Everyday Lessons for Your ‘Tween Daughter: How Your Attitude Prepares Her for Life

by guest | August 4th, 2010 | 8 Comments
topic: Giving Back, Personal Growth

Three 'tween girls in Pretty Brainy tees

By Heidi A. Olinger

At age 7, my niece Ryanne was exuberant, active and inquisitive. She wanted to start a newspaper, but asked how to do so and make a profit. Her father thought she was uncoordinated, but that did not stop Ryanne from choreographing and dancing. She enjoyed astronomy and asked, “Aunt Heidi, when you get to the edge of the universe, what comes next?”

I asked myself, “How do I keep this kid as self-confident at age 13 as she is at 7?” She was heading into the hurricane of adolescence and self-loss known as the “Ophelia Years,” a phrase coined by Dr. Mary Pipher in her book Reviving Ophelia. I wanted to help Ryanne and other ‘tween girls maintain their self-esteem as they faced adolescence and its social pressures.

Ryanne’s ambitions inspired me. I discovered there was nothing on the market designed to value the genuine interests of ‘tween girls. If I did not act to address this void, I thought, my professional life would be for nothing.

So in fall 2008 I formed Pretty Brainy, a T-shirt company with this mission: to help girls show the world and themselves that they are capable of doing and being anything to which they aspire. The media for the message would be the everyday goods girls appreciate most, starting with a girls’ printed tee.

Winning role models

Through brief biographies and inspiring words, Pretty Brainy introduces girls to real women, such as aviator Jackie Cochran and Olympic athlete Babe Zaharias. Both women were determined and tenacious. They accomplished what others said was impossible, but more important than the records they set were their winning, can-do attitudes.

Another female role model, Alice Van-Springsteen, cowgirl and early Hollywood stunt rider, was told she would never walk again after breaking her back. Six months later she was back in the saddle. She made John Wayne, Ginger Rogers, Barbara Stanwyck and Dale Evans look authentic on horseback. (She is featured on Pretty Brainy’s forthcoming printed tee, the Genuine Cowgirl Tee.)

Leading by example

‘Tween girls are among the future leaders, thinkers and decision-makers who will help solve our global crises. Among the girls we at Pretty Brainy have interviewed, 77 percent have career goals in math and science. They care about the world and others’ perceptions of them. And whether you and I officially are their teachers, they learn from observing what we do and how we act.

As their aunts, moms, grandmothers and mentors, here are ways for us to be present in helping them be their best:

‘Tweens need to see how women successfully solve problems. Think of the everyday situations that can be stressful: driving, paying bills, being late for an appointment. Recall your actions and reactions and ask yourself:

  • What is my attitude? Frustrated? Open to opportunity?
  • What is my general outlook? If a girl who looks up to me adopts my outlook, will it help her succeed in life?
  • Does my tone of voice convey that I am present and in control or victimized by circumstance?

In addition to teaching by example, let your ‘tween girl hear you speak in words of problem-solving and positivity. Show and say to her:

  • “Here are the options.”
  • “Nothing is impossible.”
  • “Whatever it takes, you can do it.”

With the example of your winning attitude as her guide, your ‘tween girl will be able to make her greatest goals — from rock star to rocket scientist — a reality.


  1. Fantastic blog post! I have a twelve year old tween girl, who I endeavor to model positively for her more and more, by creating my own awareness of my behavior. And, as I have been more aware of what I put forth to her, our relationship has shifted for the better! It is truly amazing and inspiring! She counts math and science as her favorite subjects, and has already written two books that are being readied for publication; she can do whatever she aspires to do! I will definitely check out your tee shirts; she will love them! Peace, Vanessa

    Vanessa | August 5th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  2. Our world needs more souls like Heidi Olinger, who encourage our girls to be all that they can be, to stay strong through adolescence, to keep achieving.

    Olinger’s business plan is planet friendly and profit minded, but championing our girls is top priority. I can get behind a business like that.

    Maryjo Morgan | August 10th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  3. As the author of TAO OF THE DEFIANT WOMAN, I have worked with women around the country – helping them find their own self-esteem; dealing with the challenges and transitions that we all find along our path of life. My philosophy combines the acceptance of the ancient Chinese philosophy of the Tao, with a healthy dose of “defiance” (defying negativity and self=defeating behaviors). It was these women who requested I begin to work with their teen and tween daughters and, thus, TAO-GIRLS RULE! was written and, along with it, workshops for these girls. With mother and daughter helping to role model for each other they create a strong support system. The Taoist philosophy says that one doesn’t lead by going behind someone and pushing, but, rather, by walking ahead and showing the way. Heidi, I love what you are sharing with us all – you are smart, insightful and, in my mind right on target!

    CJ Golden | August 11th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  4. Thank you to everyone who has read this post, shared their comments and visited http://prettybrainy.com. I am grateful that you are among the like-minded souls who know there are no bounds to what girls are capable of in the world. (What “genius” ever said girls can’t do math and science?) And thank you for liking our girls’ printed tees!

    It is wonderful to hear about your daughter, Vanessa, and your great mother-daughter interaction.

    I look forward to reading CJ Golden’s TAO-Girls Rule and exploring the website. What a great resource.

    And thank you to MaryJo Morgan for cheering on Pretty Brainy.

    Heidi Olinger | August 13th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  5. What an awesome post! So inspirational! Thank you for your efforts in helping our youth to be the best then can be!!!

    Karen Gilmour | August 14th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  6. Tween and teen girls are the single key to solving the vast number of our social ills arising from poverty. The message to these girls needs to focus on how becoming educated and not having a baby is in their own personal best interest. The message should not be religious or be rooted in moral tones. It needs to pander to the egotistical self that drives humanity.

    Young girls need to embrace the idea that they don’t need a boyfriend to validate their self worth and that no man who does the “if you love me” line is worth a second of their time. Crime and the staggering expenses on health care and other social programs spent on the inner city poor and the rural poor stems directly from single mothers and their children who are overwhelmingly doomed from the start.

    If girls embrace that they are worth so much more, can do so much more and be so much more with an education and without children, the desperate conditions of the poor would cease to exist within 30 years. There wouldn’t be young men roaming the streets with no guidance or goals. There wouldn’t be children going to school unable to learn because they are hungry, sleepy and sick. We could focus our resources not on triage, but on the future.

    Young girls can change the world. Young women can be powerful and the young men will have no choice but to follow their lead. The question is: how can we make this happen?

    For full disclosure: I am the mother of two boys who are now adults.

    Janet Bates | August 31st, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  7. I’m a grandmother of three and have a very spunky tween granddaughter so I can certainly appreciate this post. One thing I always tell them is “pretty is as pretty does”. I always try and build their confidence and assure them the skies the limits when it comes to their goals.

    We need more posts like these :)

    Cheryl Holmes | September 9th, 2010 | Comment Permalink
  8. Thank you for this excellent post. very nice wep page

    medikal | September 15th, 2010 | Comment Permalink

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