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See Jane Win
by Dr. Sylvia Rimm

Excerpted by Celeste M. Scholz

          After a tranquil visit to the temple, a Burmese fortuneteller stopped us on the shaded side of the open-arched hallway.  “Would you like to hear your daughters’ fortunes? It’s not expensive and, well, my family could use the money.” Minutes passed as he consulted ancient birth charts and worn journals.  “Both daughters,” the fortuneteller predicted, “will achieve success in their chosen work and have money for a good life.  Sadly enough though, they won’t be very happy in their family and personal lives.”

          Like most people these days, I don’t really listen to fortunetellers. But his words made me stop and reflect. Exactly what are the experiences that lead daughters to success in both areas: career and personal happiness? Dr. Sylvia Rimm, the renowned child psychologist, in her book See Jane Win (Penguin, 1999) surveyed successful women, who participated in the study only if their personal and family lives were reasonably happy. In addition, answers from women who considered themselves neutral or unhappy in their work were eliminated, leaving the results from 1,236 women to be analyzed.  Her research findings are expressed in twenty guidelines for parents and mentors. For the purposes of this short article, I have organized the guidelines into four general recommendations with specific suggestions excerpted from the book.

Motivate your daughters
          Set high educational expectations for your daughters to complete college and beyond, even if you didn’t. Teach them that educational attainment is of the highest priority.  Don’t be too quick to back off if they experience pressure. Rather, help them to make decisions about eliminating activities or managing their time better.  Research findings show most successful women invested a lot of time in studying and homework. Assure your daughters that most important is their interest, motivation and willingness to persevere and they are not limited by test scores of their abilities. View your daughters as intelligent, good thinkers and problem solvers. Value their work and create family projects to build a sense of accomplishment. Being shy or emotional, or having other typically feminine characteristics doesn’t seem to hinder success. However, if your daughter is experiencing learning problems, get her professional help so she can view herself as smart, hardworking and independent.

Give your daughters a stimulating environment
          Search for schools with teachers that are dedicated and inspiring. There may be some advantage to private schools, although your daughters can be successful at public schools too.  Reading is a very high priority.  Encourage your daughters to read and let them see you enjoy reading.  Help them develop an interest in history and social studies.  Girls who are truly interested in learning have a better chance at success.  Advise your daughters to take science and math, especially advanced courses, even if you didn’t. Find a school that offers all-girl science and math classes. Extracurricular activities are important – band, drama, sports and religious groups. But your daughters also need quiet time to read, entertain themselves and be creative. Many successful women listed “winning in competitions” as motivating. Encourage your daughters to join debates, science fairs, art shows and math competitions. Plan to travel with your family and when they’re old enough, arrange for your daughters to travel alone. Research shows successful women viewed family travel as enriching and adventurous, while independent travel built their self-confidence. Television should be minimized.

Support your daughters through the trials of life
          Let your daughters know that popularity is not important. Avoid pressuring them to have lots of friends. Rather, help them value their independence. Negative friends may cause trouble.  Research shows successful women tended to have friends who were achievement-oriented, and forty per cent considered themselves to have been less social than typical.  Tell them about your friends who lost because of drugs or drinking. Make it clear that you expect them not to smoke, drink or use drugs. If they do experiment, don’t give up on them, but be careful not to condone it. Be your daughters’ coach, not a judge. Give adolescent girls enough room to explore, but don’t accept rebellion. Set firm limits for teens and be as positive as possible.  Don’t take their positive activities away for misbehavior and don’t reward them for good behavior with harmful activities or possessions, even if they want them.

Teach your daughters to value challenge, contribution and creativity
          While birth order is shown as important for career choice, it is not a major factor for success. Make sure all daughters get leadership opportunities regardless of birth order. Don’t give children labels such as “the creative one” or “the athletic one.” These successful women’s most frequent role models were parents, with mothers being identified in fifty per cent of the surveys.  As mothers, if you achieve, daughters see you as competent and are more likely to believe that they can be competent, too. As fathers, be supportive of your wife’s achievement goals, because your daughters are watching. Sixty-two per cent of successful women described times when they experienced difficulty with their education. Expect ups and downs from your daughters, and let them know that they can persevere. If facing new challenges is difficult for them, problem-solve how they can act and use role-play to practice. 
          Teach daughters the value of making a contribution to society. They should learn to insist on the same treatment as men. Listen to your daughters so that you can encourage their creative thinking abilities.  The successful women in this study struggled to balance child rearing and careers. If your daughters plan to marry, encourage them to find partners that will respect their career choices and share parenting responsibilities. Today women have many choices available in slowing down careers to devote more time to family or working with childcare providers. Let your daughters follow their own choices in balancing careers and families without burdening them with your own preferences.

          Even though we visited that peaceful temple over four years ago, I still occasionally mull over the Burmese fortuneteller’s prediction of our daughters’ success in careers, and unhappiness in their personal lives. I realize that the road may not always be smooth, but Dr Rimms’s research findings show that by keeping certain guidelines in mind, our daughters have a good chance of achieving happiness in their chosen work and in their personal lives.

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Celeste M. Scholz
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