Here come the girls! How to bring up daughters

Rules and boundaries. White lies and love. Our guide to raising female teens

Sex, drugs, underage pregnancy, heartache, exams and alcohol: just some of the challenges dreaded by parents of teenage girls. But, help may be at hand, thanks to a group of private girls' school headteachers who next month will publish a book offering tips on how to raise daughters. However, experts are questioning the value of advice from those working in the sheltered world of independent schools.

The book, compiled by 200 teachers in the Girls' School Association, is entitled Your Daughter: A Guide to Raising Girls. On alcohol, the book advises: "How about a party with a punch that is rumoured to contain vodka? Of course it doesn't, but you wouldn't be the first parents to carry off that white lie!" On teenage parties, the association recommends a ratio of at least one adult to 10 guests. Tattoos, they say, can be discouraged with the bribe of a shopping trip instead.

Dr Helen Wright, the association's president, said: "As heads we are always giving advice about how to deal with tricky situations or just reassuring parents that if they're having difficulties with their teenage daughters, it's perfectly normal."

But not everyone believes that people such as Dr Wright, who is head of £28,950-a-year St Mary's Calne boarding school in Wiltshire, are best qualified to comment on most parents' experience of bringing up girls in Britain.

Lorrine Marer, who has made TV programmes on parenting, including Channel 5's Families Behaving Badly and The Teen Tamer, said: "There are those who are fairly cosseted and distant from the problems that occur with teenagers in a rapidly changing society. This then undermines their ability to advise parents. Surely it is not the job of a headteacher to 'lay down the law' about appropriate behaviour when the pupils are not in school. This is a parent's job."

Teachers are not the only ones to have aired their views on childrearing recently. Last week, a Yale University professor, Amy Chua, argued in an article ahead of the publication of her book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, that strict parenting rules used in Eastern countries are superior to "soft" Western methods.

Dr Chua, who is the mother to two girls aged 15 and 17, required them to be number one in every school subject except sports and drama, insisted they learn violin or piano and never let them play computer games or attend sleepovers. She came under fire in the US this week for some of the statements, including admitting calling one of her daughters "garbage". In her defence, Dr Chua said: "What Chinese parents understand is that nothing is fun until you're good at it. To get good at anything you have to work, and children never want to work, which is why it is crucial to override their preferences."

The IoS sought tips from some of Britain's best-known women on how to bring up girls...

"I would just say that encouraging a passionate hobby in pre-teens can help later on. I used to ride and I didn't get a chance to get into trouble as I was competing every weekend all over the country. That said, I got married at 21 to a playboy turned born-again Muslim politician twice my age who lived in Pakistan, so what do I know?"



Jemima Khan, Human rights activist

"I was quite severe with my daughter and set curfews and rules. It's important to have lots of rows, because rows come from caring. But don't ever inquire about your teenager's sex life. Once you've taught her to be responsible it's best not to interfere."



Joan Bakewell, Broadcaster

"Bringing up girls is rife with conflict and contradiction. Technology has accelerated so fast, giving access to information we didn't have. Pornography, for example, is the biggest online industry. All you can do is your best."



Annie Lennox, Singer

"These days parents don't really back up schools as much as they used to. That's a key problem in terms of providing authority in teenagers' lives.



Wendy Cope, Poet

"I hope that I will have a good enough relationship with a teenage daughter that whatever the emotional problem, she can come and tell me. If you keep the channels of communication open, then no problem is insurmountable, and you can get through it as a family."



Davina McCall, Broadcaster

"Girls are fabulous and complicated; I've had extraordinary luck with my mother. The trick is to make women feel confident and imbue them with respect for the world around them."



Martha Lane FoxOnline entrepreneur

"The worst thing you can do is give them a false self. I see it a lot in boarding schools where girls arrive independent and diverse and all end up the same: wearing the same clothes and having the same expressions. That's a catastrophe. What you want to do is encourage difference."



Camila Batmanghelidjh, Founder of Kids Company

"The only time I tried to give Emily some sex education she let me run on and then put her head on one side and said: 'Oh poor mummy, are you having trouble with daddy?' When she got suspended from school I was so pleased to have her home I didn't really mind, but that's probably not what you should say."

Jilly Cooper, Novelist

"We are very strict: no grey areas, changing your mind or bending the rules. Our 15-year-old is a good kid, and one of the reasons for that is we've been so strict. She has a certain time when she can go on Facebook; she can't go to sleepovers if we don't know her friend's parents."

Diane Modahl, Former athlete

"The first thing to say is hold your nerve, because light begins to dawn at 17, and by the time they're 23 it's possible to be firm friends. But mostly it's rules and boundaries. They're desperate to rebel, so supply them with rules or they'll find ways to rebel you don't want."



Esther Rantzen, Broadcaster

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