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Do you notice a tendency to talk to little girls differently than boys? Could everyday communication be impacting girls' self-image and confidence? I tracked down an expert to get her thoughts, advice, and tips on how to talk to little girls. [Written by Jennifer van Hardenberg]
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“If you ever want to see heaven,
watch a bunch of young girls play. They are all sweat and skinned knees. Energy
and open faces.” ― Amy Poehler
Girls are really having a moment. Have you noticed? Everyone
is worried about societal pressures and girls’ levels of anxiety; how to focus
our energies on today’s girls to make up ongoing gender gaps in science,
technology and leadership; even big brands are picking up on renewed interest in
“Girl Power,” and running with it in ad campaigns and new products. But this
isn’t an article about the mores of mass media and its negative influence of on
self-esteem, nor an analysis of trends in advertising, nothing of the sort. As
the world got interested in girls, I got to thinking about the everyday
interactions that could make a difference in advancing the case for girls, and,
namely, how differences in how we talk to little girls could impact their
So I went to an expert. Megan Hedderick works with and
talks to little girls all day long. She is a teacher and principal at a local
all-girls independent school --- a school she attended herself as a student
back in the day, but that is a story for another time.
According to Megan, there is definitely a tendency to
gravitate to superficial conversation topics when talking to children – but
particularly when talking to girls. She believes strongly in the power of
communications (how we talk and what we say) to girls to forge stronger
relationships between adults and children, and to instill strong values and a
sense of self-worth.
Megan shared with me the following Top Five Tips for
Talking to Girls:
While it is oh-so tempting to compliment a little cutie’s appearance, try to
avoid the superficial and try asking questions about their interests instead. Megan
admits that she still catches herself sometimes – who could resist?
Lisa Bloom wrote about this in her
great article on this very same topic: “What's wrong with that? It's our
culture's standard talking-to-little-girls icebreaker, isn't it? And why not
give them a sincere compliment to boost their self-esteem?”
“What’s wrong with that” is that girls have great
ideas, so why not ask them about their interests and accomplishments to show
them you value their brain, not just their appearance.
Lisa Bloom has this suggestion: why not ask her about
what books she likes instead.
“Try this the next time you meet a little girl. She may be
surprised and unsure at first, because few ask her about her mind, but be
patient and stick with it. Ask her what she's reading. What does she like and
dislike, and why? There are no wrong answers. You're just generating an
intelligent conversation that respects her brain. For older girls, ask her
about current events issues: pollution, wars, school budgets slashed. What
bothers her out there in the world? How would she fix it if she had a magic wand?
You may get some intriguing answers. Tell her about your ideas and
accomplishments and your favorite books. Model for her what a thinking woman
says and does.”
But if you really can’t resist giving a compliment, why not
make it about an action or behaviour you’ve observed. Say, if they spoke up and
introduced themselves, why not compliment them on being brave or confident!
Megan fears that even with the best intentions, adults
have a tendency to steam roll over kids’ ideas to a certain extent. Adults are often
busy, or stressed, or think they guess what the child is trying to say so try
to help them get there faster, or simply think they know better. But if you
really slow down and take time to listen and understand and ask big questions,
kids have really wonderful ideas and love to share them if we open up. Lawrence
Cohen, Ph.D., co-author of Mom, They’re Teasing Me, has
this to say:
“When we talk to girls, they often experience it as us
talking at them, and they not only stop listening, they stop thinking and
reflecting. But when we listen to them, they have to think about what they are
saying, and they tend to reflect more. And we need to keep an open dialogue —
we can’t dismiss their chatter about ups and downs of friendship as trivial,
and then expect them to talk to us about the important stuff.”
Kids have incredible natural instincts. Little girls
can read you like a book and can tell when you’re being superficial or fake.
That means first impressions are key. By being genuine, not making assumptions,
and making a good first impression, you’re set to build connections based on
trust that girls will remember from one interaction to the next.
Helping parents understand the power of communication
is an important topic, reinforces Dr Allison Rees, a local parenting coach and
therapist --- who recently presented on the topic of self-esteem at St. Margaret’s School. She says that the language we use with our kids gives girls a sense of
self-worth and confidence that sets them up for all future interactions and
challenges. Put quite simply, Dr. Rees explains: “Healthy self-esteem is the
basis for her ability to respond to future failure.”
What do you think? Are you good at talking to kids? Do
you notice tendencies to talk to girls differently than boys?
Raising Powerful girls
from PBS Parents
How to Talk to Little Girls
by Lisa Bloom
St. Margaret’s School will host a Kindergarten Orientation for parents interested in early learning (preschool, JK, kindergarten, grade 1) on Thursday, January 21 at 4pm. Details and RSVP
“Little girls are cute and small only to adults. To one another they are not cute. They are life sized.” ― Margaret Atwood, Cat's Eye
Posted by GeanieMarie on Jan 9 '16, 8:23 p.m. |
| Flag as abuse
I absolutely love this! And it is very, very true! I try not to compliment a girl right off the bat on how cute she looks....I raised 3 of them and did not want my girls to be one who are sooo particular about how they look. Girls/women are much more than physical beauty and I try to instill that in all young ladies I meet. And my fiance is wonderful with little girls also, though there are only boys in his family. They gravitate towards him and he interacts with them very well.
Posted by Elizabeth G on Jan 10 '16, 4:31 a.m. |
| Flag as abuse
I love this post. I can't stand people who talk baby talk to kids and people do it more to little girls. A compliment is okay as long as you have a positive conversation with them as well.
Posted by Nicky S on Jan 11 '16, 10:54 a.m. |
| Flag as abuse
I most appreciate your thoughts on complimenting actions rather than appearances. For any young girl, it is the first step to success and true confidence. Even as adults, we get enough superficiality slammed into our faces every day with ads and the internet.
Posted by Kendall O on Jan 14 '16, 2:29 p.m. |
| Flag as abuse
Omg, this is so true! Thanks for pointing out these things, I completely agree with your points raised, and though some of these points seem so obvious when you think about it, it is definitely easy to forget, or not even realise what you're actually saying. It's such a struggle for females, and gender equality and fighting stereotypes, we've definitely come along way, but there is still progress to be made, and where better to start then at the start, when they are young. Great post! Thanks for sharing!
Posted by user_11389 on Jan 15 '16, 6:54 a.m. |
| Flag as abuse
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