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Live webchat with Steve Biddulph about Raising Girls, Wednesday 16 January, 9pm to 10pm

(246 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 14-Jan-13 14:08:03

Parenting expert Steve Biddulph is joining us for another webchat on Weds 16 January at 9pm - 10pm. Steve last joined Mumsnet back in 2000 when he talked about his book Love, Laughter and Parenting as well as his worldwide bestseller, Raising Boys.

We're delighted that Steve is returning to talk to us about his latest book, Raising Girls. This was written as a response to the 'sudden and universal deterioration in girls' mental health, starting in primary school and devastating the teen years'. The book is both a call-to-arms for parents and a detailed guide through the five key stages of girlhood to help build strength and connectedness into your daughter from infancy onwards. Join the discussion and you will be entered into a draw to win one of five copies of Steve Biddulph's Raising Girls. 

If you're interested in Steve's latest book, Mumsnet Academy are running a one day seminar with Steve on 26 January in London. Here's more information.
 
Put the date in your diary to join the discussion on Weds 16 at 9pm-10pm and if you're unable to join us then, post a question in advance to this thread.
 

stevebiddulph Wed 16-Jan-13 21:27:42

Dear Ashoething!

A short question but a great one. The toxic messages from the media about weight and size have harmed several generations of women (and increasingly men). The diet industry feeds on this, and keeps fuelling it.
In my talks I ask people to put their hands up if they are not happy with their own bodies. 95% of hands go up. And you are right - how can we possibly show our daughters how to be appreciative and loving towards their own bodies if we ourselves are always talking about weight, diet, and looks.
The chapter in Raising Girls about this was written by two women therapists who work with eating disorders, and they are convinced, with good research evidence, that the focus needs to be on enjoying our bodies with normal activity, not compulsive excercize OR dieting, which fails in 90% of cases. Even talking about good and bad foods sets up a guilt cycle. Better to talk about everyday food, and sometimes food, and keep sweet or junk foods for occasional use only.
I grew up ashamed of my body, but eventually in my 20’s I simply noticed - its strong, its healthy, it carries me through this life, and people I care about love me for myself. I just hug gently so my ribs don’t squash anyone!

TunipTheVegedude Wed 16-Jan-13 21:29:38

I don't find your stages very helpful tbh. My 3yo son is currently making huge strides with learning about getting on with others. My 7yo daughter is benefiting most from her scientist dad's enthusiasm about the world. I can't see the logic to gender-differentiating these goals, or to setting arbitrary time limits on them.

gazzalw Wed 16-Jan-13 21:30:07

Thanks for that answer Steve.

TunipTheVegedude Wed 16-Jan-13 21:31:11

MummaBubba are you serious? We shouldn't ask about evidence? shock

stevebiddulph Wed 16-Jan-13 21:32:14

On the gender difference thing, I don't experience this ever being resolveable because its an ideological thing. The best book on the subject, cited in Raising Girls quite a bit, is Cordelia Fine's book, I think called The Myth of Gender.
There are just two differences which really stand up and are important for parenting. That is - that girls are much more wired for social awareness, even at birth they respond to social cues more. And the age (and process) of puberty differs markedly - usually two years sooner for girls. These really affect the stages and when they happen. I disagree with the idea of merging gender as if its not a real thing. But I've never known a debate on this to get anywhere. We need this tension between viewpoints to prevent extremes I think.

DisAstrophe Wed 16-Jan-13 21:32:55

Steve

How can we protect girls from being so worried about their appearance -weight, looks etc?

MummaBubba123 Wed 16-Jan-13 21:33:21

So, junk food for occasional use won't create cravings as they're wanting it more often? This is something I wonder often as I only give my children junk on occasion (birthday cake at birthday party, for example). No chocolate or sweets - they've never had it so they won't miss it. Or will they suddenly binge on it gd forbid, when they discover it as teenagers, etc.?

TunipTheVegedude Wed 16-Jan-13 21:34:16

'There are just two differences which really stand up and are important for parenting. That is - that girls are much more wired for social awareness, even at birth they respond to social cues more.'

That's the opposite of what Cordelia Fine's book says. It's called 'Delusions of Gender' btw. Did you read it? It's really good.

orangepudding Wed 16-Jan-13 21:34:27

I don't think a girl will find herself between 10 & 14, much older than that.

stevebiddulph Wed 16-Jan-13 21:34:42

I'm going to answer Guard now. I've been asked to put it on Guard's section, but still figuring that out. Here it is for now...

Dear Guard
There is simply nothing at all about sibling rivalry in the new book! But there is a great book Siblings without Rivalry, that is recommended by my friends at Parentline Plus.
Sometimes we have to look at the big picture - is there enough love to go around. When there is a shortage, everyone fights for it. But some kids need a lot more reassurance of their worth than others.

Have a look at the five stages of girlhood in the book, sometimes one of your girls has not got a stage quite completed, and they stay behaving immaturely as a result. Its not their fault, but gives you a guide to what might be needed to help her be more secure.

concessionsavailable Wed 16-Jan-13 21:35:27

I totally get where you are coming from with your answer about body image. It's not helped of course by nursery/ school etc. sending kids home with ideas about "naughty food" and "healthy food"- I've seen plenty of MN threads about this.

Since you ask, I can see that you need the stages to provide a frame for your book, but TBH I think I could cheerfully spend all evening taking them apart. Like Tunip I wondered in particular about the logic of gender differentiation. For example, in your view, from 5-10, is friendship not also the uppermost topic for boys? (Genuine question, I too don't want a pile-on on this thread!)

stevebiddulph Wed 16-Jan-13 21:36:45

This is for flow4 sorry I can't find your question now, but here's the answer...

Dear Flow4
These are very wise comments. Its true that these problems were sneaking up on us over several generations. However some problems have shown a doubling or tripling just over the last decade. Self harm, actual suicide (as opposed to attempting, are on the increase and anxiety/depression affect on in five. Age of first intercourse is falling. Multiple sexual partners is soaring in girls still at school.

Its true that girls tend to internalize while boys externalize. This pressure you talk about is one of the key reasons I wrote the book. Its simply become epidemic. “I hate my body” is something almost every parent hears now. But the origins of insecurity may arise in the early years, and just become evident in the teens when it all comes to a head.

Its been my life’s work to get dads more involved in parenting, and in fact (not due to me)
young fathers according to some studies are spending three times as much time with their
childen (in direct activityi with them) compared to a generation ago. I see that as being important to encourage and continue. Dads seem to be important to the self esteem of girls and the research links good fathering with a strong preventive role for premature sexual activity, dropping out of school, and many other risk factors.

There is a lot in the new book encouraging and going into the specifics of how dads can be around daughters. And do so sensitively and respectfully.

As I read it, Delusions of Gender demonstrated (rather well) that the research on girls being 'wired' for social awareness from birth is, well, suspect.

But, even assuming this to be true - could you help me to understand why it's a good idea to have 'tensions between [extreme] viewpoints'? I mean, I don't understand if you actually don't honestly believe your own work is right, or if you're just trying to be polite, you do believe your work is right, but you don't think anyone would be convinced by the scientific evidence, so it's not worth citing?

Excuse me if that sounds combative. I do hope it doesn't - I think these are fascinating topics.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Jan-13 21:38:04

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

stevebiddulph Wed 16-Jan-13 21:39:28

concessionsavailable

I totally get where you are coming from with your answer about body image. It's not helped of course by nursery/ school etc. sending kids home with ideas about "naughty food" and "healthy food"- I've seen plenty of MN threads about this.

Since you ask, I can see that you need the stages to provide a frame for your book, but TBH I think I could cheerfully spend all evening taking them apart. Like Tunip I wondered in particular about the logic of gender differentiation. For example, in your view, from 5-10, is friendship not also the uppermost topic for boys? (Genuine question, I too don't want a pile-on on this thread!)

Not with the same intensity. The differences are not black and white, but of degree. And the timing is different. But not every child is so clear cut.
Its a generalization that helps to a degree. But its not absolute.

HotheadPaisan Wed 16-Jan-13 21:39:52

Do you talk about girls and autism in your book? How about girls who don't conform to gender stereotypes? What advice do you give? Do you see many families where these things are going on via your therapy work?

MummaBubba123 Wed 16-Jan-13 21:40:25

MUMSNET:
SOMEONE IS POSTING WITHOUT MY PERMISSION USING MY IDENTITY!
How is this possible. I did NOT post the message I've copied and pasted below but it's come up with MY IDENTITY:
MummaBubba123 the whole point of asking for evidence is that most of us don't believe some girls are 'more boyish' than others or that there are a list of characteristics Of girl/boy. That's because there is no real evidence that that is the case. Innate gender differences aren't scientifically verifiable and making claims about testosterone boosts at any age without evidence to back it up is ethically and scientifically unsound.

stevebiddulph Wed 16-Jan-13 21:40:35

Dear Ontherunmum,

I can’t help noticing your nickname, and wonder if you see yourself as a person who has to hurry through life?
I am so pleased you are the first questioner who has read some of the book, even just i the extract in the newspaper, and it is resonating with you. I admire parents who actively seek ideas and try them out.
for size.

The more you can find calmness and happiness through activities you enjoy, friendship, meditation or sport, things for your own wellbeing, the better you will be able to show these qualities to your daughter.

Around thirteen, girls revisit a lot of baby issues and its a chance to put in some more affection and warmth, but you don’t have to wait for that if she is open to it.
We are all still growing ourselves up as we parent our children. You are very wise to have seen this intergenerational pattern, and so well on the way to breaking it and having a more relaxed life.

mumma, it comes up on my screen as SGM's post (hope that reassures you!)

stevebiddulph Wed 16-Jan-13 21:42:45

HotheadPaisan

Do you talk about girls and autism in your book? How about girls who don't conform to gender stereotypes? What advice do you give? Do you see many families where these things are going on via your therapy work?

There is some stuff about girls and Aspergers, as they are underdiagnosed.
Their more advanced social ability masks it, but they are very anxious nontheless.

MmeLindor Wed 16-Jan-13 21:43:04

Mummabubba
Calm down. Stewie answered your question and added your name at the beginning so that you would know she was referring to you.

No one has stolen your identity.

stevebiddulph Wed 16-Jan-13 21:43:35

Dear Jugglingfromheretothere

Glad you liked Secrets of Happy Children. That book has its thirtieth anniversary next year. Yes, I did hesitate to write a book about girls - for about fifteen years! But I think while women do have a head start in understanding girls, its totally appropriate for men to try and do their best to understand them too. Many women are involved in the new book, contributing chapters, and my wife Shaaron contributed hugely too. She basically taught me how to parent. I was deliberate in testing the new book on women readers and took four years to bring it to fruition. Good on you for being open minded, I’d love to know how you find it.

LesBOFerables Wed 16-Jan-13 21:44:16

I think you might be confused, love, because your name was bolded at the start of the sentence.

StewieGriffinsMom Wed 16-Jan-13 21:44:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Lessthanaballpark Wed 16-Jan-13 21:44:53

Steve,
you brought up an interesting point when you said "that girls are much more wired for social awareness", and the skills you listed focus on the importance of social interactions for girls and their self-esteem.

I wonder though, if we shouldn't be telling our girls to not WORRY SO MUCH about that kind of stuff, about being popular, & what people think of them, about the need to feel and show such empathy ( especially if it's natural for them anyway after all).

I think it's exhausting for girls this idea that they are the world leaders in empathy. It's so much pressure and I for one would have saved many hours of my life if I hadn't worried so much about being "a good girl" and appearing caring.

What do you think?

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