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106 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Knowing how we're wired sets us free to be.
I wasn't exactly thrilled to be reading a book called the The Wonder of Girls - especially as it's written by a chap - novelist, poet, neurobiological researcher, psychologist, husband & father of two girls notwithstanding! I was dreading it would be either incomprehensibly technical or a sappy, feel-good read. I should have known better because I had already reviewed...
Published on January 20, 2002 by Rebecca Brown

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40 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should men write about women?
Gurian's book has some good points and some poor ones. Good things are the summaries and commentaries on others' work or on feminist philosophies. Some of the anecdotes are interesting albeit told too much from the author's .. viewpoint. The author rarely questions whether his perceptions and thus his conclusions could be wrong! There is too much repetition of...
Published on February 14, 2002


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106 of 119 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Knowing how we're wired sets us free to be., January 20, 2002
By 
Rebecca Brown "rebeccasreads" (Clallam Bay, WA United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
I wasn't exactly thrilled to be reading a book called the The Wonder of Girls - especially as it's written by a chap - novelist, poet, neurobiological researcher, psychologist, husband & father of two girls notwithstanding! I was dreading it would be either incomprehensibly technical or a sappy, feel-good read. I should have known better because I had already reviewed Michael Gurian's A Fine Young Man & had found this author to be personable, charmingly thoughtful & invaluably informative.
Through research, memories, poems, letters, family moments & professional cases Michael Gurian sets out to inform us Why Girls Are the Way They Are. In his simple, direct & pleasant way he starts at the beginning of the search for A New Logic of Girls' Lives. He presents precisely & calmly that it is time for Feminists to grow up & become Womanists.
As an erstwhile rabid Feminist, I have long since outgrown its angst. In Looking Beyond Feminism: Old Myths and New Theories, Michael Gurian catches up to me & explains how Feminism might now be what's keeping us back. Biology, Feminist ideals notwithstanding, still rules supreme & if we don't know how we work, then we don't know why we're doing what we're doing.
One vital passage: Girls' Stress Responses needs to be read by everyone: "When a child is under inordinate stress for a prolonged period...her brain development will definitely be affected. She will be "rewired" neurologically...The stress hormone, cortisol,(as well as adrenal and other "lower" brain functions) have dominated brain growth...and this affects normal brain growth patterns." Why then, are we surprised by the depression in all our early adolescent girls?
In Part II: What Girls Need, we explore The Artful Mother: What Girls Need from Mom. "There are natural stages to a woman's life, and every daughter wants to know what they are...The womanist philosophy, concerned heavily with the natural stages of a woman's life, is useful...because it is a path to freedom, not social constriction...It is a middle ground between the old view: a woman must stay home - and the feminist view: a woman must conquer the workplace." In this section we think about Providing Childcare; Discipline; Spanking; Teaching Manners; The Importance of Chores; The Beginnings of Spiritual Life; Media Use; Holding Clear Authority; Dealing With Whining; Teaching Your Girls to Enjoy Their Noble Failures; Handling An Angry Girl; Your Daughter's Sadness; Her Pulls to Autonomy; The Issue of Privacy; The Battle Over Clothing; Rites of Passage. There is even a section on How to be an Artful Stepmother!
On to The Gifts of The Father: What Girls Need from Dad. A Father's Love "can make or break a girl." Father-Attachment; Our Fatherless Daughters; The Gift of Presence; of Independence; of Adventure and Laughter; of Affection; of Discipline and Self-Restraint; Helping a Daughter Manage Peer Relationships. In Fathers, Daughters, and Divorce we think about the gifts separated fathers can give. Given how many marriages end up in divorce courts - this is a vital segment! In The Stages of "Dad" we watch a hero become a dolt become a mentor! Heady stuff!
While we all know of the hero's journey to Self, Michael Gurian explains The Goal of the Journey for girls. While boys are more interested in autonomy & morality, girls are more drawn to identity & intimacy. Ergo The Intimacy Imperative & The Future of Femininity.
Knowing how we're wired is half the battle; the other half is sifting through what people think we ought to be & do with our lives. Biology is older than Religion & Feminism by a few millions years & until we truly get that, then we're setting our girls up for a lifelong battle with their inner natural inclinations. Politically correct folks want girls to surmount biology, as if it's a recent discomfort imposed by thoughtless fools - it isn't - it's the biggest thing around!
There is so much to think about in The Wonder of Girls that I regret the limitations of a review. I've come away knowing more about why I am than ever before, a profound read indeed!
The Wonder of Girls is a book for a lifetime & I heartily recommend it.
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51 of 60 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars WELL RESEARCHED, WELL WRITTEN, January 10, 2002
By 
Sandra D. Peters "Seagull Books" (Prince Edward Island, Canada) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
Gurian has written am enlightening book on understanding and raising daughters. The book takes a look at both the biological differences and psychological apsects of raising daughters in this follow-up book to "The Wonder of Boys" (also, an excellent book for those parents rasing sons.)
The author addresses the emotional, social and physical needs of daughters and gives readers a better understanding of how to fulfill those needs. There are a few apsects of the book, however, not all parents may agree with, particularly when Guirian suggests parents should prepare their daughters for "the sacrifices of motherhood." While it is true that mothers often put their children's needs before there own, I am not sure they consider this role in terms of a "sacrifice". That statement conjures up visions of mother being martyrs, and few mothers actually think of themselves in that light. Most mature and responsible parents would consider the time, energy and financial resources it takes to raise a child, a small price to pay in return for the blessings and joy of having a child, regardless of the challenges that come with parenting.
The book does make some very valid points, and whether one agrees entirely with the author or not, the book is worth reading and, on the biological side at least, it is quite informative.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a woman of authority, April 15, 2007
By 
This review is from: The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters (Paperback)
I am a working mother of three children - a son and two daughters. I bought The Good Son, Shaping the Moral Development of our Boys & Young Men by Michael Gurian, and picked up The Wonder of Girls, Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters, also written by Gurian, simply because if I'm going to buy a book about the boy, as an Equal Opportunity Parent, I feel compelled to buy a book about the girls, even though I generally feel much more confident in my ability to parent my girls than I do my son. After I bought these books, I checked some reviews and was a little put off by one review that classified The Wonder of Girls as an attempt of a man trying to tell women what their nature was when he, by nature, could never have a true understanding of women. I decided to start with The Wonder of Girls because, frankly... it's the shorter of the two. And I was a girl once upon a time, so I figure reading it will be like eating cotton candy... sweet but requiring little effort. I couldn't have been more wrong, and I find myself rereading passages many times. Gurian includes a great deal of scientific detail, neurological information about how male and female hormones shape our reactions and development, and debunks a great deal of the argument that boy and girl behavior is all due to socialization. Gurian doesn't dismiss it entirely, nor does he try to assert that generalizations about the biological nature of women are absolute for every woman, but makes a very strong case that while socialization plays a role in behavior, socialization has been overemphasized and biology has been grossly underemphasized. I don't know a mother who hasn't lamented on the difference between her boys and girls... even mothers who, like me, have been committed to raising sensitive young men who are not afraid of their emotions and who, like me, are committed to non-violence... mothers who have banned toy weapons and violent media, only to find her preschooler happily shooting her with the pistol he made from Lego's or Connex (you know, those toys we buy in part because they are CONSTRUCT-ive rather than DESTRUCT-ive) in a gleeful game of cops and robbers that he is happy to play all by himself. If these mothers are also blessed with girls, they've often compared and contrasted stories of their girls turning their brothers' toys into babies, and sticking baby dolls under their shirts to nurse them.

Sometimes I reread a passage several times to fully let the meaning sink in, or to examine some of the knee jerk reactions I feel and separate what I have been taught from the truth that I have always felt to be true. There is a very strong emphasis on mothering in this book (and for the record, there is also a section in the same chapter about fathering), and also an emphasis on the fact that was we mother our daughters, we are shaping future mothers. I'm not so young that I don't remember being told, perhaps not in such blunt terms, what and where "my place" is. At the tender age of five or six years old, I asked my mother what college was. She told me it was where girls go to meet their husbands. So there are certainly times when the Femi Nazi in me rises up at any hint, no matter how remote, of what my role or "duties" are as a woman or mother.

But even in the midst of those knee-jerk reactions, I sense truth in this writing, and also realized that this is a book written BY a parent, FOR other parents... would it be complete if there wasn't an emphasis on the importance of mothering? A comment someone made to me keeps coming to my mind. A good friend of mine, who is not a biological mother, asked my then 6yo daughter what she wanted to be when she grew up. My daughter responded, probably with little hesitation, that she wanted to be... a mother. This child has been telling me, since the tender age of three, that she wants to be a mom... and not just a mom, but a mom who cooks. Imagine that... thirty years of fighting for women's rights, and my daughter wants... no, she yearns... to be barefoot, pregnant, and standing over a hot stove.

My friend relayed this story to me, with the lament that "they" sure start conditioning girls at a young age. I was not offended, but I was definitely at a loss. I had no idea how to explain to my friend how incredibly proud I was that my daughter thinks the highest aspiration... above being a dancer or cowgirl... is to be a mother, or why I think that's such a GOOD thing. I almost felt like it was time to surrender my feminist card and oust myself.

I was raised in a very dysfunctional family by a woman who very clearly had grown to resent the imposition of responsibilities that she had chosen for herself. Watching her anger and bitterness as she pushed more and more of the responsibility for mothering my siblings onto me, I vowed time and again that I would NOT be having children. I remember overhearing my grandmother lament sorrowfully that she was sure I would never have children of my own because my mother had robbed me of my childhood and forced me to become a parent far too soon. That I have become a mother, and done it with such grace that my daughters, as well as my son, want to have children of their own is a source of pride, the depth of which I cannot even begin to explain. They can see the pleasure it brings me to nourish not just my children's minds and hearts, but their bodies. My daughter's desire to become a mother is not a result of social conditioning... she, like my son, sees the joy that mothering has brought to me, to my life... and despite how hard the job is, they both see, through my living example, a sacred purpose in it.

So back to this book... there were many times where, while reading this book, my eyes stung with tears. When terms like "womanism" are defined and expanded upon, when the concept of the intimacy imperative and the three family system are offered as vitally important to women and girls... concepts that fellow mothers and I have discussed in different terms, but at length. There were times where I felt a sweet ache in my throat as well as I read something that filled me with a sense of pride in the job I am doing and complete awe in the sheer sacredness of the task I have undertaken. I'd like to share one such passage.

"...even as I study world cultures, it strikes me powerfully that we are, should we choose to assert our ability, capable of helping to innovate a sacred role for girls and women that is among the most unlimited, and also among the most well ordered, in the world.

...In all languages, whether moder, mater, meter, maternus, or matr - mothering is the highest ideal in female life, the most universally respected. And one etymological fact that is perhaps of greatest interest to us in the wake of thirty years of experimenting with the possibility that women didn't need to define a sacred role for themselves is this: In its linguistic roots, mothering is associated with being a woman of authority as well as being a female parent of children. For our age, this expansive definition of mother seems most fitting."

Needless to say, if you have daughters, I highly suggest reading this book. Even if you are not a parent, I think you'd find this book informative and enlightening.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Free at last!, April 1, 2003
By 
Mike P (Schenectady, NY United States) - See all my reviews
There is not a mysogynistic cell in my entire anatomy, and yet I've never quite been able to accept that 'feminist' dictum of Helen G. Brown and her crowd. Camile Paglia at least makes sense to me, though I really had no hard facts to back up my feelings. Well, Michael Gurian certainly does. This book isn't an attack on feminism in any form; it's a celebration of the the differences between girls and their other primate companions, referred to as boys, males, or sometimss men. We are not the same, and this book explains why without apology; it applauds the female person for her wonder, her specialness, and her many advantages in life, without diminishing her male counterparts in the process. I've watched women all my life, including three daughters who are now out and on their own. That development is a compendium of miracles and unfathomable mysteries to me. How I wish I'd had this book when they were a bit younger, back when they came to me hoping I might understand what I could not at that time. If you have a daughter, buy the book!
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27 of 33 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars This is a book about listening., February 18, 2002
By A Customer
"The Wonder of Girls" is about listening - listening to the inherent nature of a girl and how that nature is informed by her biology, her family, her culture, and her own sense of self.
The author begins by giving us an intelligent discussion on the importance of feminism as it has attempted to make the lives of women safer and more fulfilling. Mr. Gurian then pulls us forward into a new form of feminism, "womanism", that balances the independence of feminism with the natural relational needs of females in a way that can be respectful to both men and women.
He makes several provocative statements throughout the book that will likely enrage many women, As an example, his statement about a female's "natural need for dependency on men," (p. 13) must be taken in the context of his surrounding words about establishing a vision of a life for girls that will provide them the equal status of men but won't rob them of the need to have a mate. Michael is saying that women deserve to be respected for wanting connection and strong families and for creating those relationships in a world that sometimes seems to esteem only "corporate thought and deed." On page 101, Michael discusses the support that he gave his own wife as she "assumed her right to become a mother of her own children... I, as a man, knew that her internal call-her 'biological clock'...was in fact a sacred thing, a voice of spiritual importance." Many women will not take this path in their lives, but for the women who do, what better mate can they have than the man who will honor and support their creativity in making this biological clock into a loving family?
Michael provides a good chapter on female biology and two chapters that can help guide mothers and fathers about using this information to be more conscious about the needs of their daughters. He offers concrete ways for parents as they help navigate their daughters' journey into womanhood.
Many people will not like this book. Many people will not be able to use the information in this book in a way that helps them raise their daughters. But many others will find inspiration and courage (and the ability to listen) in "The Wonder of Girls" as they tackle the tough challenges of raising their beloved daughters in a world that is oftentimes dangerous and unforgiving.
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21 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WHAT IS WITH ALL THE BAD REVIEWS, October 25, 2005
This review is from: The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters (Paperback)
What is up with people? I am stay-home mother, a very independent soul, and have an education background in early and elementary education. i found this book to be wonderful. i have referred it to all of my friends. i learned not only so much about my daughter and our relationship but also about myself and my relationships growing up. It is a book written with great insight from a father with girls and an extensive research and education background and a wife with the same. It is also approached from a standpoint from mostly biological research and parallels in cross-cultures. A must read!
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read for Dad's, November 8, 2006
This review is from: The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters (Paperback)
Wow, there sure are a lot of angry feminists out there. They obviously need to get a "3 Family system" going in their lives! But enough, here is the book review.

I felt that this book lent many insights into the makeup (emotional and physical) of girls in a very positive light. Being the Dad to a 7 yr old girl, I have noticed sooooo many differences between her and her twin brother. Why does He like sports, she likes dolls? It has been this way her entire life and now it makes sense. It is very biologically based with hormones leading the way.

This book will help you prepare for the future; for me, the adolescent girl. It will help you understand what to expect, prepare for, and handle as your girl gets older.

My only critique is that the book has little in the way or charts, pics or tables. It would help those of us who are time pressed, like we full-time Dads!!!

Enjoy this read...........I am going to get his book on "Wonder of Boys" next......
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40 of 56 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Should men write about women?, February 14, 2002
By A Customer
Gurian's book has some good points and some poor ones. Good things are the summaries and commentaries on others' work or on feminist philosophies. Some of the anecdotes are interesting albeit told too much from the author's .. viewpoint. The author rarely questions whether his perceptions and thus his conclusions could be wrong! There is too much repetition of information already published or chatted about extensively, such as eating disorders. Too, other books that the author cites were written by women, and quite frankly women have a better perspective on women's reality than do men, no matter how much a man thinks of himself as an objective and informed observer. Men can only witness women's lives, critically if they are prone to disliking women or too compassionately if they tend to belittle and infantilize women (the author tends to both of these extremes but is either in the more compassionate category...).
Men cannot live our lives and therefore cannot comprehend what happens biologically, socially, or personally. Haven't men always claimed to be confounded by women? Isn't this confusion on the man's part often turned into the age-old female-bashing? No, men don't understand. Gurian needed to be more humble in taking on this subject for his book, and I just feel that he is not. I was actually quite interested in the idea of reading an informed man's viewpoint. In the end, I was disappointed and at times even shocked. Gurian wants to go the current mainstream, claiming that women can be traditional while being respected as being men's equals. Well, that didn't happen in the past, so why should it happen after we read his book? Too, traditional women are fading away -- traditional womanhood now comprises possibilities and not just stereotypes and domesticity, at least here in the USA.
I was very shocked and insulted by Gurian's primary premise, stated boldly by the author in the first few pages. His conviction is that girls and women NEED to be dependent upon men. It's not social pressure that determines this nor the economic slavery women were subjected to -- it is an essential biological need like needing to breathe air. We women NEED dependence. Gurian cites scientific evidence to back up his claim. His evidence is straightforward, but then he does the sloppy science that has always been popular in male scientific circles -- he concludes what he wants to conclude, using science to back up his assumptions and opinions on feminine inferiority rather than letting truth fall out of the science. Girls aren't passive or dependent. We are calmer and more aware of consequences. We think, assess and judge before taking action. Boys are the opposite, taking action immediately and suffering the consequences later on. Somehow, I don't think this makes the boys dependable and the girls dependent. Quite the contrary, really, but Gurian doesn't go in this direction. He doesn't, really, sufficiently explore gender interdependencies even though they are quite obvious in his ancedotes. He misses truth, being content to still propagate the male standards that have inhibited women's lives for far too long. Plainly, girls and boys, men and women, have a need and a right to enjoy their lives as they choose, based on their preferences, their dreams, and their personalities. Enjoyment comes from many sources, but one great pleasure is in finding an individual who becomes a partner, who delights in a loving, interdependent relationship with you as you delight in one with him/her. This isn't a NEED for dependence on the part of woman or man. The need is for sharing of your life with someone who finds you important and who cares about your happiness. Healthy grownups are capable of equality in social, work and romantic situations. Girls don't need to be dependent -- girls are instructed to believe that their roles are dependent and inferior, and so in their adolescent years, they practice this dependence until it becomes a form of deference, weakness, vulnerability, incompetence and focus on body image as the reason why they are meaningless failures rather than focus on education and accomplishment in order to become meaningful to themselves. An unwritten message in this book is that if girls aren't dependent on men, if they don't buy-in to Gurian's natural need for dependence theory, then men will not want them as mates. Horrors! A good man, a man worth loving, will want a woman who has fulfilled herself. Only men who are afraid of women's abilities and intellect will want the dependent sort of woman.
I wouldn't recommend giving this book to a girl to read. It will present some unsatisfactory messages, preventing the girl from figuring things out for herself or from making her own choices. The stress on motherhood annoyed me. Not all women can or will become mothers. Women also deserve to lead balanced lives where marriage and mothering obligations are only one part of the total picture. The book itself, while interesting in parts and rather kindly in others, is still too biased towards a man's views and expectations, for all that the man tends to try to convey that he is a feminist too.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars See girls for the unique and special individuals they are, November 4, 2006
Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters (Paperback)
A father of two daughters recomended this book to me. I really like its take on gender and raising my own daughter in this day and age. The Gurian book about boys was really great for insight into my son and men in general. I like Christianne Northrop's Mother-Daughter Wisdom for the mother/daughter relationship.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Insightful book despite the negative reviews, August 15, 2010
By 
This review is from: The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters (Paperback)
The Wonder of Girls: Book Review

The Wonder of Girls is not a book I planned on reading, but one that I'm glad I did. This is a book that's been sitting in my basement for a long time collecting dust. See, my Mom got the book for my wife and I just after the birth of our first daughter. I believe my wife may have read some of the book, but then put it down to move on to other things. After reading it now, I can understand why. There is really very little material in it about infant and toddler age girls, which was the stage our oldest daughter was going through at the time.

That said, the book is a wonderful guide for girls from the ages of 5-20, and possibly beyond. Being a father of two girls, I have been told since the time they were born that "girls are easy when they're young, but just wait until they're teenagers! Look out!" This warning has always conjured up a bit of dread for me. I was born into a family of boys, being the oldest of two. I never got a chance to really see first hand what a girl goes through growing up, so as you can imagine, the book was really enlightening to me.

I also decided to check out the Amazon reviews of this book. Strangely, it seems that people either love or hate this book. Some of the comments trashing this book sound like the readers really didn't read the book, but instead grabbed quotes and used them out of context. In other cases, I wondered whether the reviewers had actually taken the time to really read through what the author said or even had the ability to distill the finer points of the book. The book is written from the perspective of a man, but Gurian seems to be well educated in the subject matter and has read many books on this topic himself. He also has two daughters, so I'm sure a lot of his focus comes from first hand experience. I was deeply impressed by the depth of research he went through to write the book. I was especially impressed by his mention of Clarissa Pinkola Estes's book "Women who Run with Wolves", which I regard as a classic and a must read for both men and women.

The negative reviews of the book may also be due to Gurian's excursion into the politics of feminism as well. I don't doubt this is the case since feminism can sometimes be a polarizing topic, especially when it comes to debates of nature verses nurture. Gurian tries to emphasize the importance of both nature and nurture and points out cases where each is applicable. He probably emphasizes the nature argument a little more that current political correctness dictates. From Gurian's own disclaimers about feminism and political correctness, I think he knew from the get-go that this would be a hot-button issue. Sadly, some of the negative reviewers choose to focus on his critique of feminist politics with the exclusion of the massive remainder of knowledge and research contained in the book.

So a father of two young girls (one of which is soon to hit puberty), what new or important things did I learn? Although, I was certainly aware of the female hormonal cycle, I wasn't aware of how deep a role this plays in the brain development of girls. I was also not aware of the ebb and flow of certain neural-chemicals that fluctuate on that monthly-cyclical basis. I'm sure I've seen the effects, but I've never understood the underlying physiology and Gurian does a good job explaining this. I would imagine that a lot of women probably don't even know this stuff, even though they feel it throughout most of their lives. I think knowing about the relationship between a girl's monthly cycle and her brain chemical balance will be useful information to share with my daughters. Having self knowledge about how one's feelings change on a monthly basis could really help mitigate a lot of adolescent pain. Now I'll know when to tell my daughters to "wait it out" or "act now" when an emotional crisis arises. Perhaps for some women this information lands in the category of "duh!", but I thought the discussion was useful and insightful.

The discussion on discipline was helpful as well. Having read a number of books on narcissistic family dynamics, I've found the subject of child discipline to be an extremely complex issue. While a parent wishes to protect their children, a parent must also be on guard to not use their power of authority to coerce a child into thinking or feeling a certain way. We parents have a much greater power than we realize and sometimes just a look of disappointment can be enough to cause children much emotional turmoil. Any time we use our powers to cause a child to view the emotional needs of the parent to be greater than her own emotional needs, we are setting up a narcissistic, role-reversal dynamic. The problem is that young children are naturally narcissistic and it's our job as parents to guide them gently through the traumas of childhood to reverse this mindset in a healthy way. We must help them develop their own sense of empathy by setting the right example and using punishments in a wise way to bring their behavior in line with the ideal. This does not mean that we make our children into "performers", it simply means that we keep them safe and show them that there are other "selves" out there, who like themselves, sometimes feel pain and need help. Basically we need to live and apply the "Golden Rule" and apply this in a multidimensional way when it comes to child discipline.

Child discipline, in my experience, ends up being more of an art form than some parents make it out to be. It is a highly complex process of knowing one's children, especially their temperaments, being fully aware of the situation that calls for discipline, and not letting one's own emotional programs cloud their judgment of the situation. This is not an easy process, but Gurian presents a good rough guideline for child discipline. He mentions many creative ways of enforcing rules, but he also mentions that there may be situations that call for spanking or a small pinch. These punishments must be considered carefully, however. Overall, I thought his discussion on discipline was well balanced and doesn't lean towards any extreme parenting philosophies.

In the discussion on discipline, Gurian also points out that, on average, a young girls' brain development is such that she may develop a sophisticated moral compass or sense of empathy at a rather young age. It is not uncommon for girls between the ages of 5 and 10 to ask specific moralistic questions and form sophisticated moral opinions. This is in comparison to boys of the same age, who tend not to have as highly developed moral reasoning skills. Of course, Gurian correctly points out that there are always exceptions here. This is good to know and I think it's important that father's don't brush over these moral questions from their daughters, but show them that they are important things to think about. This is a big part of what make girls tick and what keeps our world a sane place!

Gurian also points out some of the ways our current socio-political system has failed us in raising proper boys and girls (as if this wasn't obvious in a lot of areas). He talks about the three family system, which is the traditional family system for raising children the world over in the pre-industrial age. The first level is composed of the immediate nuclear family; Mom, Dad, brothers, sisters, step-parents, step-sibilings, etc. The second tier consists of extended family members such as Grandparents, aunts, uncles, Godparents, etc. The their level consists of community pillars; people such as coaches, teachers, camp leaders and others who have access to our children through positions of authority. The great thing about the three-family system is that each level backs up and compliments the others when necessary, so the children have the ability to develop a wide-range of attachments throughout their young lives. Unfortunately in our modern society, one or two of these family levels is often missing in the lives of children. This can make the process of growing up more difficult and traumatic than it needs to be when attachments are few and far between for our daughters.

Another thing I learned is the importance of "rites of passage" and how important these are for young girls and that if positive "rites of passage" are not developed by the parents or community, it often leads to the children finding their own negative "rites of passage". Gurian mentions the idea of developing certain celebrations or ceremonies for girls when they turn 10, 13, 16, 18, for their first menstruation and so on. Each rite composes a step of a young girls ascent into adulthood. These rites should be customized to the aptitudes and interest of the young girl and they should be attended by at least one or more members of family level two or three (such as a Grandmother or special aunt, for instance). Rites of passage are common in many archaic cultures and they seem to ease social trauma by allowing the young girl and members of her family and community to realize that she is on her way to becoming an adult. These rites are important to show girls that they are part of a community of females and that they have their own "culture" and identity in society. Without these rites of passage, young girls have a tenancy to show adults how grown up they are in less than honorable ways.

I appreciated Gurian's discussion on the art of mothering and fathering. My only bone to pick here is that in some cases the mothering advise can apply to the father and the fathering advise can apply to the mother and visa-versus. To be fair, he does try to point this out in some sections here. I did like the fact that he mentioned discipline techniques under the "art of mothering" section, since I've noticed this is often an area that some mothers lack - at least this has been my own experience. Overall, he makes some good points and shows how important it is for a child to have both a mother and a father attachment of some sort.

There is also a good section on discussing sexuality with teenagers. I think in this day and age it is vital to talk to both boys and girls about sex and sex myths. Gurian makes a good point that it is important to share your own experiences with your daughters and let them know that they don't have to suffer alone with their new feelings. Let them ask the questions, but first of all, let them know that you are comfortable talking about sex and that they can come to you about questions they may have. He even talks about guidelines for having a teenage, co-ed sleepover party, which in my opinion may be a bit much for some teenagers. However, he makes a good point that pulling off such a sleepover with appropriate ground-rules shows a high level of trust between parents and daughter and it helps the daughter bond with their friends in a healthy way outside of the high school "party" scene. Something to consider at least.

I was also really impressed with his analysis of the story of Cinderella and his take on the symbolic meaning of this well-known tale. He really shows how these fairy-tales are so important for girls from a spiritual perspective. The myths and stories we tell ourselves really help us define who we are and our purpose in the world. These stories basically describe the symbolic pathway a girl must take to find her Prince and attain True Love. This process involves knowing oneself, being in control of ones emotions, and on top of that, having some divine guidance or inspiration. There are very few writers I've found who managed to articulate this concept so well and in a way that is accessible to teenage girls and their parents. Like Gurian, I think having a sense for the spiritual is vital for everybody, especially the young girls of today who are growing up in a spiritual void created by mainstream religions and a culture bent towards materialism.

If I do have a beef with this book, it is the lack of knowledge on the "dark side" of raising girls, in other words, what happens when things go wrong. For instance, what about a soccer coach or neighborhood family friend that you discover is molesting your pre-teen daughter? What does one do in these situations and how do we prevent them in the first place? Of course nobody wants to think about this stuff, but it is also important to have this information in the back of your mind when reading this book. Gurian points out that his book is not meant to be an exhaustive list of any and all experience with daughters, but is solely meant as a development guide and one that fits the "majority of girls", not the minority (albeit still large and significant) who come face to face with pathology. I would have to say that the thoughtful parent should also read some books on psychopathology and pedophiles to understand how to identify predators that may go after their daughters in various ways.

Aside from the lack of information on psychopathology, I think Gurian presents a great deal of useful knowledge and a huge list of references that are accessible to the layperson. I hope the negative reviewers will give this book a second peek and see that Gurian's knowledge is really quite balanced and not schizoidally skewed towards some ideological bent.
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The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters
The Wonder of Girls: Understanding the Hidden Nature of Our Daughters by Michael Gurian (Paperback - February 18, 2003)
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