Lori Day, educational psychologist, parenting coach and author, still believes it takes a village to raise a child. Additional support is vital in today’s overly sexualized culture, which pressures girls to grow up too fast, according to the author. Around 15 years ago, Day put her beliefs into action.
Day and her daughter, Charlotte Kugler, spotted a post for mother-daughter book clubs in a local bookstore window, and instantly, the idea came to them. The two formed their first mother-daughter book club with four other mothers on board, and it lasted for six years.
They both feel the clubs are needed now more than ever to empower young girls. Forming mother-daughter book clubs are the focus of their recent book, Her Next Chapter—co-authored by Charlotte.
The book covers the fundamentals and offers book recommendations based on Day’s expertise as an educator.
“The formation of the book club was one of the happiest and most trans-formative experiences,” the author claimed in an interview. “I highly recommend other mothers looking to enrich parent-child bonds to start a book club.”
The clubs serve as an empowering haven for girls, similar to a support group. Most group sessions spark interesting discussions the girls can relate to. Topics are usually about issues surrounding the community such as negative body image, bullying, media sexualization, the pressure on girls to be sexy early on and etc.
“Growing up, things were a lot more gender neutral. Things changed and got a lot more hyper-feminine and sexy,” said Day. “There was no idea that little girls were sexy back then.”
Working in the field of education for over 25 years, Day sketches out a typical day for girls in school today. It’s a lot of self-conscious behavior from girls who are consistently surveying their appearance in the mirror and imagining how they look to boys.
“It’s causing girls to drop out of sports at twice the rate that boys do. The girls don’t want to look sweaty or mess up their makeup and hair,” she said. “We’re losing a lot of girls at high school age. They don’t want to play sports anymore.”
Most professionals like Day blame children’s distorted views on toxic messages from the media and marketing companies, which contribute to the sexualization of young girls. Manufacturers market sexy adult clothes directly to girls. Toy manufactures market overly sexualized toys to girls and things like science toys or police trucks to boys, causing a gender divide.
The book clubs allow moms to look at the messages from society that says beauty is more important than having smarts and talent, and it helps them understand the truth behind these messages.
“It helps them understand things like why do the corporations do this? Why do toy companies do this, why do clothing stores do this? It’s because they can make more money,” said Day. “And so if girls understand what’s going on behind the media, they are more skeptical and they should be. They should learn to be critical thinkers. Mother-daughter book clubs teach them these skills, which they will have for the rest of their lives.”
The author remembers a book club session Charlotte’s 7th grade year. The topic of bullying came up in a conversation after reading Stargirl by Jerry Spinelli, a book about nonconformity. One girl was a victim of bullying and the moms were able to pitch in and help her.
“The kids start out by talking about what is happening to the characters in the book and about their own lives. They say ‘Oh yea that happened to me once or happened to my friend.’ They sort of forget that the mothers are in the room and moms get a window into what’s happening in their lives and at school.”
Another aim in the book club is to help the girls maintain a healthy self-esteem and feel amazing without having a perfect body, sexy clothes or other things that the media says makes them beautiful.
“The key is to help your child find something that they’re good at. The earlier you start, the more successful they’ll be.”
Day advises children to find something they’re talented in and feel proud of to avoid falling into these traps. It was obvious to her that around 6 or 7, Charlotte was talented. She encouraged her daughter to pursue her passions.
Charlotte, now a graduate student at the University of Rhode Island, wrote stories that were pages long and very complex in the kid’s column of the local newspaper. She once said, “Mom, you’re going to buy my book from a book store one day.” Her daughter’s ambitions kept her focused on her talents and skills rather than on her outer appearance.
“It also helps for parents to supervise kid’s media consumption and monitor what they watch when they’re young. Parents should set good examples by not making appearance their main focus. If you’re doing a lot of fat talk, that makes girls start dieting at an early age and feel self-conscience about their bodies.” These are also some of the topics she discusses in her book.
Day advocates healthier media and products for girls through her national non-for profit organization, The Brave Girls Alliance, with co-founder Melissa Wardy. They are also sponsoring the campaign called “Truth in Ads,” a congressional legislation to encourage magazines to stop photo shopping the bodies of young women, which alter girl’s perception of reality and encourage eating disorders.
“We take on issues like this and promote awareness. We consult with manufactures of toys and other items on how to make them healthier for girls,” said Day.
“The diva fashionista is overdone and boring. Families are looking for multi-layered, diverse, intelligent, and strong media characters to enrich their girl’s imaginations. If our girls can see it, they can be it,”~ The Brave Girls Alliance.
Smiles, laughter, and positive feelings are components of happiness, but happiness isn’t easy to define. For some people, a wedding ring gives them a blissful feeling. For others, wealth determines their happiness. I’ve decided to step outside of my comfort zone and embark on a new journey of achieving what happiness means me, which is personal development. My aim is to become a better mom, attain spiritual growth and accomplish other life goals. However, while waiting for the next level, it’s easy to forget that appreciating the beauty of life comes from having peace, joy, love and happiness before any goal is obtainable. Here are some simple yet meaningful ways I’ve found to be happier.
1. Internal Spring Cleaning. – I got the idea for this first step from Author and Inspirational Speaker Iyanla Vanzant’s classic book, In the Meantime. Every now and then, I have an aha moment when my life reflects a chapter in her book about house cleaning. She brilliantly expresses an underlying message of spiritual cleansing in order to find love and happiness: “There’s a foul odor, the origins of which you do not know. You have become aware that there are little holes in the walls of your life. Termites, perhaps? Something eating away at the very core of the structure, your structure, which is your life” – Iyanla Vanzant. A healthy attitude develops when you clear your house of past hurts, grudges and etc. Cleansing through prayer and meditation on God’s word will explore matters that manifest in our attitudes and drain us of our happiness.
2. Expect Positive Things. - A winner finds peace in constructing optimism; Expecting the negative won’t get positive results. A true diva knows that failure is inevitable and losing is part of the art of winning. If I don’t get anything else from waking up early on Sunday mornings to Preacher and Author Joel Olsteen’s sermons on television, I understand his message of keeping a faith-filled heart in the midst of hard times. You have no choice but to feel happy when you shift your focus to something positive.
3. Laugh More. – Get one good laugh from your gut, smile…doesn’t that feel better? Find humor in every situation. Laugh at yourself. It allows you to see things in a less threatening light so you can enjoy the moment. It’s an old cliche, but laughter is in fact the best medicine. Laughing helps heal the body, relieve anxiety, improve our attitudes and cause positive changes in our brain chemistry. It triggers an increase in what is known as the feel-good chemical, endorphin.
4. Be Generous to Others. - Acts of altruism produce more happiness than going to our favorite store and buying loads of our favorite things. Yes, doing for others rather than ourselves makes us happier. Researchers suggest that giving to others produce greater happiness than those who spend money on themselves. It’s natural to question dishing out extra money and etc., but when the act is done, there’s no doubt you will get a gratifying feeling.
5. Brush it off. - Some of the unhappiest people are easily offended. Developing a thick skin comes with practice but is rewarding. The next time you feel the need to take offense to a mouthy co-worker or a raging driver, interpret their behavior as they’re “just having a bad day.” Don’t personalize it! Instantly forgive them for the sake of your own peace and happiness.
6. Make Friends and Cultivate Relationships. - “Independent Woman” has become the anthem for some women, in addition to a bit of an “I’m-my-own-best-friend” attitude. Still, we weren’t designed to be lonely. Having friends to share funny stories with and to stand by when life gets tough sounds “Kum-ba-yahish” but actually increases happiness and can add years to your life. Studies show that people’s mortality rate doubles when they’re lonely and people with meaningful relationships live longer.
7. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others. - “Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt. It’s impossible to keep up with the Joneses, so be mindful that everyone is engaged in his or her own race to fulfill a purpose. Comparison will never get you ahead in your own race, and you will never succeed at running anyone else’s.
8. Set Goals and Complete Them. - Feeling accomplished increases self-esteem. When we set goals and accomplish them, it creates positive feelings and a new confidence in our abilities. Goal progress produces positive emotions and enhances our psychological well-being, studies show.
9. Meditate on the Word. - Being a God-chick and proud of it comes from knowing who you are in Christ Jesus. This is part of my journey to spiritual growth, and I’m aware that such lifestyle doesn’t guarantee “a bed of roses.” But one of God’s promises is that He will equip us with everything we need to succeed in our purpose, as long as it’s pleasing to him. – Hebrew 13: 21. Given that those who believe in Him are more than capable because of what He’s promised us, gives us a peace and happiness that no other advice can give us.
10. Be Grateful. - Happiness is ultimately a choice. Appreciating life and understanding that things could be worse helps put things in perspective. Some well-known figures produced inspirational quotes about happiness in trying times. “Think of the beauty still left around you and be happy“- Anne Frank
Do you unlock your cell phone every 10 to 30 minutes? Does being away from your phone make you anxious? If you can honestly answer true to these questions, it’s possible that you could benefit from a cell phone hiatus. I’m not innocent of being glued to the cell phone—spending time texting, surfing timelines, playing games and etc. are all pretty harmless and fun.
While stepping out in my backyard yesterday, I noticed one thing. It was quiet. I mean there was no other noise besides the trees swaying and the sound of a few cars driving by from holiday traveling. The moment reminded me of one of my grandmother’s “southern gal” expressions that always brought me to tears of laughter. “It’s quieter than a mouse pissing on cotton,” she would say.
Shortly after graduating college, pursuing my career was no longer my first priority. I was preparing for the full-time job of becoming a mom for the months ahead of me. What an enormous responsibility for a single, young aspiring journalist!
High school English teacher and mom Eileen Riley-Hall co’ taught autistic children in college summer camp and has worked with special needs students for over 25 years. However, she had never suspected her own daughters’ diagnoses of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Many are outraged as the heart-rending death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin has touched viewers nationally. Friday evening, Sanford, Florida police released seven 911 recordings of calls made by Martin’s shooter, George Zimmerman, and frantic neighbors in the area the night of the shooting. The tapes expose some truth to the Martin case, after an ongoing dispute over whether Martin was killed in self-defense.
It’s incredibly easy to hold a grudge in such trying times like these: almost half of marriages end in divorce, mass layoffs last year compelled workers to cling to their jobs, and so on. Dating is even harder than ever these days. When transferring baggage from one relationship to another, often times, we find ourselves in a battle for our feelings. Anything can trigger resentment—no matter how well some are at hiding it—the truth is everyone has a distinct story to share about their own sensitive pasts. For those who do, masking unforgiveness as a replacement for handling it appropriately is very unhealthy studies show, and bitterness is commonly the resultant emotion.
Redshirting: does it work? Education Professionals Share Their Views on Keeping Children Back from Kindergarten
At one point, if parents so much as thought that their child would be held back in school, it wouldn’t have been a pretty picture. Apparently, the idea of holding children back has expanded in meaning over the years and has become an increasingly popular trend for parents of preschool aged children who prefer them to be the oldest in their classes–This term for this is redshirting.