Bestselling author helps parents tackle social media, bullying
As parents learn to navigate a world where social media plays an ever-changing role, they’ve got the tricky task of also guiding their kids through it. Rosalind Wiseman, author of Queen Bees and Wannabes (Three Rivers, $15)–the basis of the movie Mean Girls–talked to a packed room of parents here last week about how to do just that.
Wiseman also spoke about how to handle bullying and offensive language at Chicago Children’s Theatre's first “Lunch and Learn” fundraising event at the Casino Club. The author of the bestselling book about helping girls handle things such as cliques, gossip and boyfriends gave a talk titled “Nurturing Girls to Reach Their Full Potential,” but it was equally useful for parents of boys.
A parent’s job, Wiseman said, is to “teach a child to live with dignity, but also to be competent about the way she handles conflict.” To do that, parents need to work on good listening skills—Wiseman gave helpful and humorous tips that included asking whether your child is simply venting or actually wants your advice, and suggesting you never, ever use your kids’ slang when talking to them. But it’s also important to be sure they work through conflicts with your guidance. Without it, you’re putting them in a “moral vacuum, a social skills vacuum. That’s when things get like Lord of the Flies,” she said.
Wiseman offered suggestions on several anxiety-causing issues for parents:
“If your child is being bullied, don’t try to help them by telling them bullies are insecure, jealous or weak. Don’t tell them to try to be nice to them, and don’t tell them to punch them in the face. What you do say: I’m so sorry. Thank you for telling me. Together we will work this out. These are opportunities for us to come forward and have our children see what we stand for. We want them to have strong relationships with their family and friends and learn to advocate for themselves both personally and professionally.”
Managing social media and your kids:
“It’s true that kids have a right to some privacy in their lives, but in the world of social networking no one has any privacy. Facebook does not say ‘private’; it says ‘connecting you to the world.’ It’s a public forum. Having access to it is a tremendous privilege. Kids need to understand that if they misuse it, it can be taken away. If they really want privacy, they can get a journal to hide under the mattress.”
Kids using the words “gay” and “retarded”:
“The words gay and retarded [as insults] have to stop,” Wiseman said. “When they are used to put people down, they are simply not acceptable.” The word “gay” can be used as a mechanism for getting boys to keep their mouths shut when they see something they don’t like, she added. “‘Don’t be gay’ stops a boy from saying something about something they don’t like—often something that’s hurting someone else or even themselves.”
Get more parenting advice at roslindwiseman.com.