Thursday, March 24, 2011

Raising Girls with Courage and Confidence

My friend Carol went to a seminar this week in Milwaukee, too short of notice, I wasn't able to go. The speaker was Rachel Simmons, a woman who's books, workshops and curriculum help girls become young women with integrity, self-awareness and personal authority. This kind of success is a two-part equation. It’s about knowing yourself: how you feel, what you think and what you need. It’s also the ability to act on who you are in your relationships. I plan on reading her books, Odd Girl Out: the Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls and The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence.

Here is a brief summary she provided us with.

Myth: Girls have a lot of emotions so they must be good at managing them.
Truth: Teach girls how to ask for what they want rather than expect friends to know what is wanted because you’ve give her the “silent treatment”. 
  • Talk about feelings
  • Ask about feelings
  • Validate feelings
What does society say is a “Good Girl?” Polite, Nice, Organized, Gets good grades, Lots of friends

In society, a successful girl is one with lots of friendships so friendships are the MOST important thing to a girl.

Trying to meet the “good girl” expectations prevents girls from being true to their own feelings.
Also, because good girls aren’t “allowed” to be angry, they learn to express their anger indirectly through gossip and relationship aggression i.e. using friendships as a weapon - “I won’t be your friend anymore if you don’t . . . .”

We need to recognize indirect aggression as aggression similar to bullying not “girls just being girls.” When you see girls using relationship aggression, do the same thing you would with physical aggression like hitting.

For the girl bullying:
  • Stop the behavior: “We don’t treat our friends like that”
  • Empahthize with the victim: “How would you feel if she said that to you?”
  • Provide a consequence: If you do that again, this is what will happen . .”

For the girl being bullied:
  • Empathize and validate her experience: often the bully will deny her actions so the girl is confused. 
  • Ask: What do you want to do about this?” and help brainstorm responses and possible outcomes. 
Teach girls to use technology ethically, responsibly and within moderation. Use of technology is a privilege not a right.

The problem is all the things that girls have been doing are also now being done online.
Girls self esteem can take a hit when they see their “friend” is going over to another girl’s house and she’s not invited.  Girls are addicted to and exhausted by these technologies – protect her from them as you would any other challenge in our society.

In the author’s opinion, phones that have texting capabilities should not be given to girls before 7th grade and Facebook should not be allowed until 9th grade. Girls should not be allowed to take their phones to bed. At night, if needed, keep her phone under your pillow.

Once these privileges are allowed it is absolutely your right as a parent to have your child’s passwords and to check their activity on occasion.

I know girls were mean when I was a kid but it seems so much worse now. I really fear for what I'll have to deal with in the near future. I think some of this nasty behavior starts at a young age, like five maybe. Maybe even sooner. With two girls only two years apart, no doubt there will be drama in our house. I only hope its healthy drama. 

I consider myself a strong, confident woman, but I wasn't always feeling so confident at times. I came home from 8th grade one day and told my parents I switched high schools. It was for a variety of reasons (cello, track/cross country) but mainly, it was because of girls. I was able to change my future using the wisdom my parents instilled in me. It worked out well, I had a good four years in high school, but I don't hardly even talk to anybody I went to high school or grade school with. Is that good or bad?

I hope that I will be able to raise my girls as good as my mother raised me. I want them to be strong, but also heartfelt and compassionate toward others. This brings me to a question I asked in an earlier post, "Who am I being that my daughter's eyes aren't shining?" I need to live as an example to my daughters.

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