Friday, April 20, 2012

Book review: Queen Bees And Wannabes

Queen Bees and Wannabes: Helping Your Daughter Survive Cliques, Gossip, Boyfriends, and the New Realities of Girl World


Rosalind Wiseman

Disclaimer: This is completely my opinion of the book. I was not compensated in any way by author or publisher or anyone else to write this review. I bought the book myself and am reviewing it just because I think its a great resource for parents.

There was a discussion at work on bullying not too long ago and this book was referred many times by different people. Since I'm not only a parent but also an immigrant trying to raise a daughter in America, I was intrigued. Recently, I got around to buying this book and reading it. To say that its scary will be an understatement.

I'm from India and so are many of my friends. Now that most of us have kids our discussions often turn towards where we would like to raise our kids. Interestingly, most of the parents ( especially ones with daughters) think of moving back to India before their kids are tweens and raise them there. The reason for their choice is mostly because they think Indian culture is much safer for the kids and the presence of grandparents, uncles and aunts make it easier to supervise kids. I usually don't agree with this school of thought...for several reasons. For one thing, the culture and the time in which we were raised is much different from what it is now...yes change is the norm everywhere, but in India it is happening at a shocking speed. The kids today are more brand conscious, more aware of their sexuality, more aggressive in judging their peers by their choice of clothes and I'm not sure there will be much difference in the culture between US and India by the time our toddlers become tweens and teens ( which is really unfortunate but true). Another thing is that joint families are disappearing so the notion that some loved one like a granny or grandpa would be able to connect with kids and keep a watch over them is more of a wishful thinking than reality. Of course, kids get to see them more than they do from here...but would they really have any insight in kids world? highly doubtful. Another thing is that since Indian culture is not so open, kids may choose to be more secretive about their activities, which I think is worse than having a rebel who is engaging in activities you don't like. At least you know what you are up against. Another, most important aspect is that I feel like its running away from the issue. I already feel guilty about running away from India because it has some problems, I don't want to run away from US at the first sign of problem here...for once in my life, I would like to take a stand and deal with the issue rather than running away from it. There's an Urdu poet called Zauq who puts it this way:

ab to ghabaraa ke ye kahate hai.n ke mar jaaye.nge
mar ke bhii chain na paayaa to kidhar jaaye.nge 
Now that he is so troubled, he says he will die...
what if he doesn't get respite even in death...where will he go then?
So to summarize I don't believe going to India is the magic bullet that would solve 
all the problems we may have with our teens.

So why I'm telling you probably have nothing to do with India anyway, and you don't 
see any other option than raising your child here in the US. I have given you this background
so you could understand why I was so tempted to run to India after reading this book. Teenage 
here is much scarier than anything I could ever imagine. If you grew up here and survived the 
teen age with a nasty queen bee around you and survived the peer pressure to drink, do drugs etc.
 hats off to you. Compared to the life she describes my life in India was heaven, I have never 
had anything to do with really mean girls. My peers looked down upon drinking and drugs were
simply out of question. Now I understand the perspective of my friends when they say that 
India is so much better for raising kids, except that India as we knew it is

Forewarned is Forearmed
But once I got over my initial shock, I began to realize the book's potential. If
the life of teens and tweens is actually the way Ms. Wiseman describes it, we
as parents cannot afford to not know about it. There is immense pressure on them to get accepted by their peers and once you understand this fact suddenly their actions start making sense.

Author gives you very specific strategies for establishing lines of communication with your kids, and then how to communicate with them so you can help them make informed decisions.

Author has a very crystal clear image of girls world, she tells you about the hierarchy and structure and how every girl has a very specific role in a girl's world, and how to identify what your daughter's role is. I'm not sure how accurate this mapping is because I have never been in that environment and haven't had much experience with this social structure growing up in India. But even if its partially accurate, it is a good stepping stone to understanding the abrupt change in the kid's behavior as they start spending more time in social settings.

She also explains her ideas with the help of familiar scenarios and how to deal with each of them. One good thing about her strategies is that she encourages you to help kids make the decision, and not make the decisions for them.

She also navigates through really delicate issues like alcohol and drug abuse, teenage sex - the issues that would be every parent's nightmares. Her advice is not sugar coated, but concise and to the point.

The things I loved in the book:

1. Landmine remarks - The author has added various tips on issues kids are apparently touchy about. She gives you specific things to avoid saying in order to keep the communication going with your kids.

2. Quotes from kids she has worked with - It is one thing to be told of something by the author, but hearing it in the words of a 12 year old or a 16 year old has a totally different impact. You really begin to see a point of view very different from yours, and the kids say it with remarkable conviction.


Must read for parents...especially parents of daughters.

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