When Rosalind Wiseman first published Queen Bees & Wannabes, she fundamentally changed the way adults look at girls’ friendships and conflicts–from how they choose their best friends, how they express their anger, their boundaries with boys, and their relationships with parents. Wiseman showed how girls of every background are profoundly influenced by their interactions with one another.
Now, Wiseman has revised and updated her groundbreaking book for a new generation of girls and explores:
·How girls’ experiences before adolescence impact their teen years, future relationships, and overall success
·The different roles girls play in and outside of cliques as Queen Bees, Targets, and Bystanders, and how this defines how they and others are treated
·Girls’ power plays–from fake apologies to fights over IM and text messages
·Where boys fit into the equation of girl conflicts and how you can help your daughter better hold her own with the opposite sex
·Checking your baggage–recognizing how your experiences impact the way you parent, and how to be sanely involved in your daughter’s difficult, yet common social conflicts
Packed with insights about technology’s impact on Girl World and enlivened with the experiences of girls, boys, and parents, the book that inspired the hit movie Mean Girls offers concrete strategies to help you empower your daughter to be socially competent and treat herself with dignity.
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ROSALIND WISEMAN is an internationally recognized expert on children, teens, parenting, bullying, social justice, and ethical leadership.
Wiseman is the author of Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and Other Realities of Adolescence (Crown, 2002). Twice a New York Times Bestseller, Queen Bees & Wannabes was the basis for the 2004 movie Mean Girls. In fall 2009, an updated edition of Queen Bees & Wannabes will be republished with a chapter on younger girls, insights on how technology has impacted kids’ social landscapes, and new commentary from girls and boys. Her follow-up book Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads was released in 2006, and she is a monthly columnist for Family Circle magazine.
Additional publications include the Owning Up Curriculum, a comprehensive social justice program for grades 6-12, and a forthcoming young adult novel, Boys, Girls, and Other Hazardous Materials, in stores in January 2010.
Since founding the Empower Program, a national violence-prevention program, in 1992, Wiseman has gone on to work with tens of thousands of students, educators, parents, counselors, coaches, and administrators to create communities based on the belief that each person has a responsibility to treat themselves and others with dignity. Audiences have included the American School Counselors Association, Capital One, National Education Association, Girl Scouts, Neutrogena, Young Presidents Association, Independent School Associations and the International Chiefs of Police, as well as countless schools throughout the U.S. and abroad.
National media regularly depends on Wiseman as the expert on ethical leadership, media literacy, bullying prevention, and school violence. She is a frequent guest on the Today Show and been profiled in The New York Times, People, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Washington Post, USA Today, Oprah, Nightline, CNN, Good Morning America, and National Public Radio affiliates throughout the country.
Wiseman holds a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Occidental College. She lives in Washington D.C. with her husband and two sons.
I just overheard my 8-year-old daughter’s friend tell her that she’ll only hang out with my daughter at our house because everyone else in the class thinks she’s weird. And my daughter agreed! I’m having a very hard time not hating this girl and everyone else in the class. Meanwhile, what is wrong with my daughter that she’s OK with this? I didn’t raise her to be a doormat. –Patty
My 12-year-old daughter has a great relationship with my brother, and she just told him that she had two boys in the house when we weren’t there. Of course he told me but now I don’t know what to do. It’s totally against our rules but if I punish her she’ll know her uncle told me and she’ll stop talking to him. If I don’t do anything, she’ll do it again! What do I do? –Leah
What do you do when your daughter is the Queen Bee? My daughter talks so badly about other people that she’s starting to lose all her friends. I’m having a hard time liking her myself.
I just went through my 14-year-old daughter’s text messages and want to throw up. I couldn’t believe the language she was using about herself and other kids in her class. –Todd
Eight years ago I sat down to write a guide for parents about their daughters’ friendships. Well, I don’t know about you, but my life certainly hasn’t been the same since. People talk about Queen Bees at work, on television, and in their preschool playgroups. You can buy Queen Bee T-shirts, backpacks, and pencil cases–as if being one is something your daughter should aspire to. Every day people ask me questions or share their experiences about Girl World and Queen Bees. For better and for worse, our awareness of Queen Bees and Mean Girls is now commonplace.
Meanwhile, girls are still in the thick of Girl World–where people won’t tell you why they’re mad at you, friends tease you and then dismiss your feelings with “Just kidding!,” and everyone texts and instant messages every rumor and embarrassing photograph about you. So the first time your daughter tells you that all her friends have stopped talking to her and she has no idea why, you want to know what to say and what to do–beyond wanting to yell at all those horrible children you now hate. But then things get more complicated when you pick her up the next day at school and there she is arm in arm with one of those Mean Girls like nothing ever happened. You stare at your daughter as she opens the door and begs you to let this kid come over, refusing to acknowledge that she has been co-opted by the Mean Girl World and ignoring your “are you kidding me?” expression.
Welcome to the wonderful world of your daughter’s adolescence. Ten seconds ago she was a sweet, confident little girl. Now you can’t breathe in her direction without getting that really annoying eye roll, followed by the equally irritating sigh. Or maybe, one day she’s insecure and wants to sit on your lap, but the next day she’s threatening to run away and you’re ready to pack her bag. She’s facing the toughest pressures of adolescent life– test-driving her new body (while you’re giving her a big sweatshirt to cover up that figure she seemed to have developed overnight), navigating changing friendships, surviving crushes, trying to keep up with school–and intuitively you know even though she’s sometimes totally obnoxious, she needs you more than ever. Yet it’s the very time when she’s pulling away from you.
Why do girls so often reject their parents and turn to their friends instead, even when those friends often treat them so cruelly? One day your daughter comes to school and her friends suddenly decide they hate her. Or she’s teased relentlessly for wearing the wrong clothes or having the wrong friend. Maybe she’s branded with a reputation she can’t shake. Or trapped, feeling she has to conform to what her friends expect from her so she won’t be kicked out of the group. But no matter what they do to her, she still feels that her friends know her best and genuinely want what is best for her. Or worse, she knows they aren’t good for her, but she would rather put up with being treated like dirt than be alone. In comparison, she believes that you, previously a reliable source of information, don’t have a clue. For parents, being rejected by your daughter is an excruciating experience. But it can really make you mad and doubt your child’s sanity when you’re replaced by a group of girls with all the tact, sense of fairness, and social graces of a pack of hyenas.
Most people believe a girl’s task is to get through it, grow up, and put those experiences behind her. But your daughter’s relationships with other girls have deep and far-reaching implications beyond her teen years. Your daughter’s friendships with other girls are a double-edged sword. First, let’s talk about the positives. These friendships can be the key to surviving adolescence. Many girls will make it through their teen years precisely because they have the support and care of a few good friends. These are the friendships where a girl truly feels unconditionally accepted, understood, and sometimes even challenged when she’s doing something that’s not good for her–like dating a guy who doesn’t treat her with respect.
But I wouldn’t be writing this book and you wouldn’t be reading it if that’s all there was to girls’ friendships. Girls’ friendships are often intense, confusing, frustrating, and humiliating; the joy and security of “best friendships” can be shattered by devastating breakups and betrayals. And beyond the pain in the moment, girls can develop patterns of behavior and expectations for future relationships that stop them from becoming competent, authentic people who are capable of having healthy relationships with others as adults.
But your daughter is too close to it all to realize the good and bad influence of her friends. She needs guidance from you despite the fact that she’s pulling away. My job is to give you my best suggestions for what kind of guidance to give her and how that information should be presented so she listens and your relationship with her is strengthened through the process.
As this is the updated version of Queen Bees, there’s no way I could write it without addressing two things: (1) how technology and the media influence your daughter’s social life for better and worse; and (2) how these issues are impacting younger girls and what you can do about it.
There’s no way I can emphasize enough the effect that constant connectivity to the Internet, e-mail, cell phones, and texting has on your child’s landscape–not to mention online social networking like MySpace, Webkinz, Club Penguin, Stardoll, Facebook, Twitter, or the ten other new websites the girls will be regularly using by the time this book is published. These things are in your daughter’s life–even if you don’t let your daughter have a cell phone or you don’t think she has an e-mail account.
Before you assume I think all of those things are bad, let me assure you I don’t. What I think is that most parents haven’t realized that as soon as their child interacts with technology in any way, they have to explicitly tie her use of this incredibly powerful tool to their values. If parents don’t, they have missed the most important opportunity to teach her how to be a decent ethical person.
The worst thing you can do is be in denial. About a year ago I realized that teens weren’t watching music videos that often. I knew this because I often show music videos of popular songs in my classes where it was common for my students to see them for the first time–even if the same song was one of their ring tones. But in researching for this book, I figured out who is watching them–fourth, fifth, and sixth graders. How are they doing this when you’d never let them watch MTV? On YouTube (or Vimeo, Hulu, or Yahoo Video)–where they can see all of those videos in their entirety for free. But it’s not just the music videos. Any social networking site can be used to bring people of like interests together. These sites can build a sense of community in a positive way. But they can also do the opposite.
If you don’t believe all of this, listen to this fourth grader:
Last year, a girl I used to be friends with got mad at me and went into my Webkinz account and destroyed everything. She did it because she knew my password. Everything, everything I had was gone. –Kara, 11
My friend loves Stardoll.com and her grandmother gave her these star dollars so she can buy all the best things. My parents don’t have the money to buy me things like that and she makes me feel bad because then she looks at the things I do [on the site] and tells me how ugly it is and how the girl doesn’t have any money. It’s like she’s telling me I’m ugly and poor. –Natalie, 10
Fast-forward three years later to an instant message between two eighth graders:
Everyone knows what you did . . .
your life is now over
What are you talking about!!!!
I’m not going to say . . .
Seriously, you have to tell me
No, I don’t, but you’ll find out soon
I will give you all the strategies I use to stop that kind of exchange occurring again–and you won’t have to become a technology expert. Technology is instantly and continuously transforming our world, and we have got to teach our children how to use it and and still keep their dignity and sense of human decency intact.
What girls fight about with technology is what this book has always been about. So, of course, we’ll still examine cliques, “frenemies,” reputations, gossiping, rebellion, bullying, crushes, and boyfriends. I’ll show you how your daughter is conditioned to remain silent when intimidated by more powerful girls–and the lessons she learns from these experiences. I’ll teach you how to recognize which friends will support her and which could lead her into situations that threaten her emotional health and even her physical safety. I’ll show you how your daughter’s place in her social pecking order can affect how she will or won’t participate in humiliating others, staying silent, or being the Target. Finally, I’ll make a connection between what your daughter learns in her early life and how those lessons impact her future.
I will do this by walking you through key rites of passage your daughter is likely to experience: the first time people get mad at her and won’t tell her why; her first breakup with a friend; the first time she gets into a fight with you because she wants to go to school or a party in the latest style that you think is totally inappropriate; the first time you realize she’s no longer talking to you about her problems; the first or seventy-fifth time she receives a nasty text message. Just as these moments can be excruciating for her, they can be equally challenging for you. I’m not talking only in terms of the extent to which they make you angry or try your patience; mishandling them can prevent you from getting her the help she needs and weaken your relationship with her. I’ll help you navigate them together.
Understanding your daughter’s friendships and social life can be grueling and frustrating. Parents often tell me they feel totally shut out of this part of their daughter’s life, incapable of exerting any influence. This book will let you in. It’ll show how to help your daughter deal with the nasty things girls do to one another, minimize the negative effects of what’s often an invisible war behind girls’ friendships, and recognize the truly strong relationships she may already have.
Before I go any further, let me reassure you that I can help you even if you often feel helpless or at war with your daughter.
It’s perfectly natural at this stage that she:
·Stops looking to you for answers.
·Doesn’t respect your opinion as much as she did before.
·Believes that there’s no possible way that you could understand what she’s going through.
·Is absolutely certain that telling you her problems will only make her life worse.
·Lies and sneaks around behind your back.
· Denies she lied and snuck behind your back–even in the face of undeniable evidence.
On the other hand, it’s natural that you:
·Feel rejected and angry when she rolls her eyes at everything you say.
·Have moments when you really don’t like her.
·Wonder whose child this is anyway, as this person in front of you can’t possibly be your sweet, wonderful daughter.
·Feel confused when conversations end in fights.
·Feel misunderstood when she feels you’re intruding and prying when you ask what’s going on in her life.
·Are really worried about the influence of her friends and feel powerless and angry to stop her hanging out with them. (Because, of course, she’ll keep the friends you don’t like if you expressly forbid her from seeing them.)
·Feel sad because you don’t know how to deal with problems she won’t even discuss with you.
The Mother/Daughter Maelstrom
Moms and daughters seem to have the hardest time with each other. Your daughter craves privacy, and your very presence feels like an intrusion. You feel you have so much to offer her. After all, you’ve been through the changes she’s experiencing, and you think your advice will help. Although this privacy war is natural, it creates a big problem. Girls are often so focused on resisting the influence of their parents that they rarely see when their peers are influencing them in the wrong way. Girls often see things in very concrete, either/or ways. You, as the parent, are intrusive and prying, which equals bad; her peers are involved and understanding, which equals good.
But there’s another issue that complicates everything, especially for moms. In the words of one mom who wrote me:
When I was a senior in high school, my best friend since third grade dumped me and had our entire clique turn their back on me. I was devastated. I found more friends, but the experience left me very insecure in my relationships–something that haunts me to this day (I’m 36). The anger and betrayal I felt at the time has never fully left me, despite my fervent desire to leave it behind. In short, she is the person that I would run out of the grocery store to avoid. The most difficult aspect of all this is that I am trying very hard to “check” this baggage as I witness MY daughter’s blossoming best friendship . . . and my deeply wired desire to protect her. –Ellen
So if you’re a mom reading this, it’s important to remember that your experiences as a girl are both your greatest gift and liability as your daughter navigates her own friendships. They’re a gift because they enable you to empathize. They’re a liability if your past makes you so anxious or reactionary that you can’t separate your experiences from hers.
Don’t Dismiss the Dads
This book isn’t only for mothers. I know, I know, most fathers would rather do anything else than read any kind of parenting book. Believe me, I’ve talked to and laughed with plenty of dads at my presentations who have been dragged there by their wives. But whether you’re this kind of dad, or the one who e-mails me knowing all the seventh-grade girl drama in your daughter’s class, almost all dads want to be emotionally engaged with their children and struggle coming to terms with the young woman who just moments ago was “Daddy’s little girl.”
So if you only read one paragraph in this book, make it this: Never forget or dismiss that your perspective can help your daughter. Just because you were never a girl, don’t know what a menstrual cramp feels like, and have never liked talking for hours about other people’s lives doesn’t...
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