This Husband and Wife Duo Has Just Written A Book Entitled ‘Raising Girls Who Like Themselves’

This Husband and Wife Duo Has Just Written A Book Entitled ‘Raising Girls Who Like Themselves’Originally featured on allbrightcollective.com by:
Georgie Abay

Photography by Julie Adams

Raising girls who like themselves. Sounds simple? If you’ve raised a girl from baby to toddler to tween and beyond, you’ll know that it’s actually incredibly complex.

 So where to begin? As husband-and-wife-duo Christopher Scanlon and Kasey Edwards point out in their new book, aptly titled Raising Girls Who Like Themselves, we live in a culture which dehumanises and devalues girls and women. Keep reading their informative and enlightening new book and the statistics will stop you in your tracks. Nearly 1 in 5 girls aged 16–17 meet the clinical criteria for depres­sion. 1 in 14, of Australians aged 4–17 have experi­enced an anxiety disorder. A quarter of girls aged 14–15 have had thoughts about self-harming in the previous 12 months. And we haven’t even started on body image. In Australia, the Butterfly Foundation reports that eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness for young women. So, you’ll quickly get the point that nothing about this topic is simple – and as Kasey says here: “the world's not changing fast enough.” 

We wanted to find out more. Because the next generation needs greater understanding. And because the little women in our lives are our future leaders, so we need to do everything we can to guide them through the ups and downs. Here, we get some answers. 

Photography by Julie Adams
 

You write about something that is really bound to break the hearts of parents – that far too many of our girls don't like themselves. What's going wrong?

Kasey: The standards of beauty is a massive problem. Nobody in today's society is ever going to be beautiful enough, yet we bring up girls telling them that they're beautiful over and over again, and there are constant comments about their appearance. What we're telling them is that beauty is the most important thing about them, and so we've just set them up to fail. They're going to fail at the thing that they think defines them. 

The Butterfly Foundation reports that eating disorders are the third most common chronic illness for young women…

Kasey: It's really important for people to recognise that eating disorders are extremely serious and life-threatening. A lot of talk around eating disorders is it's just a diet that's gone a bit too far, but eating disorders destroy lives. We are well aware as parents that our daughters have a greater chance of dying from an eating disorder than they do of being abducted from a stranger on the street and think about how much time we as parents put into worrying about and trying to prevent that happening compared with how much time we don't put it in to try and reduce the risk of our daughter's getting an eating disorder. We really need to take this very seriously and so one of the things that we really focus on is doing everything we can to reduce the importance of appearance and beauty in our girls' life.

"Our girls’ body confidence is one of the most important factors as to whether or not they're going to grow up liking themselves"
 
Kasey Edwards, Author

How do we approach body image in children?  Kasey: While you as the mother might not talk negatively about your body in front of your children, it’s possible people in your friendship and family circle do. Grandparents for example, in particular are extremely influential in the development of a girl's body confidence. We've had to have the very awkward conversation with members of our own family, about the conversations that they have with our girls. Both our mums are from that generation where they are constantly talking about weight. It's the first thing they notice. Our girls love Granny and she has so much power and influence. We've had to say to them, please do not talk about the appearance of their body, my body, our girl's body or anyone's body in front of our girls. Our girls’ body confidence is one of the most important factors as to whether or not they're going to grow up liking themselves. We are realistic enough to know that in the future, our girls are going to wish for different physical characteristics. There will be times when they will wish they have longer legs or smaller noses or whatever, but what we're aiming for is for that thought to be fleeting, to not ruin their day and to not define their self-worth by it. 

You speak to a number of experts in the book about what to do if your daughter is teased for being fat. What did they say? Kasey: The first one, Dr Rick Kausman, has managed a weight management clinic for 25 years, and he's on the board of The Butterfly Foundation. His advice, very clearly, is don't talk about weight, as in don't initiate a conversation around it, even if you think your daughter might be overweight. He also says nothing good can come from putting a child on a weight loss diet. We might think that dieting is going to be the answer if our child is being teased for being fat. It's not. First of all, weight loss dieting almost always leads to regaining the weight and some. He says that what you need to do rather than focus on weight, is to focus on wellness and the process of living well.

Is your child eating a well-balanced diet, a mix of yummy foods, everyday foods and sometimes foods? And are they moving their body in a fun, healthy, active way? Now, as parents, if the answer to those questions is yes, and yes, then that's our job done. Then the next process is helping our child to accept living in the body that they're in, because the reality is not everyone was born to be stick thin. Bodies do actually come in all different shapes and sizes, and it's really important for kids to understand that. So, that's his advice - don't go down the dieting path, don't force the child who's in the bigger body to exercise when the other kids don't. Go and walk as a family or help your child find an activity that they like doing. The other thing is that if your child is being teased for being fat, a good strategy is to help them to learn to stand up for themselves. This advice comes from Dana Kerford who is a friendship skills expert. This is all about teaching your child the self-respect and the dignity of not putting up with mean, on-purpose behavior. They don't have to take it when someone is teasing them, and the strategy that she teaches children is called the “quick comeback”. This is something that we practice with our kids ahead of time so that when in the heat of the moment, they will know what to say. A quick comeback is something that lets the other child know that what they've said is not okay, but it's not inflammatory, and they're not going to get in trouble for it if a teacher overhears it. A quick comeback is something like, "That's not okay," or, "Excuse me," or, "That was really mean." You deliver the quick comeback, you stand up tall, and you say it in your biggest big girl voice, and then you walk away. What that does, is it lets the other child know that their behavior was not okay, but it also gives your child the dignity and the self-respect that they're not going to put up with being teased or treated badly. 

I'd love for you to explain something that you talk about in a book, which is the concept of a power perspective… Kasey: A power perspective is our name for a range of psychological theories or practices, around who you are and who you are guided by in your life. The technical name for this is internal locus of control. Someone with an internal locus of control, feels that they have the capacity to change their world and that what they think and how they view the world has priority. The opposite of that is an external locus of control. This is where you’re really worried about what other people are going to say about you, what the world thinks of you and what the research shows is that if you live your life mainly with an external locus of control, if you're constantly concerned about what others say, so you don't have that power of perspective, you're going to start to suffer greater rates of things like anxiety. You will have worse mental, physical health, because you'll be constantly crippled by it.

Chris: You can change your perspective. You can reframe how you understand the world, and you can start to get your daughter to do that just by engaging with her with. So, when she's saying the world is terrible and it's all against her, and it was the worst day ever and nothing went right, start challenging some of those claims… for example, "Nothing, nothing went right? It was the worst day in the world, really?" Remind her what other people have been through, what she's been through in the past, those sorts of things. Get her to start to rethink how she sees the world and her place in it.

"You can change your perspective. You can reframe how you understand the world, and you can start to get your daughter to do that just by engaging with her"
 
Christopher Scanlon, Author

I'd love for you to explain something that you talk about in a book, which is the concept of a power perspective… Kasey: A power perspective is our name for a range of psychological theories or practices, around who you are and who you are guided by in your life. The technical name for this is internal locus of control. Someone with an internal locus of control, feels that they have the capacity to change their world and that what they think and how they view the world has priority. The opposite of that is an external locus of control. This is where you’re really worried about what other people are going to say about you, what the world thinks of you and what the research shows is that if you live your life mainly with an external locus of control, if you're constantly concerned about what others say, so you don't have that power of perspective, you're going to start to suffer greater rates of things like anxiety. You will have worse mental, physical health, because you'll be constantly crippled by it.

Chris: You can change your perspective. You can reframe how you understand the world, and you can start to get your daughter to do that just by engaging with her. So, when she's saying the world is terrible and it's all against her, and it was the worst day ever and nothing went right, start challenging some of those claims… for example, "Nothing, nothing went right? It was the worst day in the world, really?" Remind her what other people have been through, what she's been through in the past, those sorts of things. Get her to start to rethink how she sees the world and her place in it.

In your book you write the trap of over-scheduling kids and worrying our children are underperforming compared with their apparent and perfect peers. Why do we fall into this trap of over-scheduling? Chris: This is one area where I think social media does play a role, but it's not about kids. It's us parents being on social media. We're scrolling through, we're seeing all these kids with all these wonderful achievements. We're comparing ourselves to other parents. Now, the measure of good enough parenting is often an exceptional child – and this often comes from a really good place. We want to give our daughters all the opportunities that we might've missed out on, but there's a pitfall with that. If you start to over-schedule, the kids just get burnt out, and they end up just doing things because they feel that they have to perform for us. 

Kasey: The other thing is that kids can end up in a situation where absolutely everything that they do is measured. At school, we have measurements now for everything, even in childcare we would get a learning outcome and an objective at the end of each day. And now, in their downtime after school, instead of just kicking the ball around the backyard, they're at soccer practice and that's adult-led and measured and there's an outcome and there's a good and a bad and a way to get better. It must be absolutely exhausting for a child to have to perform and be measured all the time. There's a lot of talk about girls growing up too quickly. We would argue that over-scheduling our child is a way of forcing them to grow up too quickly too, because what we're doing is we are essentially denying them the once in a lifetime opportunity to be kids, to play.

Could you talk about the importance of true play. Could you explain what that means? Chris: When we often use the word play now, we're really talking about a thinly disguised learning activity, so we have embedded learning activities within a game-like environment or game-like activity. We want you to the play the game, but the whole point of playing the game is to get to X or some outcome that we can measure and that we can tick off and we can say you are really good at that thing. True play doesn't have an outcome. It's just doing something for the sake of it. It doesn’t have a learning outcome. 

Interested in connecting with our community?

EvolveHer curates best-in-class events for you, so you can use the time to focus on what's important in your life or business and simply RSVP for the events that are a fit for you.

Event Schedule