Parents, beware: if you thought you'd finally left seventh grade behind, think again. According to acclaimed author and educator Rosalind Wiseman, there's a whole new world of tricky peer pressure and it's called parenthood.
Sound scary? It can be. As Wiseman showed in her best selling book, Queen Bees and Wannabees, middle school cliques can become a tangle of exclusive and hurtful behaviors. Fifteen years of work with schools and kids, however, have convinced Wiseman that there is yet another layer to the problem: uneasy parents, trying to fit in.
What's going on? “At the root of our actions,” says Wiseman, “lies a deep-seated need to belong.” Parents naturally want their kids to thrive; and, in the complicated social ecology of schools, it's easy to fall right back into old traps. In her new book, Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads, Wiseman identifies these common roles, among others.
- Queen Bee Mom: On the good side, says Wiseman, “Queen Bee Moms are the ones who get the job done. But beware: a Queen Bee has to be in charge, and will insist that whatever is done, must be done her way. You don't want to be on her bad side, especially if she thinks you've wronged her child.
- Kingpin Dad: He's the counterpart of the Queen Bee Mom, but, says Wiseman, he “relies on the appearance of financial success or professional standing.” Ever attend a school meeting where a dad stands up and threatens a lawsuit? That's typical for a “Kingpin” dad.
- Starbucks & Sympathy Moms: These moms know all about everyone, and they keep a storehouse of behind the scenes gossip. “Her rumor,” Wiseman writes, “will spread virally.”
- Caveman Dad: The social part of parenting can be overwhelming and Caveman dads just end up retreating. Call the house to discuss a problem with a kid, and the Caveman dad will say, “I think you should talk to my wife.”
Are parents doomed to eternal seventh grade? Not at all, Wiseman says; but there's work to do. She urges sane involvement in children's schooling—modeling good friendships, open communication, and respect. “You don't have to walk down the street with banners to make the world more socially just,” she counsels. You do, however, have to be a responsible adult. So the next time someone offers you a juicy tidbit of gossip, consider passing it up for a healthy portion of good will. You might be surprised, says Wiseman, by how proud you'll make your child.