support thread: bringing up girls

(88 Posts)
BlueFlyer Tue 03-Jul-12 16:24:13

I'm a mum of a daughter and I have started this thread for anybody who is bringing up girls. I know quite a few people have started threads before about younger girls and stereotypes, but I'd also like advice on raising self esteem, resilience and imagination in older girls.

I'd really appreciate any advice from people who have experience, and any book, activity, media or other recommendations.

I'm interested too. I my DC3 is a DD of 3yrs. I try to be as gender neutral wih all of them as I can but find that other people (like my mother) are so keen to stereoptype and treat them differently. Often they don't even realise that they are doing it as their attutudes are so deeply ingrained.

The main things I do are:

Be careful about the books we read and the messages contained. I change sex of characters if I feel I need to.

Have a wide range of toys available to all of them and not jsut have 'her' toys in her room and the boys' in their room.

I'm a SAHM so dividsion of chores is problematic for me but usually I make sure that they DC realise what I do in the home is just as important and valid as what DH does going out to work. At weekends DH does equal amounts of housework/childcare (often more) and will do stuff in the evenings once he's home if it needs doing.

I don't leave the 'male' jobs down to DH - I move furniture, garden, change lightbulbs and lift heavy stuff quite cheerfully myself.

I don't criticise, or in fact talk about, other women's appearances. I also don't do the thing I've noticed people doing where they tell girls how pretty they are and then talk to boys about their interests and what they've been up ot as if appearance is all that matters about girls where as boys are real complex little people hmm.

HotheadPaisan Tue 03-Jul-12 16:53:09

For me a lot is about attitudes and expectations. Help them to truly believe they can achieve, talk to them about different expectations and where they come from and what they can do to resist them. Help them with confidence and assertiveness. Show them how the world works and how to navigate it.

Accept that there are differences between the sexes and these should be celebrated, it's not all about 'equality', women should be respected for the majority role they have in having children and should not be penalised financially for this.

Think long-term, personal finance education, etc. Independence but with fairness and a recognition of the potential career and financial impact of having kids. Loads of things like this that I was never taught and should have been.

BlueFlyer Tue 03-Jul-12 17:05:46

HP, have you found yourself aware of differences between how you were brought up and how you want to bring daughters up? Is there a gap between your perspective and what goes on in school?

Librarians, I have found it easier to be gender neutral because I have a boy and a girl. I think it is more difficult if you have just boys or just girls because people then think it is more of a statement if you buy all sorts of toys. The not criticising is good I think, for appearance and beyond.

HotheadPaisan Tue 03-Jul-12 17:09:46

I have sons but I notice the absolute lack of good or an equal number of girl characters in almost every TV programme they watch. The only book series I really like reading with my eldest is The Magic Tree House series - it is a brother and younger sister who have adventures, she is fearless and determined, he is cautious, they speak to each other nicely, it's great.

HotheadPaisan Tue 03-Jul-12 17:12:22

And I despair at popular culture in general, I struggle to find anything I like, I have no idea what I could find for any daughters and wonder what interests my sons will settle on and if I'll think they are any good in terms of not perpetuating stereotypes and having strong female characters and leads. I'm not hopeful because there is little out there.

DorisIsWaiting Tue 03-Jul-12 17:31:20

I have 3 dd's and I struggle. I so want them to be tomboys who are not afraid of being different / going against stereotypes....I have a long way to go.

I'm bookmarking here for ideas. It does help that dh does most of the cooking and ironing and I do most of the DIY and cleaning so we do share household tasks. The difficult bit is inspiring them to think beyond stereotypes in terms of careers (they are still at an age where they want to be like Mummy (I was a nurse!)). To make them more aware of other positive role models.

Fallingoffthefence Tue 03-Jul-12 17:47:24

Great idea for a thread! I have been thinking about this a lot recently since dd1 told dh that he doesn't do any cooking (actually he does but it is mainly for us after they are in bed because he doesn't get home until their tea time - but it made me realise how much more I cook at weekends, mainly because he spends more time with them to make up for seeing less of them in the week). My girls are 6 and 3 so have to pitch things at their level.

I try never to say anything about diets, losing weight etc in front of them. When I talk about going to the gym I talk in terms of being fit and strong rather than anything else.

I've told them both about feminists in history (suffragettes etc) just in terms of stories and how some silly people thought women weren't as clever as men. I've also told them that some people still think that. I've also told them about racism and homophobia in age appropriate ways. For example my cousin is a lesbian and we've talked about how women can live with or marry women in the same way I live with dh but that some people say they shouldn't. we watched horrible histories and talked about Mary Seacole too. At their age I think they have a strong sense of fairness and unfairness so we talk quite a bit about what some silly people think.

Dd1 and I talk quite a lot about how people think girls have to like pink and that boys can't like pink and how this is silly. We watched this video about lego and talked about it quite a bit.

We talk about how if people say they are your friend they should be nice to you. This is mainly at the moment to deal with some girls in her class who keep saying they are her friends but are then horrible to her but I think the lesson is vital for life really. Someone who says treats you like shit doesn't love you no matter what they say.

DH and I both try to model relationships based on respect and although I work part time so do more around the house than he does we both pull our weight and he does is share of domestic tasks.

I am involved in some VAW work which I don't talk about at the moment because I can't find a way to talk about it which is suitable for their ages. But I will in future. I do talk about feminism, say that I am a feminist and give examples that I think they can understand.
HTH - looking forward to other people's tips

BlueFlyer Tue 03-Jul-12 18:17:49

I know a lot of people try to build self esteem in girls through academic success, but that isn't really DD's area of interest. She is capable, and we do some academic stuff, but her focus is creativity and imagination.

In one way, I think imagination is really important and I don't want her to grow out of it. My mum never has! I think it builds strength of character. It is hard to sell people stereotyped identities and ideas if they have this inner reserve of creativity and imagination.

But it also puts her on the sharp end of negativity about women - in films and music. Because she of course wants to see creative and imaginative things as well as do them in her own activities. My sister is good at finding stuff that has interesting female characters - she took DD to see Wicked. But I struggle to find stuff. I'd really appreciate any recommendations about pre teen/teen books, films and music that your daughters enjoy or that you enjoyed when you were younger, or any advice from people who have been or are imaginative. DD is 11.

LynnCSchreiber Tue 03-Jul-12 18:20:04

Great idea.

I'm marking my place to come back later and read properly but my main advice is to be a good example to your daughter.

Theories are meaningless if your DD sees that daddy always puts the bins out to 'help mummy with the housework' and mummy doesn't put petrol in the car cause it's a man's job.

That's quite interesting - I've found gender neutral harder as a parent of both boys and girls although mainly because of other people and the stuff they do!

I definitely parent in a different way to how I was parented (I also have a very different relationship with DH to the one my parents have). Things I plan to do differently with my teens:

No double standards with sex and alcohol. My mum doesn't like drunkeness at all but reacted way worse the few times I got mildly drunk trashed than when my brothers did and I was never allowed boyfriends staying in my room (or male friends - this really pissed me off as they would have been on a mattress on the floor and nothing would have gone on but my mum never trusted us) and her attitudes to sex affected me and that took a long time to get over. I wasn't allowed DH in the same room as me until we were married where as my brothers had girlfriends stay over <bitter>

Encourage them to do the sports they want to do, not the ones I want them to do. Again - I wanted to do rowing, as did my dad, and my mum didn't because my shoulders were 'already big enough' confused and she wanted me to do athletics (which I also enjoyed and ended up competing for my club). She won because she said if I did athletics she'd take me but if I did rowing my dad had to.

Tidying housework - they will have autonomy over their bedrooms to a degree but tidying wilol be done by them. I will not expect DD to be tidier just because she's a girl

AbigailAdams Tue 03-Jul-12 19:08:01

I haven't got a daughter, but I was one! One of the biggest favours my mum did for me (unconsciously I think) was not mention weight or how much I ate or went on a diet at all while I was growing up. She just provided us with a balanced diet and the opportunity for plenty of exercise (we lived in the middle of nowhere so exercise was a necessity to get anywhere independently!)

Another thing she did really well (and my Dad) was encourage me academically and professionally to go in whichever direction I wanted. I was sporty and into science and they encouraged me.

And finally my Mum had an excellent moral compass especially when it came to relationships. I had a verbally abusive relationship when I was younger and I remember her telling me that I couldn't spend my life with someone where I have to watch what I say. I didn't act on it at the time but remembered it later and of course she was right. Spotting abusive relationships and red flags would be on my list to teach daughters. In fact taking the emphasis off having a relationship at all (not sure how you would do that and counteract the masses of media telling women their worth is being with a man).

BlueFlyer Tue 03-Jul-12 19:24:04

I think there is some truth in the idea that we learn how to be a parent from our own parents, and it is really useful if our parents have done something well to do the same, but also useful to see how we would do things differently.

The pointing out abusive stuff is important too.

tethersend Tue 03-Jul-12 19:37:41

Bookmarking as I now have 2 girls- a 3yo and a 6wk old.

I am particularly interested in a point Doris brings up- wanting them to be tomboys. I struggle with this if I'm honest... why do I want my daughters to take on traditionally 'male' attributes? How little do I value traditionally 'female' attributes? I really wanted boys (although am now glad to have two girls), and I have to ask myself why I subconsciously place(d) a higher value on boys than girls.

Also agree completely with Abigail WRT eating/dieting etc.

Good idea for a thread.

Hullygully Tue 03-Jul-12 19:38:03

My dd is 13. It really really helps if they have friends whose parents try and inculcate similar values - they are such pack animals. Dd is fairly clear eyed about stuff, and I am not remotely "feminine" but she does tell me to stop ranting...

Hullygully Tue 03-Jul-12 19:42:49

Yo tethers!

I never got worried about gender based stuff. Ds wore a tutu for years and dd had a mad pink stage...Now she mainly wears jeans. I think you have to work out who they are as people and then help them develop themselves and their interests/personalities.That ^ is obvious. Soz. I mean don't worry what behavious is called what unless they are inhibited/constrained by it. Which I know isn't your point.

<ties self in knots>

BlueFlyer Tue 03-Jul-12 19:44:08

Has she kept the same group of friends long term Hully, or does she have different friends from different activities and so on? DD has always had the same close friends, but I'm thinking there's maybe a benefit of knowing girls with different experiences and interests, and maybe that just happens naturally as they get older. But I can imagine that as they get older it is more about the pack, and what you have to say as a parent gets listened to less.

BlueFlyer Tue 03-Jul-12 19:47:17

I agree tethersend. I don't want to give the message that boys' pursuits are better than girls' ones.

Hullygully Tue 03-Jul-12 19:47:44

She is in her first year at secondary school so they are a new group. So far (touches everything in sight) there is a really nice, kind, supportive group of about 15 of them. Watch this space for crying and moaning in due course.

She still has old friends that she sees, deffo good to have a range. I have also always discouraged the whole "best friend" thing since an unspeakable time a few years ago...

Hullygully Tue 03-Jul-12 19:48:19

Woodcraft folk is good for mixed activities.

BlueFlyer Tue 03-Jul-12 19:52:12

We have somehow been lucky enough not to have unspeakable times over friendship. DD is in a group of 3 girls at school, and will be moving up to secondary school with the 2 others into the same class. They are better friends with each other than with her, because they live in one village and we live in another where our neighbour that plays with DD is a boy. So that all adds up to a classic falling out situation - group of 3, one not as involved, but it never has. They have all always just been happy together, so I am hoping they stay friends in secondary, even though they are bound to make new friendships too.

HotheadPaisan Tue 03-Jul-12 20:08:35

I've been thinking about Woodcraft stuff for S1 (autistic), I reckon it would be nice and non-competetitve and the older ones would look out for him a bit and he'd like the younger ones. He is never going to quite fit for his year group I don't think.

I will teach my kids what occupations earn what, I drifted into IT thankfully but it means/ meant I could always be fully independent if need be.

And that's another thing, I knew from a very young age I wanted financial independence, I don't know how or why but I aimed for it. Ironically I now have three dependents smile

GoodButNotOutstanding Tue 03-Jul-12 20:09:39

I have 2 girls, dd1 is 12 and dd2 is 2. I've been trying really hard to be gender neutral with both of them and bring them up to fully believe they are equal to (or better than) any of the boys they meet.

I think I've done a reasonable job so far with dd1 but to be fair she's quite determined to be herself anyway and refuses to fall for any stereotype at all. She always had a wide range of toys, including cars and train sets as well as dolls and kitchens. She decided for herself that she wasn't interested in a lot of the things that were being pushed as 'girl' things, like Bratz, High School Musical, etc and chose to be interested in Harry Potter (I think she wanted to be Hermione) and Dr Who.
She's also seen me not wearing make up or worrying about clothes so she's not bowing to peer pressure on those things either, in fact I worry that she's possibly going a bit far the other way and making sure she is wearing clean clothes would be a good thing hmm
And being pretty bright helps too I think as she's always been confident that she can be whatever she wants to be, whether that's a lawyer, doctor, etc There really aren't many careers that are closed to someone of her ability and she would never believe she couldn't do something because she's a girl. Anybody making that claim to her would just be laughed at and she would say 'but of course I can do that, I can do anything better than any of the boys'. I think she's probably going to end up in a male-dominated field as she's very interested in Science and Maths atm.
My biggest failing so far has been in the diet thing. I have struggled with my weight all my adult life and ahve been on numerous diets that she's seen, and picked up on that. I am trying to be less obsessive and am working on my issues with food, and she's seeing that too though so hopefully I'm undoing some of the damage I've already done.
Chores are fairly equally shared out in our household, actually dp does more than me but I don't let on that I know that. I earn more than dp and while neither of us goes on about it it's not a secret either so I think dd1 is well aware that women's jobs are just as important as men's jobs. She's also well aware that men do childcare too as my dad did most of the childcare for her til she was 7 and she loved spending so much time with her grandad.

HotheadPaisan Tue 03-Jul-12 20:10:20

I was a tomoboy, is fine until people think you should grow out of it. You are already so far ahead just thinking about all this stuff.

TheSpokenNerd Tue 03-Jul-12 20:14:38

I find that my DDs (7 and 4) are actually having a similar childhood to the one I had in the 70s in terms of what they wear and how we play...the things on sale today are pinker and glitterer-er

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