Help your teenage daughter gain confidence

September 24, 2009 4:47:26 PM PDT
How to help your teen daughter gain confidence and take charge of her relationships.

How to break the Good Girl Glass Ceiling and develop an Inner Resume:
Girls excel in high school, but when they graduate, the tables turn and their successes plummet. Young women get fewer high paying jobs and assignments, and they disproportionately enter lower paying "caregiving" professions. Why? The answer starts in girlhood. The curse of the Good Girl thwarts the development of the "Inner Resume," the crucial Real World skills that make the difference between being good and great in your professional and personal lives: self-promotion, self-advocacy, negotiation, the ability to deal with challenge and failure, and conflict resolution skills. The lack of these skills creates a psychological glass ceiling for girls and ultimately prevents girls from reaching their full potential as adults in the real world.

The Myth of Girls' Emotional Intelligence:
We assume that just because girls have lots of feelings, they must be good at expressing them. It's boys, we tend to think, who are challenged by their feelings. Yet girls struggle to identify and express their emotions, and many view sharing their feelings as weak or pathetic, just like boys. In The Curse of the Good Girl, Rachel Simmons shatters the myth of girls' emotional intelligence and offers practical strategies to help girls get in touch with their emotions to deal with conflict, deepen relationships, and assert their needs.

Sexting: a dangerous Good Girl outlet:
The curse of the Good Girl pressures girls to be unfailingly modest, polite and kind, but they live in a world that sexualizes them and tells them that sexy = personal value. In order to walk the fine, totally unclear line of being "hot" but not a "slut," girls are turning to technology to find secret channels for self-expression. These can be destructive and dangerous outlets of communication. Sexting gives girls the opportunity to deviate from the pressure to be Good without real consequences-or so they think until a photo of them turns up on 10 guys' cellphones.

"OMG Mom, you're like, kind of annoying? Just Kidding!" How Good Girlspeak May Limit Your Daughter's Potential and What You Can Do About it Today:
From OMG to "just kidding" and "no offense," girls enjoy a private social language (online and in real time) that both bonds and divides them. Some of this "Girl Slang" is a kind of cruel shorthand, while other phrases and gestures are used in the classroom to play down personal strength and achievements. What Rachel Simmons calls "Good Girlspeak" is a language girls use to conform to the pressure to be Good-and it diminishes their personal strength and potential. Get the encyclopedia of Good Girl Speak: what the phrases and words mean, and what you can do about it.

As a Good Girl, Your Salary Was Probably Set in the Seventh Grade:
The curse of the Good Girl follows many women into adulthood and haunts them throughout their professional lives. What girls learn socially gets transmitted into how they act in other areas of their lives-first in the classroom and on sports fields, and eventually, in the workplace. Girls who learn that it's not okay to be confident and act like yourself, because you'll be called conceited and ostracized by other girls, often grow to be young women who don't know how to be firm in a salary negotiation, or to self-promote to sell themselves for a job or assignment. True to the curse, these women diminish themselves when they speak, hide their talents, and take conflict personally-and they see the cost in their paychecks and titles. Rachel Simmons gives parents and teachers the tools to help girls develop the skills they'll need to have an edge as achievement-oriented young women.

Send your daughter back to school as a Real Girl instead of a Good Girl:
Five things you can do right now to help your daughter be herself and take charge of her relationships

  1. Get in touch with your inner Goof: Girls of all ages say they're most in touch with their true selves when they're being silly, crazy, loud, or goofy. Whether it's singing in the car at the top of your lungs, dancing like no one's watching in the kitchen, or making ridiculous faces and noises, just do it: let go of the "be perfect" rules and dork out together. There is no more powerful antidote to the pressure to be perfect than a Mom who can burp the alphabet.

  2. Say no and speak up: Your daughter lives in a world that tells her Good Girls are nice 24/7, no exceptions. Think about the last time your daughter heard you speak up and challenge something or someone. Show her how it's done: assertively and with respect.

  3. Get comfortable with your limits: Good Girls are expected to be flawless: not a hair out of place or math problem wrong. All that pressure can make a girl terrified of mistakes. The next time you screw up, gauge your reaction and consider the example it sets. Find your sense of humor if you can. Barring that, avoid labeling yourself in front of her ("I'm such an idiot") or making sweeping predictive statements ("I'll never get this right"). Show her errors aren't the end of the world. Bonus point: Take healthy risks with or in front of her. Even if it doesn't pan out, she is watching a mother who's willing to fail. No one makes it big by playing it safe, and your example will give her permission to take the risks that yield the most exhilarating rewards.

  4. Be a little selfish: The Perfect Mom culture is suffocating. It suggests truly good mothers put everyone's needs before their own. But the rules of being a Perfect Mom are directly at odds with the example most women want to set for their daughters. Letting your children down to do something for yourself isn't easy, but the long-term, big picture message they get is: I've got a mother who takes care of herself and leads a balanced life. In other words, one of the best gifts you can give your daughter is to take something for yourself.

  5. Share Your Feelings: Use emotion words in front of your daughter to model your comfort and build her own emotional vocabulary. Ask her how she's feeling. Knowing and saying how you feel is a powerful channel to our true selves, not to mention successful relationships.
"Mom, the Teacher Hates Me!" Good Girls and Criticism:
Girls seem to take constructive feedback from teachers and coaches more personally than boys. Hypersensitivity to evaluation can mean more sugarcoating from the adults teaching your child-and fewer opportunities to improve performance. With less and less exposure to honest feedback, girls don't develop the thick skin they need to weather challenge and take healthy risks. Learn the most common responses girls have to constructive criticism, and how you can parent them through it.

The Curse of the Good Mother:
A spotless home, organic meals, a 24-7 caregiver...and a daughter who's watching her mother lose herself. How trying to be a perfect mother sets a destructive example for your daughter. Follow the plight of a mother who realizes that her drive to be perfect is teaching her daughter to sacrifice her needs for everyone else. Meet another mother who realizes with horror that her bullied daughter has no self-esteem because of the example she's set. Simmons can take you behind the scenes of her mother-daughter weekend workshops to show how moms and girls can recreate their biggest conflicts and then rewrite them into healthier conversations. She also reveals ten moments in every Mom's day that you can use to set a new example for your daughter; and, she gives advice on how Dads can help raise Real Girls too.

About Rachel Simmons:
Rachel Simmons is the author of the New York Times bestseller Odd Girl Out: The Hidden Culture of Aggression in Girls. Simmons works internationally with girls, parents, and teachers to develop strategies to address bullying and to empower girls. A graduate of Vassar College in 1996, Simmons won a Rhodes scholarship and attended Oxford University, where she began studying female aggression. Simmons is the founding director of the Girls' Leadership Institute, a summer program for middle-school and high school girls, and currently serves as a consultant to schools and organizations around the world. Simmons lives in Brooklyn, New York. In her new book THE CURSE OF THE GOOD GIRL, bestselling author and founder of the Girls Leadership Institute Rachel Simmons reveals the current state of the American girl...


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