rosalind wiseman

A Summer Code of Conduct for Your Kids

Written on July 3, 2014 at 8:00 am , by

 

Since I moved to Colorado from Washington, D.C., almost two years ago, I have grown to love summer. First off, there’s no humidity. As a native Washingtonion, I thought living in the wet, moldy sponge that is D.C. from June through September was normal. What’s more, every day here is beautiful, there aren’t annoying bugs everywhere, ice cream is plentiful and people are in a good mood. The only complaint I have: The school ends the third week of May. That is just way too early.

To be fair, no matter how hard we parents work all year, for our kids, summer should be a time to sleep in late, relax, roam around, and hang out with friends. But in order for parents to not get really irritated and start walking around the house muttering about how lazy and slovenly their children are, we have to have an agreement about how summer is going to go down.

So three weeks into their vacation, I told my boys: “I want you to relax and have fun and neither of us want me constantly nagging you or raging at you (“raging” is the word my boys use to describe my very calm requests). So here is how I think we have the best chance of accomplishing these very important goals.” Then I shared with them my “Summer Code of Conduct.” Perhaps these rules to relax by will help you preserve your sanity this season.

1. If you want to kick back. . . don’t leave cups and dishes around the house. This is especially true if you have eaten cereal and/or drank chocolate milk with an inch of chocolate sludge at the bottom and left it wherever you finished it. This is also true with clothes (dirty or clean), technology accessories like ear buds or headphones, new or used tissue paper, sports equipment, art projects and any small pets. You won’t be able to relax because all of these actions will automatically result in your parent flipping out—as in making you clean everything you have spread around the house and nagging you as you do it).

2. To be left alone. . . you must read a book of your choosing, outside if possible, and enjoy it. Your parents will leave you in peace while you read—unless they see that you are hiding a handheld device behind the book. If you are, we get to make you do additional chores around the house such as loading the dishwasher (see #1), folding laundry, taking out garbage and more.

3. When hanging out indoors with your friends. . . know the house rules. If you’re hanging out at another person’s house, you are expected to follow the other family’s policies without argument. Likewise, your friends are expected to follow our family rules when they are at our house. If not, your parent will make it clear to your friends what the family rules are.

4. When hanging out outdoors with friends . . . respect the freedom we give you. Summer is time to spontaneously hang out with buddies. But that will happen much more easily if you check in with your parents on a consistent basis. So when your parents ask you by any method where you are and when you will be home you need to answer concretely. For example, “Soon” and “In a little while” are not appropriate answers to a parents’ text message about when you will be returning home.

5. While improving your video game or tech skills . . . Watch the clock. I know video games aren’t all bad. They just can’t take over your life or be a major source of conflict between siblings. So each child can have ninety minutes per day on the device of their choosing for fun. Basic necessities must be taken care of before engaging any technology, which are defined but not limited to putting on clothes, brushing teeth and hair, and taking care of any pet needs. All technology activity must end an hour before bed (to assure a good night rest) and devices be charged in parent’s bedroom. Other projects involving technology are excluded from the ninety minute limit.

6. If you want to impress me. . . . tell me how you plan on giving back this summer. A couple times a month over the summer, the family and whatever friends want to join in, will do community service together. Examples are making dinner for a children’s or teen shelter, painting a family homeless center, gardening, mowing lawns or getting groceries for an older person. When I know you’re up to some good, I can kick back and enjoy summer too.

Have you laid down some rules of the road for your kids this summer? Post a comment and tell me what they are below.

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.

 

 

Dealing With Bullies (When You Disagree With Your Partner)

Written on June 18, 2014 at 5:41 pm , by

The only thing harder than helping your kid handle bullies at school is helping your kid do so when you and your spouse aren’t on the same page. Our parenting expert, Rosalind Wiseman, received a letter from a woman struggling with just that situation. She has a picked-on kid and a hands-off ex who disagrees with her tactics. Here’s what happened and what you can do to handle similar situations within your family.

Q. “When my son, Nick, told me he was being bullied at school, I immediately called a meeting with my ex-husband, the principal, a counselor and my child. But my ex doesn’t think our son is being bullied. He thinks I just don’t understand “boy world.” The principal was glad the situation was brought to his attention but mentioned that Nick needs to “loosen up” because he doesn’t like to make mistakes and he’s rigid when around other boys. Nick is very upset that I called the school meeting; he also said that even though the bullying subsided for a few days, it has started again. He has begged me not to discuss it again with school officials or with his father. Most recently he asked if he could have liposuction near his armpits because the boys are saying he’s fat. I’ve spoken with my son about bullies. I’ve also talked about the power a bully gets from provoking a desired reaction. Nick clams up and doesn’t want to hear my suggestions. I’m so afraid the bullying will escalate that I’m considering signing him up for a martial arts class, and I even showed him how to physically defend himself last night.”

A: Your parenting dynamic is pretty common, but it makes it much more difficult for your son. The dad wants his son to stop complaining and deal with the other kids (the Boy World thing he wants you to understand), and you want to comfort your child. Both of you are right. Your son, as you and the school agree, is socially inflexible and that makes it harder for him to get along with his peers. But that doesn’t justify the other boys bullying him. He needs social skills and emotional support, and he needs parents who recognize the value of each. But as long as you and your ex have judgments about the other’s point of view (to put words in both of your mouths, he thinks you coddle him and you think he’s callous), your parenting dynamic will make it much harder for your son to learn what he needs to in this situation.

And this is why your situation is so applicable to so many families. The fact is all children are going to experience conflict with their peers. How the adults in the child’s life guide him through the process of responding to conflict is often the invisible force that either increases the child’s emotional resilience and strengthens the family, or decreases the child’s emotional fortitude, makes him more vulnerable to abuse by his peers, causes him to feel ashamed that he is a target, and makes him resistant to asking for help. All that happens while he’s still desperate for the bullying to stop and caught between his parents’ opposing opinions.

Helping your kid navigate his way through dangerous territory doesn’t mean leading him by the hand.

For your son’s emotional well-being and physical safety, you first need to say something to him about your family situation. Something like:

Your dad and I both love you—we just have different opinions about how to help you. That’s one of the reasons why we need to have someone at school help us think through what you need to feel more in control of the situation. But I also want you to know two things: You are always entitled to your feelings. If you’re upset about something, you have the right to be upset. What we want to do is help you decide how to pick your battles. For example, kids putting you down about your body or saying you don’t belong is wrong and needs to stop. But when you’re playing a game with your classmates and you get upset about a rule being broken we need to find different strategies so that you can talk to the other kids in a more effective way, one that doesn’t come across as rigid. That’s what your father and I want.

It’s a hard balance for you—for any parent in your situation. You have to simultaneously give Nick confidence that he can face kids’ cruelty and/or allow him to feel the consequences of his inflexibility (kids reacting negatively to him) so he has the internal motivation and confidence to make things better for himself. And you have to do this all while feeling incredibly anxious and powerless to make it better for him.

Until this becomes a reality, here’s how you can help your child deal with conflicts at school.

Unless you have experiences with the school that demonstrate incompetence or unprofessionalism, have faith in the counselor and the administrator, but don’t hesitate to demand what you need. Ask the counselor (or whomever you’re talking to) to help you come up with three responses you can say when Nick complains about the mean things his peers are saying (like the weight comments). What I say to kids in Nick’s situation (being bullied, but they don’t want to report it) is this:

I’m really sorry this is happening and I wish I could make the problem disappear, but you know I can’t. What I can do is listen to you and help you come up with the smartest strategy for dealing with those kids. We won’t be able to make 100% of the problem go away, but if we can make the problem go down even by 20%, hopefully you’ll feel better and more confident about how you’re handling it. Once that happens, those kids have less power over you.

It’s also time for you to back off from being so visibly involved because your efforts to comfort him can easily come across as coddling. Not only is that embarrassing to your son but it also sends the message that you don’t feel confident that he can handle his problems.

You mentioned wanting him to learn martial arts. So let him research what style he likes. Let him check out a class and decide if he likes the teacher. He needs to start building good relationships with adults anyway. Encourage him to join a class that he likes and let him learn from that teacher. One thing to note: Unless you have martial arts experience, I would avoid teaching him self-defense. Even if you do, I’d still think twice. My husband and I have black belts in multiple styles of martial arts, but when our oldest son was bullied (he was around the same age as Nick, as well as the tallest kid in his class) we didn’t teach him ourselves. Well, we tried a few times, but it always ended in tears and frustration. We trusted in his karate teachers and school counselor, and I credit both for why he is in a better place today.

I am not telling you to stop comforting him. He needs to know he can always go to you. But I am saying, often the most comforting thing a mother can do is to show your confidence that your son has the strength to face these problems with conviction and with the support of capable adults around him.

Have you had child-rearing disagreements with your husband? Post a comment and tell me about it below.

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.

Six Demands Parents Should Make of Their Kids

Written on May 15, 2014 at 9:30 am , by

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the first time I’d spoken at a high school graduation and I was nervous. The senior class—a group of young women I’d worked with off and on over the last two years—had invited me. In the weeks before, I had rewritten the speech countless times. I wanted it to be inspirational but not superficial.

Graduation day was beautiful, but even more wonderful was watching these incredible young women walk past their beaming families as they joined me on the stage. I stood up and walked to the podium. I looked out again at the parents and then turned to the students. Overcome by the moment, I put my speech notes down and spoke from my heart—as a teacher and a parent. This is what I said:

I demand great things of you. Not that you go to the “best” schools, make a lot of money or grow up to have perfect-looking lives. I demand that you have the courage to ask yourself and others hard questions that make you uncomfortable. I demand that you do so with an unshakable commitment to civil dialogue in every aspect of your life.

I demand that whenever possible, you collaborate with smart, passionate, capable people who don’t take themselves too seriously and have a good sense of humor. Keep people close who will tell you when you messed up but say it with love and care. As a special bonus, if you have complementary skills you can work together to accomplish great things.

I demand that in your jobs, families and community you look for ways to address social, political and economic injustice.

I demand that you always remember that your dignity and the dignity of others is not negotiable—ever.

I demand that you remember that your dignity and the dignity of others matters the most when it’s hard. Like when you see someone being taken advantage of, when you are so angry with someone and all you want to do is get revenge, or when you face someone who believes that their truth trumps all others.

I demand that when you are in a group of people, you be aware of whose voices in the room are being dismissed. When you notice this silence, support that person’s right to speak and be heard.

When it gets hard, and it probably will, the people who love you and care for you will be on your side. That is our obligation to you.

I could barely get through the speech because it was in that moment that I truly remembered why I love and value working with young people so much.

As my sons get older and I’m yelling at them about picking up their dirty socks off the living room floor and could they please take their headphones off before I throw them in the trash, I easily forget what I remembered so clearly on that podium with those girls. And then, I take a breath and it all comes back.

What’s the number one demand that you make of your child? Post a comment and tell us below.

 

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.

What Boys Think About Teen Pregnancy: “Her Decision Dictated My Future”

Written on May 9, 2014 at 11:48 am , by

 

Let’s be honest. When we say “teen pregnancy” we really mean “girls getting pregnant.” It’s as if all boys cared about was having sex—without giving a thought to the possible consequences. But it’s not as simple as that. Almost all the young men I’ve worked with who experienced a pregnancy scare (or a pregnancy) had complicated reactions to it.

To get some insight into the boy perspective, I asked Tom,* one of the young men who helped edit my recent book Masterminds and Wingmen, to share what he went through with his high school girlfriend. Here’s what he shared:

“When I was a junior in high school, I had a girlfriend who was a senior. We lost our virginity to each other. There was this week where I could feel her tension but I didn’t know what was going on. Then she told me that her period was two weeks late.

I remember it so vividly and what I was thinking. I’m dating this girl but I’m not ready to marry her. I’m looking at her mom and my future life with this person and that’s terrifying. At 18 you’re beginning to understand the larger implications because in my high school there was a girl who had a kid. I’d heard stories of people my age getting married and then you’re in it forever.

Part of me thought this was a team decision and part of me didn’t. Her decision dictated my future and it was really uncomfortable to have that in someone else’s hands. But my mom always said if I got someone pregnant it was my responsibility, and with her that was huge. My dad left my mom when I was 2 and she was pregnant with my younger brother. She took responsibility for us. So when she said that to me, and that was before I was having sex, I got it and I remembered it. She was good about that—laying the groundwork before I was actually doing these things.”

Tom brings up incredibly important issues. First, even if teens don’t tell their parents or other adults in their lives what’s going on, those adults have tremendous influence. Whatever those adults have said to them about pregnancy in the past is immediately front and center in their mind. Time and time again, boys have told me that in these situations they want to be able to talk about their feelings but don’t feel that they have the right to.

Second, their past has a deep impact on the future they imagine. If their own fathers have not been around, they feel deeply conflicted or often fantasize about how they’re going to be a better father than they’ve had.

Third, and the biggest issue I’ve seen by far, is how they listen to and respect their partner’s emotional reactions to the pregnancy. It’s hard for them to courteously articulate what they want in light of what their partner also wants. It’s so hard because boys and young men are so rarely taught how to have these incredibly difficult conversations. Adults don’t often know how to.

One of the most important things we can do as parents of boys is to engage them in conversations around all these topics. Talk to them about their possible emotional reactions to getting a sexual partner pregnant. When we don’t include boys in the conversation, we contribute to young men not feeling they have a right to an opinion when they get a girl pregnant, and condoning boys believing it’s not their responsibility when they get someone pregnant. Having these conversations doesn’t condone irresponsible sexual behavior. It is a critical opportunity to articulate your values about personal responsibility, meaningful emotional connection and facing difficult, seemingly overwhelming situations with integrity and grace.

*Name has been changed.

Have you talked to your teenage son about pregnancy? What did you say? Post a comment and tell us here.

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. Do you have a parenting question? 

Email askrosalind@familycircle.com.


 

 

Parenting Q&A: “My Daughter Looks Too Sexy in Facebook Photos!”

Written on October 16, 2012 at 10:58 am , by

 

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. My sweet 14-year-old looks too sexy in her Facebook photo. How can I get her to take it down?

A. I’m going to assume it’s just slightly too sexy and not a provocative pic where it looks like she’s topless in front of a stripper bar. Start by presenting information to your daughter from a third party, like a movie or book. I’d recommend watching the documentary Miss Representation with her. (You could even host a screening party with other parents and girls so you can discuss it as a group afterward.) You want your daughter to understand the pressures girls face to present themselves in highly sexual ways and what the consequences are for her self-esteem. A few days after the movie, ask her to think about her FB profile picture and putting another in its place. Yes, you can tell her that she must change it or she doesn’t get Facebook, but if you only do that, then you’re missing the larger point: having your daughter develop a sense of how she wants to appear to the world.

Do you have a parenting dilemma for Rosalind? Send an email to askrosalind@familycircle.com.

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

Q&A: “I’m a 12-Year-Old Girl Who Doesn’t Like Her New School”

Written on October 9, 2012 at 10:50 am , by

Teen parenting expert Rosalind Wiseman answers your tough questions.

Q. I’m a 12-year-old girl who doesn’t like her new school. People aren’t open to helping me, there are so few kids to make friends with and I’m getting frustrated. Is there a way to make things better?

A. That’s terrible! You’d hope everyone would realize how hard it is for you as a new kid. It’s time to take matters into your own hands. First, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. If you can make one or two friends by spring break, I’d consider that a win. It’s possible the kids in your class have grown up together and that can be really intimidating, but the work you do as a team will give you opportunities to strengthen bonds. Are there any group projects coming up? Things you’re interested in at school that other kids are into as well? If so, invite a group over to your house to work or hang together. Friendships will develop from there.

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.

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.

“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 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.

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.