner and, most important, keep in touch with my husband and me so we can find them in the massive crowd when we come to pick them up (we aren’t quite ready to let them navigate the late-night commute home). In all, they’ll be on their own for about six hours—though, of course, among 50,000+ other fans they won’t technically be alone. I’m nervous, but I know that as smart, sensible, newly minted 14-year-olds Nick and Max need to begin experiencing independence. In fact, Nick got the idea to go to the game sans parents from Executive Editor Darcy Jacobs’ son Matthew. Here’s her story:

When my 13-year-old recently had no school on a weekday, he asked if he could go to a Mets game. I just thought he was being typically obtuse (and sports crazed).

“Dad and I have work.”

“I meant by myself.”

“You don’t have a ticket. Plus, how will you get there?”

“I’ll buy one at the box office. And I’ll take the subway—I’ve done it enough times with you.”

My husband and I looked at each other, finding no other reason why not except our own parental hesitation. His calm and confidence were too convincing to argue against. He was ready, so we had to be too. The next day we walked him through all our rules—text when you get the ticket, text when you’re at the seat, text when you’re heading back to the subway. And be aware. And keep your phone out of sight on the subway. And stay away from anyone drinking. Basically I reminded him of everything except to look both ways before crossing. The texts arrived on schedule: Got tix. At seat. Having fun. Nice pple. Heding home.

He returned unusually chatty and elated, eager to share his adventure: He was shocked by the food prices because he actually paid attention to them, and self-upgraded his seat. While the day was not totally perfect—the Mets lost—it was a true success. For him, the momentousness of the day will fade, just one of the many steps he will start taking alone. For us, though, it was a milestone equal to a first word. He has begun his trek toward adulthood.

I hope Nick and Max get as much out of their solo adventure as Matthew did—that will give me more confidence to okay future unsupervised outings. Wondering if your child is ready to handle a bit more freedom? Read “Benefits of Free-Range Parenting,” from our July issue, for more anecdotes and expert advice.

Have you had a similar experience with your kid? Please share in the comments below.

Linda Fears is editor in chief of Family Circle magazine.

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.