Today we have a treat for you! We are featuring a father who shares his perspective on raising a teen girl. We hope you enjoy hearing another point of view on raising teens. Please meet Tyler Jacobson. Tyler is a husband, father, freelance writer and outreach specialist with experience with organizations that help troubled teens and parents. His areas of focus include parenting, social media, addiction, mental illness, and issues facing teenagers today. You can follow Tyler on: Twitter @tylerpjacobson and on LinkedIn.
I’m a father of three: two boys and a girl. My boys and I are close. We easily bond over food and roughhousing. However, I have to say it’s true what they say about dads and their little girls – ever since the day she was born we have had a very special connection.
Raising boys vs. raising girls…these are two very different things, especially for a father. When you are raising a boy, you notice the same things he does. Marketing targeted at boys today (TV shows, cartoons, toys, etc.) are the same as you remember growing up seeing.
As my daughter grew, her mother and I did everything to encourage her to find out who she wanted to be. More than anything, we wanted her to be comfortable with herself and not feel limited by our actions. Our daughter is a thoughtful, caring, adventurous individual and we tried to help her build on her strengths as well as discover her positive attributes.
However, after a while I noticed there was a different message for girls in the toys that are targeted at children. When we would go shopping as a family, wandering up one aisle and down the next, Legos, racecars and Nerf guns were the bulk of the “boys” aisle. While in contrast, the “girls” aisle was play makeup, stuffed animals and dress up items. It seemed that all the active toys were in the “boys” aisle with sedentary toys making up most of the “girls” aisle.
At first I wasn’t sure what to do, so I’d try to ignore outside influences and just reinforce her personal freedom. It about broke my heart when she asked if it was okay that she wanted a Lego set for her birthday. In her young and impressionable mind, the message had hit home. Some toys were only for boys and some only for girls. Even though I reassured her that her choice in toys was fine, I didn’t address idea that some things were right for boys and some for girls.
Now she’s a young woman
My little girl is 12 and I only wish the social pressure was about Legos again. Instead, my wife and I have had to start having many talks with our daughter about what is and isn’t appropriate for a young woman.
In one instance, when my daughter spent an afternoon at a friend’s house, she came home with a face full of makeup. From overdone eyes to an aggressive shade of red lipstick, my sweet 12 year old looked older and infinitely hardened.
It was hard not to demand she remove it immediately. Instead, we sat down together and talked about what she liked about the makeup. She told us all her friends were wearing makeup and that she was tired of looking like a little kid.
After more discussion, we reached a compromise. My wife would help her learn how to apply light makeup, and until she turned 14, she could only wear it on Sundays and special occasions at school.
I didn’t want her to feel like she had to wear makeup to feel beautiful. I wanted her to stay my fresh-faced and happy little girl. But allowing our children to grow is one of the hardest things parents have to learn, and I don’t want to stunt her growth as a she becomes an independent young lady.
Dealing With Social Programming
After the makeup incident, I knew I had to get ahead of future problems if I didn’t want them sprung on me again. I began to research what other parents were dealing with while raising teenagers and how to help my daughter deal with social pressure.
I found a few resources to help me understand how to deal with the media, and also what my daughter may be going through with the body image pressure she’s getting from every direction.
Together, my wife and I worked to open lines of communication with our daughter. We began with simple topics like her current hobbies. As she became more comfortable talking to us, stronger trust was established and she began coming to us on her own about her concerns.
Over time, I pointed out subtle influences in the media she was consuming, pressuring girls to be a certain thing, and asked her what she thought. Once she knew what to look for I didn’t have to bring attention to anything.
My daughter has always been precocious, but it makes me so proud to see her open up and define her sense of self outside of what society is trying to sell her. My daughter is strong, independent, and beautiful exactly as she is and if I have anything to say about it, she’ll grow up to be a confident woman who will be able to think critically about what the world says women should be.