Why Girls Talk and What They re Really Saying

By Linda Perlman Gordon and Susan Morris

  • Genre : Family and Friendship
  • Publisher :
  • ISBN : 978 0071417860
  • Year : 2004
  • Language: English


WHY GIRLS TALK AND WHAT THEY RE REALLY SAYING A PA R E N T S S U RV I VA L G U I D E TO C O N N E C T I N G W I T H YO U R T E E N Susan Morris Shaffer Linda Perlman Gordon Copyright 2005 by Susan Morris Shaffer and Linda Perlman Gordon All rights reserved Manufactured in the United States of America Except as permitted under the United States Copyright Act of 1976 no part of this publication may be reproduced or distributed in any form or by any means or stored in a database or retrieval system without the prior written permission of the publisher 0-07-146066-7 The material in this eBook also appears in the print version of this title 0-07-141786-9 All trademarks are trademarks of their respective owners Rather than put a trademark symbol after every occurrence of a trademarked name we use names in an editorial fashion only and to the benefit of the trademark owner with no intention of infringement of the trademark Where such designations appear in this book they have been printed 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IS PROVIDED AS IS McGRAW-HILL AND ITS LICENSORS MAKE NO GUARANTEES OR WARRANTIES AS TO THE ACCURACY ADEQUACY OR COMPLETENESS OF OR RESULTS TO BE OBTAINED FROM USING THE WORK INCLUDING ANY INFORMATION THAT CAN BE ACCESSED THROUGH THE WORK VIA HYPERLINK OR OTHERWISE AND EXPRESSLY DISCLAIM ANY WARRANTY EXPRESS OR IMPLIED INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTABILITY OR FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE McGraw-Hill and its licensors do not warrant or guarantee that the functions contained in the work will meet your requirements or that its operation will be uninterrupted or error free Neither McGrawHill nor its licensors shall be liable to you or anyone else for any inaccuracy error or omission regardless of cause in the work or for any damages resulting there from McGraw-Hill has no responsibility for the content of any information accessed through the work Under no circumstances shall McGraw-Hill and or its licensors be liable for any indirect incidental special punitive consequential or similar damages that result from the use of or inability to use the work even if any of them has been advised of the possibility of such damages This limitation of liability shall apply to any claim or cause whatsoever whether such claim or cause arises in contract tort or otherwise DOI 10 1036 0071460667 Want to learn more We hope you enjoy this McGraw-Hill eBook If you d like more information about this book its author or related books and websites please click here To Arnie and Mark Three books two weddings and 35 years of love and friendship This page intentionally left blank For more informationww about this title click here k777 com boo w e free ebooks Contents Acknowledgments ix Introduction xi Life in the Balance PA R T I Understanding Your Daughter s World 1 Why Girls Talk and What They re Really Saying 3 2 Golden Girl 21 Tyranny of Beauty and Culture 3 The Mirror Has Many Faces 45 Challenges to Building Competent Spheres 4 Focus on Adolescent Girls of Color 79 v vi C o n t e n t s 5 Making the Transition 95 The Experiences of Everyday School Life 6 Girls as Friends 115 Best Buddies and Friendly Fire PA R T I I Cutting Through the Chatter and Finding Connection 7 Parenting 137 What s Love Got to Do with It 8 Passing on Our Stories 163 Helping Our Daughters to Appreciate the Women Who Made Today s Opportunities Happen 9 13 Strategic Solutions for Parents of Adolescent Girls 173 10 It s About That Time 191 Girls and Boys Together APPENDIX A Positive Parenting 205 The Law of Return APPENDIX B Focus Group Interview Guide 207 Adolescents APPENDIX C Parents Focus Group Interview Guide 209 C o n t e n t s vii APPENDIX D Depression in Adolescent Girls 211 APPENDIX E Warning Signs of an Eating Disorder 213 References 217 Index 229 This page intentionally left blank Acknowledgments e are grateful for the generous support and encouragement we received for this project W Thank you to our focus group parents and girls who gave us invaluable personal stories throughout this project especially to Sue Glick Susan Fine Barbara Moore Lisa Trevino and Maryanne Sandretti To Susan Wechsler for her intelligence and insight and never being farther away than a telephone call To our colleagues Sheryl Denbo and Phyllis Lerner for their honesty and wise words and devotion to educational equity To Kimberly Lawrence Kol for her wisdom and expertise especially in the area of eating disorders To Susan Mikesell for her many insightful contributions and support ix Copyright 2005 by Susan Morris Shaffer and Linda Perlman Gordon Click here for terms of use x A c k n o w l e d g m e n t s To our agent Joelle Delbourgo for her wise counsel stimulating conversations fabulous sense of humor and exquisite professionalism To our editor Judith McCarthy at McGraw-Hill for her vision which became both the impetus and driving force behind this book To Kathy Dennis and the production team also at McGraw-Hill for making the book even better To Jean Bernard for her impeccable attention to detail To Meryl Moss and staff for their creativity enthusiasm and persistence To Ray Yau for his vast knowledge of technology and ability to translate our ideas into a user friendly website To Judith Chused Judy Bowles and Carol Goldberg for their inquisitive minds and inspiration To Jill Moss Greenberg and Linda Shevitz who work every day to make all things possible for children To our siblings Peter and Janine Perlman Arlene and Bernie Ehrlich Debbi and Dale Morris and Eileen Zegar for their constant enthusiasm and loving support Finally as always with all of our love to our expanding families Arnie Zach Emily and Dave Mark Seth Elizabeth and Josh Introduction Life in the Balance Parents are the most significant influence in a child s life ife with a 14-year-old girl can be compared to wrestling with an octopus For many of us who have survived these years the dread of adolescence dominates any discussion about parenting of boys as well as girls Only after the ritual commiserating do we share the joys of adolescence As the mother of a ninth grader said to us The compensation for living with adolescents is that they are very interesting It takes perspective and understanding to appreciate the often puzzling dramatic and stressful times of these years for parents of millions of teenage girls This was the state of parenting we found when we began to write this book about adolescent girls We first wrote about raising adolescent boys and in doing so we discovered that despite the abundance of literature on the subject of raising girls there was still a need L xi Copyright 2005 by Susan Morris Shaffer and Linda Perlman Gordon Click here for terms of use xii I n t r o d u c t i o n for a discussion of the skills and tools we need to communicate and connect with our adolescent daughters In our book Why Boys Don t Talk and Why It Matters we examined the importance of connection in the lives of boys Our objective was to share with parents the benefits of staying close to their sons much as they do with their daughters For parents of girls our message is somewhat different While it s important of course for parents of girls to stay connected to their daughters we make a distinction between connection and enmeshment While we ultimately value connection as a cornerstone of a happy life we believe it is important to help our daughters to learn the value of what we call engaged detachment from the social messages of what they ought to be that inhibit the development of a healthy sense of self This detachment will help them to develop a sense of well-being and self-sufficiency When we studied adolescent boys we explored how easy it can be to become disconnected from boys and how limited their emotional lives can become if we are not careful For adolescent girls we discuss the ways we can help our daughters to broaden their circles and sense of themselves so that when connections with others in one sphere are in conflict they have other spheres to turn to We believe it is essential to encourage girls to appreciate their own competence and we suggest ways that you as a parent can enhance that sense of capability Adolescent boys and girls are mirror images of each other In general boys learn to silence themselves in ways that diminish their understanding of their interior lives and emotional components In general girls are in touch with their emotional components but keep themselves from knowing or exposing their more complete authentic selves that is a self that exists apart from their social relationships with any one group For these reasons boys don t talk and girls do talk and we are left trying to figure out what our adolescent sons and daughters are really saying While the dynamics are different for boys and girls the I n t r o d u c t i o n xiii consequences are the same they feel disconnected from their true selves and from their families To minimize this occurrence we have to provide adolescents with opportunities to develop emotional and moral courage As parents of both sons and daughters all of whom were adolescents not so long ago and as professionals in psychology and education we bring to this project a unique combination of professional perspectives We both work in gender education adolescent and family issues one of us as an educator and the other as a social worker We have integrated our own personal and professional experiences with those of other parents and psychologists educators and experts who live and work with adolescent girls In addition we have reviewed the literature about adolescent girls in psychology sociology culture education and statistics Comparing our different experiences in raising our daughters and our sons we have come to realize that although our girls have tended to share more information with us than our boys have it has often been difficult to sort through the noise and accurately decode their intended messages These are our goals for this book To identify effective strategies for deciphering the necessary information from the drama of girls daily lives To assist you as parents in developing skills to help your daughter establish a strong sense of self while staying emotionally connected with her To strike a balance between the stereotypes of the mean girl and the nice girl so your daughter can create a sense of her authentic self To explore your own boundaries to avoid overidentification with and investment in the social successes and failures of your daughter xiv I n t r o d u c t i o n Exploring the Behavior of Girls While researching the ways girls communicate and create connections we developed a list of key questions Why is it so much easier to learn the details of our daughters lives than of our sons When our daughters share the myriad details of their lives what are they really telling us What is engaged detachment What can parents do to facilitate the social development of girls How do parents set boundaries between their lives and their daughters lives so they can remain objective coaches What skills do girls need to get through their adolescent years intact What is important for parents to think about and to do during these formative years to help foster communication connection and the development of healthy and strong girls All of girls behaviors deserve close exploration to find answers to these questions Contradictions still exist Sometimes girls may be more silent than talkative For example in the classroom girls may be quiet because they are self-conscious of being viewed as goody-goodies or teachers pets We need to help our daughters feel confident enough to articulate what they know without having to silence themselves In order to help your daughter you need to understand what goes on beneath the silence to decipher what she is really trying to express Even though she may not always express herself with words she still has many complicated feelings What girls are saying is not always verbal these feelings can also be demonstrated by their behavior Moreover to understand the full landscape of girls lives we have to consider their experiences from various ethnic cultural racial and I n t r o d u c t i o n xv socioeconomic backgrounds We can t fall into the trap of lumping girls into one female category One size does not fit all Using Fuzzy Logic for Parenting Raising a child is a collection of parenting moments The process doesn t follow the time frame for the scripted logic of a 30-minute sitcom with the linear form of a beginning middle and end Instead parenting is more like the mathematical concept of fuzzy logic where uncertainties and discrepancies become clearer and more decipherable over time An analogy is the archetypal discussion with kids about sex one talk doesn t provide them with all of the information that they need to make responsible choices It takes a collection of talks in response to different developmental needs and providing positive role models that help guide children to responsible decisions As parents we have to provide many healthy messages over the span of our daughter s growing up and hope that she incorporates them into her perception of the world and herself and her decision making Our job as parents is to communicate our values and beliefs while separating our struggles from hers to help our daughter heal when necessary and to provide opportunities for her to develop what we call a broader integrated identity A broader integrated identity is one in which a girl s sense of self is not completely dependent on any one interest or thing Having a more expansive sense of self allows a girl to stay centered and more secure within herself in response to not being invited to a party having less than stellar athletic skills surviving a fight with a boyfriend or not doing well on a history exam These experiences are part of teenage life everyone experiences some of them at one time or another Barbara the mother of 22-year-old Alison explained how she and her husband helped their daughter develop a broader sense of self in the face of academic difficulties Alison struggled so much with read- xvi I n t r o d u c t i o n ing that in ninth grade they put her in special education classes in our large urban high school When we first discovered her dyslexia we were relieved because the discrepancy between the bright girl we knew and the girl in the special ed classes finally made sense The most important lesson that we learned during this period was that the only way to save her self-image was to find something other than school that she could excel in For Alison it was dance When she performed in front of an audience she came alive She was a different person secure confident and creative Alison lit up on the stage This was an area where she could be competitive and it provided her with another self that she could rely on when she was feeling unsuccessful at school The selfconfidence that she gained from dance spilled over into other parts of her life including over time doing well in school She could draw upon her success in dance to help her define in a positive way who she was Alison s parents refused to let her be pigeonholed by only one facet of her life They understood the importance of finding their daughter s passion and supporting her The more opportunities we provide for our daughters to experience their own competence the more resilient they become An important component to raising teenagers is being available to them Staying close to your daughter may prevent risk-taking behaviors The closer you are the more opportunities you have to empower her Contrary to the popular belief that little children need their parents more than adolescents do we know that these years also require attentiveness and close supervision It is our intent to present parents with a practical guide to further understand the emotional dimensions of girls and increase the possibilities of competence and connection What we learned from talking to many parents is that their desire to stay close to their children during the teenage years is universal They just don t always know how see Appendix A Positive Parenting I n t r o d u c t i o n xvii Your family has operating principles and values that are unique to you and parenting styles that affect what works and what doesn t We encourage you to be confident in teaching the principles and values specific to your culture and heritage Helping your daughter develop a strong sense of self requires building confidence and pride in her heritage Having self-confidence increases the resiliency of girls as well as their sense of well-being as they address the trials and tribulations of their age Often you won t know in advance what specific methods will work with your daughter However by remaining engaged and constantly trying you will become more knowledgeable about what works for her and when Even with those strategies that do work flexibility variety and a sense of humor are essential to getting through to your daughter during these demanding years Don t despair if you stay involved and stay connected during these years you will also experience many precious moments You cannot tell always by looking what is happening More than half a tree is spread out in the soil under your feet Marge Piercy from The Seven of Pentacles

Author Linda Perlman Gordon and Susan Morris Shaffer Isbn 978 0071417860 File size 1 Mb Year 2004 Pages 256 Language English File format PDF Category Family and Friendship Helps parents cut through the drama of teenage daughters and maintain positive emotional connections Because adolescent girls tend to talk so much parents often assume that girls are easier to communicate with than boys In reality much of what teenage girls say is the opposite of a healthy expression of emotion often ta