From the Director of Student Wellbeing

Girls Talk: Raising Confident and Courageous Girls Parent Seminar
What’s Happening to Our Girls?

As part of our Girls Talk: Raising Confident and Courageous Girls Parent Seminar series, author Maggie Hamilton shared her research, insights and advice regarding parenting girls in the 21st Century.

Maggie is a regular media commentator and a keen observer of social trends. Her many books, which have been widely published in Australia and overseas, include What’s Happening to Our Girls? and What’s Happening to Our Boys? Maggie’s research takes a close look at the 21st century issues boys and girls face, and offers practical, workable solutions to these challenges.

Maggie began by stipulating that her research may not apply to every girl or every parent’s experience, but having an understanding of the social pressures placed on girls empowers parents to better understand and guide their children.

She commented on the ‘performance culture’ that pervades the lives of young girls, where they feel a self-consciousness about the way they are perceived from a very young age. She remarked on the influence of popular culture as a kind of ‘super parent’ and the increasing need for parents to take on the role of ‘gate keeper’. She urged parents to find opportunities to ‘inject a bit of reality’ when their daughters were exposed to media images and influences, encouraging a critical mindset. She noted the tendency for these images to be lacking in optimism and therefore their capacity for ‘dismantling a girl’s wellbeing’, unless mitigated by an ethical understanding.

Maggie warned of the loss of imagination that can be the result of the influence of ‘cradle to grave’ marketing. Maggie described this as a real concern as imagination is critical for problem solving and navigating choices. She noted that some girls find it difficult to determine what they really like and what advertisers have convinced them they should like.

To counter these influences, Maggie urged parents to foster a ‘discussion culture at home’ and to acknowledge that they understand the pressures young people are under today. She noted that the gap between a parent’s experience of teenage years and their child’s is a gulf of great magnitude in terms of social and technological change. She went on to describe ‘microgenerations’ within generations, explaining that even within one family, two sisters can experience such different expectations at the same age, due to the ever changing social climate.

Maggie talked of the ever-increasing importance of friendships, particularly in the tween and teenage years; due to the need to belong to a ‘tribe’ in order to feel valued. She suggested that parents should encourage friendships with different groups if possible and to facilitate ways of providing their daughters with these opportunities.

Maggie implored parents to avoid over praising their daughter but to create moments to give her a feeling of accomplishment. She noted that pursuing a never-ending list of materialistic possessions can lead girls to ‘striving without ever arriving’; never feeling satisfied with what they have. This, along with a culture of instant gratification, presents parents with the challenge of ensuring that children value what really matters. She challenged the audience to consider what they would rescue from a burning house as a reminder of what is truly of personal and family value.

Maggie’s advice for parents included:

  • Show that you understand the pressures young people face to ‘get behind the shield’
  • Encourage critical evaluation of media and advertising stereotypes
  • Don’t over-praise but encourage a growth mindset
  • Eat together as a family to promote discussion
  • Foster relationships with grandparents where possible
  • Establish family rituals
  • Encourage varied friendship groups
  • Grow their humanity; encourage empathy
  • Replace fearfulness with curiosity
  • Nurture emotional intelligence
  • Keep it sincere and be honest


Upcoming Event: Tricky Teens: How to Create a Great Relationship with Your Teen

Parents may also wish to attend an external parent presentation titled Tricky Teens: How to Create a Great Relationship with Your Teen by Andrew Fuller, Author and Clinical Psychologist. This presentation will be hosted by the Stonnington Council on Wednesday 26 April, 7.00pm – 9.00pm at Malvern Town Hall. Further details can be found here.



Mrs Merran O'Connor, Director of Student Wellbeing