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.
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.