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Rethinking your approach to girls

Some thoughts for parents and adults to help put girls in a positive light.

Parents need not feel hopeless. Experts offer many ways to counteract the negative messages swirling around daughters. Here are a few ideas:

• Be media savvy. Watch your daughter's TV shows, listen to her music, browse her social-networking sites. Know what messages she is receiving daily.

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• Become a social critic: Ask yourself whether something that seems cute or funny – the onesie that says "future model," the make-over birthday party – sends a message with which you're comfortable. Remember that developmentally, younger children don't "get" nuance or irony.

• Resist the "just say no" response when something strikes you as off. Ask, "What does this say to you about women?" Or for younger children, play "spot the lie" while watching commercials.

• Resist always commenting on a young girl's appearance. Ask what she's reading and why.

• Be creative with stereotypical toys. If your daughter insists on playing with Barbies, suggest that Barbie play with Play-Doh. See what happens.

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