Raising teen girls: Some reflections on a decent new article


This article from the WSJ isn't exactly groundbreaking, but offers some good reminders concerning the basics of helping teen girls mature in a healthy way that predicts success as an adult (click here for article).

I think the most salient point discussed is the idea that arguments are a good thing. Teaching your kids that arguments and fights are two different things is a pretty rare parenting achievement, given that most parents don't know the difference. Calm, respectful arguments show kids how to have healthy relationships later on, and establish parents as positive authority figures whose decisions are thoughtful. More on that later.

Moving on, the bit about preventing "rumination" is great--how not having an outlet for social problem-solving predicts depression. Having open lines of communication helps as they say, but the suggestion that steering teen girls toward volunteer work and activities that involve helping others is excellent advice. The prison of the mind is where a lot of depression originates, not the other way around.

One important point is left out, and that is the principle of choosing one's battles. For instance, girls much more often than boys want to experiment with new "looks" when exploring their identity. Say a girl's grades are A's and B's and her friends are positive and college-bound. Say she wants to dye her hair blue or get an extra ear piercing. If the parent of such a girl takes a die-hard stand on blue hair, all the parent accomplished was to reinforce the stereotype that people who look different don't get good grades. Such a parent would do better to challenge the girl to earn the blue hair with straight A's. Hair grows out, but devaluing academics predicts negative life decisions that cannot be undone. The take-home: Learn the difference between productive or harmless expressions of individuality, versus trying to fit in with an unhealthy peer group. This is actually a good example of what might come of a healthy argument over the blue hair or piercing, in which the girl's voice is heard, and the parent takes that into account when expressing authority.