Looking into a girl's world
The Girls' Schools Association
4 OUT OF 5
This would be an easy book to mock. Middle and upper-middle class to its roots, there is an air of unreality about its calm and measured tones when applied to the emotional and social bonfires that are the norm of many teenage homes and classrooms. Discussing all the usual conflagration points of tattoos, alcohol, piercings and sexual conduct can seem a bizarrely sedate affair on the page but is rarely so in practice. And that is why, despite its old-fashioned air, this is a useful book. It is the most explosive subjects that require a calm and wise head.
Your Daughter aims to provide advice on all stages of development and schooling. But if the teenage years dominate, that is hardly surprising as these are the years that most parents fear and experience most anxiety about. The mydaughter.co.uk website is a question-and-answer forum among other things, and some of the best parts of the book have been reproduced directly from there. In almost all cases, the responses to the parental concerns are intelligent, considered and informative.
Two points are made over and over again. The first is that negotiating a successful, secure and happy childhood is about communication. The moment the opportunity for dialogue is lost, so is the opportunity to effect change. One of the traits of the teenage years the authors identify, correctly, is an inability to connect cause with effect and to predict consequences. The motivation for much teenage behaviour is being "cool" and "having a laugh" but the results of that behaviour are frequently nothing like so cavalier. Open channels of communication are the sine qua non of linking cause, effect and responsibility.
The second point is made more subtly but consistently and insistently: parenting is an active process. Parents have responsibilities that they must not shirk. This may seem obvious but every teacher reading this will have had conversations with parents who have simply given up.
A strong message here is that parents need to take control and manage the things they are concerned about. Computers, for instance, should not be allowed in bedrooms, they should be in a "public" area of the house. Parents should be members of their children's Facebook accounts. Mobile phones are valuable tools but if the parents pay the bill, they will have greater control topping up a pay-as-you-go account. There is plenty of good practical advice.
Alongside this, however, come welcome doses of realism about things parents may not be able to control. You cannot choose your daughter's friends. You will not stop her and her boyfriend having sex if they decide to but you can make her think about the emotional commitment and the possible consequences. You will not stop her drinking but you can encourage responsible drinking.
The book includes a lot of sound information on schooling, including homework, exams and post-16 choices. There are also good sections on eating disorders and why self-image is so important, on bullying and internet safety. Inevitably, in trying to be a "catch-all", there are superficialities, but Your Daughter covers a lot of ground with insight and good sense.
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Your Daughter is the product of a unique collaboration by the heads and staff of about 200 girls' schools belonging to the Girls' Schools Association. It offers the best advice from www.mydaughter.co.uk on educating and raising girls.