My boss gave me a copy of the Style, a magazine that comes with the Sunday Times – the issue was published two Sundays ago and the cover says: “Girls in the world – how do we make sure she grows up right?”
Basically a quick guide on how to raise your daughter. Amazing, isn’t it? And there I was spending sleepless nights thinking how I would raise my daughter in this evil world, when all I needed was the book Steve Biddulph’s Raising Girls. Problem sorted. Yes, I am being ironic. First reactions were: “a man teaching how to raise a girl? Is he talking specifically to other fathers or to all parents and carers?” and “if raising a child – despite the gender – was that simple that you just read a book and job’s done, the world would be such a great place to live in – there are tons of books teaching you how to raise your kid (‘you stupid mother that have no idea what you are doing!’)”.
Irony and scepticism aside, the article has some interesting points – some are obvious, but it’s always good to be reminded of. Like the fact that in the last decade, companies decided to target girls and exploit their fears and desires and dreams and aspirations in order to make profit. No wonder younger girls are more conscious of their looks – or paranoid if you prefer, they are becoming women sooner and they all seem a bit lost in the world. To be honest, using girls as a target for consumerism dates more than a decade ago, but maybe the “industry” has finally found a formula that “works” (works for whom?) in a consistent way.
If part of me says that there is no point in learning how to educate our daughters if we don’t know how to educate our sons, another part says that all efforts are valid, as the world seems too damaged to raise any kid and if we don’t do something now, I fear for our grandchildren…
I’m not sure how much I can share of the article without infringing copyrights, so apologies if this is too summarised for you. Below are some quick points from the article (which is an extract from the book):
According to Steve Biddulph, there are five stages of girlhood:
Stage 1: security – am I safe and love? from birth to 2 years. The interesting thing here is that the author says that the baby-stimulation toys are a waste of money. we shouldn’t try to educate our babies at this stage, just enjoy them. I’ve noticed with my daughter that the most effective “toys” were the chewing ones, because all she wanted was to put things in her mouth – and look at her hands, and feet, and then explore the world around her. Yes, she would play with her toys, but almost because we imposed it on her. By the way, this applies for girls AND boys.
Stage 2: Exploring – is the world a fun and interesting place? from 2 to 5 years. This is currently the stage my daughter is at. Some interesting points: dress them to explore the world, not in delicate and expensive clothes that will restrict her (and drive you nuts because you will have to handwash that expensive Gucci outfit). Encourage her to do whatever she shows interest in doing – don’t force her to attend ballet classes unless she shows interest in it. It’s ok for girls to be interested in non-girly things (especially because most of them are socially imposed rules). And… avoid toys that it is aimed at girls only. Dolls and pushchairs. All pink. Tsk. We have a bunch of those at home, half of them where gifts, some of them were lack of options in the shops. But she has cars and trains sets, musical instruments, gender neutral building blocks.
Stage 3: People skills – can I get along with others? from 5 to 10 years. The author says it is important for girls to have friends, and this is the age where social skills are learnt. But here is a genuine question: doesn’t this apply to boys too? This stage is all about learning to live and get along with other people – not only other children, but adults as well – and learnt that they are not the centre of the universe. The author also says that it is around the age of 8 that we should prepare our girls for puberty. And I thought it was too early…
Stage 4: Finding her soul – can I find my deep-down self and what makes me truly happy? from 10-14 years. This seems ages in the future for me, but one thing I found very interesting: “girls from 10 to 14 years old need more, not less of our time, interest and availability.” We tend to think that as they grow up, we – parents – will have more time for ourselves and have to worry less about the kids. They will be more independent and less “needy”. My dreams of early retirement will have to be put on hold until they are 40!
Stage 5: Steeping into adulthood – can I take responsibility for my own life? From 14 to 18 years. Strong female role models in the family, unite! Our girl needs you. Now… this is a stage that I find quite interesting. We – girls of this age – think we are grow-ups, women, ready to embrace the world. We – mothers – think they are still little girls and need to be protected. This is an important transitional phase where the girl is getting ready to be a woman – a good one or a bad one.
An important consideration is that these are not strict rules and human being can change and learn at any stage, as long as they have support and love from their parents. Most of the parents I know love their children to bits, look after them, love and protect and only want the best for their children. But there are the negligent parents as well – those that only have kids to tick a box. Or by accident. I know a couple of people like this and it is really sad.
Just to finalise the post – a quick extract of the most interesting part of the article, in my opinion:
“At the heart of our understanding of babies is a concept called “attachment”. Some babies attach securely to their mums, some don’t. Boys who are insecurely attached avoid their mothers or don’t trust them. However, for girls whose mother was depressed or distant or even when she was angry, these daughters would go closer to their mother and try to comfort her. (…) Insecurely attached girls had a “tend and befriend” reaction; they did not go away from danger, they went towards it; (they) will feel most comfortable around angry/depressed people, who unconsciously remind them of their mum. These girls will have a strong belief system that it’s their job to choose someone with mood swings or violent tendencies and try to fix them.”
To know more:
Steve Biddulph’s Raising Girls (HarperCollins). (C) Steve Biddulph 2013.