Recent world events have ensured that sexism is not going away anytime soon. Perhaps most disappointing and confusing is that some powerful women have supported sexism as a political strategy. What is socially acceptable alters according to our level of desensitization.
Parents: your daughters, even at a young age, need to be prepared to deflect sexist remarks. Life is all about practice. Dealing appropriately with sexist comments is a skill. It is unfortunate that in today's world, it is a necessary life lesson for your daughter.
Your daughter is vulnerable in middle and high school. The Canadian Women's Foundation cites many research-based statistics worthy of concern, including that "as girls enter adolescence, from ages nine to 13, their confidence declines sharply." This makes them easy prey for sexist comments. Effective strategies to deal with sexism is necessary to help combat the negative effect those words and actions will have on her.
Sexism in schools is part of the bullying lexicon assimilated into relationship issues. And indeed, sexism is not limited to school. Your daughter will find it in the workplace as well. For your daughter, these skills will have broad application in her life.
Adolescence is a vulnerable time in a child's life as they move farther from home in life experiences and friendships. Healthy self-esteem is a necessary entity in dealing with put downs of any kind. Feeling in control of their world is a cornerstone of child's self-confidence.
It is important to discuss the issue with your daughter and prepare her in advance.
First of all, as a parent, it is best to start at the beginning by asking your daughter if she has experienced sexism. This may require some examples. In my educational career, the news was always a useful teaching tool. It is unfortunate in many ways that, even today, you too may use the news as a starting point. From there segue to their own personal accounting of sexist remarks. The effects of sexism can be devastating for a vulnerable teen.
How did your daughter feel when confronted with sexist remarks? It is important to learn to articulate emotions. Also, time to remind her that it is yet another form of bullying and the tactics we apply when dealing with a bully in any situation apply in this instance as well.
Identification of sexist remarks is the beginning. Then make the connection to her emotional reaction to those sexist remarks. Too often we assume that our children understand terms, can identify examples and clearly express their own reaction to the events. Knowledge is power, but clarity of the circumstances is essential.
Next it is time to review ways of dealing with the remarks. The very fact it is a form of bullying is the starting point. She is no doubt aware of bullying effects and strategies.
It can be as simple as a very direct "Please don't say that to me again" in a calm, clear way. Generally any kind of rebuttal with a bully catches them. For one, bullies are bullies because they get away with it. Being a bystander is not a solution to bullying. Getting angry doesn't help much either. A calm, direct, forthright approach is the best approach.
Sexist remarks usually catch us off guard. They are often thrown at a victim in a situation where thinking on your feet is a challenge. That is why it is important to discuss the issue with your daughter and prepare her in advance.
Another way to deal with a sexist comment is ignore it, but that leaves too many questions. The bully might think she didn't hear, might think she didn't care, or a bit of both. They get away with it which is not advancing the issue, merely perpetuating it.
Sexism will follow her throughout life.
Your daughter needs to feel it is safe to tell you or a school staff member if the problem persists. If a student is demonstrating overt sexism towards their classmates, then the teacher should be made aware of it. This is where a lesson on clarity without emotion is important. State the facts of the occurrence and exclude opinion. Personal reaction is germane to the discussion, but sensationalism is not helpful.
Too often in my teaching career, parents just assumed I knew everything that went on in the schoolyard or after school hours, but I didn't. If the issue warrants it, then you, as a parent, are within your rights to act as intermediary and talk to your daughter's teacher. Committed parents are welcomed by any teacher.
First, your daughter needs to deal with it directly and see if there is a resolution she can find on her own. Sexism will follow her throughout life and better that she learn to cope and devise effective solutions independently if possible. It will build resilience, confidence and self -assurance. There will always be bullies in one form or another, on the world stage or on the street where you live.
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