I had fun this week participating on a show on Studio 5 at KSLTV that was the brain child of darling Brooke Walker who co-anchors the show. An audience of bright young mothers raising daughters was there to be part of the conversation about raising daughters in a world that is encouraging girls from a very young age to become divas (prima donas) who think they are entitled to what they want when they want it and who think they can say what they want in whatever tone of voice they desire. And we have to admit that often when they say “jump” their parents should say “how high?”
Brooke asked for specific things we can do to instead nurture good, solid, grounded girls who will in become all they can be without feeling that they need to be constantly pampered and coddled.
There are so many culprits in this “case” and the following are a few of them along with some possible solutions that we discussed on the show.
Problem: Parents and Grandparents
Solution: Make kids earn their “stuff” instead of just giving them whatever they want.
I think parents who have their kids pay or help pay for clothes, jewelry, electronics (the “I wants”) through jobs around the house or a reasonable allowance, does wonders to keep their daughters from getting caught up in that diva mentality. In talking with our daughter with four daughters of her own in Arizona, who lives in what just may be the diva capital of the world, she says that she sees so many mothers jumping through hoops whenever their girls want something new to get it for them. Here is what she says: “Mothers [and grandmothers] often do this with good hearts. Now that my girls are getting a little older I see this entitlement attitude a lot and it usually comes from the girls who are waited on hand and foot by their parents. They are still really nice girls (most of them) but I think of their poor future husbands who won’t be able to keep up with them because they’ve been given so much. Such a tough balance because I know so many parents who just want their kids to have a good life, so they give it to them any way they can.”
Problem: The Media
Solution: Teach girls from a very young age to be critics.
Everywhere we look — on TV, in movies, on billboards and magazines — there are sexualized images of females, from very young girls to women. Instead of just tolerating it or being disgusted by it, mothers and grandmothers can take the opportunity when they see things that are inappropriate to talk about what is right and wrong about what they see (e.g., “She has a beautiful smile, and it looks as though she’s having lots of fun, but what do you think about what she is wearing, saying, thinking?”) It will be a heads-up for these girls to start looking at media with a critical eye. If we do this often enough with our daughters/granddaughters, we can give them a sense of what is appropriate and what is not, therefore helping them to be critics even when we aren’t sitting by them.
Solution: Set limits and be consistent.
It’s so much easier to buy it for them, do the work for them, give in to pressure, but it’s so important to hold the line. One example is to set limits on cell phone use. Our daughter with teenagers with cell phones has them turn them in before they go to bed (otherwise the texting goes on all night). My favorite three words when my daughters came to me with “But Amy gets to go…,” or “But Emily’s mom just got her a new…designer skirt” was, “Well I’m so happy for Amy/Emily. BUT….in our family….this is the way we do it. They may hate you for it at the moment, but as my mom used to say when I had to practice the violin for hours every day while my friends were all out playing, “Someday you’ll thank me for this.” And I do!
We also need to be consistent when our girls are sassy and sarcastic. When a daughter comes back with a nasty or irritating response or comment it helps to say, “Let’s start over.” It’s an immediate heads-up way give the daughter the signal that what she just said was not an appropriate response to what just happened and a signal that we are going to try that again until they get it right. It sometimes requires three or four tries before that young lady gets the right response in the right tone of voice!
Problem: Self Centeredness
Kabi Catalano, the director of special projects for the Girl Scouts of Utah joined us on the show. She drove home the importance of getting girls to give service in the community to help them get outside of themselves. We agreed that it was crucial to get our daughters out of “their bubble” with service whether it be taking a dinner to a needy neighbor or helping servie a dinner at the family homeless shelter. It’s a great way to help them get over themselves!
Whether you are a parent or a grandparent, it’s important to think about antidotes for these ever-present issues with our girls. Even though it is not our intent to create divas who think the world owes them what they want, it is essential to work on the antidotes for “divahood”!