Rosalind Wiseman discusses Queen Bee Moms, and King-Pin Dads, the follow up to her earlier bestseller Queen Bees and Wannabees
When you were a girl, were you a Queen Bee?
Once people read Queen Bees & Wannabes, I am often asked to qualify
the kind of girl I was when I was younger based on the characterizations I
offer in the book. I think people assume that I was either a Queen Bee (so
my work is an attempt to right the wrongs I committed when I was young), or
people assume I was the opposite, and was cruelly teased and targeted by
Actually, like many people I played different roles depending on my age and
circumstance. From 3rd through 5th grade I was often teased by my friends.
At the same time I was a horrible Queen Bee to a very nice girl I grew up
withmuch to my mother's horror and embarrassment. When I was in 6th grade I
moved to a new city and went to an all-girls' school, and that's where I had
my first experiences with "mean girls" I barely knew. At the same time,
there were also really nice girls at that school who reached out to me whom
I will always remember fondly.
Why did you get into this work?
Although there were and continue to be many reasons why I do this work, I
think one of the most enduringly influential was an experience I had in Mr.
Rosenberg's 8th grade history class. We were studying the Civil Rights
Movement and one of the assigned books was a compilation of interviews
entitled, My Feet Are Tired But My Soul is Rested. The one that stood out
was an interview with Fred Shuttlesworth, a minister from Birmingham,
Alabama, who had helped lead boycotts and demonstrations. I was so moved by
his words that I wanted to meet him.
The next thing I knew, my mother had connected with a friend of hers who
lived in Cincinnati, where Reverend Shuttlesworth had moved and now led his
congregation. While staying with our family friends over the weekend, I
attended Reverend Shuttlesworth's church services and interviewed him about
his role in the Civil Rights Movement. That weekend changed my life. For the
first time I had a glimmer of what my future path would be. I wasn't sure
how, but I knew no matter what I did when I grew up I wanted to be doing
something to make the world a more socially just place.
How do you know what you know about girls and boys?
Sometimes I wonder about that myself, but here is my best guess: This is the
only job I have ever had (minus waiting tables or summer jobs in high school
and college). I began working with girls when I was 21, so I have never been
far enough away from youth culture to forget what it feels like to be a
teen. In addition, since I have had to continually develop and improve my
work, I'm always trying out new ideas. One of the reasons I love working
with kids and teens is that they let me know pretty quickly when I am on to
something or when I'm wasting their time. While I don't like having
experiences where my students tell me I'm failing, I listen carefully to
them when I do so I can make it better. Sometimes I fail spectacularly but I
always get up again and try to do better next time.
Why did you write your next book about parents?
The inspiration for the most recent book actually came from several
experiences. A few years ago I had a couple of nasty run-ins with parents at
some of my presentations. And even though they were mean, I hate to admit
it, but I was mean right back. One night shortly after, I looked in the
mirror and asked myself how could I teach my students to behave with respect
for one another if I wasn't willing to do it myself?
At the same time I realized that the more I worked with parents, the more I
noticed the dynamics among adults were very similar to those that occurred
among my students. While there were always students who thought they could
get away with treating other people badly because of their social and
economic status, there were parents, coaches, teachers, and principals who
behaved exactly the same way. What was worse was that so many adults didn't
feel like they could challenge these bullying adults' behavior, allowing
them to control the climate and educational agenda of the school unfairly.
Lastly, I wrote the book because I have had incredibly funny and yes,
sometimes-horrible, experiences with parents. When I have them, I am very
tempted to say to someone nearby, "Can you believe this? Did this person
really just say that?" In that way, sharing some of these experiences in
this book is also cathartic for me. But in all seriousness, I have written
Queen Bee Moms & Kingpin Dads as a way to reach out to the
influential adults in the lives of children so that we can truly be the
advocates they need us to be.
Do you have kids? How has that changed you?
I have two sons that are two years apart. Has it changed me? Yes and no. I
don't think I'm a better teacher to young people because I have kids of my
own, but I do think I'm much better at working with parents since having
kids. It's much easier to empathize or even understand the craziest
parenting behavior because you know that being a parent can make even the
most sane person feel like they're losing their mind. Like most parents, my
children teach me more about myself than frankly I often want to know.
There's no one I love more or makes me laugh harder, then only one second
later makes me want to scream and pull my hair out. My husband and I
struggle like so many parents on exactly the same issues I write about, and
we don't get through it any easier.