I told you to be on the look out for my post about my favorite 2012 MOPS Convention workshop: Raising Girls. And here it finally it is! The workshop was entitled, Raising Girls: What Our Daughters Need to Hear from Us. The speaker was Alexandra Kuykendall, who was fabulous by the way! This was my favorite workshop because this is an issue very near and dear to my heart. Our world today has created such a contradicting, obscure, and crude representation of women and girls. I’m going to try to keep my personal opinions out of this post as much as possible, because the cold, hard facts are very important, and I really want you to get that. So I’m just going to give you the run down based on our handout and the notes I took.
Alexandra began the workshop by pointing out the different aspects of girls’ unique needs. The first aspect discussed was the simple biology of what we know about girls and boys. One major difference lies in their hormones. Girls have more estrogen, which is the most influential hormone surging through their bodies, it is otherwise known as the “intimacy hormone”, and is actually acquired during the stage of infantile puberty which is 6 months to 30 months. The second major difference is the brain difference in girls. Studies show that brain development for females occurs from left to right. This is important because we know that the left side of the brain is the language center of the brain. This is why we women talk so much! LOL! No, really! Studies have also shown that the first five years of a child’s life are the most crucial in terms of brain development. Now, if you’ve ever taken and child psychology class you probably learned why this is, and exactly how it all works. I won’t bore everyone with all those details, but it is very interesting and I do encourage you to do your research on it. Anyhow, we also know that the brain of a female produces more serotonin and more oxytocin. Girls also have a higher sensory intake.
Now, as we get into the next part on cultural influences, keep all that information in mind. In today’s society, our little girls are a highly targeted market. Females in general are. None of this is by coincidence. You see, these companies actually have some pretty smart people working for them, because they have done the research to know that that brand consciousness develops at 24 months old. Yes, you’re two year old knows certain brands from others! The are able to associate symbols, melodies, etc. with that brand. You’re girls especially! Bet you never thought that! I know I didn’t! As if all that weren’t a big enough battle, there are three little words Alexandra gave us: spoiled, sexy and six. Our children are being marketed to by stores, brands, even television shows. They are taught to be spoiled…because that’s what’s cool! And at about the tender age of six, they are taught that they need to be sexy. Dolls become sexier, the people they watch on t.v. channels, yes, even the kid channels are becoming sexier, and the clothes become sexier. Once a little girl graduates out of the baby/toddler clothing section (usually at the age of six) the style of clothing changes greatly. Everything you see is mini adult. Children should not be encourage to dress like mini adults. This is something that I noticed with my daughter. She is five and now wearing a size six, but I have a very difficult time finding her clothing that is age appropriate. The pants are all low rise, the shorts are too short, the skirts are too short, the shirts are too fitting, or have skulls on them. I could go on and on! We have to protect our daughters! Be conscience in what you buy them. Six is also an age where they start asking more questions about the things they see. Answer only as much as they are asking. Sometimes they are only looking for a very short, simple answer, but we tend to give them way to much information when they are asking questions that make us squirm a little.
The second part of our handout went into the idea of mom’s unique influence. As moms, we are the perspective giver, we are our daughter’s number one influence, and we should want to be a good one. It is okay to embrace the inner princess in your daughter without making her spoiled. Celebrate the fact that she is a girl! Help her discover her talents. Let her try what she wants to try. She will fail at times, and that is okay, and we moms have to teach our daughters that failure is okay. We are all human, and we can not be perfect and good at everything. Always, always, always point out her good qualities. Praise her good qualities every chance you get. You are molding her and building her self-esteem. Another great point: encourage her relationship with dad. Daddies are so important to the life of our girls, to their self-esteem, and their future. If your daughter’s dad isn’t around, find someone who can be that father figure for her…a grandfather, an uncle, etc. Encourage your husband to spend quality time with your daughter, help him set up special dates for just the two of them. Encourage him to offer her prompt words of affirmation as much as possible. Encourage physical touch between them…hugs, kisses, tickle games. Let her know he loves and adores her. Encourage dad to give special gifts to her at times. Sometimes he may need a little help from you on this. Pick up something you know she’s been wanting and give it to him to give to her. Lastly, teach her the importance of serving her daddy because daddy does so much to serve her. In my home, I often remind my daughter how daddy goes out and works very hard every day so that we can be home together and have all the wonderful things we have. This is how I taught her to be responsible for her room and keep it up. It is a way to show daddy that she appreciates him and what he does, and she appreciates all that she has because of him. As moms, we also need to limit the media use in our homes. Be aware of what is on television, the radio, the internet, and use those media moments as teachable moments every chance you get. If you don’t think a show is age appropriate or content appropriate, don’t allow it. Do not be afraid to say no! Your kids…your daughters, especially, want boundaries. It is the only way that we can teach them values, right and wrong, morals, etc. Lastly, we need to always remind her of who God says she is. She needs to know that you believe what you are telling her is true about you, too. Boy, this was a hard one for me. It hit me like a ton of bricks! It was that day I had to let go of a lot! If your daughter sees you always dieting and saying you’re fat, she will come to believe the same about herself. You may tell her every single day that she is beautiful, but if she sees you, or hears you putting down something about yourself, she will (at some point) stop believing what you tell her, and start believing she has the same issues with herself as you have. Ladies, that is powerful!! We live in a world telling us everyday that we are not skinny enough, not tall enough, not blonde enough, not sexy enough, not pretty enough, not good enough! And I’ve had about enough of it! I’ve spent 25 years believing the lie, and this single message broke that belief for me. I had always heard God made me in his image, he made me just how he wanted me, he loves me no matter what, etc., etc. etc. But…I never truly believed I was pretty enough, good enough, etc. Now I do! I truly believe that about myself because I have a daughter that I truly do believe that about, and I want her to believe it about herself.
The last part of our workshop was a list of messages that your daughter needs to hear from you, mom.
- She is chosen and dearly loved. (Colossians 3:12)
- She is a citizen of heaven. (Philippians 3:20) – Teach her to follow God’s rules.
- She is Christ’s friend. (John 15:15) – Friends are human and will let you down, but Jesus is always there.
- She is forgiven. (Ephesians 1:8) – Model asking forgiveness & giving it. Catch her doing well. Focus on her relationship with Christ
- God looks at her inner beauty. (1 Peter 3:4) – Compliment her on things that are NOT physical. Be proactive…figure out how to grow these qualities in her.
- She uniquely reflects the creator. (Genesis 1:27) – She will have your features, so teach her to love them. If you are dieting, focus on health..not being on a diet.
- She has special gifts and talents. (Romans 12:8) – Offer role models with similar gifts. Celebrate her uniqueness! Don’t let different be bad! Recognize your values, and if they match her gifts.
- She is responsible for her actions. (2 Corinthians 5:10) – Separate yourself from her. God gave her free will. Chores develop responsibility. Have consequences for bad behavior.
- She is part of a family. (Ephesians 2:19) – Tell her the family needs her and she has responsibilities. Serve together!
- She is a messenger of hope. (Mark 16:15) – …to those around her. She is a gift! Remind her words have power. Offer do-overs. Always check yourself, too.
I hope you get as much out of this information as I did. This is just such an important topic, especially in today’s world. I’m sorry if it isn’t the easiest read and overwhelms you with information, but I just wanted to get the facts to you. You might consider re-reading it in a day or so to really get it all, or break it up over a few days, because it is a lot of information. And I didn’t even include all the little ideas she gave to go along with some of the stuff. Anyhow, thanks for reading!