You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother :
How to Help Your Daughter Learn to Love Her Body and Herself
by Stephanie Pierson and Phyllis Cohen

Book Classification : Parenting - Health - Adolescent Development - Self-Esteem

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You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother :
How to Help Your Daughter Learn to Love Her Body and Herself
by Stephanie Pierson and Phyllis Cohen, C.S.W.
Hardcover - 272 pages
First Edition, May 2003
Published by Simon & Schuster
ISBN 0-7432-2918-5 / ISBN 0743229185

Five years ago, the award-winning parenting journalist Stephanie Pierson, accustomed to advising others, had the occasion to help her own daughter, Phoebe, then 14, recover from a fear of eating and other alarming behaviors caused by a negative self-image. Pierson later teamed up with the New York therapist Phyllis Cohen, who contributed thirty years of experience specializing in adolescent problems. Five years in the making, their book takes the immediately useful form of questions and answers, do's and don'ts, outlines and checklists, scenarios and dialogues.

Click to buy the book : You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother - How to Help Your Daughter Learn to Love Her Body and Herself by Stephanie Pierson + Phyllis Cohen - Adolescent Parenting

In You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother , Pierson and Cohen begin with "body image basics" [page 10] and progress into methods to have parent and adolescent interactions that will be more productive. While the parenting role of fathers is the topic of chapter 7, most of the book focuses on the relationships between mothers and teenage daughters.

"This is a caring, clearly -- even simply -- written volume that will undoubtedly help mothers understand the kinds of pressures their daughters feel, and enable them to face the tough adolescent years as allies rather than adversaries."

---   From the book review in Publishers Weekly

It's not unusual for your daughter to go through a time when she is "comparing herself (unfavorably, of course) with models, athletes, rock stars, and movie stars." [page 13] Parents ought to understand why some teenagers are more emotionally vulnerable than others [16]. Realize too that adolescents literally grow into their bodies -- "You're used to your body. She's not used to hers." [19]

An occasional parent and teen dialogue that ends with door-slamming and "Get out of my life!" may be inevitable, but it can get better. Improvements in self-esteem and family relationships will depend on understanding and approaches. The authors give clarity by organizing issues into types, for example: 10 common reasons for a teen's unreasonable behavior [36-38] ... 13 things the parent shouldn't do [40-42] and 13 things you should do [49-50] in order to "keep the process going" ... three example dialogues showing how best to "handle a potentially explosive situation." [43-37]

Subsequent chapters discuss in a realistic way every conceivable issue that might be disputed, from schoolwork neglect to cigarettes to tattoos to teen sex. The reader is advised about the proper balances between parental firmness and permission, between privacy and snooping. However, the authors always return to the basic premise of the book -- this is a workbook for you to guide your daughter in learning to love and respect herself.

Parents often feel most helpless and need resources when it comes to adolescent dieting (chatper 8) and sex (chapter 9). Additional issues -- anxiety and depression, dating violence, and more -- are discussed in chapter 10, "When to Worry, When to Intervene, and How to Help." The appendix which follows explains how to contact and receive help from national organizations.

-- Book review by M.L. for   ---   See more parenting book reviews

Hardcover, 272 pages. 11 chapters plus appendices. 17-page 2-column index. No illustrations.

In addition to this book and numerous magazine articles, Stephanie Pierson is also the author of
Vegetables Rock! : A Complete Guide for Teenage Vegetarians (Paperback, 1999)

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This is an link for
You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother : How to Help Your Daughter Learn to Love Her Body and Herself
by Stephanie Pierson and Phyllis Cohen
ISBN 0-7432-2918-5 / ISBN 0743229185

Book Excerpt

This is an excerpt from pages 5-8 of the book You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother

Copyright © 2003 Stephanie Pierson and Phyllis Cohen

Reprinted with the permission of Simon & Schuster.

Our shared goal was to write a book of fundamental lessons and advice, a book so practical, it wouldn't just be read, it would be used -- as a guide, a compass, and a road map. We two speak with one voice for mothers of daughters from thirteen to nineteen, to help you help your daughter with the staggering number of body image issues that come up on her radar screen from the moment she wakes up in the morning to the time she goes to bed at night. From looks to weight to glossy retouched magazine perfection to cosmetic surgery to disordered eating to eating disorders to mothers on diets to health clubs to makeup to depression to cutting to suicide to cyber relationships to sex to bare midriffs to bikinis to body piercing to MTV to numbers on the scale to SAT scores.

When we told people we were writing a book about body image issues, they frequently responded, "Oh, a book about eating disorders." Body image issues seem to have become synonymous with anorexia, bulimia, bingeing, starving, overeating, obesity -- the highly visible area of eating disorders. But body image is a much broader idea. It is linked to self-image, self-esteem, and self-confidence. It is the sense you have of yourself as a person. And once you see that body image is a much larger issue, you can begin to understand it in a larger and more accurate context.

The first question to be answered in this book is why so many body image problems exist in the first place. Many mothers correctly perceive that the passage from childhood to adulthood is a lot more complex for their daughters than it was for them. The pressure on adolescent girls is more intense; their choices are less clear; their reactions are more extreme. Today getting from twelve to twenty in one sane, self-confident piece is a challenge up there with scaling Mount Everest. The real difficulty lies in the fact that the teenage years are when these girls are defining themselves as individuals. These days most of that definition begins, and sometimes ends, with how they look. Who they are feels more about what's outside and less about what's inside, because they invest so much of their sense of self in their bodies.

So real problems exist; you're not imagining them. The next question is, how is your daughter likely to deal with these problems? She'll express her unhappiness through something that has to do with her body. Or (does this sound familiar?) she'll take it out on you.

So here the two of you are, often at loggerheads -- sometimes friendly and comfortable with each other, but more often skirmishing. You know how important it is to have a relationship with your daughter; the problem is, you just can't figure out how to relate. You want to talk to her about her school, her life, her friends, and her feelings. But if she wants to talk to you at all, she wants to talk about her hips (too big), her hair (too wavy), her thighs (too fat), her eyes (too whatever). Somehow all you have in common is the fact that you can't talk to each other. And if you ever swore to yourself that you would never behave toward your daughter the way your mother behaved toward you, this is probably the point where you find yourself doing exactly that. And with no more success than your mother had.

A first piece of advice: Do not despair. Do not give up. Do not think it's too late to make it better or do it differently. Know that in the course of helping your daughter develop a healthy body image, you will experience as many highs as lows, as much laughter as tears. Have faith that you and your daughter can have a mutually satisfying relationship and that you can effect positive changes. Why? Because you and your daughter love each other. You need each other and you both need a relationship that works. It may feel as though the girl you once loved is gone, along with all the familiar ties that connected the two of you, but be reassured. The mother-daughter bond that was formed when your daughter was an infant is still strong. No matter how deeply it may be buried under all the conflicts that have grown between you, the connection is still there and always will be, and you can find it when you start to look for it. Once you recover that bond, you will be able to do two vital things: start listening to your daughter and start learning from her. At the same time, this connection will help your daughter start to learn more about you as a person and to listen to what you have to say. This genuine mutual communication is the basis for a loving, supportive relationship.

To even begin to take a first positive step, you need to stop feeling guilty about everything. Stop blaming either your daughter or yourself for every argument that results from your daughter's hating her body, from your saying something critical to her, from her saying something mean to you. And no matter how many times she tells you that you don't do anything right, no matter how mean-spirited or verbally abusive she is, do not come away concluding, "She's right, I can't do or say anything right. She's impossible to understand. She hates me. I give up." You are doing lots of things right, and you'll do more. So don't devalue yourself.

For your daughter, it's all about testing. She's testing limits, she's testing reality, she's testing your love, she's testing your acceptance or rejection of who she is, and she's testing body boundaries. While she's being hysterical, hateful, and horrible, you need to be firm. As the grown-up in the relationship, it's your job to set boundaries. While you're setting limits about her body, remember that it's her body, not yours. If she's doing something risky (like having promiscuous sex, abusing drugs, bingeing and purging, or yo-yo dieting), then you must intervene. Otherwise, respect her boundaries.

To help make all of this less abstract, throughout the book we'll give you what you need: steps, strategies, suggestions, and templates.

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This is an link for
You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother : How to Help Your Daughter Learn to Love Her Body and Herself
by Stephanie Pierson and Phyllis Cohen
ISBN 0-7432-2918-5 / ISBN 0743229185

Book Description from the Publisher's Press Release

Award-winning journalist Stephanie Pierson has successfully helped her teenage daughter recover from an eating disorder. New York psychotherapist Phyllis Cohen has successfully treated body image issues of teenage girls for more than twenty-five years. The result of their collaboration is a groundbreaking, much-needed resource for mothers who are trying to help their daughters navigate the difficult years of adolescence.

Smart, straightforward, and accessible, You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother is the first book to combine insightful thinking and hard-won wisdom with practical advice and clear answers on everything from issues as complex as the difference between disordered eating and eating disorders to those as topical as body piercing and promiscuity.

Teenage girls present their mothers with a unique set of challenges, especially where the issue of body image is concerned. The passage from childhood to adulthood is fraught with real perils for girls coming of age today; they are constantly bombarded with messages that no matter how they look, they are always falling short of some unrealistic physical ideal. In addition, they are told that they have to grow up emotionally and sexually, and do it fast. Just when a girl needs her mother's guidance the most, she is trying to separate from her mother and establish her own identity. So an innocent comment like "Isn't that skirt a little short?" can result in a storm of tears and slammed doors, effectively breaking off any communication and leaving both feeling equally alone and misunderstood.

In You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother , Pierson and Cohen give you guidance, perspective, and hope. They'll show you how to listen to your daughter, and decode what she is really asking when she says, "Do I look particularly fat today?" They give you the real answers to the universal mother questions: "What do I do now?" and "What happened to the little girt who loved me?" They explain why every slammed door will eventually open and how to build a closer relationship.

There are sample dialogues, lists (funny and smart ones like the ten things you should never say to your daughter about sex, and just plain smart ones, like how to know if your daughter is at risk for an eating disorder), a chapter just for fathers (who are often every bit as inscrutable as their daughters), and a section of resources and reading for both parents and daughters.

Picking up where Reviving Ophelia left off, this funny, wise, invaluable guide will give you the tools to help your daughter feel good about herself, body and soul.

About the Authors

Stephanie Pierson has written books and magazine articles on parenting. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View, and the Oxygen Network.

Phyllis Cohen, CSW, is a psychotherapist who has a full-time private practice in New York City. She lectures on issues of adolescence and is a cofounder of the Brooklyn Center for Families in Crisis.

Book Reviews

"With humor and empathy, a mother (Stephanie Pierson) and a psychotherapist (Phyllis Cohen) write forthrightly to moms (and dads) about separation from and connection with adolescent daughters; how to model for and speak with them to preserve and foster their self-esteem."

-- Andrea Marks, M.D., adolescent medicine specialist and
co-author of Healthy Teens, Body and Soul: A Parent's Complete Guide

"A clear, direct, yet humorous book on how to navigate the minefield of raising an adolescent daughter. Pierson, having lived through the pain of her own daughter's suffering an eating disorder, really understands the vulnerabilities of teenage girls and how parents need to be attuned to their struggles. And Cohen's expertise results in smart, specific advice."

-- Dr. Gail Saltz, psychoanalyst, The New York Psychoanalytic Institute,
and mental health contributor to the Today show

"A gifted writer and an insightful psychotherapist examine the developing image of teenage girls. What they capture will resonate with mothers (and daughters) everywhere. Their wise advice benefits us all."

-- Dr. Jana Klauer, research fellow, New York Obesity Research Institute,
St. Luke's - Roosevelt Hospital

"Offstage, my most important role is as a mother. I see how many challenges and hurdles our daughters face and am so relieved to have found a book that is so completely tuned in and so totally helpful. everyone should read it."

-- Kate Burton, actress

" You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother offers practical wisdom, clarity, hope, and plain talk to mothers (and fathers) concerned about how to help their daughters develop and sustain a healthy regard for themselves and their bodies. With grace and good humor, Pierson and Cohen show empathy and respect for mothers (and daughters); their appreciation for the complexities of mothering a daughter make this gem of a book particularly useful. I am grateful that it exists, and will recommend it to many a parent."

-- Sheila Reindl, Ed.D., psychologist, Harvard University,
and author of Sensing the Self : Woman's Recovery from Bulimia

"We all know that girls are sorely troubled by body-related issues, and we may even understand why, but how many of us have a clue about how to handle the problem? What parent hasn't wondered when and how to intervene when a beloved child seems to be recklessly veering toward self-destructive and/or self-sabotaging behavior. This book fills the void. Keep it under your mattress -- I will!"

-- Renee Fleming, mother of two pre-teenage girls, and in her spare time, opera star

Please click here for current price and shipping information ...
This is an link for
You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother : How to Help Your Daughter Learn to Love Her Body and Herself
by Stephanie Pierson and Phyllis Cohen, C.S.W.
ISBN 0743229185 / ISBN 0-7432-2918-5

Book review by reprinted with permission

A therapist and a mom have written a wise book for mothers of teenage girls who spend half of their time in front on a mirror and the other half fighting with them about what they see. The authors' fresh approach urges moms to "think of fat as an emotion." A daughter's belly shirts, body critiques, and food quirks are the vocabulary to talk about what is really bothering her: she's aware of who she isn't (razor thin and model perfect), but hasn't figured out who she is. Stephanie Pierson and Phyllis Cohen's techniques for teaching body comfort are subtle and highly practical. For example, how to give your daughter a compliment, help her understand sexuality, distinguish between taking her body apart and knowing what looks best on her, and, on the lighter side, what to say if you never want her to talk to you again. The beauty of their approach is a two-way mirror, they also ask mothers to explore their own feelings about beauty and body. The book's depth, humor, and guidance will attract many grateful readers.

-- Barbara Mackoff

Please click here for current price and shipping information ...
This is an link for
You Have to Say I'm Pretty, You're My Mother : How to Help Your Daughter Learn to Love Her Body and Herself
by Stephanie Pierson and Phyllis Cohen
ISBN 0-7432-2918-5 / ISBN 0743229185