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Month: August 2009

The Butterfly Effect

This week my first book is being launched by Random House. The Butterfly Effect provides a positive new approach to raising happy, confident teen girls. 

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Advance Praise for The Butterfly Effect

Dannielle Miller is the teen girl whisperer.’ Fran Simpson, teacher and mother of a teen

Dannielle Miller’s book is a must-read for all parents of teenage girls. The first thing that literally thumped me in the chest when reading this book was a total awareness and awakening of what is happening to our teenage girls. At a deep level, it resonated with me. The information is real, pertinent and totally relevant. Great work, Dannielle. Thank you for awakening me. Thank you for snapping me to attention and making me want to become a greater part of the solution.’ Karen, mother of a teen girl

This is the book we have been waiting for. It includes the most up-to-date research and finally gives parents positive, sensible strategies they can easily apply.’ Dr Michele Beale, general practitioner and stress management specialist

If you want to develop a deeply connected and loving relationship with your teenage daughter – then this book is for you. This is a time when many girls struggle to cope and really need our guidance and support, even though they may not be asking for it! The Butterfly Effect is written with passion and honesty, and offers insightful and practical advice for all parents who want to do more than ‘just survive’ the teen years!’ Julie Gale – Founder/Director Kids Free 2B Kids.

Dannielle Miller is not the first person to call attention to these issues, to the phenomenon of girls’ lives sometimes falling apart at the very threshold of womanhood. But in this candid and thought-provoking book, written with passion and conviction, she offers not only insight into adolescent girls as interesting works in progress, but also provides encouragement, solace and solution. She reminds us too, I am pleased to say, that we (their mothers and fathers) are also works in progress…’ Clinical Professor David Bennett AO FRACP FSAM, Head, NSW Centre for the Advancement of Adolescent Health, The Children’s Hospital at Westmead; President, Association for the Wellbeing of Children in Healthcare; and co-author (with Leanne Rowe and Bruce Tonge) of I Just Want You to be Happy (Allen & Unwin, 2009).

What was I hoping to contribute to the vital dialogue on parenting adolescent girls?  

A great deal of research on the issues affecting teen girls’ lives has been conducted by psychologists, sociologists, healthcare professionals and other experts. Throughout my book I considered their data, which has been published in various professional journals and research papers. I am focused on keeping up to date with the latest statistics because they give us a measurable insight into what is happening in girl world.

Yet I also know that the raw numbers do not tell the whole story. They do not always tell us how girls feel about themselves, their world and their place in it. So in addition to statistics and expert opinion, I also collated the more detailed and personal information you can really only get by taking the time to sit down and discuss the issues with teen girls. I gathered this research formally and informally over the many years I have worked with young people as a teacher, as a coordinator for students at risk and as the co-founder and CEO of Enlighten Education.

Ultimately, I believe we can join our daughters and work together to find new connections and deeper mutual understandings. In this book, I want to challenge my readers to do just that: to form a new connection with their daughter, niece, stepdaughter – with all the young women close to them – and work with them to bring about change. I do not want us to aim to merely to ‘survive’ girls’ adolescence, as some other parenting books will encourage us to do. We must aim for something far more mutually respectful and rewarding.

If you are currently caught up in screaming fights or in passive-aggressive girl hell – and yes, I do acknowledge that teen girls are gifted at turning their anger on those who are closest – I can see why books that promise survival might appeal. But isn’t the old ‘Mothers and daughters just do not get along; teen girls are hell’ argument just a little clichéd? It is certainly disrespectful to both parties.

If you, like many of us, have been fed that oppositional, woman-pitted-against-woman approach for years, my invitation to begin a more emphatic journey of parenting through self-discovery may seem too simplistic. Or, if you are caught up in conflict with your teen girl right now, it may seem unobtainable. Let me assure you, I am not setting out to make mothers feel any more inadequate than they may feel already. Girls may do seething anger well, but women do guilt well; we’re gifted at blaming ourselves for everything that goes wrong.

I am not one of the ‘Mummy Police’, the smug parenting experts who leave me feeling like I am doing everything wrong. I found myself particularly susceptible to them in my early days as a mother. I spent my time with my new daughter, Teyah, sleep deprived and bewildered by what I was supposed to do with this new and oh-so-perfect creature. I thought I had to be the perfect mother; she deserved nothing less. These were desperate days spent madly reading every book I could find – and becoming even more confused as one only seemed to contradict the next. In the end it was Baby Love, by Australian Robin Barker, that resonated with me. Why? Because she emphasised the need for following one’s instincts, and love was put at the forefront, right there in the title. Isn’t that what it is supposed to be about, after all? Teyah didn’t need a perfect mother; she needed a happy, confident, loving one.

Your teenage daughter does not need perfection, either. It may surprise you to know that out of the many thousands of young people who have crossed my path, including those from very troubled backgrounds, very few have ever questioned their parents’ skills or said they wished their mothers were better at parenting, or were thinner, more beautiful, more successful. Rather, they have told me they want more time, more love, more empathy and more happiness.

I believe the key is empathy. Instead of viewing adolescence as a stage in which fights between mothers and daughters are inevitable, try viewing it as a stage when a new connection can be found and a new level in your relationship reached. And empathy should be easy. Her pain is your pain. Her struggles are your struggles.

Make no mistake, in this book I am not suggesting you stop parenting and become your daughter’s new ‘bestie’. The other thing that young people consistently tell me they want more of from their parents is boundaries. Your daughter needs to see what a strong, confident, healthy woman looks like, how she copes with mistakes and failures, how she sets boundaries, and how she demands to be treated, both within the home and by society as a whole. If you won’t show her, who will?

In recent years a number of books have come out on the plight of teen girls in our hyper-sexual, commercialised and media-saturated culture. These books are valuable because they provide a real insight into teen-girl world – but they risk leaving us in a state of despair, feeling that it’s all too hard to make changes in our daughters’ lives. It’s not! I was determined to offer practical steps we can take to work towards making things better.

The idea of the butterfly effect comes from the science of chaos theory. It suggests that everything in this world is interconnected, to the extent that the beating of a butterfly’s wings in one part of the world may ultimately contribute to a tornado happening in another part of the world. Small changes can make a huge difference. My hope is that you may harness the butterfly effect in your relationship with your daughter, by being conscious that your actions and words – even ones that seem trivial – have a big influence on your daughter, just as her peers and the media influence her.

Once you have read my book, I would love to know what you think. I also have 10 copies to give away to my blog readers! Simply post a comment here and leave your email address. I will select 10 winners at random and email them to get their postal details.

Getting Real – Challenging the Sexualisation of Girls

With the globalisation of sexual imagery, girls are growing up in the shadow cast by a pornographic vision of sexuality. This important new book has been edited by Melinda Tankard Reist and features contributions by Clive Hamilton, Julie Gale, Noni Hazelhurst, Maggie Hamilton, Steve Biddulph and other leading Australian experts.

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Advance reviews for this important new collection of essays on the pornification of culture include:

Young women and girls today face extraordinary pressures to meet body image expectations that are unhealthy, unhelpful and unrealistic. The contributors to this book make a valuable contribution to an important national debate on how we can help young women to grow up with a healthy self-image and with the freedom and strength to be their real selves.”
The Hon. Kate Ellis, Minister for Early Childhood Education, Childcare and Youth, Parliament of Australia.

Getting Real is an important contribution to the discussion of the sexualisation of girls. This profoundly disturbing issue is a public health problem of international concern. This book is essential reading for parents, educators and everyone who wishes to make the world a safer and healthier place for all children.”
Jean Kilbourne, Author of  So Sexy So Soon: The New Sexualised Childhood And What Parents Can Do To Protect Their Kids

My Melbourne readers may wish to go along to the book’s launch, 2nd September in Hawthorn. The invitation is attached as a PDF here:
GR Melb launch

Getting Real will be available in all good book stores from September 1st. Also available in book stores from September 1st will be my book, The Butterfly Effect. I am very excited about this and will share more in my blog post next week.

Say No 4 Kids

This week I took my 7 year old son Kye with me to the local supermarkets. Whilst I was selecting a Birthday card for a friend he proceeded to pick up a magazine displayed at his eye level and asked me “What is Kyle’s wife doing with her friend?”

Ralph magazine’s August cover features “Kyle Sandiland’s Babe!” Tamara posed seductively all over her best friend Reigan:

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 Close up of cover image:

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Thankfully my boy didn’t get the opportunity to read the accompanying interview:

How did you two hook up?

Tamara: I was in America pursuing music stuff and Reigan was on Australian Idol. Kyle kept sending me DVDs of her and saying, “This girl’s really hot. You two would be great together.” Then, when I came back, Reigan came to Sydney to meet me. This was three years ago.

Reigan: I was staying at a backpacker’s and Tamara calls me up and says, “Come and stay at our house.” I’ve been living there ever since – and she’s had me drunk ever since.

What’s been your wildest night out?

Tamara: I’ll reveal one detail from my hen’s night – I pretty much got home naked. I have to admit, I have a lesbian tendency. Women are beautiful, so instead of getting male strippers, I got a female dildo show.

Got any party tricks?

Tamara: Get everybody naked. Reigan and I are like little nymphs. We like everyone to do things they wouldn’t usually do.

Reigan: But it’s not just like, “Hey, get naked!” It’s compliment after compliment until they get naked. I’m famous for my all-girl parties in Perth.

How does Kyle reckon of the shoot now that it’s finished?

Tamara: He loves it. When he first heard about it, he was like, “Why wouldn’t I want everyone to see how hot you are?”

Do we really need our children to see images like this when we are out buying the groceries?
 
Do we really need this man back on our airwaves? 
 
Thankfully this week I also received the very timely email below from the passionate Catherine Manning – don’t you just love a committed grass-roots campaign?

It must be pointed out that Catherine is actually directing her campaign against magazines that make even the example above seem tame. In her own words: “….as I stood waiting for an order with my four year old son, I noticed at children’s eye level just beside the ice-cream freezer directly in front of us, two magazines with almost naked, unnaturally busty, spread legged, pubeless women, faces with parted glossy lips wantingly staring out, as they pulled down their knickers. With headlines such as ‘Fit to F*#K’, World’s Oldest P*rn Star’, ‘Keep on F*#king’, ‘P*rn star goes down on chopper pilot’s chopper’, etc., there wasn’t much left to the imagination…”

I would encourage all my readers to explore Catherine’s site and offer support. And to perhaps think about whether we should be also more vigillent about the displaying of even the more mainstream men’s magazines too.  

Dear fellow Children’s Rights advocate,

As a result of my own personal experience with my local general store, from which I have been banned for raising concerns about pornographic magazines being placed at children’s eye level, I am about to launch a petition to the Standing Committee of Attorney’s General (SCAG) Censorship Ministers to have pornographic publications removed from children’s access and view in milkbars, service stations, etc.

Having received great community support after several articles and letters to the editor were published in my local newspapers, I have just launched http://sayno4kids.com. This site will house the petition, giving the public easy access to add their voice to the call for change to the current display laws surrounding pornographic publications. Of course, depending on the success of this one, sayno4kids.com could house other petitions relating to children’s rights/sexualisation of children.

Since my story aired on the ABC774 Jon Faine Morning Program, Julie Gale of Kids Free 2B Kids and I have met on several occasions and have now formed an ‘alliance’ to promote and distribute this petition.

On a personal note, I am a mother of four children (ages 4, 5,7 and 10). I worked in the television news industry for 10 years (B.C.!), and more recently have been involved in community and environmental advocacy. I am passionate about this issue, and truly believe that the most effective way to create change is through ‘grass roots’ movement.

In a letter in response to my complaint, the Director of the Classification Board Donald McDonald, assured me that ‘…the Board takes its responsibilities seriously and reflects current community standards in its decision making’. This leads me to conclude that the Board are in fact out of touch with the community, as I am yet to meet one person who doesn’t agree that exposing children to pornography is inappropriate and harmful.

Given your area of expertise, I am appealing to you to support this petition, and ask that I may be able to include your name/organisation in a list of ‘ endorsements ‘ on our website. If you would like to provide a statement or comment, that would be welcome too.  

Kind regards,

Catherine Manning

Say No 4 Kids

www.sayno4kids.com

e. info@sayno4kids.com

Grants for girls

This week I want to share some really interesting websites that offer grants for young women. Are there young women in your life who might be able to access these?

The Layne Beachley Aim for the Stars Foundation was created to “inspire girls and women across Australia to dream and achieve”. What a fabulous slogan! Beachley was inspired to start this foundation for young women as she had struggled to fund her early surfing career (imagine a male pro surfer having to go without sponsorship for 8 years and being forced to work four jobs as well as training and competing!). The list of girls she has chosen to support so far is impressive and looks beyond those just interested in sport. Young women passionate about pursuits such as ballet, opera and African studies have all been assisted.

Beachley tells us that “the foundation is an investment into the future of Australian women. A little bit of finance or just the knowledge someone believes in their personal ambition may be all it takes for a female to achieve greatness and ultimately happiness.”

Who else is encouraging our girls ?

The Vicsport website is one which is fabulous for sporting girls, and it also hosts great articles about women in sport and in leadership roles in general.

Youth NSW also has some excellent links to lots of opportunities that would appeal to young women, such as the Future Leaders Awards, which recognise and reward young Australians who have shown strong leadership and potential, and Write in Your Face, which is a funding program supporting emerging forms of writing practice by young writers or organisations working with young writers. I love that the latter invites proposals from people who are using language in innovative ways, including writing for zines, e-zines, comics, multimedia, multi-artforms or cross-media works, websites, live performances and spoken word.

Federally, there is a whole website dedicated to grants and a search for “women” and “youth” brought up a few interesting options, such as the Local Champions Program for young sportsmen and women, and the Science and Innovation Awards for Young People in Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

If it is arts you are after, then the Australia Council for the Arts is the place to go!  Search under “Grants”. You will find everything from music to dance to literature.

Other private foundations worth considering include:

The Amanda Young Foundation. This was created in memory of a young woman who tragically died as a result of meningococcol disease. The organisation exists not only to raise awareness of the disease but also to encourage young leaders in Western Australia. They have a Leaders Award and a fellowship coming soon.

The Future Leaders Awards recognise and reward young Australians who have shown strong leadership and potential. The awards also aim to inspire others to engage in environmental and community issues and make a difference. Here I found awards in areas ranging from jazz to writing to climate action.

The Audrey Fagan Enrichment Grant program is offering girls in the ACT grants of up to $2,000 to pursue study in a field of interest.

Finally, should you decide to pursue any of these opportunities, the following site has a few good basic tips for writing successful grant applications: Tips for Writing Grants. If the writing process really intimidates you, the excellent site Our Community has a list of experienced writers who can be paid to complete grant applications on your behalf.

Do you know of any other funding opportunities young women can access? If so, please share these!

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