The Power Of Wondering Why....

Susan notes: this is the story of Dr. Janet Rose Wojtalik, powerful advocate for creating the female leaders of the future. I've cut and paste it from her great (and FREE!) e-book The 7 Secrets of Parenting Girls, which you can download here.

dr_janet.jpgI was born on August 24th, 1953 to Stanley and Agnes. The second of three children, I grew up in a warm, loving, middle class home peppered by typical gender role models: dad was the breadwinner and mom stayed at home, raised the children and took care of the house, the shopping and my father’s paycheck.

Academically, my mom had a high school diploma but dad had to drop out of school in eighth grade to work and help provide for his family. He grew up in the depression era and food on the table at that time was more important that an education for the able-bodied boys in the family.

I have one older sister and one younger brother. We all went to college. That fact in itself had always caused me to wonder why...

Given that my parents did not aspire to higher levels of education, what influenced all three of us to pursue a college career? And what prompted me to go on to receive two bachelors degrees, my masters and my doctorate?

Research indicates that if parents go to college, their children aspire to the same levels. Why was this not the case in my family? Also, we all went to college but we all went to a local college and received various degrees in education. The reason for that was clear.

Edinboro State College was close to home, less expensive than other options and it was a considered a teacher’s college back then. It was the most convenient and most affordable choice for my parents. Ah ha, there it is…the choice for my parents. We, the college bound, were not given a choice as to where we wanted to go. We were going to Edinboro State. The other important fact is that we were not given the choice of do we want to go.

The messages in my family were clear: when you go to college (Edinboro State) and when you become a teacher (or related major offered at this college). Now, ya gotta love Stanley and Agnes, although our choices were limited, they did what they could to give us this opportunity, one that was not afforded to them. Although they did not know it back then, they were pioneers in “Parenting Successful Girls”.

So, I followed my parents directives. I went to Edinboro where I received a bachelors degree in Speech Pathology. Then I earned a bachelors degree in Special Education, then a masters in Speech Pathology, then my Principal’s Letter, my Superintendent’s Letter of Eligibility and, finally, a doctorate in Educational Leadership. I have worked as a pre-school special needs teacher, a speech pathologist, a middle and high school special education teacher, the director of a partial hospitalization program, a principal/supervisor of special education programs, and now as a director of student support services.

Now you are probably thinking: “Wow, she has lots of education and many good jobs. Things must have been pretty easy for her.” Easy? Not at all. And the reason it was not easy had nothing do to with money or opportunity. It had to do with fear. I was always afraid…afraid of failure, afraid of not being smart enough, afraid of not being pretty enough, afraid of making the wrong decisions. I am still afraid; however, I have learned to recognize that fear for what it is and to move beyond it.

Where did that fear come from? It came from my parents!

Although unintentional, my parents sent me the message that no matter how hard I try, I might not succeed. “Don’t climb those monkey bars, you might fall and get hurt.” “Go ahead and run for student council but you might not get it.” “You want to run for Miss Erie County? You know there are lots of smart girls that will be running against you. You might not win?” “Are you sure you really want to play football, it is an awfully rough sport. You could get hurt.”

These warnings I received throughout my life I know were only to protect me, to shield me from disappointment, but they had a much stronger impact. They made me fearful, cautious, and hesitant to act. I still find myself falling into that same negative self-talk today. “Are you sure you can do this? Is it too hard? What if I fail?” Now I am aware enough to catch myself doing this, but it still happens! Boy, those parental messages were mighty powerful.

What has really inspired me to reach out to you and to share my experiences and research is the fact that today the messages sent to our young girls remain destructive and long lasting.

Just think about it for a minute: What does the media and television tell us about being female? Girls have to be pretty. Girls have to be thin. Girls need to have a boyfriend to have worth. Girls’ assumed interests focus on fashion, decorating, cooking, boys, and being popular.

What messages are you sending your daughter about being female? Are they that she should be sugar and spice and everything nice? Or are they messages of strength and independence?

Wouldn’t it be great if the messages sent to our girls by all of us emphasized that it is “in vogue” to be a smart, independent, goal oriented, fearless and hearty female? So, how do we get there from here? Can we ban together to fight the media to change the themes of our TV shows and movies?

That’s a pretty big task and probably not possible. Can we change the messages of shallow, submissive, and dependent to ones of strength, heartiness and independence that may be permeating our homes?

Yes, I know we can, and I am here to help you to learn how!

Related links:
Seven Powerful Parenting Secrets To Help Create Amazing Women Of The Future