The Curse of the Good Girl

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Perfect, perfect, perfect! Why are we trying to be so perfect and demanding this odd-sort of perfection from our daughters? The Curse of the Good Girl: Raising Authentic Girls with Courage and Confidence by Rachel Simmons asks.

This book draws connects the dots between Good Mother and Good Girl roles. I agree, there is a direct connection.

Essentially, a mother holds herself to a standard of perfection and then inflicts the same harsh standard on her daughter.

Last year, I might have thought this had nothing to do with me.

This year, I can see this sort of girl culture and feminine generational inheritance with more clarity. To be honest, while reading this book I felt conflicted.

There are some very insightful passages like this one siting Deborah Tannen’s  You’re Wearing That?: Understanding Mothers and Daughters in Conversation, “It is as if mothers are emotional lightening rods, absorbing and grounding the emotions — both negative and positive — that are swirling around the family.” My children do not share their emotions with their father. They rarely tantrum, they save it for me. All for me. At times it’s more bonding, at times its just emotionally exhausting.

Still, reading much of the book and the premises’ around angry emotions and girls’ lashing out, I kept thinking, does this woman even have children?” I find it difficult to take parenting advice from those who have no personal, first-hand experience.

The book is written primarily, from the point of view of the child. Which, while a valid perspective doesn’t always make great parenting advice.

“Before I began interviewing mothers, I assumed they would use the unconditional bond with their daughters to resist the Good Girl limits on conflict in relationships. Certainly, plenty do. Yet many mothers said their need to repair conflict with their daughters was just as powerful as, if not more unbearable than, the urgency they felt with other intimates. An angry daughter evoked fear and isolation. Several located their anxiety in the fear that their daughters didn’t “like” them. The sense of disconnection and separation was overwhelming.”

I find the sentiments in the above paragraph very frustrating to read. Before she began talking to mothers, she believed they were emotionally super-human and never had upset or negative feelings about their daughters being angry at them?

“The girls were communicating a need to be angry and in conflict, and their mothers could not fulfill the request.”

The talking back disrespectfully and aggressively, tantrum throwing, name-calling and door slamming is right. in. your. face. and. directed. at. you.

I want my daughter to learn to be happy. Not learn to be angry. Angry is easy, at least for me. Happy, as a skill, is both a lot more fun and a lot harder.

What happens to real women who don’t play by Good Mother, Good Girl or Good Wife rules? Just look at how many women hate Kate Gosselin.

Maybe I want to be a Good Mother and this book made me defensive. I know that I need to find a way to make Ainsley’s anger less painful and traumatizing to me.  Yet, I still have to parent and make her do chores and homework and eat healthy foods. Asking her to do these things sometimes provokes her anger. Obviously, I want to respond properly to that emotion. I’m not quite convinced of what the proper way is after reading this book.

There are, to be fair, some very good exercises to use when daughters are overreacting in their “freak-out voice,” teaching your daughter how to accept criticism, good communication strategies that work in any relationship.

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