Raising Girls by Steve Biddulph

modified 2018-11-02

First processed 2018-10-27

Review

The quickest and best use of anger is to voice it. Teach your daughter to say ‘I don’t like that’ in a strong voice, to glare, and stick her chin out: ‘Leave me alone’, or to walk away while staring at the person who has insulted her or hurt her. Actually practise this with her, coach her to look and sound tough.

Biddulph covers the many things that can go wrong for young girls (this is the terrifying part of the book) and his suggestions for how to avoid them (this was reassuring, since I felt his suggestions were sensible).

The general approach he suggests is ‘Supportive but firm’. Biddulph is not a fan of the ‘fun’ parent who tries to be their child’s best friend instead of providing boundaries. On the other hand, he frequently gives examples of how parents can provide the necessary environment, tools, and people to help their children develop.

Highlights

Page: 1 Girls aren’t born hating their bodies. They aren’t born hating their lives. Something was happening that was poisoning girls’ spirits. It seemed to come on in the early teens, but was creeping younger and younger every year.

Page: 7 Everywhere she looks, today’s young girl sees messages that make her feel she is not good enough, that imprison her in cramped and narrow ideas of how she is supposed to look, think and act. Never before has girlhood been under such a sustained assault, ranging through everything from diet ads, alcohol marketing, fashion pressures, to the inroads of hard pornography into teenage bedrooms. The result is that many girls have lost four years of childhood peace and development. They are being forced out of childhood when they have not yet completed it, or even fully enjoyed it. The result is girls in enormous pain and confusion. They try to act grown-up but they can’t. They are filling up the mental health clinics, the police stations and emergency rooms, the alcohol and drug treatment programmes in numbers never seen before.

100 years ago, she might have been pregnant at 13, no?

Page: 8 Genevieve is close to her mother, and accustomed to talking over pretty much everything in her life with her. In fact, her mother joked that for every hour spent with Justin, Genevieve spent another hour discussing what had taken place, what he said, what it might mean, what she said back, and so on! While many girls do this detailed debriefing with their friends, Genevieve was used to discussing her innermost thoughts with her mum, and so this new problem naturally became part of their ongoing conversation.

nice

Page: 9 This remarkably sensible mother had a low-key but thoughtful response to her daughter’s questions. Instead of ‘laying down the law’ as a first strategy, she simply helped Genevieve to explore her own wants. What did she feel she wanted? What was her body telling her? What did she think was the course of action she would feel good about, long term? She did this in a quiet, casual kind of way that gave Genevieve real space to reflect.

Page: 10 Life in these places was hard, but the locals still managed to laugh and be warm to each other. (When I came back to affluence, everyone seemed miserable.) The experience convinced me: we are supposed to be happy. We are not meant to be depressed. Especially not at 15 years of age. Girlhood is supposed to be fun, with friends young and old, adventures in young love, mastery of new skills and abilities. Its dramas should be dramas of learning and growing, not being battered and damaged.

Creating a Total Girl

The Five Stages of Girlhood

Stage 1: Security – Am I safe and loved? (birth–2 years)

Stage 2: Exploring – Is the world a fun and interesting place? (2–5 years)

Page: 15 This is the age when your daughter can be shown how to paint, poke, build, create and enjoy the world of things, animals and people. If the people who love her share some of these activities with her, she will pick up on their enthusiasm and pleasure in making and doing. Her brain becomes permanently switched on to learning. You will have taught her that life is an adventure. Strange, new and challenging things will be a joy for her for the rest of her

Stage 3: People skills – Can I get along with others? (5–10 years)

Page: 16 Your daughter finds that she can have better fun by sharing a little, giving way a little, co-operating and playing together, than if she is just on her own. This isn’t possible until about three or four years of age, and even then it’s hard. But by learning first from Mum or Dad, and then other people, she can work out that she is not the centre of the universe. Other people have feelings too.

Stage 4: Finding her soul – Can I discover my deep-down self and what makes me truly happy? (10–14 years)

Page: 16 These are the years in which she begins to strengthen the ‘inside’ of her deep self – who she really is. It’s a time when she needs help to think about what she stands for, and cares most deeply about, and also what her interests and passions are.

Page: 16 By gaining an identity through doing and believing, and strengthening her inner world, a girl will be freer from the need for approval that haunts many teen girls and makes them conformist and dull. > !

Stage 5: Stepping into adulthood – Can I take responsibility for my own life? (14–18 years)

Page: 17 Sometime between 14 and adulthood a girl needs some kind of marker event, a growing-up rite, an experience or even misfortune which teaches her that she is now at the steering wheel of her own life. That she literally holds her life in her own hands. This is a frightening realisation, but frightening in a good way. By steadying herself, and by receiving the welcome and support of older women, she can leave behind childishness or harmful gullibility, and be accountable, connected to consequences and proactive in making her life worthwhile.
Page: 17 Girls have to be deliberately and proactively launched into healthy womanhood. When this is done well, the results are impressive. A girl takes charge of her life and makes her unique way in the world.

Page: 19 Girls enter puberty about two years sooner than boys do, turning into young women overnight when the boys seem to be standing still. And finally, they become adult sooner – girls’ brain development finishes several years before boys finally get there in their early twenties! It’s as if Nature says to girls: you’d better grow up ahead of the game, you will need your wits about you!

Page: 20 And finally, in your late teens, did you have a clear transition to being adult, where you felt that you took control of your own life, faced the consequences of your actions, and had a sense of power as well as a purpose? > Did I? Japan trip at 17 maybe

Page: 22 or some more help to find out what is wrong. Be sure you find out the reason why she is stressed, if there is no obvious explanation. There may be something she needs to tell you that she is finding hard to talk about. Be gentle on yourself, too, so she can see that everyone needs nurture and to slow down. Lowering your whole family’s stress levels with holidays, having one day of the week as a rest day, and less overscheduling generally, means that she won’t be as likely to go into overload. Often a stressed child is an indicator that the whole family needs to slow down.

Right from the Start (Birth–2 years)

Page: 34 There is something else even more important: setting an example of fun. Your daughter learns most by watching you. If you are happy, exuberant, silly and fun with her at those times that it is appropriate (i.e. not when driving the car), then her capacity for being happy will grow. If you are friendly to people you meet, enjoy getting your clothes on, sing while you shower, are kind to people in shops or in the street, speak well of people, get cross when you see something unjust or wrong, then your daughter will be taking in and making these attitudes her own, from a surprisingly young age. > yes

Learning to Explore (2–5 years)

Page: 44 Because learning and fun are the same thing for a happy child, in the years from one to five your daughter will do more self-educating than thousands of pounds in school fees could ever buy for her later on. It’s very sad when parents are too busy earning in the toddler years to have time to play and do things with their littlies. And it’s pretty tragic if when those kids actually get to school, the love of exploring has died inside them. Kids learn to love life and learning from the adults around them. On top of their natural curiosity, they will also follow ours and catch our enthusiasm. Watch an experienced mother or father on a bus with a toddler and you will see that they point things out to them with feeling. If you are excited (or even pretend to be, just a little) she will catch your mood.

Page: 46 Think for a minute about your attitude to insects, bugs or nature in the raw. If you say ‘Ick, horrible ants, aargh, get away!’ then of course your daughter will be scared of them too. But if you say ‘wow, have a look at this …’ she will catch your attitude. It doesn’t mean she should poke into spider’s nests or pick up death adders, but you can teach her a sensible interest and she will be fascinated for the rest of her life. It’s the same with machines, the insides of cars and computers, garden sheds, tools and making stuff, craft work, music making, art and sculpture, cooking, dancing, loving being in the forest or at the beach, these are all ‘caught’ from grown-ups around you.

Page: 46 be sure to get these tidied away and orderly after each session, and get your daughter’s help to do this. Then it’s encouraging to start each new play session without having to wade through yesterday’s mess. You can also alternate; crayons one day, paints the next, glue and tearing up coloured paper another, so there is more sense of new adventures to be had.

Page: 47 There is an important principle, discovered by psychologist Kim Payne, author of the wonderful book Simplicity Parenting,9 which is that a clutter of toys and materials actually makes for less play – it’s all too much choice – whereas a few simple things, in a box ready for getting out, leaves more scope for imagination. If your child’s bedroom is already awash with toys, quietly take away the less favourite ones, bag or box them, for use another time. When your daughter looks at a sea of teddies, dolls, games and bits of creation cascading all over the floor or all over her room, she feels the way you do – exhausted. And really, does anyone need more than two teddies? Well, okay, three. > Yes

Page: 50 Whole nations have experienced this through over-demanding schooling for the under-sixes. The result is a total lack of creativity, a population that is cowed, conformist and compliant. By six or seven, a girl is ready for some (not too much) serious learning imposed from the outside. Her brain has moved on to a whole different stage. If it comes too soon, though, it actually harms her intellect, and her eventual ability to be talented and bright.

Page: 52 This is the first batch of young women to have been influenced by a society hell bent on fast-tracking them into womanhood and the first place we’re going to see the results is in the fashion choices they make. What struck me more than the bare skin was how homogenised their look was. Everyone was dressed identically. It was a sea of tiny, cut-off denim shorts and fluro crop tops. Teenagers have always copied one another – it’s normal to dress the same way as your friends – but there used to be so much more diversity and self-expression. > Same for boys in the UK, they look like they’re dressed up as someone, same hair, same clothes, same shoes!

Page: 56 Imagine your child has done something ‘naughty’ – disobeyed, hit somebody, broken something in a tantrum, drawn all over the bathroom with felt pens – in that situation we would take them to a place that’s away from distractions – a corner, a wall, a nook somewhere – and tell them to stand there and talk to us. If they don’t co-operate, we tell them to stay there until they can. (With a really stroppy toddler, you might have to carry them there, or hold them there.) Wait until they say they are ready to deal with you.

Page: 57 Some people think discipline is about ‘winning’ or ‘beating’ your child. But that’s not the goal – you actually want to make them stronger. To help them be clearer about how to handle themselves, their emotions, and be able to think really well even when they have strong feelings.

Page: 58 There’s always a sequence in teaching a child: Do it for them. Do it with them. Watch while they do it. Let them do it themselves.

Page: 59 In our work we’ve talked to kids who are paraplegic or brain injured or had friends die in a car, or were raped after going with strangers to somewhere far from help. Inevitably they say, ‘I didn’t think anything bad would happen’ or, essentially, ‘I was confused and didn’t take charge of myself’. Discipline teaches you to think well under pressure, and to speak up for yourself. It teaches you how to have boundaries. In short, how to be strong. If you can say to your child ‘I’m not comfortable about that’, ‘That’s wrong’, then they will be able to use those very same words one day in a situation where they really need to. It’s a very great gift that every young person needs. > Damn

Getting Along with Others (5–10 years)

Page: 64 It can get very intense. One of the shocking things, to parents as well as to children themselves, is how rough and heartless kids can sometimes be. But it’s simply that they haven’t learned to mask their emotions. They can hate fiercely, but briefly, and then all is forgiven. We shouldn’t get involved unless violence threatens or someone comes running to get us. Even when that happens, try to avoid taking sides, but give them a chance to chill out and recover their poise. They will usually bounce back, and the game will have moved on.

Page: 64 Under-fives will tell everything to anyone, and can be very embarrassing at times, but from five to ten most children are intensely loyal to their families. In therapy, a girl of this age will rarely speak about her mother’s drinking or her father’s anger, for example. She needs her family so much that she feels drawn to protect

Page: 65 Just as we comforted them about their friends, in primary school, their friends comfort them about us in secondary school.

Page: 68 Girls ideally also need friends who are young women, half a generation older, savvy and yet youthful enough to relate to them with understanding. They need older women in their 60s and 70s too, grandmother figures, who offer a grounded, wise and comforting presence. They also need smaller or younger children who look up to them, get cuddles from them, and give them a taste of the joys of nurturing and being depended on, to relieve them of self-obsession and too much inwardness. They need boys or men friends who have no partnering or sexual intent towards them, so that they can expand out of those anxieties and see themselves as more completely human.

Page: 68 Belonging to a church, sporting group, community project or activist group exposes her to friendships with people who barely give a thought to weight, fashion or boys and yet are miraculously happy and alive!

Page: 76 From the age of five, sometimes your daughter will go to someone’s house and be away from your immediate protection. You need to know she is safe. One strategy is to have a ‘secret word’ or phrase that she can use when she rings you, one that lets you know she doesn’t feel right, or that something is making her uncomfortable. You and she can memorise this word and its use, very seriously, for whenever it’s needed. For instance, she can ask to phone you and say ‘my shoes are hurting’, or ‘I saw an eagle today’ (a code word you make up together is best) which means ‘Please come and get me straight away’. You will probably never need this secret word, but if you do, it’s very helpful. Even discussing this alerts her to the idea that some places and people don’t feel right, and if you notice that, we will always rescue you.

Page: 77 The quickest and best use of anger is to voice it. Teach your daughter to say ‘I don’t like that’ in a strong voice, to glare, and stick her chin out: ‘Leave me alone’, or to walk away while staring at the person who has insulted her or hurt her. Actually practise this with her, coach her to look and sound tough.

Page: 79 There is a very important consequence of this, while well-loved children are attracted to peaceful, caring and warm friends and partners, girls with ‘tend and befriend’ patterns will feel most comfortable around angry/depressed people, who unconsciously remind them of mum. These girls will have a strong belief system that it’s their job to choose someone with mood swings, or violent tendencies, and try to fix them. I don’t have to spell out what a problem this can become.

Page: 88 Don’t make puberty sound like a big negative, it’s really important to convey the excitement and amazement of being a woman. Some people have a special mother, aunties, grandmas and daughter grown-up dinner, or go camping together or to a nice hotel. Some people devise rituals or sharing times for their daughter with the women who love her. Celebrate. This is a time for honouring and appreciating your daughter’s success in growing up well. > Puberty ritual sounds good

Finding Her Soul (10–14 years)

Page: 90 The years from 10 to 14 are far more important than most people realise – they are not something to skip over. This is a time of intense preparation. We have to help girls to stay in this place and not to rush into premature attempts at being grown-up, for which they are far from ready. If you take nothing else from this chapter, or even this whole book, please take this: girls from 10 to 14 years old need more, not less, of our time, interest and availability.

Page: 91 The key to your daughter finding herself, and beginning to really blossom as a person, at age 10 to 14 (or younger), might be as simple as this, ask her ‘What do you really love to do?’, then, ‘How can I help you to do that?’ ‘What are the obstacles to doing it that I can help you overcome?’ ‘Who else do we need to get on board (at school, or in the community) to be able to do that?’ > Her own personal Elon Musk

Page: 95 There is another reason why an activity or interest enriches or strengthens a girl, it provides her with an alternative reference group that may give her a much larger and more positive view of herself. Often girls are trapped with only one friendship group – the accidental assemblage of same-age girls they meet at school. Apart from home (which also has its ups and downs) they have no other view of themselves. A girl can easily find her spirits sinking dangerously low because her peer group is too negative or destructive, but an interest group may be much more her kind of people. Also there may be mixed ages with all the benefits this brings. Interesting wise old men, feisty and eccentric women, friends from other schools or suburbs who are much more on her maturity level or share her interests. This gives her a different mirror in which she can see herself.

Page: 97 A person with soul is like a tree with deep roots, steady in the gale. > Reminds me of Marcus Aurelius’ rock in the raging sea

Page: 103 A good guide to privacy, which you can explain to your daughter, is if her door is open you can knock and go in. If it’s closed, you will knock, then wait for her to say ‘come in’ before you enter. That’s because it’s great for her to feel she has some private space and has control over it. When you do go into her room, don’t snoop or poke about, nobody likes that. Of course, you can still say ‘this room needs tidying’, and ‘would you like some help?’ But just the courtesy of asking her permission gives her a feeling of being respected.

Page: 111 some girls simply do enter puberty very young and always have done. It is a small proportion, but still a significant number, and it varies hugely by race. By age seven, 10 per cent of white girls, 23 per cent of black girls, 15 per cent of Hispanic girls and two per cent of Asian girls have started developing breasts. Specialists do NOT recommend treating these conditions as they are part of the normal range.

Page: 117 Carskadon found that in order for a young person to be optimally alert, they require 9.25 hours of sleep.

Page: 118 Studies have found that a starting time for secondary school of even half an hour later creates a marked gain in health and wellbeing, as well as learning.

Preparing for Adulthood (14–18 years)

Page: 119 The qualities that make up maturity are emerging at fourteen, but like a dodgy light globe, they flicker on and off. One minute she can be kind and caring, but another minute she can be thoughtless and self-obsessed. She can make great promises but forgets to keep them. She can lose all perspective. She’s very prone to peer pressure. She can be wildly overemotional. None of this is her fault – an early-teenage girl’s brain is still setting up its centre of control in the prefrontal cortex, and it’s like a ‘head office’ that isn’t finished yet. She can go there, but not for long. The part of her brain called the amygdala – the centre of impulsive and emotional reactions – may take over in a flash if she is pressured, distracted or stressed.

Page: 120 It’s true that in a traditional society a girl often got married at fourteen, but in those societies, cast-iron rules about acceptable behaviour shackled her and defined every second of her life. Today we seek a very different womanhood for our daughters – independent, not proscribed by gender roles, and equal in opportunity to any man. Achieving that kind of womanhood takes a little longer. > !

Page: 121 They joke about her being ‘14 going on 20’ when they themselves are 45 going on 15. It’s a betrayal, because daughters don’t need friends, they desperately need parents who step up to being in charge by setting curfews, driving to pick them up at an agreed time, saying no to alcohol when they are underage, and knowing where they are and who they are with. They need parents who are willing to be a little unpopular to save their daughter’s life.

Page: 122 Old societies knew a lot about raising the young. They did things that only now our best neuroscience is proving right. For example, they deeply loved and indulged their babies and young children, delighting in them and letting them play and be unfettered. They expected much more of their six- to 12-year-olds, giving them jobs and responsibilities, and they always, without exception, put a lot of energy into their mid-adolescents, kickstarting them, exploding them almost, into adulthood. Becoming an adult was never left to chance.

Page: 123 The dangers of being a woman need to be honestly discussed and put in perspective. Childhood is protected; womanhood is not. As one girl put it to me: ‘It’s no longer my parents mucking up my life. I am free now to muck up my own life!’ A girl who has had a ‘rite of passage’ isn’t fully a woman yet, she is a beginning woman. But she has crossed the river, her sights are set on the future, and she is not going back.

Page: 129 Consider this for a moment: a child is in the world for him- or herself. That’s appropriate and right, but it’s not our ultimate goal. The highest happiness, according to both ancient wisdom and the most modern research in positive psychology, comes when we step outside our own importance and learn how to care for the big picture – the big life, not just our own small life. This can easily be mistaken (especially given the history of women’s lives) for being a martyr and living only for others. That’s not what I am saying here. There is a place where our own deepest needs – what we really love to do – intersect with the needs of the world we live in. When we find that place, it’s all pure joy.

Page: 131 You are in a peaceful house, on a leafy street. It’s evening, and still warm after a sunny summer’s day. You are older, but still strong and well. You glance out of your window and see out on the road that a car is pulling up. It’s an electric car, silent, compact and sleek. Stepping out of the car is a young woman, as you look closer you realise it’s your grown-up daughter. How does she look? What kind of clothes is she wearing? Does she have a partner with her? Children? You go out to greet her. Can you see what kind of person she is, what qualities shine from her? How has she changed? What is her voice like? How tall is she? Is she fit and well? What kind of things has she been doing with her time and talents? Let your imagination fill in the details. Bring her inside your house, sit down and talk. What is she telling you? How are you feeling? See the connections between the childhood you gave her and the strengths and qualities she now has. Feel proud and deeply satisfied. A fine woman will live on after you are gone, and she will pass on what you have taught and given her down the generations.

Part Two Hazards and Helps The Five Big Risk Areas and How to Navigate Them

Too Sexy Too Soon

Page: 136 Our daughters should, after 40 years of feminism, feel free to choose, to be themselves, they should know deep in their bones that they are valuable and unique. Yet girls have never been more insecure. How they look, and their ‘hotness’, has become a constant obsession. Some girls think of little else. Being evaluated in terms of how pleasing you are to others, how you rate as a ‘product’ has taken girls back 50 years. Sexualization – the forcing of a sexual identity onto someone from the outside, was a term originally applied in cases of child sexual abuse. Today it’s a problem seen in every primary school. It isn’t new, but it’s much stronger, and more pervasive. Few girls escape it.

Page: 137 It’s not unusual to be attracted to someone you don’t even like, who you would hate to be around. Hormones are like that sometimes. It helps to teach your daughter about the ‘three L’s’: liking, loving and lusting – each of which is quite different. Feeling all three towards one person is what we all hope for, but at the very least we need to know which is which. Confusing lust for love, loving for liking, or liking for lust, all create serious problems. Mothers and fathers can talk about these things in a lighthearted but serious way; girls will need to have a handle on this as it will hugely affect their success at having happy relationships.

Page: 141 It’s not that there is any one terrible instance of media harm, it’s the relentless, damaging flood of material. Inch by inch, kids are progressively brainwashed about what it is normal to think, feel, look like and do. They can be helped to resist some of this, but it’s really hard work. The experts who advise us to ‘discuss the media with your children, help them to deconstruct the messages, and be media aware’ are not wrong, and we should do this. But so much of the effect is unconscious, and it just keeps coming.

Page: 144 (The APA found that TV has no benefits for and in fact causes significant harm to babies and toddlers, diminishing their language development and stressing them, reducing their activity levels, even affecting their vision by being at a fixed focal length when toddlers need to be looking far and near.)27 Some families have TV but use only DVDs and pre-recorded favourite shows, discovering that small kids often love to watch the same shows many times, getting familiar with the dialogue and songs. This way they can eliminate ads, the jumpy interruptions, and scary news breaks or promos that occur on almost all stations. Many families, with kids at any age, have started to have their TV on only for specific shows, chosen by each child, perhaps for half an hour a day each. It’s never just left running.

Page: 146 She found a concerning thing, that when teen girls talked about sex, they too emphasised the negatives. More than that, they frequently sounded weak and passive in describing sexual experiences they had already had. This could be best summed up in the phrase ‘It just happened’. Being with a boy they are not really sure they like, having a bit too much to drink, and sex ‘happening’ seems almost the norm. This was how they experienced it – not a lot of choice, not a lot of desire, no real intention and no real sense of ‘agency’ (being the active one and seeking and getting a wonderful time). There wasn’t a lot of ‘I wanted …’ or ‘I loved …’ or ‘I enjoyed …’ in their language. This really needs to be improved. As much as adults worry about teenagers being too sexual, there is a paradoxical thing that Tolman and others, including myself, have come to believe: Girls who are in touch with their own sexual desires, and comfortable to acknowledge and express them, are better able to choose whether or not to have sex, who with, and under what circumstances.

Mean Girls

Page: 151 The evidence suggests that it doesn’t work to ‘hit back’ with bullies – often they are bigger or there are a group of them31 – but verbally responding, being angry, and of course asking for help, being definite about your rights to be not pushed around, all help. Finally, there are the bystanders. If they speak up and object to the bullying, stand alongside the victim, and if need be tell others what is happening, bullying often stops. This is hard because sometimes girls feel that if they do this they will become the next victim. Talk to your daughter about how important it is to protect others who are less strong or confident, and tell her what she can say to intervene, things like, ‘Hey, that’s not fair’, ‘She’s my friend, leave her alone’, ‘Stop being stupid. You are hurting her’, along with some confident body language.

Page: 153 Unknown to the others, three of the girls in each group were professional actors. On cue, two of them began to bully the third (in one instance about her weight, in another, about her choice of clothes) to see how the other girls would react – would they help, or would they join in? Meanwhile, their parents watched from another room. What unfolded was powerful and moving – since almost all of us have been bullied in our lives, it’s hard to watch without being affected. In some of the instances, the bystanders spoke up. One girl in particular was wonderful to watch, she simply would NOT allow the actors to speak rudely to the third girl. But in other instances, girls who were nervous and unsure of themselves actually joined in the laughter.

Page: 154 It’s important for your daughter to have some things to say when others push her around. ‘I don’t like you doing that. You need to stop.’ A worldwide programme called Rock and Water was developed after bullies actually killed a boy in Holland, and there was an outcry to make changes in schools. Rock and Water teaches kids skills such as how to stand at their full height, make strong eye contact, and walk away while looking back at the aggressor. It is a complete programme in self-confidence and physical safety, but the essence of its message is ‘standing strong’.

Page: 155 The worst thing is that girls who have their mobile phone or computer in their bedroom feel they should check on what’s happening when they are at home or late at night when they’re in bed. In the ‘good old days’ before computers or iPhones, home was at least a haven of peace until the next day. The result is a lot of stress and sleeplessness. It’s a good idea not to allow digital media in bedrooms, and have a rule that all members of the family charge and leave their phones in the kitchen each night.

Page: 161 A groundbreaking study by Dr Dianne Neumark-Sztainer, of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, showed adolescent girls who engage in weight-control behaviours end up significantly heavier than their peers five years later. > Presumably they compared girls of the same weight (TODO: read and check)

Page: 166 The food industry similarly requires tighter regulations. Why are toys sold with every Happy Meal, and high-sugar breakfast cereals marketed directly to children? If we want a healthier nation, environmental changes must take place, much like we saw with the tobacco industry losing its grasp as cigarettes were gradually banned from pubs, advertising outlawed, and cigarettes lost their glamorous packaging. Blaming and shaming the individual will never achieve population health.

Page: 166 For example, Spain has looked into banning ‘cult of the body’ advertisements which promote plastic surgery and dieting products until 10 pm each night. In 2008 France made it illegal for anyone – including magazines and advertisers – to incite ‘extreme thinness’. In 2012, the Israeli government introduced a law banning the use of underweight models in magazines and on the catwalk. > Not sure how comfortable I am with that

Page: 170 you are concerned that your daughter might have an eating disorder, it is vital that you act immediately: early intervention is one of the best predictors of a complete recovery and you should never wait until your daughter is ‘sick enough’ to access help. Consult your family doctor or contact an eating disorder charity to arrange an assessment and find out the best way to access treatment in your area. Treatment for eating disorders is usually highly specialised and it is best to start with ‘evidence-based treatment’ – your GP or eating disorder charity will be able to advise on what this is in the case of your daughter. > Evidence-based treatment sounds good, maybe start, continue and end with that?

Page: 174 In fact, not only are most kids of school age quite happy to avoid drugs and drinking but (apart from a slight rise in the use of ecstasy) their usage has been falling, slowly but steadily, all through the 2000s. Today’s young people are a bit over all that. > Surely not, without government intervention? How even could that happen?

Page: 175 It’s a nice theory, but it’s recently been proven totally wrong. Having small amounts of alcohol in childhood or the early to mid-teens is now known to change the brain in startling ways, making it more vulnerable to alcohol, and alcoholism, afterwards. Kids shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near it. > TODO: look into

Page: 175 The newest concern, which few parents or girls have yet absorbed, is that alcohol is a risk factor for breast cancer, accounting for about a third of all breast cancers. (While breast cancer has a genetic component, it is almost always caused by environmental toxins of some kind or other. Flooding your bloodstream with ethanol is not good for soft tissues.)

Page: 177 It’s possible we are making our kids too trusting of pills overall. We prescribe them to an awful lot of little boys who just need more chance to run around. And when a child has a headache, we reach for the Panadol. Paul points out that 90 per cent of adolescent headaches are caused by dehydration, and a nice glass of water might be more help.

Page: 180 Esther, who helps manage my teacher seminars, is barely 25, and a warm and idealistic member of generation Y. I asked her how her friends dealt with partying. Simple, she said, we have the Voice of Reason. She and her friends realised they needed someone, rather like the designated driver, who stayed straight and could decide whether it was time to go home, if that street was a good place to walk, and any other decisions about people and places that would keep them out of harm. Each night they went out together, in a group of five or six, they would vote for who would be the Voice of Reason. That person would only have one drink. And the pact was – what she says, we all do, without even a moan of complaint.

Page: 188 By now, you’re probably thinking of smashing the home computers, removing all mobile phones from your kids and tossing the iPads out the window. Those feelings are understandable. But there are things we can do to help our children navigate online spaces and to interact online in ways which are positive and respectful. > Could turn the router off after 8pm maybe

Page: 190 Have filtering devices installed, with the computer in a public place in the home. > Pihole

Part Three Girls and Their Parents

Page: 197 Explain your values to your kids: that it’s good to take care of yourself, but also to be caring for others, that it really helps if people keep their agreements, that most situations can be solved with some compromise, that everyone’s voice counts, that honesty is better in the long run. They might roll their eyes, but you will see them adopting your philosophy a day or two later, or with their friends when you aren’t even around. So ask yourself, what are the core beliefs that you live your life by? Be sure to let your daughter know.

Page: 199 Shared meals at fixed times, where everyone sits at a table and there is no TV, really helps (there is even research to show this).57 Set bedtimes and set times to get ready for bed, and for activities that lead to bedtime – like baths or showers, story reading, or reading time for leisure before they fall asleep. An electronic blackout around bedtime; phones should be left on their chargers in the kitchen, not under the pillow to bother them with playground politics late into the night. Seasonal rituals that are exciting, with an enlarged family circle and the buzz of being in a large group where they still belong and matter.

Page: 200 One-to-one time, with just Mum, or just Dad, and daughter, such as a weekend away once a term, just the two of you, where you sleep, cook, do activities and talk with nobody else – no partner, no other siblings – so she can actually feel your 100 per cent care for her and store this in her memory banks.

Page: 207 In hundreds of family therapy interviews, trying to find out why a teenage girl is causing trouble, it’s come down to this – dads who criticise their daughters, start fights with them and can’t accept that they have different points of view. She wants to become her own person, and is acutely sensitive to you trying to control her. So when you lose it, she double loses it, and it all goes haywire. Daughters have to be treated gently.

Page: 208 it’s not my fault. My prefrontal cortex has melted down for a rebuild and won’t be right again until about age 22. So my amygdala has taken over, and all it knows is fight or flight! Scare me and you can choose which one I give you back. You think because I can out-argue you that I am smart. But I have lost the most important faculty a person can have – I can’t see anyone else’s point of view. Or at least not easily.

Page: 209 Speak from the heart and perhaps she will too. The biggest mistake we men make in conflict times is to use ‘You … messages’. You are such a slob. You don’t help around the house. You are lazy. You are not going out in that dress! But ‘I messages’ work better. That’s because they involve being vulnerable. ‘I was scared and worried when you didn’t get home at the time you agreed. I need to know I can trust you.’ This is not an attack, because it starts with ‘I’ and not ‘You’. It invites her to be caring, not to defend herself. Even ‘I am angry because the kitchen was a mess, and I had just tidied it up’ is better than ‘You messed up the kitchen!’