Fostering Courage, Strength, And Compassion In Adolescent Girls: The First Step
As a parent and educator, I continually search for ways to reach, nurture and empower girls so that they may value their caring nature and keep the strength of their child spirit. The task is challenging because adolescent girls not only face the age old issues of coming of age, they must also deal with attitudes, problems and pressures that were once reserved for adults. Parents and teachers must overcome tremendous obstacles to accomplish the task of fostering courage, strength and compassion in our girls.
A recent Nike Ad featuring a female runner being pursued by a chainsaw wielding attacker brought the issues young women face to the fore for me once again. Horrified, I got on my activist soapbox and encouraged all who I knew to protest. Why? Because if our voices are not heard as a unified plea to help our children, the media's assault to our senses and sensibilities will continue. When we speak out against actions that diminish our girls, we present ourselves as strong, caring and courageous role models.
Advertisers and scriptwriters continually present women in violent, degrading scenes and we, as parents and educators, must deal with the fall-out. Rather than become discouraged, we need to stand up and be noticed. We have a powerful voice! Our girls hear us rise up to speak and learn from our words and actions. The first step in the process of raising strong girls is to be a positive role model.
Positive role models are critical to a child's development. Girls need adults in their lives who model assertiveness, strength, caring and responsiveness. They need to see the women in their lives value and foster positive relationships. We need to empower them to make decisions and solve problems within the safety net of our love and guidance. Girls need to see us working to continually improve our ability to communicate our needs, hopes, and concerns so that we nurture others but don't lose ourselves. In a world defined by clothing labels, media hype, and gender stereotypes, girls need role models who base their identity and self-worth on who they are as people, rather than how pretty or fashionable they are.
Given the power of the media and the negative messages it sends about women, we must educate our girls to recognize and reject this conditioning. First, we must work to understand how the media and our culture impact our thinking, and with that understanding learn to revive our true selves. Only, then we can help our young women understand this conditioning and make conscious choices about who they are and what they want rather than subconsciously conform to society's expectations.
Each one of us is a powerful role model for the adolescent girls we reach. We cannot be too assertive in sharing our views or providing a good example. They need us desperately at this point in their lives. Let your voice be heard!
This article originally appeared in an issue of Caring Campaigns on the CaringTeacher.com website in 2000.
About the Author:
Susan Fitzell (sfitzell at aimhieducational.com) is a nationally recognized speaker and author of several educational resource books. She has over two decades of experience with differentiated instruction, teaching youth with special needs, students with behavioral and anger management issues, and students who experience bullying. Susan's company, AIMHI Educational Programs, focuses on building caring school communities. http://aimhieducational.com/