A perfect parent?

By SAMANTHA CRITCHELL Associated Press Writer Published:

NEW YORK (AP) Do mean girls become mean moms?

Not necessarily, but if enough cattiness remains under their well-dressed and well-coifed exteriors they end up perpetuating the perfect-parent myth and leaving everyone else feeling inadequate, says Rosalind Wiseman, the author of Queen Bees & Wannabes, which was the basis of the Lindsay Lohan flick Mean Girls.

And these women marry kingpin dads, who take charge of too many situations and always act as if theyre speaking on behalf of the group even when they dont know anyone elses name.

This forces an almost unbreakable cycle, Wiseman says, because the apples dont fall far from the tree. If you see children behaving in a way that makes you cringe, look at the role models, she adds.

Kids can be a great mirror. Its a great exercise to ask yourself why you are making the extravagant purchases that you do, or Why I am I reacting to this person in such a horrible way?

In her new book, Queen Bee Moms and Kingpin Dads (Crown), Wiseman first gathers insights and opinions from parents, teachers, coaches and other important adults in childrens lives and then she advises how to deal with all these folks with your pride and values intact. She also takes readers through Back-to-School Night, big sporting events and the college application process, examining the different ways to approach these milestones that have become as important to parents as they are to students.

You judge yourself and other parents according to perfect-parent myths, says Wiseman, a mother of 3- and 5-year-old boys.

Of course, there is no such thing as perfect parents, which leaves real parents conflicted, especially when all sorts of advice is thrown at them. First, parents are encouraged to be their childrens advocates fight for that great teacher, make your kids case to get more time on the ball field and then theyre told that they should let kids work their problems out for themselves.

How do parents know which battles theyre supposed to fight? Wiseman wonders. You cant blame people for being inconsistent parents if theyre receiving inconsistent advice.

Unfortunately, though, says Wiseman, there is indeed a lot of blame going around, and it comes mostly from the queen bees and kingpins who criticize others as a self-defense tactic when they realize they cant do it all.

Everybody thinks the worst of each other ... but pretty much everyone I meet is trying their best, she observes.

Some other contradictions Wiseman notices:

Mothers who tell their girls to accept their bodies. Those same mothers, though, beat themselves up for not fitting into their skinny jeans.

A furor festers at school meetings when a parent stands up and says, I think Im speaking for all the parents here. Yet, no one stands up to him. Thats counterproductive when parents tell their children to stand up for themselves. Kids dont respect parents who tell them things they cant do themselves.

And dont think children dont notice all the cutting remarks parents make about each another.

Kids for the most part talk to me about parents gossiping about each other and the other kids. I cant think of one kid that didnt know where her parents fit in the parents social hierarchy, says Wiseman, co-founder of the Empower Program, a Washington-based, nonprofit educational organization that addresses bullying and other forms of peer aggression.

Kids describe their parents as acting like they were in the eighth grade. Theyre so cliquey.

She says that children and its boys as much as girls recognize that their mothers are sometimes taking on volunteer work to bolster their images.

American kids are more cynical than any other groups of kids Ive worked with, notes Wiseman, who lives in Washington. I think this is the case because we, as a country, have gotten a little confused about the familys values of standing up for whats right, apologizing when wrong and moral courage. People act according to their values when its easy and everyone is getting along, but act totally against our values when we perceive someone is doing us wrong.

There still might be a parent you cant stand, but you should still treat them with respect, Wiseman says. Remember, you are teaching a lifelong lesson here.

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