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13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why

Unless you’ve had your chicken head under a rock, you’ve heard about the newest Netflix sensational series: 13 Reasons Why. Should you watch it? Should you let your kids watch it? Do you need to watch it together? Far be it from me to tell another hen what to do concerning her chicks but here are my 13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why.

13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why

13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why

Teens and Tweens everywhere are obsessing over 13 Reasons Why. They aren’t the only ones. Everyone from arm chair psychologists to Christian radio celebrities have been talking about Netflix’s newest show, based on the popular book by the same title by Jay Asher, and its relevance to kids today. Everyone is weighing in on if parents should be using the series as a springboard for starting heavy discussions with their children. It tackles everything from suicide to bullying in today’s American culture.

You’ve seen the ads, you heard the hype and you’re still wondering: Should we be watching 13 Reasons Why? Maybe yes…maybe no. Aside from flagrant adult language, mild violence, and disturbing sexual assault scenes, there were several issues of concern that I noticed running through the series and I’m here to lay them out for you.

Here’s your parent’s guide to 13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why:

1) Flippant about Finality

The main focal character of this show is Hannah who seems very much like your average, everyday, American teenager. So, it should come as no surprise to any parent of a teen/tween person that she has a tendency to be a bit…flippant. As a parent, I am used to my daughters being flippant about many things: their classmates’ behavior, their room cleaning efforts, their dedication to Biology homework. There is really one area that I think they probably shouldn’t be flippant about- Death.

From the very first episode of this series, we get the feeling that Hannah isn’t taking her suicide too seriously. The tapes set a tone of exaggeration and self-deprecation. Making light of our own mortality is nothing new to this genre. Other characters in popular young adult fiction, such as Hazel and Gus from The Fault in Our Stars, also minimized their terminal conditions but it seems irresponsible and immature coming from someone who dies by their own hand.

BOTTOM LINE: Life is considered sacred in our home. It was disturbing to see the main character talk about hers with such little regard.

2) Revenge…From the Grave

While many other young adult authors have tackled the subject of suicide portraying somber characters in somewhat gritty fashion, 13 Reasons Why seems to take the melodramatic to a totally new level.

Producers claim the show focuses on how “insignificant actions of individuals can have a profound cumulative affect on others”. It feels more like a “Pretty Little Liars” episodes with the anti-heroine gaining redemption through revenge after death. This feeling is perpetuated by the fact that ALL of the tapes are given to ALL of the list participants…meaning everyone hears everyone’s tape. The premise of the show is a circa 1990’s way of airing everyone’s dirty laundry.

The way the show is filmed in flashback, gives the illusion that Hannah is ever present to witness the “confrontation” of her offenders. This is obviously not true, but it can be very easy to forget how this filming technique skews reality and gives a romanticized view to young adults that are considering suicide and want others to see the pain they have caused them.

Another shocking aspect of this series is that, by and large, no character catharsis occurs after having listened to their own tapes. Instead of contemplating how their actions have contributed to the hurt of another, many are instead concerned with keeping their actions from becoming known by others.

BOTTOM LINE: This isn’t a story about hurt and repentance. Most of the ripple effects caused by Hannah’s actions are not focused on the pain her choice causes, only the scrambling of others to save their reputations in the aftermath.

3) He Said, She said…

Gossip and slander are definitely tackled in this series. It’s one reason 13 Reasons Why is a great teaching opportunity to show young people how often relationships can be unnecessarily strained through misunderstandings. It shows how we can present “facts” in a way to justify our actions while not fairly representing other parties. It is a shame that so many characters in the show participate in slander and gossip without truly showing any remorse for their actions or how it effected another individual.

Because this show is set from the first person viewpoint of one of the characters, all of the events that take place are colored by that individual’s views. While that makes for good TV, it also means that the story being shown is often one sided, missing information, or conflicting based on whether Hannah knew all of the facts before she chose to tell us her story.

The irony in all of this is Hannah blames the misrepresentations made by other characters for her decision to kill herself even as she turns around and does the exact same thing. She also never atones for her misrepresentations. It muddies the water when the person we are supposed to feel sympathy for is engaging in the very behavior we are supposed to abhor.

BOTTOM LINE: In our house we teach that you say what you mean and mean what you say. Encourage your kids to delve deeper into rumors and find out all the “facts” before passing judgement on others.

4) Rebuttals are Futile

As mentioned above, Hannah chooses to confront those who wronged her after death. Because of this, the characters involved have no way to reach out, explain or atone for their slights (some quite small and some large). Hannah repeatedly laments that no one cared about her or tried to talk to her about the things that were going on in her life, but by confronting the other characters in this manner, she has removed any ability for anyone to do exactly that. We are left with are a first person account of events that are then shared with many parties (some of which were not even at fault) where the accused has no way to defend themselves against their accuser.

Throughout the series, there were many times and many opportunities for Hannah to reach out to those that cared about her. She chose not to all the while convincing herself she never had the opportunity.

BOTTOM LINE: The main character in this series exhibits a very immature way of dealing with the conflict around her. By refusing to open up to people who hurt us, we keep ourselves from being able to heal or allowing others to make positive change.

5) Raising the Petty to Painful

There are some pretty bad things that happen to Hannah during 13 Reasons Why. There are also some pretty small slights that almost seem pretty petty when you are trying to justify taking your own life. While it is difficult for parents to understand why some things we view as trivial can make such an enormous impact on the fragile teenage psyche, some events in this series are truly heinous.

By “producing tapes” for both the trivial and the awful, 13 Reasons Why elevates the small slights that we should be teaching our kids to overcome to the same height of awful situations such as sexual assault that should never be overlooked or minimized. Instead of making everything seem important, it trivializes the latter by lumping it in with generalized teenage behavior.

BOTTOM LINE:  While gossiping and misunderstandings are a part of every teenagers journey, sexual assault and rape SHOULD NOT BE and shouldn’t be painted with the same wide brush.

6) No One is Innocent…Even the Innocent

The main theme of this series involves 13 audio recordings that are produced by Hannah before she kills herself. Each tape centers around a particular person that contributed to her decision to end her young life. This is made clear from the very beginning of tape #1. The tapes are then distributed as a whole collection, to each person “owning” a tape.  However, the first person that we see “experience” the tapes is Clay, a young man who is left in turmoil for days. He cannot fathom anything he has done to Hannah to contribute to her decision to take her own life.

When all is said and done, Clay is right. He has done nothing to warrant Hannah taking her own life. Certainly nothing that any young, shy, teenage boy should be made to feel such heavy guilt over. Clay’s only crime against Hannah is that he didn’t profess his feelings for her. While this situation may make for sensational fodder in a teenage TV drama, exactly what lesson does this teach young viewers? Are we trying to tell kids that they should be making relationship choices based on how the other half will or will not react, or do we want them making these choices based on what is best for them personally?

BOTTOM LINE: Emotional blackmail and manipulation are heaped upon characters in this series. Make sure your kids understand that they should never feel pressured into commitment with another person based on the manipulative actions of the other individual.

7) Overly Accountable…Except for Hannah

This is a show about teenagers. Teenagers are limited in their decision making by both cognitive and structural constraints. While some of the infractions that Hannah experienced should never happen, regardless of age, some were so slight in nature to be easily explained by young people just not always being the best decision makers.

It seems unfair to lay the burden of a person’s suicide at the feet of someone because they chose to act immaturely and hide someone’s compliments. Should they suffer because they weren’t at an emotional level where they felt comfortable starting a deeper relationship? Is it unforgivable to be unable to comprehend how delaying one decision would lead to an awful car accident…but that’s exactly what Hannah has done.

While spreading rumors and telling lies and passing photos of someone should not be encouraged, I wonder if the implications of this show will be to frighten young people. Will they second guess every interaction they have with classmates for fear that they will in some way cause that person to do something drastic. Ultimately, Hannah chose to kill herself. Hannah.

BOTTOM LINE: Teens/Tweens make mistakes. They should be taught to use their best judgement but to also expect grace when they don’t have all the answers.

8) Adults Can’t be Trusted

During the course of Hannah’s story, she approaches two adults in an attempt to reach out for help before deciding to take her own life. In one case, while well meaning, her teacher minimizes her experiences and adequate help and guidance isn’t provided. In the second attempt, the adult in authority belittles Hannah and refuses to provide any real help at all.

The message in 13 Reasons Why is very clear: Don’t bank on the help of adults around you. They will not understand and will only cause further harm. Not only is this a false premise, its dangerous to perpetuate an “us” against “them” dichotomy when sometimes only adults are equipped with the knowledge to truly handle certain circumstances. This is NOT the lesson we want our kids to learn in our home. In fact, it is the opposite.

BOTTOM LINE:  If you’re going to let your children watch this show, be aware that the fallacy that adults are undependable needs to be addressed and corrected.

9) Parent’s Can’t be Bothered

This problem centers around the same theme as mentioned above. During the course of Hannah’s story, her parents are completely unaware of the hardships that Hannah is facing. They are extremely distracted with other ongoing issues in both their finances and marriage. Instead of the family unit coming together to help Hannah through this trying time, her parents are kept in the dark.  They are left picking up the pieces after their child inexplicably decides to take her own life.

While I am sure the show is trying to present the disconnect that occurs between many teens/tweens and their parents, you could argue that presenting Hannah’s parents as completely self-absorbed only reinforces a dangerous stereotype that perpetuates the myth that kids today are “facing it alone”.

BOTTOM LINE: This show portrays parents as being unreachable and disconnected to their children’s lives. Make sure your kids realize this is not the case in your home.

10) See Nothing…Say Nothing

You’ve heard the hype. 13 Reason’s Why tackles difficult themes: The worst of which are suicide and sexual assault (rape). A character (Justin) in the series is granted a tape because he leaves his intoxicated girlfriend to be raped by another boy from her high school. We find out that Justin does nothing to stop the assault while it was happening. However, Hannah also witnesses the rape and does nothing to help her friend or stop the attack.

This show takes a horrible crime (rape) and instead of focusing on the true victim (Jessica) concentrates all attention on the two characters that had the ability to stop the attack but chose to do nothing. You would think that if the series was going to go in this direction that eventually the people that sat by and allowed it to happen would experience some type of growth or there would be some type of moral “lesson” learned. Nope. Poor Jessica is just left to find out by listening to a tape that the assault happened and that those closest to her knew and did nothing.

BOTTOM LINE: I want to raise kids that have the moral fortitude to stand up and do the right thing regardless of how they are “feeling” about their lives at the time. Helping others in the time of crisis should transcend your personal baggage.

11) Perpetuating Misunderstandings, Lies, and Foolish Decisions

Everyone in this show makes awful decisions…repeatedly. Almost the entire cast is made up of characters with incredibly tragic flaws that cause them to place themselves in danger and prevents them from being able to communicate in any real way whatsoever.

Is this what we are to believe is happening all across America? Are there really no well-adjusted high school kids out there that don’t drink, talk to their parents, and can hold an intelligible conversation with their friends when their feelings are hurt? Throughout the entire show, it is difficult to find many characters that exhibit normal behavior or have normal relationships with anyone.

By presenting only the bad, this show reinforces the stereotype that all teens/tweens make awful decisions when left to their own devices. I don’t normally look to TV programming to exhibit role models for my kids, but good grief…this is ridiculous. My own daughter was left wondering if SHE is the weirdo.

BOTTOM LINE: Make sure your kid understands that this is not an afterschool special or some public service announcement type broadcast. The characters on this show are stereotypical and NOT representative of the whole.

12) Where’s Hannah’s Tape?

All of the people responsible for Hannah taking her own life are given recordings. But, there is not one specifically made for the person that bears the most responsibility of all: Hannah. It’s very difficult to talk about this without it sounding like I am blaming the victim but the entire show posed a real problem for me as a parent:

How do we raise kids that feel in control of their lives when they are watching a show where the protagonist has decided that everyone’s opinion/actions/decisions are more important than her own?

This is not about belittling a young person that feels at the end of their rope. We need to be there to support them and help them to work through the problems that they encounter with friends, boyfriends, classmates, etc. But, I can’t help but think that while we are listening and trying to empathize, we also need to be teaching them that all of that “stuff” that they think is SO important… is really temporary and fleeting.

BOTTOM LINE: Raise your kids to know that THEY control their own destiny. We can raise kids that are considerate of the feelings of others, but ultimately, they themselves must be responsible for their own actions.

13) Hannah May be the Biggest Bully of Them All

Hear me out. I believe that really, Hannah is the biggest bully in this entire series. If Hannah weren’t dead, if she hadn’t committed suicide, and had made these tapes and distributed them to all of these people, what would be the reaction towards her?

In many cases, she takes very personal accounts and has made them public to people that aren’t even involved in the situation. She blows many events completely out of proportion as a way of attracting attention regardless of who she is hurting. She blames individuals for slights without first giving the person an opportunity to explain themselves. She causes innocent individuals to beat them selves up emotionally over things they haven’t even done. She takes the time to speak personally to all of these people that “wronged” her, yet doesn’t do the same for her parents who are devastated by their loss.

In my book, that my friends, is a bully.

BOTTOM LINE: While this show might be helpful in showing the inter-connectedness between events and how relationships can be hurt by miscommunication, the main character of this show is NO heroine. As a parent, while you obviously wouldn’t want your child to take their own life, there is not a lot of Hannah’s other behaviors that you would want to see your kids emulate.

Should you let you kid watch 13 Reasons Why? Maybe…maybe not. As with any pesky parenting decisions, the right answer often depends on you personal parenting priorities and style and now you’re armed with the parenting guide to show you my 13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why.  The show is useful in sparking discussion with teens about taboo topics such as suicide, personal responsibility, sexual assault, and bullying. But- you might want to make sure you watch too, or have some talks to remind your kids what they’re seeing on the screen isn’t just sensational- it’s fictional.

13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why

13 Problems with 13 Reasons Why

Raising girls (little women) is hard work. If you are the mother of a pre-teen or teenage girl and are honest with yourself, you’ve discovered the answer to why animals sometimes consume their young. They can drive you crazy. It’s just the way it works. It’s hormonal and stuff. Find out how to stop the struggles and start raising up girls in a world trying to pull them down.

raisingupwomenwide

Mothering girls in this day and age isn’t easy.  It’s an incredible task- raising strong, self-assured and independent but also humble, um-narcissitic and interconnected chicks. See? No small feat.

As a 21st century mother, I feel like my clucking is reduced to a whisper compared to the “advice” they receive from the world. It seems like that “advice” is getting further and further from the truths/habits/beliefs that I want my little hens to absorb. I have a feeling I am not alone.  So then, what advice should we give our pre-teen and teen girls? What do our daughters need?

I am not an expert. I do not play one on T.V. Many times, I have been the worst mother on the block. I assure you that I will be again at some point in the future (my personal bet is next week). My parenting “career” has been blessed with triumphs and cursed with failures. But after raising three girls with no fatalities (yet) and spending hours in counseling with young ladies, I have come up with a list of things that I believe we (as mother hens) need to consider to support our daughters to their full potential in this rough and tumble world.

You might agree with some of these. You will probably disagree with others (some feathers might even get ruffled). I hope, if nothing else, the following causes you to reflect on things that you DO believe will improve your relationship with your daughter/s. I hope it helps you raise up a women that will go out into the world and make some improvements. Lord knows we need some.

EMBRACE THEIR UNIQUENESS.

No, REALLY embrace it. Don’t just say you embrace it. A lot of times, as mothers, what we really want is for our kids to “blend”. Sure, we say we want them to be special and stand out. For many of us we mean “special in a way that maintains the status quo with their peers”. I don’t know if we have some kind of leftover pain from our own terrible middle/high school experiences and we want to shield our girls from that. Can I get an ‘AMEN’? Maybe we are just overly worried about what others will think of them or how they will judge us as mothers. When we say “just be yourself” there are unspoken caveats that run through our brains. Is being like everyone else really what will make your daughter happy? What could we be giving up for the sake of conformity?

Are we really willing to sacrifice what might be the most intriguing thing about our girls because of potential backlash/disapproval? Does the fact that my daughter wears old Beatles shirts and would rather draw all day then go to the mall mean I have failed as a parent? Does it mean she isn’t as happy as her trend setting peers? No. We need to stop trying to stamp down what makes them different. We need to teach them to  embrace that part of themselves and to search for ways to use their unique abilities/gifts/thinking to help them in their adult lives. It may be that the very thing that others find “different” is what will make your girl very successful and fulfilled in the long run.

SHOW THEM THEIR IDEAS ARE IMPORTANT.

It is easy to discount the ideas and thoughts of a tweener/teen girl. Very very easy. As mothers trying to raise women in our society, I think the importance of this one area can not be overstated.

Don’t get me wrong- I am not some gong-banging, bra-burning, man-hating feminist. If you look at the propaganda of how our culture stereotypes women…folks, we still have a LONG way to go. Your average girl spends quite a bit of time watching shows/movies, etc. that show girls with less than stellar cognitive abilities. If female models ARE shown to be intelligent and smart, they are most always also portrayed as manipulative and/or selfish and destructive.

I have had the fortunate fate of working in higher education for a long time now. Some of the most brilliant people I have ever met have had X & Y chromosomes. After talking with many of them, it’s apparent they grew up in households where their intelligence was nurtured and encouraged. It’s not enough that we pat them on the head when they get an ‘A’ in Social Studies. We need to make it a daily habit of listening to them and helping them to develop analytical skills. Challenge them, respect their ideas, and encourage them to delve deeper when they don’t understand something. Try not to give a flippant answer or just dismiss them. Soon they will be entering a society where their thoughts will be dismissed all too readily. We need to show them now what it looks like when their ideas are taken seriously so they can leave the coop and demand that same seriousness out in the world.

LAUGH WITH THEM.

Living in a house with multiple females can be tense at times. At our house, there is a lot of door slamming, eye rolling, and tearful shouting (sometimes the girls do it too). Emotions run high, lives are ruined, clothes are borrowed without asking, and don’t get me started on the failure to complete chores! It doesn’t make for a very happy environment and there are long stretches of time when laughter, excluding the maniacal kind, is nowhere to be found in our coop.

Why does a disagreement with my daughters turn into the Hundred Years’ War whereas my son and I can find the dirty dishes, yell, threaten to run away, pout, clean the said dishes and be cuddling in bed together within a half hour? Because we have a tendency to only remember the negative and dwell on it. When your daughters tell you that you only spend time yelling at them for everything- it’s because they BELIEVE that you only spend time yelling at them!!! YOU know they are exaggerating, YOUR ROOSTER knows they are exaggerating…but your little HEN doesn’t feel they are because they only focus on the yelling. On top of this selective memory thing, a lot of tweener/teen girls feel persecuted at the slightest admonishment during this time because they are so harsh on themselves and expect no less from others. And then…there’s the HORMONES! Lose~lose~lose!

Sometimes the only way to combat this perception and get through times like this is to open the top on the kettle and relieve some of the pressure (stress) from the situation. I know a lot of women like to bond with their girls over shopping or getting their nails done, etc. but don’t discount the need to just be silly and cut loose. Have a girls night where you watch hilarious movies or take a minute out of your day to text them a funny picture or inside family joke that you know will make them laugh. Not only are you reinforcing “good” memories and mending fences, but you are teaching your daughters to self soothe as adults from stress in a way that is free, non-fattening, and doesn’t require an appointment. Win~win~win!

SHOW INTEREST IN WHAT THEY ARE INTERESTED IN.

As I mentioned, I have three daughters. Three. Out of the three, only one of them is pretty close to my own personality. She and I share a lot of the same abilities, faults, sense of humor, and interests. Two peas in a pod. So, guess what? I find myself struggling to understand the interests of the other two.

While I am content to sit with chick #3 on the couch and share a bag of popcorn while binge watching Sherlock, I can not for the life of me understand why one would want to watch soccer games on T.V. being broadcast by stations that don’t even SPEAK ENGLISH! Another REALLY enjoys video games whereas the thought of playing Super Mario Cart for hours makes me want to go lay down in the university parking lot.

Regardless of whether you are interested in the activities they like or not, attempt to be an active participant somehow. We spend a lot of time, as a society, talking about how it is important when raising sons for fathers to spend time pursing interests with their boys but we don’t really talk a whole lot about mothers doing the same and what impact it has on development. When you show your daughter that an activity or hobby of hers is important to you- you are saying that she is important to you. The more important she thinks she is to you, the more likely you are to maintain open and honest communication that may allow you to speak into her life and offer valuable instruction concerning a situation that you would have otherwise been denied knowledge of.

 LET THEM SOLVE THEIR OWN PROBLEMS (WITH GUIDANCE).

This is probably one of the hardest suggestions to follow on the list. If I had a nickle for every time I took matters into my own hands and “solved” one of my kids’ problems when I should have offered wise counsel and instruction on how to take ownership of the situation…

While we need to strive to let kids work out issues on their own regardless of whether they are male or female, mothers of girls really need to take this to heart and do their best give their daughters skills to manage conflict and then only push their beaks into the fray when absolutely necessary. Why? Because of the shoddy examples of female conflict resolution that the world presents. Is it any wonder that “girl drama” seems to be escalating when the media, etc. glorifies the latest celebrity cat fight or messy divorce? The more outrageous/stupid/petty the reaction the better!

We need to raise women that know how to handle conflict in a mature and sensible manner and can practice those skills now (while under our supervision) because they are going to face it alone in their marriage, at their workplace, and in their relationships with their children and if their only conflict resolution skill set involves a “twitter” war of wits or manipulative pouting- we are in for it.

HELP THEM TO SET REALISTIC AND CHALLENGING GOALS.

I can’t relate to you how many times I have seen girls that have no concept of goal setting, even well into early adulthood. Now, I know a lot of our daughters declare that they are “going to go to college” or do this and that, but in reality, THAT in and of itself does not a goal make.

Serious goal setting is so much more than that and if our girls can grasp it from an early age, there is no doubt in my mind that they will have more success in the future. Successful people are goal setters, plain and simple. So, what is a goal then? For a goal to be powerful and complete it has to not only contain the end result your daughter wants to achieve but the steps and methods she is going to use to achieve it.  It isn’t “I am going to go to college” as much as it is “I am going to get into ABC college by taking a preparation course for the ACT, sitting for the test both my junior and senior years, taking any advanced coursework I qualify for in high school, maintaining a 3.5 GPA my senior year and etc. etc. etc.”

Why is this type of goal setting so important? Because it provides not only their ending point “college” but a road map of how they get from the present to that point. When you can see the path ahead, it makes it easier to stay on track when the final destination seems very far away. A lot of people aren’t unsuccessful because they didn’t have dreams- they are unsuccessful because they didn’t follow or stay on the paths to reach those dreams! We have to try to raise long term female planners in an age when anything over 8 seconds is considered an attention span ABOVE average.

HELP THEM IDENTIFY AND DEVELOP THEIR STRENGTHS. In the course of my current employment I ask a lot of girls “What are your strengths?” No answer. The seconds tick by and they start looking alarmed as if they are waiting on me to tell them or give them a clue as to the answer.

How sad is that?

No doubt that some of them know. But then you have to ask the question “why don’t they want to talk about it?”As a culture, do we still view confident girls as being ego-maniacs or too proud so they instinctively keep quiet? I don’t know the answer. My own experience leads me to believe that for whatever reason, girls either A)seem like they haven’t spent much time thinking about the subject or B) don’t want to address it or haven’t explored how it applies to areas of their life enough to engage in conversation about it.

As their mothers, we should be the FIRST people in their life to help them figure/point out what they are good at and where their aptitudes lie. We need to help them to examine how their strengths can be leveraged and used to make them successful women. I don’t know if you’ve spent much time in a Middle School/High School but it sure doesn’t seem like there are a lot of girls lining up to do this job for you. Even as a grown women, a lot of us don’t have someone in our corner supporting us to develop our gifts. How many opportunities have been missed? How many songs haven’t been written or mountains haven’t been climbed?

Because of our role as their mothers we have the amazing gift of not only helping our daughters to see their potential but then acting as a role model for them of how to be supportive of other young women around them. Why is it so important to me that you teach your girls to be supportive as teens? Because some day they might be the women that interact with MY daughters! Ah…I look forward to the days when “Mean Girls” only brings up vague memories of a horrible movie.

BUILD THEIR SELF-ESTEEM BY REMINDING THEM WHO’S OPINION COUNTS. If you were to look at American culture from the outside, you would argue that we are one of the most self-esteem-building civilizations that has ever lived on the planet!!!  We’ve decided that trophies are awarded for participation, red pens can’t be used for grading and cyberspace is full of pictures of pouting, duck faced, perfectly groomed girls of every shape and size. It appears that we are ALL about ourselves ALL of the time. So, why do we have so many young women with low/little true self-esteem?

Something about trophies and softened correction and selfies isn’t getting the job done. That’s why.

So, if self-esteem can’t be predicted by selfie count, what is going on? First, we have to look at what self-esteem really is. One way to define esteem is the worth or value that one places on something or someone. Self-esteem then is the worth or value that we place, feel or have about ourselves. This is where it starts to get tricky. A lot of times, the way we view ourselves or the amount of self-esteem we have is based not on our own opinions of our abilities/talents etc. but is a reflection of the esteem we believe others hold for us.

If we have a high self-esteem but no one around us shows esteem for us, we can either be left with a false positive self-esteem (unfounded pride or narcissism) or our self-esteem drops in response to the belief that others do not hold us in high regard. Do you see the danger our daughters now face in regards to self-esteem in our current society? They are watching a society too consumed by itself to notice them to gauge how much value and respect they have for themselves.

It’s more important now than ever that we begin to show our daughters that its not the quantity of esteem (instagram ‘likes’) that is most important but the quality of the people around them that they look to for validation. What is the character of the person who’s opinion your daughter holds most dear? We need start explaining that they will only see a true and accurate reflection of how others view them when they are careful about who they give this power to…because it IS a powerful thing to a young girl/woman.

When your daughter comes home and someone from school has said or done something to damage their self-esteem, it isn’t enough to dismiss it as mean kids/teens. Help your daughter learn to evaluate whether the opinion of the offending party is a true reflection by comparing it to what important people in your girl’s life think about them.

FOCUS ON WINNING THE WAR TO DECIDE WHAT BATTLES ARE REALLY IMPORTANT. Remember when we were talking about goal setting for the girls? We need to be active goal setters in how we raise them too! What is the end result we are looking to achieve with our daughters? Some of us may want our girls to be highly educated and have challenging careers. Some may want theirs to grow into women that have compassion and put the needs of others ahead of their own. Some may want to raise up an individual that brings laughs and light to millions. Some (hopefully every hen) may be planning for all of these things!

Regardless of what values you hold dear for your girls, its important to really set down and decide not only what kind of woman you want to raise but come up with a game plan on how you will accomplish this and what things/thoughts/ideas you need to impart to them. I always tell my class that very few people are successful, really successful, by accident. This holds true for parenting as well.

What does this have to do with the day to day battles that we have with one or more smaller females in our house? EVERYTHING. You’ve heard the saying that we should “pick our battles” implying that some battles just aren’t worth winning and cause more strife than they are worth. Let’s keep “picking” them but instead base our choices on whether or not the battle is crucial to the overall goal that we have in raising up a woman. It won’t cause the battles to go away (hormones alone wouldn’t allow for it!) but I believe when you view battles in this context you can’t help but see every argument as an potential learning experience for yourself and your girl/girls. That change in perspective might be the difference between broaching a subject with grace and selling the offending female to the gypsies.

CHALLENGE THEM TO THINK BIG. It seems like the last few decades in our country have been marred by more and more bad news and deflated dreams. You can’t turn on a T.V. set without someone talking about how graduating college students will never find jobs and the growth of new business starts is crumbling. If you think your daughters aren’t putting two and two together or paying attention to these headlines, you are wrong. I meet a lot of students that come to college with no real interest in a subject area but choose a degree because their parents are “hoping I’ll be able to find a job” with it.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not advocating all students major in Philosophy or Art. I understand the concern and worry about this for my own children. But at the same time, I want my daughters to also be able to imagine a world where they can accomplish something great. There are plenty of people in this world that will be telling your girls they “can’t”, I just think someone (mother hens to be specific) should be reinforcing the belief that they “can”.

If their dream seems unrealistic, instead of trying to set the bar lower or make the dream smaller-how about teaching them to brainstorm ways they can change the big dream to be easier to attain? Try helping them locate resources to work towards their goal. Not only will working together bring you closer but you might just find that impossible dream that your daughter had starts looking more and more achievable to you too!

TEACH THEM TO BALANCE FEELINGS WITH THOUGHTS.
The simple truth is that we live in an age where we are encouraged to make decisions based on how we “feel” about a situation/person/event or if our “feelings” dictate a certain response. A very clear example of this is the American brand of consumerism. We’ve been trained to confuse want (desire) for need (practicality). One is fueled by emotion whereas the other is fueled by reflective thought.

While this is encouraged in both men and women today, it seems to come more naturally to those of the female gender and I have seen it cause more heartache (in my own life and others) than you can possibly imagine. I see a lot of girls that are only capable of looking at life’s events through “feeling” colored glasses. Hens are (in general) more apt to allow ourselves to give uneven weight to emotions even when they run counter to how our heads are interpreting our environment. Sometimes, we are so lead that we refuse to put our thinking caps on at all until a decision has already been made and we’re left on the flip side wondering how we ever ended up (fill in the blank).

Balance is key. We were given brains AND hearts (the metaphorical kind)  for a reason. Our daughters need to grow up learning to resist a culture that says “do whatever makes you happy for the moment” and learn that the wisest choices for their lives are made when both parts are in on the decision making. As mothers we need to try our hardest to model this type of decision making for their benefit (I know, I’m asking for an impossible thing) but like I always tell my girls:

FACT CHECK THOSE FEELINGS BEFORE YOU REACT

SET THE EXPECTATION THEY SHOULD BE VALUED FOR THEIR MIND, THEIR APPEARANCE & THEIR SOUL. OK. If you haven’t already tuned me out, this may be the one that sends you over the edge and you start questioning the judgement of poultry.

I believe we need to be raising daughters to value their mind, their body/appearance and their soul. Too many times it seems like we are really good at two out of the three and we pat ourselves on the back as mothers for being pretty good at this “parenting” thing. Heck, sometimes we only focus on one and pat ourselves for that too!The truth of the matter is, there are really three facets that make up a well balanced grown woman.

Oh, I’ve heard a lot from women that believe we should focus on the mind and that education and learning etc. is what will set our daughters up for success. That regardless of their interests and abilities, this should be our first and foremost priority of female chick rearing. Others claim we should be focused on the soul and the character of a person. That if their heart believes they should live in the underside of overpasses for their entire life we should encourage and embrace it. As far as the last, I haven’t actually found a real-life mother specimen willing to admit its all about their daughter’s looks but I KNOW they are out there because I’ve seen Toddlers and Tiaras.

By the same token, sometimes we think we should cover the mind and soul part but that the looks part shouldn’t be important at all in an advanced society. To that I declare “Chicken Puckey”. In our attempts to take away the importance of someone’s appearance we are basically invalidating that portion of who they are. I don’t think girls should be consumed with what they look like. As mothers, I think we need to keep a balanced and open opinion about embracing all the aspects of our daughters without discounting a huge chunk.

As moms it is our job to teach our daughters to value themselves holistically and that means supporting and encouraging them to pay attention to and work on every facet of their being. Successful, happy, engaging and enlightened women have mastered all three areas and I think we should strive for nothing less than that for our chickadees.

Lecture over.

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