The first question that I found myself asking about his book was, ‘Wasn’t it written by Steve Biddulph?’ It is packaged as the companion to his classic ‘Raising Boys’ and his name is prominent on the cover, little smaller than that of the actual author. In the foreword, which he contributes, he describes his joy at the birth of his own daughter. Surely he was qualified to write such a book? The question remains unanswered, and we have family therapist Gisela Preuschoff’s take on the topic of raising our daughters.
The book begins with a quick survey of both the scientific and anecdotal differences between girls and boys during their development. However from this point on much of the discussion of bring up a baby girl would be relevant to a child of either gender. Surely boys and girls equally need to be brought up with high self esteem, learned helplessness is not a specifically female trait and the fear of sexual assault is not unique to girls.
Indeed while the suggestions in this book are all excellent parenting advice, little of it is particular to girls. Several sections are contributed by Steve Biddulph and are again simply examples of good parenting, not good girl-parenting.
Specifically female matters such as menstruation and teenage pregnancy are covered in only a few pages, while bizarrely more space is devoted to girls and the benefits of horse riding. Perhaps Ms. Preuschoff’s German roots are showing here, since here in the UK few families can afford, or even have access to riding lessons.
There is plenty of discussion of how to how to counteract the stereotypical images of femininity that your daughter may encounter. She recommends that, should you let your daughter play with Barbie, you should remind her of ‘all the things you cannot do in high heels’. Funny, because I find that what shoes you wear make no difference - in high heels you can still do maths, paint a picture or write a thesis. I can’t help feeling that you shouldn’t make your daughter choose between high heels or a career and adventure, just in case she chooses to go with the heels.
The most interesting and valuable section is undoubtedly the discussion of the family relationships between mothers and girls and fathers and girls, and what happens when one parent is absent. For a mother reading it, it will provoke as much thought about your own relationship with your parents as the relationship between you and your daughter.
About the Author: Jacqui O’Brien is the editor of eParenting and a high-heel wearing engineering graduate.