Girls Will Be Girls:
Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters

by JoAnn Deak, Ph.D., with Teresa Barker


Hyperion Books, New York, 2002. ISBN 078686768X.
Reviewed by Laurie Park
Posted on 09/17/2002

Nonfiction: Relationships

Ever participated in a debate with a preschooler or squabbled with a teenager over the purchase of a swimsuit? One of life's greatest joys is raising a girl. So naturally, one of life's greatest tribulations is raising a girl to become a confident and courageous woman. JoAnn Deak has provided a comprehensive handbook for parents and teachers in Girls Will Be Girls. As a school psychologist and principal, Dr. Deak shares her knowledge of the physical, social and emotional issues challenging today's girls, ages six to 16. Abundant with clear examples and entertaining anecdotes, each chapter is a guidance lesson providing concrete suggestions and clarifying why girls communicate, socialize and interpret in their own unique manner. She recognizes that girls ARE different-by nature more emotional with a more integrated brain pattern, and historically different gender expectations.

One of the key themes is "negotiating the gray"-the undefined occurrences of life, while maintaining the balance of identity, priorities, values and rules for both daughter and parent, as shown in this excerpt:

"The first order of business is to think about what you value most and what you are willing to go to the mat for. This will become the foundation for your reasoning as you and your daughter negotiate the gray. Connected parenting doesn't negate the need for parents to mete out consequences for unacceptable behavior; but recognizes that there are many times you let her live with some chaos, ambiguity and struggle. By figuring out something on her own, she not only grows wiser, but develops the kind of competence and confidence that will help make her a strong and resilient human being."
Organized in logical sequence, the book navigates the reader through the confusing path of girls' passage from Preadolescent, Elementary School and Tweens (the pre-teen years) to the challenging High School Teenager. Crucible Events, such as menstruation, dating, even the advancement to middle school, are covered in great detail and are summarized at the end of each chapter with Pearls of Wisdom-statements and advice that parents can employ.

Even the most seasoned parents can feel temporarily helpless, unsure, disoriented or panicked about how best to proceed when trouble hits. Of special interest, the Parents Under Pressure section specifically addresses drinking, driving, sex and dieting issues; when to take action and how to proceed.

I regard books as treasures... some more valued than others, but all are treated with respect. (You'll never catch me earmarking a page.) However, I found that Girls Will Be Girls is filled with such insight that I've highlighted my copy on literally each page for easy reference!

Think it's too soon to read this as your daughter isn't yet six? The chapter on Formative Years provides the basis of positive development now. Believe it's unnecessary? After all, mothers were once girls. Refer to the Roots to Grow But Wings to Fly chapter which delves into how today's world is more challenging to youth and the common trap of "reliving" your goals through your child. I encourage both parents (fathers, this will explain why all of a sudden your girl doesn't want to wrestle anymore), educators and group leaders to invest in this amazing volume of research and practical wisdom.

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