According to Maggie Dent, how we parent our girls from birth to 8 will determine their path as teens and young women. In her new title “Girlhood”, Maggie offers parents and guardians a compassionate guide to raising girls to become secure, connected, and confident in their teen years and beyond.
Advocating for free play, reduced scheduling, fewer screens and much more love, Maggie shows us how to best guide our daughters as they progress through childhood and navigate relationships, technology, and real-world challenges.
Exclusively for QBD blog readers, Maggie chats a little bit more about “Girlhood”. Let’s dive in!
When I gave birth to my third and fourth sons, I had so many people express their disappointment for me. Apparently in the eyes of many in my community, having boys was something to dread. Apparently, had I had girls I would’ve had a much easier time, as girls are full of ‘sugar and spice and all things nice’.
Even though I am a girl, and I had sisters, a mother and aunties — plus I taught and counselled girls, as well as facilitating women’s retreats for 15 years — I was surprised by so much when my granddaughters arrived.
I noticed how early girls become thinkers and problem solvers. My three-year-old granddaughter was able to solve a problem, which had the grown-ups stumped, in about a minute! I observed these little girls could go deep in questioning things, not only what is happening in their world, but what is happening in the outside world and often the confusing world of friendships.
The really long meltdowns that could last over an hour fascinated me. There was an intensity that I’d not witnessed in my own sons. You can never predict how little girls may respond in any given situation. Sometimes another little girl wearing the same coloured T-shirt at childcare might be a cause for celebration. Other times it results in a huge meltdown!
Then, I discovered their memories, in particular that they tend to remind Nanny (and their parents) about mainly painful and negative things that had occurred.
While I was writing my new book, Girlhood, I remembered very clearly in my own girlhood feeling disappointed on the Christmas before I began big school because my main present was a new school bag. Not only did I remember the experience, I felt the same emotions in my body – as a 67-year-old.
I’m not alone in this, as women who’ve read the book tell me. We don’t forget things that cause us pain, and it seems we still hold on to the emotional pain somewhere in our body.
That not only sucks, it helps explain why we women can be quite confusing and why we need to help today’s girls to make sense of these emotions, rather than shut them down or hide them. I was told “nice girls don’t get angry” and I needed therapy to help sort that rubbish out.
Girls’ emotional worlds are intense and complex in their formative years, before they develop the capacity to understand emotions, to learn how to express emotions and to learn how to move through emotions. They definitely need help from safe grown-ups to them work out how to navigate this craziness so that they can learn strategies and techniques that will help them, especially in the tween and teen years when everything amps up emotionally.
There is so much we can do for our girls in the early years of life that can build a strong foundation cognitively, emotionally, socially and spiritually, and the sooner we start the better.
Maggie Dent is a parenting author, educator and host of the ABC’s Parental As Anything podcast. Her new book, Girlhood, is out now.