Research Finding #1
Both the American dream and the feminist dream are alive and well for the successful women who participated in our study. They have outperformed both their mothers and fathers in their educational attainments. Although less than a third of their mothers and less than half of their fathers completed college, almost all of the women had at least college degrees. A third had master's degrees, and another third had doctorates in the arts and sciences or a professional degree in medicine or law. The women in our study were not only successful but happy in their families and social relationships.
Set high educational expectations for your daughters. Expect them to complete college and beyond, whether or not you did. Discuss careers with them, and expect them to have careers. Teach them that educational attainment is of the highest priority.
Research Finding #2
About 70 percent of the women believed that both their parents had high expectations for them. More than a third of the women indicated they felt pressure from parents, teachers, peers, and themselves, although for the most part they liked the pressure or at least didn't seem to mind it.
Don't be too quick to back off if your daughters have to cope with some pressure. It's all part of learning resilience. Expect much from your daughters, and they will expect much of themselves. Coach them for success. Expectations are much more effective if both parents agree (whether or not they're married to each other). If you can't agree, having one parent who sets high expectations is much better than neither doing so. However, too much pressure can cause serious problems. Don't set unrealistically high expectations. If your daughter is experiencing symptoms of pressure, help her to make decisions about how to manage her time better or which activities to eliminate. If she reports too much pressure or begins to show physical symptoms, get professional help.
Research Finding #3
Although most of the successful women in the study were highly intelligent according to various measures, many described themselves as above average or even average in intellectual abilities. Most of the women invested considerable time in study and homework while in school. Motivation seemed at least as critical as ability.
Help your daughters to understand that they don't need to be the smartest to feel smart, but assure them that you believe they are intelligent and that "airheads" don't make it but "brains" do. Studying does pay off. Help them to develop good study habits. Even perfectionism, if not too extreme, can lead to production and achievement. Assure your daughters that they won't wear their IQ score on their foreheads, and for the most part, they should not consider their IQ score a limitation as long as they are interested, motivated, and willing to persevere.
Research Finding #4
In choosing words to describe themselves as they were growing up, the women of the study chose "smart," "hard worker," and "independent" most often. Those descriptors were also chosen most by the women to describe their perceptions of how others saw them. "Happy," "mature," "adultlike," "creative," and "good little girl" were also mentioned frequently. There were various descriptors used by women in some careers, but "smart" and "hardworking" were constants for all careers.
View your daughters as intelligent, good thinkers, and problem solvers. Value work. Be positive about your own work. Have family work projects. A work ethic and a love of accomplishment underlie motivation. Doing chores around the house, baby-sitting, running small businesses (such as lemonade stands), tutoring or teaching others, and working on creative projects will all build a sense of personal competence.
Excerpted from See Jane Win by Dr. Sylvia Rimm with Dr. Sara Rimm-Kaufman and Dr. Ilonna Rimm. Copyright© 1999 by Dr. Sylvia Rimm. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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