Sue Scheff: Parenting Daughters is Unique – Learn about The Girls’ Bill of Rights

What a fantastic educational article written by one of my favorite educators, Jane Balvanz.  She gave me permission to share it.  Especially if you have a daughter, it is a great read!

The Girls’ Bill of Rights

By Jane Balvanz

At one time girls were considered “sugar and spice and everything nice.”  It was proper they were seen and not heard, ate like a bird, portrayed themselves as unintelligent, and sought to reach the pinnacle of catching a husband.

Times have changed, and there are new unwritten rules.  As girls strive to fit in, they worry about doing it all: getting good grades, looking perfect, performing well in extra-curricular activities, and having the right friends.  The result is stress laced with insecurity, often resulting in eating disorders, anxiety, and depression.  Will they ever be enough?

As everyday stressors mount, it’s time to let our girls know they are enough.  They do not have to do or be anything to be valued.  Their sheer existence is enough.  Let’s help them grow to become strong, self-actualized women by guaranteeing them The Girls’ Bill of Rights.  They are what girls need to get through relational aggression, solve friendship problems, build self-esteem, and become self-assured.

1. The Right to Love Yourself Unconditionally 

To love yourself unconditionally means to love yourself just the way you are.  You do not have to do more, have more, or be more.  Your size and shape do not matter nor do the clothes you wear, the amount of money your family has, your talents, or how smart you are.  Be proud of your culture and your background. All of these things make you unique.  There is no guarantee others will love you unconditionally.  You will have to love and respect yourself.  Through loving yourself, you will be able to give and receive more love.

Do you love your child as she is?  She has a unique temperament, personality, strengths, deficits, and ways of being which define her.  Do not devalue these gifts by wishing her to be different – especially within her earshot.  The girl who is loved unconditionally learns to accept herself and others.  When you love a girl unconditionally, you allow her to be herself.

2. The Right to Speak Up

You have the right to express your opinions, thoughts, and feelings. 

Do you allow girls to speak up?  Everyone has the right to her own opinions and thoughts. Help girls express themselves through the filter of civility rather than censorship.  A girl who is allowed to speak up learns to speak her mind rather than swallow her feelings or disregard her thoughts.

3. The Right to Explore Your World   

You have the right to be curious, ask questions, explore, get dirty, have fun, and learn.

Do you allow girls to explore?  Foster curiosity.  A girl who is allowed to satisfy her curiosity learns to make discoveries, decisions, and widen her horizons.

4. The Right to Question Authority

You have the right to wonder if adults are right.  No one is right all of the time and this includes adults.  It’s OK to speak up and express your opinion when you disagree with an adult.  Not all adults will like this, but if you approach them respectfully, you will have a better chance of being heard.

Do you allow girls to question authority? There is rarely one right way to do or think about anything. We all learn from each others’ differences.  Children need adult guidance, but listening to kids’ viewpoints enlightens us.  A girl who can question authority learns to develop a backbone, think independently, and value herself.

5. The Right to Make Mistakes

You have the right to mess up.  No one is perfect; we all make mistakes.  That’s how we learn.  Don’t get stuck thinking you need to be perfect or you’re stupid if you make mistakes.  A wise girl takes a lesson away from each mistake.

Do you allow girls to make their own mistakes?  There is an instinct to protect our kids from making big mistakes.  They do need our guidance; however, mistakes create opportunities to learn. A girl who is allowed to make mistakes is less inclined toward fear and perfectionism and more inclined toward self-efficacy.

6. The Right to Experience the Natural Consequences of Your Actions

You have the right to know that almost everything you do causes something else to happen.  When you practice something, you usually get better at what you are trying to do.  If you don’t practice, you don’t improve.  If you work on making friends, you will probably get friends.  If you treat others unkindly, you may not have any friends.

When was the last time you allowed a girl to experience natural consequences? Sheltering a girl from the world creates fear and dependency.  When allowed to experience natural consequences of their actions, girls learn resiliency and responsibility. 

7. The Right to Have and Express Your Own Feelings

Your feelings are your own, and no one has the right to tell you not to feel a certain way or to tell you what you’re feeling is wrong.  Feelings are feelings.  You can’t turn them on or off just because someone tells you to.  Your feelings are guides that give you information.  They help you know things like when to stop something or when to keep on doing what you’re doing.

Do you ever tell a girl what she should or shouldn’t feel?  Denying a girl the opportunity to own and express her feelings creates confusion and self-doubt.  Adults unwittingly create this situation with good intentions.  We often tell girls not to be sad, mad, or scared to protect them from hurt.  A girl who learns to have and express her own feelings learns to become strong and trust her own intuitions.

8. The Right to Make Choices

You have the right to make choices in many areas.  Parents or other adults may guide you, and you won’t always get your way.  The older you get, the more choices you will have.  Especially with friendships, you have the right to choose ones that feel good.  You can choose to let go of friendships that make you feel sad or miserable.

Do you allow girls opportunities to make choices? Many choices are already made for them as they enter the world.  The hospital provides the pink hat while friends give the “I’m a Princess” tee shirt.  Grandparents scour toy stores for “girl toys.”  Allow girls early on to make choices unencumbered by the media or others’ definitions of what a girl should be.  Let girls follow their natural instincts.  A girl who is allowed to make choices learns to value herself as an individual without worrying about what others think.

 9. The Right to Be Yourself 

You have the right to be exactly who you are and express yourself in ways that say, “This is me!”  What you like and dislike makes you who you are.  Some girls like to hang out indoors while some like to play soccer outdoors.  Some like playing soccer indoors.  Whether you are artsy, sporty, geeky, musical, natural, girly, noisy, quiet, or anything else, YOU are YOU!  You are a wonder.

Do you allow your girl to be herself?  Is it OK with you if she dresses in plaids and stripes together?  Will you let her sing songs off key at the top of her lungs?  Is she allowed to dig in the dirt, conduct experiments, and engage in what she enjoys?  Kids like to be like their parents or other adults they respect.  They will try out many ways of being just to see how it fits them.  Respect these choices, for it’s through trying out different roles that girls learn who they are.

© 2010 A Way Through, LLC

Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

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