Girls who like themselves

Researcher, writer and mum of two girls, Kasey Edwards explains that girls need to “have a power perspective” in order to thrive, and explains why praise can be problematic. By Kate Barber

Kasey and husband, Dr Christopher Scanlan, have written their tenth book together – Raising Girls Who Like Themselves in a world that tells them they’re flawed, driven by their aspirations for their own daughters.  

The pair outline the necessary characteristics of girls who like themselves and explain how parents can help instil and protect these. The first “foundational pillar” (of the seven they discuss in the book) is “having a power perspective,” which means that “she gets to decide if she’s okay, and she doesn’t give this power away,” says Kasey. 

Around the age of 10, girls become super aware of others’ perspectives, desperate to be validated and accepted, says Kasey. We tend to blame social media for our daughters’ preoccupation with fitting in and being liked, but Kasey says we set young people up for this from a very young age. “Every time we tell a girl to wear something else or force a girl to kiss their grandmother, we send a message that our opinions matter more.” 

Instilling a power perspective in girls means recognising that praise can be problematic. “Whenever they seek praise from us, we are telling them that our opinions are more valid than their own.” 

When we praise her for achieving a particular grade, for achieving the most goals in her netball game, for how she looks, Kasey says that we sew the seeds of insecurity because we send the message that her value is contingent on achieving a certain result, being better than someone else, or looking a certain way. 

As Kasey says, we can still praise, but “focus on the process, something she can replicate, rather than the result: ‘Wow, you worked really hard’ instead of, ‘Good work getting an A’. Focus on the process of learning – the marks take care of themselves.”

Kasey says the book “aims to make parents’ lives easier” and that “everything in the book has been tested by their own complicated, imperfect family”. 

Raising Girls Who Like Themselves by Kasey Edwards and Dr Christopher Scanlan. Penguin Life. RRP $40.