Young women today are in need of guidance. Lacking role models, they turn to television to see how they should dress, act, and talk. The media, in return, gives them the rules and beliefs they adhere to, rules that implicitly state, take your clothes off to get noticed; beauty is of the utmost importance; and it’s OK to let a guy call you a whore. Our girls are listening. Many of them strut through the neighborhood in short-shorts, bikini tops, and skintight mini-dresses, blushing at the obnoxious comments of men, young and old.
What young women today need are explicit rules, enforced by caring adults, rules to help guide them in life from the age of one to 100. I asked several mothers-ranging from a 30-year-old customer service representative to a retired entrepreneur. Each provided me with pieces of advice critical in raising confident, productive young women. Below are the responses I feel are most important for young women in Austin to learn.
Listen to your gut
We’re led by internal radar that lets us know if what we do is or is not right. It is extremely important for young women today to listen to it. It comes into play during the most critical times-whether to intensify a relationship, cut class, or lie to a friend. Peer pressure usually works against it. Worrying about what others think, we ignore that “feeling” we have when faced with a challenge, and we may go with the status quo. But some don’t. We call them leaders.
Teach your daughter to be an individual and go with that “gut feeling” when confronted with a difficult situation. It is almost always right.
Many of our young girls hold the weight of the world on their shoulders. They take honors classes, lead cheerleading teams, and believe life will buckle if they don’t become study body president. Or they put all their faith in a guy and think the world will end if he walks away. Young girls need to have faith in something greater than themselves. You don’t have to believe in God to have faith (that things will turn out fine in the end, or that there is a purpose for hardships).
Faith heals. It helps relieve the stress that triggers disorders most commonly found in women, such as depression and panic disorder. It allows women to step out on a limb and take a chance because they have faith that their decision won’t lead to total disaster. And if things do go wrong, they will, at least, learn something from it.
Treat others as you want to be treated
It seems girls today believe it’s pretty to be mean. Rude comments and loud vulgarities are as in style as graphic tees and micro-braids. Some girls think of these as signs of strength, but they only come off as signs of intimidation and create animosity between friends.
It takes strength to treat others the way you want to be treated-to be polite and practice tolerance on a daily basis. Instead of just mentioning the golden rule in church, we need to get young women to commit to it. Teach your child to reflect on how they want others to treat them and then dare them to go out in the world and make it happen.
Love your body
Although lots of girls are preoccupied with their hair and wardrobe, few of them take proper care of their bodies. Instead of eating healthy, they make meals out of Cheetos® and Funyuns®. Instead of staying active, they spend most of their time watching videos and reality TV. Instead of practicing safe sex or abstinence, they worry about satisfying their boyfriends, make love, and don’t protect themselves. They forget that they only have one body and it can break down on them just like a car with a careless owner. The ominous health statistics are easily accessible, yet young girls carry on with life as if there is no such thing as obesity, heart disease, and AIDS.
So make your daughter more aware of what she puts in her body, how she treats it, and how others treat it as well. Show your daughter how to cherish her body. Remind her that it can prolong her life as well as her looks.
Share some of this with other women in your community. Please send your valuable advice to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to the diverse group of mothers who offered their wisdom to help me write this article. Your comments were insightful and right on target.