Wednesday, March 29, 2006 3:00 PM
Author Rosalind Wiseman was online Wednesday, March 29, at 3 p.m. ET to field questions and comments about her new book "Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads."
Wiseman is cofounder of the Empower Program, a nonprofit organization that empowers youth to stop violence and reaches more than ten thousand youth and educators each year. She is the author of "Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence" (Crown, May 2002), which was the inspiration for the hit movie "Mean Girls."
From The Post:
The Buzz On Parents (Post, March 28)
Rejection Slip (Post, March 14)
The Transcript follows.
Rosalind Wiseman: Hi to everyone in Washington. I'm in Seattle and I'd like to come home soon! I miss D.C.
Ashburn, Va.: Do you have any advice for teachers dealing with queen bee moms or kingpin dads?
Rosalind Wiseman: Sure I do. As a teacher myself I've been in situations where parents come at you, and sometimes parents come across like the teacher doesn't want the best for their kid and it can be really, really hurtful. I think the most important thing to remember is that a parent can disagree with you, but just as you have the obligation to treat them civilly, they have an obligation to treat you civilly. Just because parents -- especially Queen Bee moms and Kingpins dads -- feel they have a higher calling, which is protecting their child or advocating for their child, it sometimes allows them to rationalize bullying behavior to you. So assume it comes from a good place, but you have the right to be treated with dignity.
Harrisburg, Pa.: I am wondering what your impressions were of the movie "Mean Girls", if you saw it. Did it accurately portray (realizing that movies exaggerate characters) real issues facing adolescents, and were there are distortions or points not covered that you would point out?
Rosalind Wiseman: Yes, I saw it:-) I've had many kids around the country say to me that that was their high school, but certainly that is not all kids. Some kids would say that in no way that was like their experience. And both are equally valid. Both are equally true.
On the second point, I wish that there was a more explicit condemnation of homophobia.
Hyattsvile, Md.: What about boys? Boys as young as 8 want to keep up with their peers. Sean John and Timberland are not my first or last name, but my kids seem to want to wear them because of the Cliques. So girls are no the only ones.
Rosalind Wiseman: I could not agree more. Boys and boys' body image and clothes have become just as important an issue for boys as for girls. And a boy who lifts weight and becomes really muscular and who takes protein powders and supplements is not that much different from a girl who is throwing up and binging. Each is trying to fit into (respectively) boy world and girl world.
Montgomery Cty, Md.: Hi Rosalind, thanks for doing your chat. I'm wondering if you have any advice for someone in my situation: I'm a single, working mother whose not so outgoing. My daughter is only a toddler now, and we socialize a bit out in the park with other mothers and kids... But. How do I make sure my daughter does not become a victim of my own lack of socialization/shyness?
Rosalind Wiseman: Well, first of all, I think you get to honor who you are, right? Not try to be someone who you're not. You don't have to become the woman who has playgroups at your house all the time. Take it slow. If you're comfortable, invite one parent -- since your kids are young, it makes sense to have one parent over for tea or coffee at the same time. And you know, shy parents do not necessarily make bad parents. I think that's important to remember.
Falls Church, Va.: My son was diagnosed with ADHD and starts kindergarten next year. As an adult with ADHD, I remember how difficult it was for me in elementary/middle school and how much my mother had to intervene with teachers who labeled me as "bad." My son has similar behavioral problems and I worry about future interactions with teachers/principals. Admittedly, I am very "Type A" and I am curious how to balance a genuine need to be your child's advocate and not being seen as a "Queen Bee?"
Rosalind Wiseman: That's a great question. And just the fact that you're able to articulate the problem, you're almost all the way there in being able to solve the problem. I've talked to a lot of parents in your situation who understandably need to advocate for their children. I suggest that you go to the teacher in the beginning of the year and tell him or her exactly what you just wrote to me. If you do this, the teacher will know that you might have moments of looking like a "Queen Bee," but you're someone the teacher can work with, can reach out to.
Springfield, Va.: Do you think Queen Bee types in school (and their male equivalents) grow up to be Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads more often than those who were not in school?
Rosalind Wiseman: Yes, although I think that there are Wannabes who can turn into Queen Bees and I think that there are kids who are Queen Bees and dominators when they're little who reform themselves, who realize the cost is too high to maintaining this persona. I think, in large part, this is what it means to become an adult.
Burke, Va.: Do Queen Bee moms have Queen Bee daughters? Or are the two not necessarily linked?
Rosalind Wiseman: It seems like this would be an easy answer -- Yes, Queen Bee girls come from Queen Bee moms -- but I haven't seen it 100 percent cleanly cut like that. Of course I've seen girls who are carbon copies of their mothers in this way, but I've also seen girls who realize the cost to their mother in becoming a Queen Bee and the mom becomes an anti-mentor. I've also seen Queen Bee moms push their daughters who are not as socially competitive and it tears the relationship in two.
Washington, D.C.: How does one best respond to this common parent statement: Do you have kids? Well when you do, then you can talk to me about what my child does/does not need! As an experienced social worker that provides counseling for children, I hear this from time to time. Help!
Rosalind Wiseman: It's one of the best deflectors that parents who don't want to look at their own behavior will say to an educator or a counselor. I would say to the parents, while you do know your child the best and your relationship with the child and in your home, children often have to have different coping skills and ways of being in their schools or outside the home. It's not good or bad, it's just different. So while you do know your child the best, in your relationship with your child -- and I would never take that away from you -- please know that I'm reaching out to you because I think that "X" problem or "X" situation is important. And then you can go from there.
Peer ostracism: Rosalind,
Peer ostracism is quite a sticky problem, isn't it? There are enough horrible examples of what can happen to a child who feels marginalized and excluded to try to aggressively solve this problem.
But ... what to do if the parent is unable or unwilling to become involved, especially if the core of the ostracism is poor or anti-social social skills (belligerent behavior, inability to read or respond to social cues)? Or worse, cases where the parent may have the same problem.
There's a huge premium, even in the adult world, about being able to fit in. Some industries won't even look to hire people who can't/won't.
Rosalind Wiseman: I couldn't agree more and, actually, that's one of the areas that I would like to do more work in in the next couple of years.
I think that it's not good enough to not be involved and I don't mean fighting fights for kids. If the parent does not have the social skills to become involved, then I would have the parent sit down and decide who is another adult in this family's life that could be this person, that is more comfortable. I think people in that situation ... if they can ... I would really encourage them to reach out to someone in their support system to have them navigate through these kinds of problems.
Woodley Park, Washington, D.C.: My particular experience is with parents who tell their teenage children that they are great at EVERYTHING even to the point of lying when the child is not so great. I grew up in a very honest household so praise came right alongside constructive criticism. I heard "That wasn't your best night in the play" sometimes, but it made "You rocked tonight!" mean so much more. I just don't know how to deal with these parents, (besides hiding or running to the bathroom) especially when I go to their children's performances and they expect me to spill out mindless praise. Can you please give me advice?
Rosalind Wiseman: I think that giving mindless praise is ridiculous. But I understand why parents do it. They want their kids to feel good about themselves. But parents are never going to teach their children true, positive self esteem by praising everything they do. Instead, of course, you tell your kids you love them, but don't fall into that trap.
Washington, D.C.: Is there a difference between a Queen Bee mother and one who is over-involved in her teenager's school, but well-liked by teachers and staff because of her contributions? Is her child better off, as a result of the advantages secured, than the child of the mother who lets him successfully (most of the time) manage for himself with teachers, friends, homework, tests?
Rosalind Wiseman: It depends on how good of a leader the principle of the school is. There are some principles where the former -- what you're describing -- can manipulate the principle and they will get preferential treatment, but the teachers will hate the kid. The latter, the teachers are going to like the parent, like the kid more. But more importantly is that the latter child will much more likely develop a greater degree of social competence than the former because that kid always thinks everything will be done for him or her.
Annapolis, Md.: My HS senior daughter is a typical "gamma girl," doesn't follow the trends and cliques, friendly but doesn't have loads of friends and social opportunities, active in a few social action clubs, bonds more with her teachers than peers. Do you have any advice for making new friends when she goes off to a public college next year?
Rosalind Wiseman: I think she sounds good. It sounds like she's in good shape, she's friendly, she's got friends. I'm betting she's the oldest or only child. It sounds like she's doing well and she might have the normal anxieties about going to a new school, but it sounds to me like she might have the skills to take care of herself.
Alexandria, Va.: Rosalind -- The Queen Bees made my life as a parent a living hell and their offspring ostracized my daughter all through school -- when a loud-mouthed parent forces the coach to play their kid first, some other kid gets kicked to the curb -- and mine was always that kid. How I wish your book had been written years ago so I would have a name for the abuse! It may have helped me to stand up to the bullies, big and small.
Rosalind Wiseman: I'm hoping that you read the book and that you can apply it to your life in some ways. Those stories are some of the main reasons why I wrote the book.
Bethesda, Md.: At school functions, there is a father bullying the deaf father of hearing kids who are doing well academically. I think he is jealous the hearing kids do so well while his own kids are doing bad... Many parents saw this but are afraid to interfere because he is also a softball coach and his kid is a good baseball player. Any advice?
Rosalind Wiseman: I don't care what the reasons are -- jealousy, bad day -- I don't care. Being a parent does not give you an excuse for bad manners. I know it is difficult and it's the last thing I want to do, to confront a bullying parent, but we have to do it. This is a battle we have to fight. So what I'm suggesting is another adult, another parent, is to stand up and to say to the bullying dad, "I know that what you want is what's best for all of our children, but we must have a civil discourse." And then run away:-) (Laughing)
Arlington, Va.: Speaking of reducing violence, at least a little, I am glad to reach that corporal punishment has dramatically been reduced during this generation of parents. Yet, there are those who feel many of today's children are growing up with too little discipline and with sense of responsibility. Does perhaps limited corporal punishment work, and how can today's Queen Bees create a proper level of discipline and respect into a home?
Rosalind Wiseman: I think that children need to respect their parents and have a healthy fear of disappointing their parents and knowing that if they break family rules that there will be serious, painful consequences. You don't have to spank your children to do that. Consequences, to me, as a mother and as an educator, are always to decide what are the privileges that the child values the most and then take it away.
Charleston, W. Va.: My daughter was a "difficult," "high-spirited" (depending on which psychology book I read) child. She is very smart, intellectually and emotionally. She often has trouble with teachers because she is smarter than they are, and she has little tolerance for busy work. I can't convince her that these people are in charge and must be obeyed. Can you give me any suggestions for how I might get through to her on this issue? I loved your first book and am looking forward to reading this one. Thanks for your insight and research.
Rosalind Wiseman: One of the most not-fun parenting responsibilities is to teach your child how to put up with boring, irritating, difficult people. She must maintain good manners and treat her teachers with dignity. Just as I said before that being a parent does not excuse bad manners, being a teenager doesn't excuse bad manners either. But certainly what she's going through is normal, from how you're describing her, and your job is to hold her accountable, while still encouraging her intellect and creativity.
Washington, D.C.: Have you seen any differences between parents of kids that attend public school vs. private school, particularly in cases where parents have to work/sacrifice in order for their kids to attend private school. It's hard to be a queen bee if both parents have to work.
Rosalind Wiseman: More than private or public school is the wealth of the families that make up that school community and sometimes the feelings of entitlement that those parents and children have. I have seen private schools where parents are sacrificing tremendously to send their children to that school, but it's not in D.C., actually. There's a feeling that it's a great privilege, in the best of sense, to have this educational opportunity. In Washington, we can sometimes be particularly challenged to remember that professional or financial achievement still means that you feel that you should play by the same rules as everyone else.
Arlington, Va.: I'm multitasking and reading your book right now. I love it!
Rosalind Wiseman: Great! Now do four more things:-)
Raleigh, N.C.: My daughter is experiencing some of the "Queen Bee" issues that you describe and she's only in the 4th grade; how early do these issues start?
Rosalind Wiseman: They start as soon as people are in relationships with each other. So it is not uncommon for girls as young as three to be involved in these kinds of friendship dynamics. It doesn't mean that these are a particularly bad bunch of girls; this is normal. You just have the opportunity to start dealing with it now, like any parent, frankly.
Rosalind Wiseman: Thank you very much, and I hope to be back home soon.
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