Have you ever wondered who your daughter is, and who she befriends outside of your home? Most parents have and they'll think about that a little more with the upcoming release of "Mean Girls," a fictional comedy starring Lindsay Lohan that gives some insight into a cool, calculating girl world. It's based on the New York Times bestseller by author Rosalind Wiseman called, "Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends and Other Realities of Adolescence.” Here’s an excerpt:
Welcome to the wonderful world of your daughter’s adolescence. Ten seconds ago she was a sweet, confident, world-beating little girl who looked up to you. Now she’s changing before your very eyes — she’s confused, insecure, often surly, lashing out. On a good day, she’s teary and threatening to run away. On a bad day, you’re ready to help her pack her suitcase. She’s facing the toughest pressures of adolescent life — test-driving her new body, figuring out the social whirl, toughing it out in school — and intuitively you know that 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 teenage and preteen girls so often reject their parents and turn to their girlfriends instead — even when those friends often treat them so cruelly?
Every girl I know has been hurt by her girlfriends. One day your daughter comes to school and her friends suddenly decide she no longer belongs. Or she’s teased mercilessly for wearing the wrong outfit 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. No matter what they do to her, she still feels that her friends know her best and want what is best for her. 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. Especially when you’re immediately replaced by a group of girls with all the tact, sense of fairness, and social graces of a pack of marauding hyenas.
Whatever you feel as your daughter goes through this process, you can be sure that she’ll go through her share of humiliating experiences and constant insecurity — that’s normal for teens. 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 much deeper and farther-reaching implications beyond her turbulent teen years.
Your daughter’s friendships with other girls are a double-edged sword — they’re key to surviving adolescence, yet they can be the biggest threat to her survival as well. The friendships with the girls in her clique are a template for many relationships she’ll have as an adult. 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 and understood — and they can last into adulthood and support her search for adult relationships.
On the other hand, girls can be each other’s worst enemies. Girls’ friendships in adolescence are often intense, confusing, frustrating, and humiliating, the joy and security of “best friends” shattered by devastating breakups and betrayals. Girls’ reactions to the ups and downs of these friendships are as intense as they’ll later feel in intimate relationships.
These early relationships can propel girls into making dangerous decisions and shape how they mature into young women. But your daughter is too close to it all to realize the good and bad influence of her friends. She needs guidance from you.
This book will examine cliques, reputations, gossiping, rebellion, bullying, crushes, and boyfriends. It will show you how your daughter is conditioned to remain silent when intimidated by more powerful girls — and the lessons she learns from this experience. It will teach you how to recognize which friends will support her and which could lead her toward situations that threaten her emotional health and sometimes even her physical safety. It’ll show you how your daughter’s place in her social pecking order can affect whether she’ll be a perpetrator, bystander, or victim of violence when she’s older. This book will also reveal how these dynamics contribute to the disconnection and struggle between the two of you.
I’ll also describe and explain the key rites of passage your daughter is likely to experience: getting an invitation to an exclusive party in sixth grade... or getting left off the guest list; her first breakup with a friend; the first time she dresses up for a party in the latest style; and so on. These are all critical milestones for her, but they’re rites of passage for you, too. Just as they can be exhilarating or traumatizing for her, they can be equally challenging for you as her parent, and not just in terms of the extent to which they try your patience; mishandling them can threaten your relationship with her. I’ll help you navigate them together.
Moreover, this book will show you how constantly changing cultural ideals of femininity impact your daughter’s self-esteem, friendships, and social status and can combine to make her more likely to have sex at an early age and be vulnerable to violence at the hands of some men and boys. It will also explain what you can do to help your daughter avoid these pitfalls.
Understanding your teen or preteen daughter’s friendships and social life can be difficult and frustrating. Parents often tell me they feel totally shut out from 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 and minimize the negative effects of what’s often an invisible war behind girls’ friendships.
Before I go any further, let me reassure you that I can help you even if you often feel that you’re 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.
- Lies and sneaks behind your back.
- Denies she lied and went behind your back — even in the face of undeniable evidence.
On the other hand, it’s natural that you:
- Feel rejected when she rolls her eyes at everything you say.
- Have moments when you really don’t like her.
- Wonder whose child this is anyway because 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 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.)
The Mother/Daughter Maelstrom
Moms and daughters seem to have the hardest time with each other during girls’ adolescence. Your daughter craves privacy, and you directly threaten her sense of privacy. 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. Think of your daughter as a beaver; she’s constantly cutting down logs, branches, twigs, anything she can find, dragging them to her den, trying to create a safe haven from the outside world. In her eyes, you’re always stomping on it: asking why the logs are there in the first place when you have this nice one that would look so pretty; rearranging the branches; hovering around the entranceway yelling your suggestions and saying that it would look much better if it was just a little more organized. You’re not just totally disturbing her peace, you’re storming her sacred retreat.
While 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. Teens 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. She pushes you away, making even more space for the bad influences.
Fathers Feel It, Too
This book isn’t only for mothers. Fathers also have struggles with the child who just moments ago was “Daddy’s little girl.” Still, there are many ways your unique perspective can help your daughter. Just because you were never a girl doesn’t mean you can’t help your daughter get through all this mess. In fact, it could be a lot worse. You could be the mother. Even if you’re raising your daughter on your own, you still probably won’t get into the teeth-baring, no-holds-barred battles that mothers and daughters do. I know lots of dads feel rejected and pushed aside when their little girl suddenly turns into a moody teenager. But in reality, this is an opportunity for you to become a genuinely cool dad. I don’t mean you let her get away with stuff, side with her against the mom, or drive her wherever she wants. I’m talking about the dad who patiently waits around until she wants to talk, then listens without being judgmental, isn’t afraid to look foolish or show his emotions, shares the “boy perspective,” and is able to communicate his concerns without coming across as controlling and dogmatic. You’re probably dying to warn your daughter off those hormonally crazed ruffians panting at the door; you were one once and you still remember what it felt like. But if you launch in with “what boys really want” and come across as the crazy-control-freak-doesn’t-have-a-clue father, you’ve lost a golden opportunity. Your job is to present your wisdom in a credible manner so she won’t blow you off and think your opinions are outdated and irrelevant. Through your relationship with her, you can teach her that her relationships with men must be mutually respectful and caring. This book will help you.
Believe It or Not, Your Daughter Still Wants You in Her Life
When I ask girls privately, even those who struggle the most with their parents, they tell me they want their parents to be proud of them. You may look at her in the middle of an argument when she’s screaming that she hates you and think there’s no way you can get through to her, but you can and will if you learn to see the world through her eyes.
You always want attention from your parents. Especially if you’re doing something you aren’t sure about.
Parents don’t realize that their children look up to them. When I know that deep in my mother and father’s heart they really don’t agree with what I’m doing, that really hurts
I want a better relationship with my parents. I know I have to build their trust back, talk to them and listen to them and it will work out fine.
I know I should listen to my parents, even if they’re wrong.
The danger is that when your daughter opens up enough to let you in, she makes herself vulnerable, and that’s when you can really hurt those fragile feelings:
My mom and dad won’t let me talk about my depression because they think we should keep it in the family. They worry about what everyone else will think. Everyone has problems. Why are we so special that we have to pretend that we’re so different?
When my mom sees me eating chocolate, she sometimes makes comments about watching my weight. But she doesn’t need to say anything. I can tell by her expression.
My older sister has an eating disorder. Last year the doctors wanted to hospitalize her but my parents thought they could take care of it at home. I overheard them discussing it, and saying that they could tell people she had mono.
And you can unwittingly make her turn to people you don’t want her to rely on:
My family is against me so I have to turn to this boy. [I need to] realize what I have done to myself and wake up.
They’ve told me that I’ll never be anything and have compared me to people they don’t like or people who have done wrong in the past. I hate that.
I don’t have great friends and I could see them getting me into trouble. But they accept me for who I am and my parents don’t.
Excerpted from Queen Bees & Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. Copyright © 2004 by Rosalind Wiseman. Excerpted by permission of Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.