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Give Your Daughter Intelligence

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Raising a self-confident daughter in a post-feminism age where choices are great, gender roles are fluid, and sexual messages are damaging is a confusing task for a mother. In this second of five articles on the subject, the key word is EDUCATION.

mother and daughter talking

Dr. Wendy Walsh: Educate your daughter. Period. Studies show the one thing that reduces teenage pregnancy and reduces overall birth rates in developing countries is the education of girls. It works here too. When girls receive a quality education and are valued at home for their academic achievements, miracles of self-esteem occur. Options become wider. Thinking processes become more complex, and peer pressure becomes only one factor in decision-making. And, providing a quality education need not cost you an arm and a leg. There are plenty of excellent public schools that lead to first-rate universities. But it's up to you to do the research and make that education accessible to your daughter, even if it means moving to a better neighborhood.

But her intellectual mind is only half the equation. Anyone who has read Daniel Goleman's groundbreaking books on emotional intelligence knows that even those who are not formally educated can succeed on social smarts alone. Knowing how to understand and communicate feelings is crucial in the business world -- and leads to great powers of empathy, a hot skill in the free market.

To raise a self-confident daughter, you must teach her emotional intelligence. It's the most important lesson a mother can give a child of any gender, and it includes a vocabulary that puts feelings into words. If we can't name our feelings and share them, we are a long way off from being able to process them and use them in a healthful way. And we teach emotional health by modeling it. Having trouble labeling that feeling in your stomach, yourself? Here's my handy dictionary of the most common feelings people express. Next time you tell a story to your daughter, add your emotional experience by saying "I feel," followed by one of these words: Nervous, Happy, Sad, Angry, Disappointed, Hopeful, Ignored, Embarrassed, Envious, Jealous, Lonely, Excited, Surprised, Proud, Scared, Guilty, Aroused, Uncomfortable, Rejected, Loved. Using these "feeling words" in everyday life opens your daughter up to the parallel universe of people's emotional lives.

Tomorrow: How exposure to relationships shapes her capacity to love.


next: Not from 90210? Forget Going to School There
2 comments so far | Post a comment now
Anonymous January 13, 2010, 9:57 AM

“Studies show the one thing that reduces teenage pregnancy and reduces overall birth rates in developing countries is the education of girls.” Wendy, this is both misleading and irrelevant. In developing countries, education increases average *age of marriage*, which is related to but not equivalent to what we think of as “teen pregnancy.” If you want a more relevant comparison, you should be looking at the US vs other wealthy countries. We have MUCH higher teen pregnancy rates despite similar education levels. In the US, the one thing that has been shown to reduce teen pregnancy rates is SEX education. I cannot believe you left this out. Mothers should definitely take your general suggestion about encouraging intellectual achievement, but they should also be frankly discussing issues of sex and good choices, and they should be demanding that schools supplement their message by teaching real sex ed as well.

michelle January 13, 2010, 10:00 AM

“Studies show the one thing that reduces teenage pregnancy and reduces overall birth rates in developing countries is the education of girls.” Wendy, this is both misleading and irrelevant. In developing countries, education increases average *age of marriage*, which is related to but not equivalent to what we think of as “teen pregnancy.” If you want a more relevant comparison, you should be looking at the US vs other wealthy countries. We have MUCH higher teen pregnancy rates despite similar education levels. In the US, the one thing that has been shown to reduce teen pregnancy rates is SEX education. I cannot believe you left this out. Mothers should definitely take your general suggestion about encouraging intellectual achievement, but they should also be frankly discussing issues of sex and good choices, and they should be demanding that schools supplement their message by teaching real sex ed as well.


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