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Tweddle loves Raising Girls

Posted by Kerrie Gottliebsen | 13/09/11

Raising Girls - Gisela Preuschoff

The importance of self-esteem - extract

High self-esteem is the best protection you can give your daughter. High self-esteem means you consider yourself important and valuable, regardless of your appearance, ability or performance. If you feel you are important, you speak up for yourself and defend your rights and your body. Any woman can become the victim of a violent act, of course, but statistically speaking, the possibility is very slight – and, in the light of the research cited by Nicky Marone, even slighter for women with high self-esteem.

As children, my friends and I often played the game, ‘Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?’ One group of children, standing in a row, would call that question out. ‘No-one,’ the other group would roar, facing them.
‘And if he comes?’
‘Then he just comes!’

At this point, you had to run – the aim was to get to the other team’s area without being caught. Sadly, this game has gone out of fashion, but wherever girls played it, they made the same agreeable and exciting discovery: that you can take a risk, emerge victorious and get to your destination safely. If your daughter plays a team sport, she will experience something similar.

Allow your daughter to express all her feelings, even the really negative ones like jealousy, temper and rage. Aggression is not all bad, as it can help us stand up for ourselves and assert ourselves in life. We women are allowed to feel these emotions, and we ought to let them run free! In earlier times, girls were rarely allowed to defend themselves or to be loud or passionate. This was very detrimental, because expressing your true feelings is essential for good health.

Teach your daughter that she can say ‘no’ and that she has the right to decide how to use her body. This concept extends even to little things like not persistently demanding a kiss from her if she is not so inclined; and not forcing her to sit on your lap if she doesn’t want to at the time.

The risk of overprotectiveness

In education programs that I run for female educators, many parents tell me that they always drive their children where they need to go and pick them up from there later, because they’re afraid that their children will be victims of sex offenders. While this is perfectly understandable and in many cases necessary, there may be some occasions when they could quite safely walk there and back or take public transport. The reality is that we can’t protect our daughters from all the risks in the world, so we need to prepare them to go out without supervision.

And one way we can do this is to teach them to scream, kick and defend themselves. Our inhibitions can sometimes put us in greater danger than would otherwise exist. To exemplify this, psychologist and author Nicky Marone quotes an investigation in which scientists filmed ordinary people, pedestrians in New York, as they strolled along the street. This film was shown to a group of criminals, who were asked to say which people were worth considering as victims. The results were unequivocal: it was always the same people who were selected. They stood out because of their inhibited body language, which indicated fragility, uncertainty and a general lack of self-confidence.

The best way you can protect your daughter from fear, and from danger, is to ensure that she has good self-esteem. There are many ways to do this, and you can start from the moment she is born.

Fathers and self-esteem

Fathers can do a lot for their daughter’s self-esteem. When a daughter feels loved, respected and highly regarded by her father, she is getting much more than what would fit into an olden-day dowry box. Mind you, your daughter needs to be able to feel this love and respect from your behaviour – words are just ‘empty noise’ when they are not supported by deeds.

The father who tells his daughter she’s fantastic, but at the same time asks why she only got a pass in English or why she didn’t jump higher, may find that his words are not believed. Spend time with your daughter, give her recognition for what she has achieved and teach her the things that only you, as her father, can teach her. It doesn’t matter what your particular skills are: whatever skills you have, I assure you, your daughter can use them!

Extract published with permission from Finch Publishing

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