Tim Jordan, author of Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women.
Topic: Understanding and guiding the transformation of adolescent girls
Issues: There has been a lot of attention paid to the rising levels of depression, anxiety, cutting, and relationship aggression in girls over the past few decades. But what if those issues aren’t the problem? What if we got it all wrong? In this show, we speak with one of the country’s leading experts on girls and find out what’s really going on with girls as they make the normal transformation from girl to woman.
Tim Jordan, author of Sleeping Beauties, Awakened Women.
Disclosure: I’m a member of the Netflix Stream Team and occasionally receive access and goodies from Netflix to facilitate my posts. But everything I write is my own.
Project MC² is a new live-action Netflix original aimed at tweens (mostly girls). Season 1, which consists of only three episodes, introduces us to super-smart teenage spy McKeyla McAlister and three equally super-smart, science-loving girls she reluctantly brings into an all-woman spy organization, NOV8 (Innovate), which just happens to be run by Mc2’s mother.
When I sat down to watch the show with my very own super-smart tween girl, I was a little skeptical. I’d lost a few bets with her and she’d forced me to watch episodes of a number of other shows aimed at teens (again, mostly girls). I can’t remember (or subconsciously blocked out) the names of those shows, but what I do remember is that they were horrid, filled with ditzy, stereotyped characters, poor writing, and horrid acting. So you can imagine my delight….
Dear Mr. Dad: I’ve got twins—one girl, one boy—and we love to wrestle together. I always thought I was treating them the same, but a few days ago, my wife told me that she thinks I play very differently with them—very physically with my son and much more gentle with my daughter. I started paying attention and I have to admit that she’s right. So now I’m wondering: is there any actual reason to be more gentle with my daughter? And should I be more gentle with my son?
A: No and no. Assuming you’re playing in a safe way and the kids are having fun (you should always take your cues from them), there’s absolutely no reason why you can’t be just as rough and tumble with your daughter as you are with her brother. As the father of three daughters, I can assure you that little girls are just as sturdy as boys. In fact, based on science, one might argue that girls are actually sturdier. Although more males are conceived, more die in utero. And while more boys than girls are born, boys are more likely to be arrive prematurely and they’re more susceptible to disease and death. Boys are more likely than girls to die from SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) and less likely to survive the first year than girls. As they get older, boys are significantly more likely to be diagnosed with autism, learning disabilities, mental retardation, and many other conditions.
Despite all that, we still have this idea that girls are delicate and need to be physically coddled. That’s an idea that starts from the very beginning. What’s the first question people ask when someone has had a baby? Boy or girl? We ask because we want to know how to treat the child in question. Parents (both dads and moms) encourage independence and exploration more in boys than girls. They typically (and unconsciously) allow boys to cross the street by themselves at younger ages and wait a few seconds longer before picking up a boy who’s fallen than a girl. And, of course, they wrestle more with sons than daughters.
Raising girls is no easy feat, especially when that girl hits her teen years. That doe-eyed, daddy-adoring preteen who would talk your ear off and bat her eyes to get an extra scoop of ice cream is now filled with complicated emotions, and she may lash out and challenge your authority. No matter how much she pushes you away, teen girls need their parents to supervise (from a distance), support and most importantly, talk to them as they face these new challenges of growing up. The best way to get through the emotional teenage years is to understand what’s important to her and figure out how to relate.
Let Her Assert Her Independence
She is certain to test the limits and boundaries from time to time, but research tells us that teens do best when they are allowed to have and express their own points of view, even if they differ from yours. Just keep the lines of communication open and stay closely connected to her world, so you can help her navigate the path to discovering who she is. Allow her to decide such things as:
- When and how to change her hairstyle
- What she will wear (within reason)
- When to do homework
- How to decorate and organize her room and personal space
- Whom to invite to parties
- How to spend her allowance
Respect Her Privacy
No snooping. As she gets older, her personal space and belongings become more important to her and if she feels intruded on, she will feel the need to hide things and become closed off. Instead, let her know she can trust you to respect her privacy, as long as she has and continues to earn that respect.
Understand That Social Standing Matters
Things like style, popularity and image may not matter to you, but they are top of mind for your daughter and her peers. Don’t minimize what is important to her by dismissing her concerns about these things. You don’t have to get her the latest fashions on demand—that’s what an allowance is for, right?—but listen to her and help her find an appropriate resolution.
For example, if your daughter complains that her best friend is not talking to her and she has no friends, telling her to simply find new friends probably won’t help. It’s unlikely to be a viable solution and can leave her feeling like you don’t understand or can’t relate. Instead, encourage her to give you the details of what caused the riff and identify a solution to reconnect with the friend and get back on common ground. However, If the situation becomes worrisome, voice your concerns in a serious but nonjudgmental manner and discuss the serious nature of bullying, so you can identify next steps if it is truly a harmful situation.
Give Her the Right Tools to Be Successful
There are a few rites of passage that she needs your help reaching, no matter how much she acts like she doesn’t. Help her succeed by providing her with the right tools, and then give her the freedom to use them. For example, when it comes time for her to learn how to drive, help her study for her permit, enroll her in driver’s ed or teach her yourself. And when she’s applying to colleges, offer to proofread her essay and tour prospective schools with her. You can help her choose which college to go to, but then remember: The ultimate choice should be hers.
Steve Biddulph, author of Raising Girls and Raising Boys.
Topics: How to help your daughter or son grow up to be happy, healthy, strong, and well-balanced.
Segment 1 (on girls): The five stages of girlhood and how to help them go smoothly; how to deal with bullying, mean girls, and social media; ways to ease the transition into the teen years; what you need to know about healthy body image, food, and eating disorders, the importance of girls’ friendships and how to support them.
Segment 2 (on boys): The three stages of boyhood and how to help them go smoothly; how testosterone changes behavior and what to do about it; how boys’ brain development differs from girls’; how to help boys cultivate a caring attitude about sex; the impact of competitive sports on boys, and how to ensure it stays positive; how to find boy-friendly schools.
Jennifer Senior, author of All Joy and No Fun.
Topic: The paradox of modern parenthood.
Issues: How children compromise the autonomy parents have grown accustomed to; how children affect parental decision making, division of labor, and can strain a marriage; the true fun in having children is just sitting back, being passive, and enjoying kids being themselves; much more.
As the father of three daughters, I support Sheryl Sandberg’s message that girls can lead. But I don’t support her other messages: First, it’s okay to use half-truths, twisted data, inaccurate and outdated information, and outright lies to get what you want. Second, women and girls aren’t smart enough to make their own life choices. Third, you don’t need to work hard to achieve success—the world owes you something just because you’re female.
Here are just a few examples.
Sandberg wants “equality” in the workplace, and drags out the old canard that there’s a male/female pay gap—and that that gap is the result of discrimination against women. The truth? Yes, the total amount of money earned by men is greater than the total earned by women. But that is largely a function of the different choices men and women make. Men put in about 50% more hours at work than women and, more importantly, men dominate in fields where there is less flexibility, more danger, and higher salaries, while women dominate in fields that offer more flexibility and, unfortunately, less income.
So, Sheryl, how much workplace equality do you really want? Ninety-five percent of people who die on the job are men. And two thirds of the unemployed are men. Where’s the outrage, Sheryl? Do you really want equal representation for males and females?