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See Jane Win – Parents Do Make a Difference

“The one really positive message I got from my mom and dad was that anything you want to do, you could do… The harder you work, the more talented you are,” said violinist Madeleine Lane.

In See Jane Win, Dr. Sylvia Rimm takes this successful woman’s words to the next level, arguing based on its research that it’s not enough for parents to tell their children to work hard they must also model the behavior. “Your daughters will hear your descriptions of your own work. They will also hear their fathers’ and grandparents’ comments about their mothers’ careers. If complaints about your career’s taking time away from family predominate, they will soon chime in and make you feel guilty. They may also promise themselves to give their own children more time and not pursue a career that takes time from family life. On the other hand, if others describe your work as worthwhile, they are more likely to respect you and value a career for themselves.”

What about those mothers who have chosen not to work? Since 80% of the successful women’s mothers chose to stay home with their children until they started school, Rimm repeatedly points out the importance of this daughter/mother bond time. Yet See Jane Win also frequently reminds readers that for the majority of those mothers the situation was temporary.

Rimm explains, “With all apologizes to those women who have chosen to be full-time homemakers in this generation, it seems that unless you are taking a strong leadership role as a volunteer, and unless that role is valued by your spouse and children, your daughters are unlikely to view you as powerful. On the other hand, our study provides evidence that if you continue with your education or return to the workforce as your daughters get older, even when they resent your taking time away from them and complain about your work, they will more likely respect you.”

Still, perhaps an even more important component of Rimm’s research is the fact that most of the successful women in the study not only perceived themselves as smart but also their parents. However, Rimm makes a point of noting that higher education was not equated to intelligence. In fact, fewer than half of the women’s dads and only a quarter of their mothers had attended college. Rather, Rimm’s data makes a “strong case for children learning to value and respect their parents’ commonsense intelligence.”

Therefore, for parents to lead their children to success, See Jane Win suggests parents feel confident in their abilities. “Giving children too many choices begins during the preschool years and becomes more and more problematic as they get older. It’s as if parents believe they require permission from their children to say no to them.”

Let’s face it. Whether you want to be or not, you are your child’s role model, as we learn by watching the world around us. “They may copy behaviors unconsciously if they see that the behaviors are being rewarded, or they may avoid behaviors if they see them punished by society. Social learning theory tells us that three variables – nurturance by the adult, similarities between the child and adult, and perceptions of the adult’s power – increase the likelihood that children will emulate the behaviors they observe.”

Basically, according to See Jane Win, it doesn’t matter how many biographies you give your child to read, the “most powerful sources of role models for girls are their families and schools.” So, if necessary, force yourself to act the part. Eventually, success will become natural for both of you.


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Victoria Winterhalter

Victoria Winterhalter

Victoria Winterhalter is a mother, teacher, reader, and writer on the education and environment beats for RFM. She has been with RFM since its founding in 2009 and has contributed photos and written numerous articles on education, parenting, and family travel.

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