Girls Will Be Girls

Truly objective advice is the variety of guidance I'll almost always welcome.  And when you have a daughter, it's never too early to start looking for it.  The work of JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., is an excellent place to start.  More here on raising confident and courageous daughters.

Let's be honest - it's a scary time to be a girl's parent.  For every new, previously unimaginable opportunity offered to this generation of daughters, they face a challenge that was equally unimaginable to the generations who came before them.  Dr. Deak's Girls Will Be Girls - Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters, recognizes this dichotomy.  Dr. Deak takes her readers on a journey through the female brain from toddlerhood to high school graduation, highlighting the many gray areas of modern parenting and offering pearls of wisdom (literally at the end of each chapter) along the way.  She also includes chapters on social development and another written specifically for fathers.  

The whole book is thought-provoking, but a couple of chapters stand out in particular: Everything and Nothing: Sharing the Adolescent Girl's Struggle to Be and Become Herself; and Aiming to Please: Moving Beyond the "Tyranny of Niceness."  The former focuses on the many venues in which today's girl faces and is encouraged to partake in competition, and the constant struggle to "measure up" - to themselves, to their mothers, and to society's new expectations.  The latter stopped me in my tracks: from day one, girls are taught and told to "be nice" or "be a good girl" and applauded for being "sweet."  The language is ingrained in our treatment of girls.  Staying balanced (and sane) on what Dr. Deak refers to as the pleasing continuum is something many women don't master until much later in life.  

Girls Will Be Girls was written in 2002.  There's discussion of AIDS, but no mention of HPV; chat rooms are mentioned, however the use and breadth of social media has grown exponentially in the past 14 years.  I reached out to Dr. Deak, and she feels that "even though the book is over a decade old, the core of how to understand daughters and to help them to grow remains unchanged."  Dr. Deak also recommends supplementing Girls Will Be Girls with Catherine Steiner-Adair's The Big Disconnect to better address issues related to the impact and stress of social media on our daughter's lives.  

Whether you're a parent, an educator, or a woman trying to gain a better understanding of her own childhood, this book is for you.  I'll be referencing it for years to come.