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How mothers should raise their daughters

Your daughter treats you like an ATM and is growing up too fast. Here’s what to do.


 
How mothers should raise their daughters

Photo Illustration by Taylor Shute

Susan Shapiro Barash’s two daughters are seven years apart in age. Her younger daughter isn’t inherently different than her older daughter, but raising her was far more of a challenge. “I felt my values and opinions were less effective,” she says. Curious about the change in seven years, Barash, a Manhattan teacher, began interviewing other moms about their mother-daughter problems. The result of her research is a new book called You’re Grounded Forever?.?.?.?But First Let’s Go Shopping: The Challenges Mothers Face With Their Daughters and Ten Timely Solutions.

Her advice covers all manner of mistakes made by today’s moms who are “much more involved with their daughters at the same time that they’re less certain of their roles.” Barash blames “celebrity culture” and the Internet. “Our daughters are informed in a way that we weren’t. You can’t sit down with a 13-year-old and say, ‘Things are going to change around here.’ It’s too late,” she tells Maclean’s from her home in New York City.

“Mothers need to start talking to their daughters from the time they’re very young.” Drugs and drinking should be discussed as early as Grade 5, she advises. Also, don’t make the mistake some moms make, those who think they’re being a friend when they tell their daughters, “You can smoke a joint at home with me. You can drink at home with me. You’re taking a big risk with your child because you’re giving tacit approval for something that still is not appropriate,” she says. “You’re not your daughter’s best friend. You’re here to keep her safe.”

The book also warns moms to stop making excuses for their poorly behaved daughters. The temptation is to avoid confrontations at any cost, she writes. One mom confesses that she’s made up so many excuses for her daughter she doesn’t know how to stop the train wreck she’s created. “When she hit 14, she’d call me on things, and say, ‘Why don’t you tell the neighbours the truth, that I don’t want to go to their boring barbecue, instead of saying I have homework?’ ”

These days, laments the mom, “she uses my laptop and can’t bother to charge it. She leaves dishes in the sink, she erases my phone messages when she’s searching for her own on our home line, she takes cash from my wallet rather than going to an ATM.” Mothers fear being blamed and judged by society for raising a nasty daughter, but daughters who hear their moms making excuses “are led to believe that the mothers themselves are deficient.” The daughter loses respect for her mother, and enters adulthood making excuses for herself, warns Barash.

As for “materially obsessed” daughters, stop indulging them with credit cards and allowances, advises Barash. Among the 300 moms interviewed, 60 per cent admitted to having “snobby” and “spoiled daughters.” One mom is appalled that her daughters “order three-course meals at the best restaurants like there’s no tomorrow. I was taught to order carefully and never from the most expensive side of the menu. I’ve mentioned this to my girls, who think I’m from outer space. I’ve never had the courage to say no.”

Tell your daughter, “You can have your own credit card but you have to take your babysitting money or your after-school money and you have to pay the bill.”

When it comes to weight, don’t harp at your daughter because she’s overweight, writes Barash. She gives the example of the “super-thin mother” who considers herself an excellent example of someone who has struggled with weight and overcome it by going to the gym, counting calories and eating a sensible diet.

“Your efforts have paid off,” Barash writes, “and it’s maddening that this hasn’t sunk in for your daughter. Haven’t you pointed out that we live in a world where people judge you by your looks and weight? You seethe as your daughter reaches for a Mars bar.” Yet, “when a mother is too absorbed with this, the daughter either discards and rebels, eating what she likes, or models her mother. Either decision can lead to an eating disorder.”

Despite the tough talk, Barash is sympathetic: “This is very hard for the mother. You’re always walking on eggshells and you don’t want to break a fragile spirit.”


 

How mothers should raise their daughters

  1. "Your daughter treats you like an ATM"

    Many mothers are leading by example that men are just ATMs…particularly fathers.

  2. All that parenting advice applies as much to raising boys as girls, and to fathers as well as mothers. This book is stupid.

  3. wow VIC way to be judgemental. The fact is a lot of single moms are not single by choice. For example my husband died at age 34 andleft me with a 12 year old son and a 7 year old daughter. The fact is that many single women are very fine parents but that isn't what this article is about, it is about the unique challenges of raising a daughter in this day and age although I do think that boys can be just as consumer oriented as girls, it's just that they want different things. Often parents are so worried about making their kids happy that they find it hard to say no. And guess what…all of that stuff doen't make them happy after all. also beating your children doesn't make them better people at all, however teaching them about respect for others as well as respect for themselves is very important.

  4. Vic, in this house, we don't draw unnecessary attention to ourselves by raising our voices. You will need to be disciplined. Go cut yourself a switch. This is going to hurt me more than it hurts you.

  5. Ley your daughter have a credit card! Are you insane? She can have a credit card when she can get one on her own, after she has left home.

    • If the kid has a steady (part- or full-time) job , the card has a really low limit, and the kid pays the balance in full every month…maybe. But otherwise, AAA is dead right.

    • I think it wouldn't be a terrible idea to get your daughter (or son) a credit card while they are teenagers. It would teach them, under your supervision, how to use a credit card responsibly. Many adults get a credit card for the first time and get themselves into big trouble.

  6. My comment applies equally to sons.

  7. Couldn't agree more!
    I eagerly await Maclean's' newest magazine each week, but I have definitely noticed a not-too-subtle series of articles in the past five years portraying girls as having issues of some sort or other and perceiving them as "problematic".
    Maybe there is truth to this – I wouldn't know – but it does seem odd…
    I would recommend some more balance to the magazine in this regard.

  8. Does anybody read Macleans for the "kids today!" type articles?

  9. ”The worst thing you can do is to give your kid all it wants”
    Remember that!

    • It?

  10. I'm a 19 year old Canadian female. Even though I'm young, I know how to appreciate good parenting – I have it in my own home. My parents taught me everything I had to know at a very young age, and then they let me learn the hard way as I got older. Every time I was about to make a bad choice, my mother would simply say, "You know what's right, and you know what's wrong. Make the decision, and deal with the consequences." Of course I wasn't completely free to crash and burn, I mean I had boundaries and rules to follow, but as I earned my parents trust and respect, I received more freedom. It was a fair trade.
    I have a great relationship with my parents, and I've turned out pretty well if I do say so myself. My folks have never had to complain about me. My advice to mothers: Be friendly, be fun, don't be scared to be strict, let them learn the hard way, and make them earn their freedom. There's nothing worse than seeing parents reward their kids for bad behaviour. "Oh, they're having a fit? Let's give them what they want to calm them down." Ugh. Terrible.

    • Nicole your parents are probably just as proud of you as you are of them. I have a daughter your age away at school and feel comfortable in her ability to do the right thing. She is strong and very self sufficient and I don't worry about her.
      Your parents had the same parenting skills as we do in our house and they really have made a difference. So many of my friends are struggling with self-centered daughters and for them it's so wearing.
      It's always more work doing the right thing but it's always worth it!

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