Queen Bees & Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends & Other Realities of Adolescence

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Overview

The Basis for the Movie Mean Girls
PARENTS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN GIRL WORLD

Do you feel as though your adolescent daughter exists in a different world, speaking a different language and living by different laws? She does.

This groundbreaking book takes you inside the secret world of girls’ friendships, translating and decoding them, so parents can better understand and help their daughters navigate through ...

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Overview

The Basis for the Movie Mean Girls
PARENTS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN GIRL WORLD

Do you feel as though your adolescent daughter exists in a different world, speaking a different language and living by different laws? She does.

This groundbreaking book takes you inside the secret world of girls’ friendships, translating and decoding them, so parents can better understand and help their daughters navigate through these crucial years. Rosalind Wiseman has spent more than a decade listening to thousands of girls talk about the powerful role cliques play in shaping what they wear and say, how they feel about school, how they respond to boys, and how they feel about themselves. In this candid and insightful book, Wiseman discusses:

• Queen Bees, Wannabes, Targets, Torn Bystanders, and others: how to tell what role your daughter plays and help her be herself
• Girls’ power plays, from birthday invitations to cafeteria seating arrangements and illicit parties, and how to handle them
• Good popularity and bad popularity: how cliques bear on every situation
• Hip Parents, Best-Friend Parents, Pushover Parents, and others: examine your own parenting style, “Check Your Baggage,” and identify how your own background and biases affect how you relate to your daughter
• Related movies, books, websites, and organizations: a carefully annotated resources section provides opportunities to follow up on your own and with your daughter

Enlivened with the voices of dozens of girls and parents and a welcome sense of humor, Queen Bees and Wannabes is compelling reading for parents and daughters alike. A conversation piece and a reference guide, it offers the tools you need to help your daughter feel empowered and make smarter choices.

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  • Rosalind Wiseman
    Rosalind Wiseman  

Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review

Contrary to popular lore, girls are not made of sugar, spice, and all that's nice. Some -- especially those teetering on the brink of puberty -- seem to be composed of C-4 explosive and designer jeans. Aware of this tangled transformation, author Rosalind Wiseman's Queen Bees and Wannabes provides an insightful, useful, and sometimes painful primer for parents of teenage girls.

Having spent more than ten years in the inner sanctums of adolescence -- the classrooms, bathrooms, cafeterias, and malls of America -- Wiseman decodes the gossip-and-clique-filled "Girl World" of teenagers. Much of what she finds there is a dangerous hierarchy -- from the "Queen Bee" who dictates rules such as who wears what and who dates whom, to the "Wannabe" trying ingratiate herself into a clique or the poor "Target" of a clique's wrath. And while these may seem to a parent like stock characters in a teen drama, Wiseman warns that these roles are "powerfully and painfully reinforced every moment of every day."

What's a parent to do? Wiseman has plenty of practical advice (e.g., Never call boys "boys" -- they're "guys" now), including a strategy for parents to start opening channels of communication, but it requires careful attention and patience. Her highly readable and authoritative insights are sometimes shocking, but they provide parents an invaluable view into the modern adolescent world. Ultimately, this book can help you and your daughter navigate the barbed path that leads to womanhood -- together. (Jessica Leigh Lebos)

The New Yorker
Catherine Hardwicke’s new film, “Thirteen,” has once again raised the issue of adolescent girls’ social rituals, especially the more brutal aspects. The same topic propels two recent books, Rachel Simmons’s Odd Girl Out and Queen Bees and Wannabes, by Rosalind Wiseman. According to Simmons, adolescent female culture is fraught with treachery and strained niceties (“alternative aggressions,” she calls them) that are more reminiscent of a sixteenth-century court than a sweet-sixteen party. Wiseman, whose book has been released in paperback, includes a set of charts that plot “power plays” and track the ascendance of a socially dominant girl, a “Queen Bee” among the drones. But by collecting the byzantine stories of betrayal, both authors provide a tonic to social isolation: as Simmons puts it, “What crushed girls was being alone.”

Linda Perlstein came to a similar conclusion in her interviews with Maryland middle-schoolers in Not Much Just Chillin'. For all their rebellion, experimentation, and body piercing, kids still want to be reached by their coaches, teachers, and even parents. “Wanting to be independent is not the same as wanting to be left alone,” Perlstein writes. The sixth to eighth graders she interviews have complex opinions on justice, religion, and mortality -- while adults fret over whether video games create irrational fears of violence, students formulate sophisticated responses to events such as the terrorist attacks of September 11th. And one seventh-grade girl is equally philosophical about love: “The one for you could be two years old right now, or ninety. My soulmate could’ve been Benjamin Franklin.” (Lauren Porcaro)
Publishers Weekly
Wiseman (Defending Ourselves: Prevention, Self-Defense, and Recovery from Rape), offers parents a guide to navigating the adolescent landscape. Acting as a liaison between "Girl World" and "Planet Parent," Wiseman helps parents understand their daughters' friendships, the power of cliques and the roles of girls within them (including Queen Bee, Sidekick, Torn Bystander, Messenger and Target). She outlines parenting styles (from "The Lock-Her-in-a-Closet Parent" to "The Loving-Hard-Ass Parent") and offers tips on talking to teens ("Don't use the slang your daughter uses"). The second half concentrates on boys, sex and drugs as well as what to do if your daughter needs professional help. Within each chapter, "Check Your Baggage" sections challenge parents to recognize their own biases and remember what it was like when they were teens; as well, Wiseman offers scripts for discussing difficult issues and advice on how to deal with them. The author also forthrightly addresses the issue of homosexuality. To wit, a "Homophobic Questionnaire" that turns the tables on parents with questions such as "What do you think caused your heterosexuality?" Wiseman's straightforward humor, sound advice and practical approach make this a must-read for anyone involved in the lives of teenage girls. Back matter offers extensive resource listings including fiction and nonfiction titles, movies and helpful organizations and their Web sites. (May) Forecast: With much recent coverage on Wiseman, including a recent story in the New York Times Magazine, this book is poised to attract a wide, concerned audience. Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA
The subtitle of this book says it all. Wiseman begins by making some generalizations about the obstacles faced by teen girls. She delineates the roles played by girls in and out of their cliques, discusses the nature of gossip, and plunges into the tough questions without hesitation. Chapters deal with group dynamics, boys and boyfriends, parties, relationships, self-esteem, and sexuality. Wiseman includes the voices of many teens throughout the text to support and elaborate on her advice. Additionally, a feature called Landmines directs attention at what not to do in a given situation. Check Your Baggage asks adults to examine their own teen experiences fully before advising teens how to act. Resources include an index of organizations and Web sites. Although the title might indicate an audience of parent readers, this book is a must-have for all who work with teens, especially with girls. Teachers, counselors, librarians, and other professionals will find useful, common-sense information within each chapter. The book is remarkably clear of jargon, making it totally accessible for any reader. The tone is conversational, the advice is direct, and the insights invaluable. The only limitation of this remarkable text might be in the bibliography appended. Most, if not all, books that the author indicates will provide insight into adolescence are adult titles. A list of good young adult books that address these same issues would strengthen this book immeasurably. Further Reading. 2002, Crown, 338p,
— Teri Lesesne
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400047925
  • Publisher: Crown Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/4/2003
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

ROSALIND WISEMAN is cofounder of the Empower program, a not-for-profit organization that works to empower girls and boys to stop violence. She is an advisor to Liz Claiborne’s Women’s Work program and has been featured on The Oprah Show and CNN and in publications such as USA Today, the Washington Post, and the New York Times. She lives in Washington, D.C.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction
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.

Sam, 15

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
Eve, 12

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.
Keisha, 14

I know I should listen to my parents, even if they’re wrong.
Abby, 16

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?
Amanda, 16

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.
Felicia, 14

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.
Christine, 17

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.

Jesse, 15

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.
Carla, 14

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.
Jill, 14

Developing Your Girl Brain

Parents tell me that one of the hardest things they have to accept is that as their daughters get older, they have less control over which people they hang out with. They hate admitting that they won’t be there when their daughters face the difficult decisions that could impact their health and safety. When your daughter was little, she came crying to you when there was a problem and you swept in like a white knight to solve it. Now, you’re lucky if you even have a clue what the problem is, and if you sweep in to save the day instead of teaching your daughter how to handle it, she’ll either be angry with you for intruding or believe she can’t learn to take care of herself. How can you help her? Start by thinking the way she does.

In this book I will teach you to develop a girl brain. It’s like looking at the world through a new pair of glasses. Developing this ability isn’t dependent on using the latest slang (and it’s impossible to keep up anyway). The key to building your relationship with your daughter is understanding why she’s turning away from you and toward her friends, and maintaining a relationship with her anyway. And even though she may be acting as if you aren’t an important influence in her life, you are—she just may not want to admit it. If you can learn how to be her safe harbor when she’s in trouble, your voice will be in her head along with your values and ethics.

The first step is to understand what your daughter’s world—the Girl World—looks like, who has power, who intimidates her, whom she intimidates, where she feels safe, and where she doesn’t. Where and when does she feel comfortable and with whom? Who does she go to for advice? What common things can ruin her day or make her feel on top of the world? An even harder task is to assess her. What is she being teased about? Why are other children mean to her? Or even harder to admit, why would she be cruel to others? What would make her lie or sneak behind your back? Get inside her head, and you’ll understand where she’s coming from.

It helps to remember what it was like to be your daughter’s age. Remember your experiences, the role models (both good and bad), and the lessons learned from your family, your school, and your culture. Suspend the worry, the common sense, and the wisdom you have accumulated over the last years. Think back to what you were like and what was important to you back then.

Remembering the Lunch Tray Moments

Let’s go back to middle school (are you suppressing an involuntary shudder?). Parents, teachers, and other adults are telling you what to do. They’re especially telling you what you can’t do. You have a close group of friends, but for some reason one of your best friends comes up to you between classes and tells you that one of your other friends is spreading rumors about you. Your face feels hot; you can feel everyone looking at you. Thoughts race through your head. What did you do? Why is she mad at you? Are your friends going to back you or side with her? All of a sudden, a question drives an icy stake of fear through your heart as you stand there clutching your orange plastic lunch tray in the cafeteria line: Where are you going to sit at lunch?

Can you remember what it was like? Not too pleasant. As adults, we can laugh at how immense and insurmountable problems like those “Lunch Tray Moments” can feel when you’re young. But in Girl World they’re vital issues, and to dismiss them as trivial is to disrespect your daughter’s reality.

Everyone knows that girls are under tremendous pressure to fit in; this is one of the reasons why they suffer from a decrease in self-esteem as they enter adolescence. This decrease is usually attributed to teen magazines, MTV, and other aspects of popular culture that give negative and conflicting messages to girls. While there’s some truth in this, it doesn’t explain the whole story. Girls have strict social hierarchies based on what our culture tells us about what constitutes ideal femininity. At no time in your daughter’s life is it more important to her to fit these elusive girl standards than adolescence. But who is the prime enforcer of these standards? The movies? The teen magazines? Nope, it’s the girls themselves. They police each other, conducting surveillance on who’s breaking the laws of appearance, clothes, interest in boys, and personality—all of which have a profound influence on the women they become. Your daughter gets daily lessons about what’s sexy (read “in”) from her friends. She isn’t watching MTV or reading quizzes in teen magazines by herself. She processes this information with and through her friends.

We can’t just point the finger at the media for the things girls do to each other. We also have to point to ourselves for not challenging the culture that creates these problems, and we must, as must our daughters. Girls will only reach their full potential if they’re taught to be the agents of their own social change. As we guide girls through adolescence, we have to acknowledge it, name it, and act to change the effect of Girl World on girls.

So Why Listen to Me?

For the last ten years I’ve been learning from and teaching girls. As the cofounder and president of the Empower Program, I have spent thousands of hours talking to girls between the ages of ten and twenty-one about everything from gossip and cliques to rape and abusive relationships. Our motto is “Violence should not be a rite of passage,” but for far too many girls, it is.

Along with Empower’s staff educators, we developed a curriculum called “Owning Up”™* that teaches young people between the ages of twelve and twenty-one the skills to understand and proactively address the impact of Girl World (and Boy World, too). Today, through Empower and “Owning Up,”™ we teach over four thousand boys and girls each year in the Washington, D.C., area and reach thousands more through our professional training programs throughout the country. Under the direction of professionals at Mount Sinai Adolescent Hospital and Rutgers University, our program evaluations show significant decreases in verbal and physical aggression in our students after the program’s completion. In conjunction with Liz Claiborne, Inc., I have developed educational materials about abusive relationships and created specific tools to help parents reach out to their daughters.

In PTA meetings and with other groups, I talk to parents who feel overwhelmed by the challenges of parenting a teen, whether they’re trying to rescue a daughter in an abusive relationship or helping one cope with the tribulations of being passed over for the prom.

I teach girls today in a variety of settings—from weekly health classes to speeches in front of high schools, universities, and youth organizations. Whether I’m teaching in the most exclusive private school or the largest public school, the girls all bring the same concerns and fears. No matter what their income, religion, or ethnicity, they’re struggling with the same issues about the pleasures and perils of friendships and how they act as a portal to the larger world.

I’m frequently asked why I started Empower. The easy answer is that I was in an abusive relationship in high school. My “therapy” was self-defense, which I taught, in turn, to high school girls as soon as I graduated from college. While martial arts did start me on a path that ended with my cofounding Empower, it isn’t the only reason. When I first developed the “Owning Up”™ curricula, I looked back to my adolescence for initial answers. How did I, a “normal” girl, become vulnerable to violence?

Until fifth grade I’d grown up in a close community inside Washington, D.C., and attended a small public neighborhood elementary school. I had many friends of different races, nationalities, and economic backgrounds. I was part of a clique but I was friends with lots of students. The summer after fifth grade my family moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and I attended a well-respected, private all-girls school. My experience there was extremely difficult. I had my first miserable tray moment when girls wouldn’t let me sit at their tables. The popular girls were catty and mean-spirited. I returned to Washington the next year and enrolled in another private but coed school and the girls were just as bad. Very quickly I lost any remaining sense of self-confidence and became terrified of becoming a social liability. As a result, I became a keen observer of what would keep me in the group and what would get me tossed out.

My experience is hardly unique. Was it so bad that it contributed to my getting into an abusive relationship in high school? I believe it did. I craved validation from other girls; I had looked around and realized that I had to have an insurance policy that would keep my social status secure—and the easiest way to do that was to have the right boyfriend. He was “right” to the outside world, but behind closed doors he was mean and abusive. I had no idea what to do.

I was no one’s idea of a likely target for assault and abuse. I was a competitive athlete. I had a supportive and loving family. I didn’t abuse alcohol or drugs. So what was going on? There are three answers. One, like so many girls, I was amazingly good at fooling myself. I’d convinced myself that I was smart, could take care of myself, and could handle any situation. I denied that I could get into situations that were over my head, even when I had clear evidence to the contrary (like being abused by my boyfriend). I was so confident, I’d walk into incredibly dangerous situations because I wouldn’t admit I was in danger. Two, like a lot of girls, I felt powerless when threatened. I now know that even highly articulate girls become voiceless when faced with the threat of sexual harassment or violence. These are the girls who won’t tell someone to leave them alone because they’re afraid they’ll be labeled as uptight, a bitch, or because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. Three, once I was in the relationship, my assumption that having a boyfriend would increase and secure my social status was correct. The relationship made me feel mature, confident, and assured of my place in the social hierarchy of the school.

When I first conducted surveys of the girls I was teaching in Washing-ton, D.C.’s, private schools, 23 percent reported experiencing sexual violence, including abusive relationships. Like me, these girls attended excellent schools and were given every opportunity to be confident young women—yet they were vulnerable to the same kinds of violence. (A national survey published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in August 2001 confirmed the same one-in-five figure.)

After hearing so many girls say the same things, I began to wonder: Where did they learn to be silent? Where did they learn to deny the danger staring them in the face? When I asked them, a common theme came out immediately. Our culture teaches girls a very dangerous and confusing code of behavior about what constitutes “appropriate” feminine behavior (i.e., you should be sexy, but not slutty; you should be independent, but you’re no one without a boyfriend). We like to blame the media and boys for enforcing this code, but we overlook the girls themselves as the enforcers.

Clearly, girls are safer and happier when they look out for each other. Paradoxically, during their period of greatest vulnerability, girls’ competition with and judgment of each other weakens their friendships and effectively isolates all of them. This is what the power of the clique is all about, and why it matters so much to your daughter’s safety and self-esteem.

Once I figured this out, I got busy. I created the Empower curriculum to address the connection between girls’ friendships and vulnerability. I love what I do. I love the feeling when I first walk into a classroom with a group of girls and tell them that all we’re going to talk about is their friendships, enemies, reputations, and popularity. They look at each other in disbelief. There’s an immediate buzz in the room—we’re going to talk about a juicy secret. Are they really going to get to talk about this stuff? Once we get going, it’s hard to stop.

As I enter Girl World, talking with girls in school hallways, cafeterias, and teaching in their schools, Girl Scout troops, athletic teams, and church groups, something becomes clear. In trying to prepare girls for adolescence, adults are failing. We refuse to see what’s really going on in their lives. We trivialize and dismiss these experiences as teen drama. Adolescence is a time when social hierarchies are powerfully and painfully reinforced every moment of every day. Girls can be each other’s pillars of support and saviors, but they can also do horrible things to each other—and the lessons they learn from one another set all of them up for worse experiences in the future.

Almost as often as I talk to girls, I talk to their parents. I often feel like a translator between girls and parents; an ambassador who shuttles between Girl World and Planet Parent, two fiefdoms with different languages and rules. Why is the communication between these two worlds so lousy? For many parents, the need to deny that their little girl is growing up so fast can make it difficult to listen to what their daughter is really saying. The first hint that their daughter is sexually maturing can fill parents with an anxiety that only widens the communication gap with their daughter—at the very time when the daughter needs guidance the most. The other reason is parents don’t like to admit to themselves that their daughters could be mean, exclusive, and catty—or, on the other end of the spectrum, isolated and teased. Parents so often see their daughter’s behaviors as a reflection of the success or failure of their parenting that they refuse to look at their daughters for who they really are. On the other hand, girls are renegotiating their relationship with their parents at a time of maximum change and confusion. One moment they can be impossibly distant and sneaky, wanting and demanding to be treated as adults; two seconds later they’re clingy and scared, insisting that their parents psychically divine that now they want to be treated like little girls again.

This book will ask you to see the world through your daughter’s eyes. It’ll ask you to acknowledge and respect the environment she interacts with every day. You may not want to know everything about Girl World, but if you want your daughter to realize her full potential, have a sure sense of herself, and be happy and safe, knowing her world is paramount.

Most chapters will begin with a thorough analysis and description of a different aspect of Girl World. Next, in the “Checking Your Baggage” section, I’ll challenge you to answer a few questions about your experiences when you were your daughter’s age, because understanding your own biases and preconceptions can show you how they’ve affected your behavior toward your daughter. Then I’ll give you specific, step-by-step strategies to help her.

For further assistance, I’ve asked girls to take an active role in the development of this book. I’ve shown multiple drafts of every chapter to girls of different ages, races, cultures, communities, and socioeconomic levels. They’ve helped me fill in missing perspectives, pushed me to delve more deeply into certain issues, and offered their “political commentary,” which you’ll find throughout the book. They’ve anonymously shared personal stories, feelings, and opinions—all to help you know how to reach out to your daughter in the best possible way.

The girls have also taught me about the “landmines” you’ll find throughout the book: things parents do and say that are guaranteed eye-rollers and shut the door to effective communication. They usually seem insignificant (for example, don’t say “boys,” say “guys”), but they can make the difference between your daughter listening to you or tuning out completely because she thinks you’re hopelessly out of touch. (Remem-ber how you winced when your parents asked you if something was “groovy” or “far-out”?) As you read this, you may be thinking that pointing out landmines is a lost cause, since anything you do, including breathing or looking in her direction, makes her roll her eyes, but I promise you that you can decrease the number of embarrassing things you do. (For some reason, the way dads sneeze and moms laugh are landmines, but you can’t change everything about yourself!)

Don’t beat yourself up if you think your relationship with your daughter is terrible. Parenting a teen is really difficult, and the reward is way down the road when she emerges as a cool adult. Allow me to quote my own mother, who said, “When my children were teens, if I liked them for five minutes a day, that was a good day.”

So be honest. You don’t have to like your daughter all the time. You don’t have to like her at adl. (Many parents tell me they’ve never stopped loving their daughters, but they certainly stopped liking them for a while.) One father I know refers to his increasingly distant daughter as “the exchange student.” One mom calls her daughter “TLO,” “The Loathesome One,” when the girl is out of earshot. You’re allowed to wonder why you had kids in the first place. Once you acknowledge these rotten—and believe me, universal—feelings, their power over you tends to decrease and you don’t feel so guilty. And when other parents tell you that they’re so lucky because “their kids don’t drink and do drugs and they always tell them everything,” just nod your head and smile, like I do, and know that the girls are pulling a fast one.

Before You Get into the Heart of the Book

Your task is difficult. Instilling values, respecting your daughter’s growing individuality, influencing her to make good decisions, and protecting her while giving her the freedom to make mistakes is hard, hard work. A lot of the time you’ll feel as if you’re banging your head against a wall.

This book will give you strategies so that your daughter’s adolescence is bearable for both of you. It will teach you to talk to your daughter in a way that doesn’t make her groan and roll her eyes when you speak. She may even walk away from your conversation admitting to herself (not to you, never to you) that you know what you’re talking about.

You can help your daughter develop a strong sense of self. You can teach her personal responsibility, confidence in her abilities, and empathy toward others. You want her to be an authentic person able to realize her full individual potential while being connected to her loved ones and community.

You can build a strong, healthy relationship with your daughter as long as you take a long-term view, focus on the overall goal, and challenge yourself to be as honest as you can.

I also promise to answer the biggest questions of all: Should I read her diary? and When do I know she’s lying to me?

Just Between You and Me

This book may be painful to read. If I hit a nerve, I have only one request. Take a moment to reflect. Ask yourself why what you read bothered you so much. Did it call up memories of your own experience as a victim, bystander, or perpetrator? Did it give you a sinking feeling that your daughter is a target or evildoer? Is it hard to face the fact that your daughter is thinking and acting in ever more adult ways? Acknowledge the pain you feel, but don’t let it stop you from learning all you can about your daughter’s world. Everything in this book comes from what girls have told me over the last ten years I’ve been teaching, and from girls’ comments as they have read drafts of this book. I’m not accusing girls of being bad people, judging parents as incapable, or predicting which daughters will be failures as adults. I’m reaching out to you, as parents, educators, and role models, to show you what I think girls are up against as they struggle to become healthy young women who will make our communities better.

From the Hardcover edition.

Read More Show Less

Foreword

1. Dads often feel when their daughters are struggling with these issues that they can’t relate, but this is precisely the time for dads to shine (Chapter 2). How can women actively encourage dads and other men in girls’ lives to become more involved? What do women do that can discourage men from feeling that they can contribute?

2. What stops parents from talking to each other when their children are in conflict? Why do some parents feel that it is most appropriate for kids to work it out on their own? How does it make the other parent feel when they have that response?

3. Why are parents so reluctant to apologize for their child’s behavior?

4. Can you think of times when you have denied your own child’s wrongdoing? Why was it so hard to admit?

5. What were you teased about when you were your daughter’s age and how did you handle it? What group, if any, were you in? Did you ever have an experience where a friend was mean or cruel to someone else and you didn’t like it, but you said nothing because you were afraid they would turn on you?

6. Why is this considered by some to be a superficial rite of passage that all girls go through? What do you think cliques and bullying teach your child? Do you see these experiences influencing the kind of woman she becomes?

7. Can extracurricular activities help girls combat the importance they place on cliques and their social status? When would these activities be helpful and when could they be just as bad if not worse?

8. Do uniforms stop the social hierarchy?

9. How does parental involvement in school help or hurt these situations?

10. What parentalbehavior is the most helpful and most difficult in helping girls through these experiences?

11. What kind of parent are you? How do you know? (see Chapter 2)

12. Is your behavior with friends and family (and your interactions with her friends) consistent with your parenting values?

13. What stops parents from confronting each other and what stops them from listening when they find out their child is being bullied or being a bully?

Read More Show Less

Reading Group Guide

PARENTS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN GIRL WORLD

Do you feel as though your adolescent daughter exists in a different world, speaking a different language and living by different laws? She does.

This groundbreaking book takes you inside the secret world of girls’ friendships, translating and decoding them, so parents can better understand and help their daughters navigate through these crucial years. Rosalind Wiseman has spent more than a decade listening to thousands of girls talk about the powerful role cliques play in shaping what they wear and say, how they feel about school, how they respond to boys, and how they feel about themselves. In this candid and insightful book, Wiseman discusses:

• Queen Bees, Wannabes, Targets, Torn Bystanders, and others: how to tell what role your daughter plays and help her be herself
• Girls’ power plays, from birthday invitations to cafeteria seating arrangements and illicit parties, and how to handle them
• Good popularity and bad popularity: how cliques bear on every situation
• Hip Parents, Best-Friend Parents, Pushover Parents, and others: examine your own parenting style, “Check Your Baggage,” and identify how your own background and biases affect how you relate to your daughter
• Related movies, books, websites, and organizations: a carefully annotated resources section provides opportunities to follow up on your own and with your daughter

Enlivened with the voices of dozens of girls and parents and a welcome sense of humor, Queen Bees and Wannabes is compelling reading for parents and daughters alike. A conversation piece and a reference guide, itoffers the tools you need to help your daughter feel empowered and make smarter choices.

1. Dads often feel when their daughters are struggling with these issues that they can’t relate, but this is precisely the time for dads to shine (Chapter 2). How can women actively encourage dads and other men in girls’ lives to become more involved? What do women do that can discourage men from feeling that they can contribute?

2. What stops parents from talking to each other when their children are in conflict? Why do some parents feel that it is most appropriate for kids to work it out on their own? How does it make the other parent feel when they have that response?

3. Why are parents so reluctant to apologize for their child’s behavior?

4. Can you think of times when you have denied your own child’s wrongdoing? Why was it so hard to admit?

5. What were you teased about when you were your daughter’s age and how did you handle it? What group, if any, were you in? Did you ever have an experience where a friend was mean or cruel to someone else and you didn’t like it, but you said nothing because you were afraid they would turn on you?

6. Why is this considered by some to be a superficial rite of passage that all girls go through? What do you think cliques and bullying teach your child? Do you see these experiences influencing the kind of woman she becomes?

7. Can extracurricular activities help girls combat the importance they place on cliques and their social status? When would these activities be helpful and when could they be just as bad if not worse?

8. Do uniforms stop the social hierarchy?

9. How does parental involvement in school help or hurt these situations?

10. What parental behavior is the most helpful and most difficult in helping girls through these experiences?

11. What kind of parent are you? How do you know? (see Chapter 2)

12. Is your behavior with friends and family (and your interactions with her friends) consistent with your parenting values?

13. What stops parents from confronting each other and what stops them from listening when they find out their child is being bullied or being a bully?

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 19 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 19 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2004

    Thank You

    First, I want to thank you for writing this book. After my initial shock of discovering that I have a 'Queen Bee' of my own and she is only in 5th grade, I have learned how to approach her and how to deal with issues that pop up on a day to day basis. I have handed off my copy to another mother who is now devouring it and hopefully she will survive too!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 23, 2008

    The Answer to all Parents Prayers- Queen Bees & Wannabes

    The self -help book Queen Bees & Wannabes is by Rosalind Wiseman and is the book on which the popular movie Mean Girls was based on. It is a parents¿ guide to helping ones daughter through friendship, boyfriend problems and any other troubles that adolescents may face. The book¿s major theme is that parents can help their daughters as they grow into teenagers and beyond. Queen Bees & Wannabes not only gives a clear view of what is happening in a teenage life, but it also contains guidelines to help them with various situations that come her way. Since the author deals with girls and their problems on a daily basis, she can advise the reader how to handle every situation depending on what position their daughter is in. Also she gives the reader many alternative solutions for a problem. In addition to the author¿s comments on what happens in a girl¿s life, many adolescences also comment throughout the book. So parents can, see what really goes through their daughters mind and find out what works for a child and what does not. Rosalind Wiseman has an ability to make everyone equal in the book. Some parts in the book that readers will enjoy are that the author gives definitions of different parenting styles/ what role a girl stands in at school. From that, each chapter will explain what is happening, how the girl is feeling, what part she plays in it, and how to help depending on what her role is in school. The book also gives problem scenarios and how others will react in them. A part I thought was very fun was the back movie list, where the author named a few movie titles that gives one a visual of what happens in a girl¿s life. Watching them is also a good way to spend time with your daughter and connect to her world. The book talks about anything from how to deal with a child not being on the invitation list for a birthday party to how to talk with adolescence about drugs. From a kids prospective, this book tells exactly what happens at school and what everyone thinks. This book helped me see what teen girls really go through and how to deal with the problems they face, in the best possible manner. Whether your daughter comes crying home everyday, or is the queen bee of school or does not tell you a single detail of what is going on in her life, this book will help you understand her and is the key to helping her.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 20, 2007

    Understanding the pressures of indirect aggression

    This excellent book fleshes out what children, particularly girls, experience at ages as young as pre-school. Our children are attending school at earlier ages and have social challenges earlier as a result. Identifying and understanding the social pressures they are exposed to and and deal with starting at these early ages helps us as parents and educators assist them in the social learning process. These early social experiences, as subtle as they can be, influence social skills, choice of social circles, etc. and may continue their influence later in life. it is important for us to be aware of their existence and influence. Thank you.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 31, 2007

    A 'Must Read' Book for Moms

    Whether you have a son or daughter this book will guide the 'lost' parent back into their child¿s life. As we adults get older we lose touch on what life was like in high school and the drama that follows. I recommend this book to anyone who has teenagers also start reading before they reach the age of twelve. Just read the book and you will see what I mean.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2005

    queenbees and wannabees review

    I read this book about two weeks ago it was a helpful guide to other teenagers and me. This book was about teenage girls surviving personal problems and giving their parents a step by step manual of understanding what their daughters were experiencing.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2005

    Very Helpful Book

    I bought this book two years ago so I could better understand my teen daughter, although I still do not understand her I found the book very helpful. Although the book is aimed toward adolescents I think it would be helpful to parents of all girls no matter what their ages. My daughter got her first taste of cliques and what happens to girls who aren't in the popular clique when she was in 4th grade, so don't think this is only a problem among teens. I have referred several friends to this book and will continue to do so.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 22, 2009

    Arden Greenspan-Goldberg L.C.S.W. www.askarden.com

    As a clinical social work psychotherapist who works with kids that have been scapegoated, and bullied and who has given workshops and appearances on TV on this topic, I found Wiseman's book to be very informative and helpful.
    Popularity comes at quite a cost. I think relational bullying has it's roots in insecurity, low self esteem and ostensibly wanting to be seen and accepted. My experience with the bully, especially relational female bullying, are children that do not feel that they belong comfortably at home. Generally there is family strife and somehow this child feels squeezed out.
    I have found the peek of relational bullying, as Wiseman, to be in the Middle School years, beginning in the later part of Elementary and "dying off" in early High School. Ofcourse there are exceptions.

    This summer my daughter, a senior camp counselor, had to deal with bullying in her 12 year old female campers group. One gal appeared to be the bully with a Wannabe along for the ride. A few of the girls were extremely sensitive to being made fun of and excluded as well. My daughter tried her best to deal with this. She said to me, "Mom the biggest problem are the Moms, who are overly involved and have popularity issues from their past and are living through their daughters." I was amazed how my daughter, now age 20, got this concept.
    As parents we really need to be aware of our impact on our daughters to be the best we can be without having to put any one else down. Respect for Self and Others is the key to self esteem and worth.
    Wiseman's book is a great spring board for discussion.

    I am in the midst of creating a Blog for Moms, helping them strengthen their relationship with their Teenage Daughter, that will be issue driven. I'm looking forward to having a conversation with both Mom and their daughters.
    A book proposal is in the works as well.
    Check my Web www.askarden.com for updates and take a look at my Video's(Media) for my work with Parents.tv

    Much love and peace from Ask Arden

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 7, 2008

    Insight: Understanding Then, Now and Later

    This book that book you wish you would have read earlier in life. I am still a teenager and this book helped me to understand those nasty girls in middle school, and the obstacles I have yet to face. I think even adults have a lot to learn from even, as it gives you the insight you need to why people behave the way they do. It¿s an excellent read because it provides understandable examples and life like situations that ¿us girls or women¿ can all relate to. Finally someone has done it! It¿s not a high-vocabulary, impossible to understand, book that flies way above your head. You still learn mounds of useful, relevant information. You don¿t necessarily need to read this book in order, it is more of a guide than a story, but does refer to previous chapters. Rosalind Wiseman speaks from pure experience as she explains the encounters she has had with average girls from every end of the spectrum, the ¿victim¿ and the ¿predator¿ and everyone in between. The only discrepancy I could nit-pick on- is that she tags somewhat of a stereotypical stigma to girls and boys. But, for the most part it is accurate. Any girl, whether you are ten, seventeen or forty five should read this nonfiction book, because it helps you understand the hard times you faced in high school, helps you deal with what you face now, or helps you understand what you have yet to face. It is a book that uncovers the lives of girls and women, to empower us to become better, stronger and more successful in the opportunities life throws at us. Great read, and really does make a difference!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2007

    This book is horrible.

    This book makes everyone think that if your popular your mean. NOT TRUE. half the time the daughters who are called 'wannabees' are judgemental and jealous so they just guess you're mean before they even know you. I'm one of the more poular girls and everyone judges me and thinks im mean just because im pretty but once they get to know me I'm really nice. Don't read this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 10, 2007

    if this is your life then get this

    queen bees and wanna bees is a GOOOOOD BOOK! if you every see thea movie mean girl staring linsdy lohan and you like it so much then you will absouloty love queen bees and wanna bees

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2005

    I realated so much to alot that this novel talked baout.

    I think that this book tuched base in ways that most books about teen adolescents never did. I though that how she explaned everything was just easy to understand. I thought that I related so much to what she talked about in this book.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2004

    A Truely good book

    This is an awesome book if you want to know what your daughter iis feeling in 'social hirachy' I have never read a book this good and I recamend it to all cancerned mothers

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 20, 2003

    Listen up parents....time to bend your ear!

    This booked rocked my world. I found it disturbing but genuine. This is a book that tells it like it is.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 27, 2003

    It's the Best!

    It really put things into perspective for me.

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    Posted February 19, 2015

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 1, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted February 28, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

Sort by: Showing 1 – 18 of 19 Customer Reviews

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