October 11th, 2012 is International Day of the Girl. It is also the last day of my daughter’s 5th year. Tomorrow she will be six and I have no idea where the time has gone. To me, six is a “big girl.” She’s still my baby, but the infant and toddler features have slipped away. Her appearance has matured, and so has she. She is reading, writing, creating and (oh my Lord!) having opinions.
I recently read an article about the “…detrimental impact overachieving is having on teenage girls. Too much focus on academic accomplishment and social success has led to a failure at other equally important female experiences, such as their psychological and emotional health, and, importantly, their sense of self-knowledge and self-expression.”
To me, this is horrifying. I don’t want my daughter to desire perfection. However, I catch myself obsessing over it from time to time. That I am conscious of this is a good thing — I can refocus and move forward with the intention to lead by example. But, it is hard. I can relate to Rachel Simmon’s (author of The Curse of the Good Girl) argument that “…modern upbringing is pressuring girls to embrace a polite, modest, selfless version of themselves that sharply curtails their power and potential. It also makes their expectations unobtainable.” I have fallen victim to my own unobtainable expectations…so how do I encourage my daughter to dream big, and have goals without setting her up for disappointment?
Some tips provided in the article I read were:
- encourage “good” and “excellent” behavior, but don’t expect it. Parents should focus on teaching their daughters to strive for “real”. By age 12 most girls change from being their “real” selves to a version of what they believe is expected of them.
- accept mistakes. Use mistakes as an opportunity to learn and improve…teaching our daughters how to deal well with criticism is important.
- listen more. Parents need to know when to back off. When asking questions, try to use open ended ones that encourage our daughters to think and express their opinions.
- allow her to try to solve her own problems. She may not always be able, but praise the effort anyway
- give her space and allow her to be herself
12 seems so far away, but that is what I thought about 6 when my little girl was born. It will be here before I know and I want to make certain that both she and I are prepared.