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Giving Her The Lay Of The Land

Whatever your orientation is, it is working on everything around you.
JOHN DE RUITER

After I graduated high school, I moved clear across the country from Southern California to a tiny town smack dab in the middle of Pennsylvania - State College the home of the Penn State Nittany Lions (woo hoo!). One of the first things I did after moving my stuff into the dorm was I attended the new student orientation.

What happened there? I spent several hours with other students who were new to campus: taking a tour, familiarizing ourselves with the roads, walkways, shortcuts that connect you to different sections of campus, the buildings. Where the softball field was. Where we were going to practice when it was way too cold to be outside? Where are the dining commons? Where’s my study hall? If I get sick, where do I go? You know, all the important stuff.

That’s what Orientation is. It’s a program of introduction that helps to acclimate and support students so that two things happen:

1) they understand where they are in relation to what they need and

2) they get themselves connected to the resources and support systems that are available to them.

What I’ve just described is a focus on familiarizing yourself with your surroundings on an external level, but I’d like to switch gears for a second and see if we can’t start thinking about orientation, not in terms of a girl’s exterior surroundings but rather her interior design.

How can we help our girls get the lay of the land, not outside but inside, with regard to themselves and how their brains and biology are designed to work?

We want to help them answer the questions - how am I oriented and how can I use that information to better understand myself in relation to what I need? Why do I tend to think, feel and act in certain ways, and how can I get connected to the resources and support systems that are available to me?

You don’t have to be a scientist to recognize that women think, feel, and act differently than men do, generally speaking. Yes we know there are exceptions to this and we also know that the brain is highly adaptive and can learn to function in ways that are considered either masculine or feminine. Patterns of behavior are formed for all sorts of reasons. But again, in general, science can give us a lot of insight into the design differences, male and female.  And the more we can understand how girls and women are oriented, the better we can help our daughters understand themselves and their wiring as women so they can be authentic in their leadership.

In my work as both a teacher and entrepreneur over the last several years, I’ve learned strategies that have drastically impacted me in virtually every area of my life - faith, marriage, motherhood, business, friendship. You name it.

Now, there are many biological differences between men and women (over 100). We don’t have time to go through all of them now. But just to get our feet wet in this area, I want to highlight one key difference that will help you in your approach to raising and mentoring girls so that their confidence increases and they feel empowered to use these voices that we’re nurturing.

Be sure to write this down.

  1. In women, brain scans consistently show greater connectivity between the left and right sides of the brain, while the connections in the male brain are mostly confined to individual hemispheres.

There have been many studies that confirm this, but I’m referencing a brain connectivity study done by the University of Pennsylvania in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2013.

To put it differently, girls brains have roughly 10x more white matter (the tissue that relates to/indicates networked brain activity), while boys have 7x more grey matter (thinking that is localized or happens in the same place). If you’ve ever heard someone say ‘boys brains are like waffles, and girls brains are like spaghetti’ that gives you an idea of what we’re dealing with here.

What does this mean?

Well for starters, this type of brain function may explain why it can take girls and women longer to think through solutions to problems because they are busy processing larger amounts of data due to where that data is stored in the brain.

And Mom, as I’m sure you’ve experienced yourself this ‘firing across both hemispheres’ design for thinking. For women it can lead to things like overanalysis, obsessing over details, and struggling to make any decision for fear of it being the wrong one.

Additionally, most girls’ and boys’ brains are wired to process the connection between language and emotion differently. Because of this, many girls may have an easier time talking about their feelings than many boys. Female brains tend to focus a bit better on details so that girls can express their emotions at considerable length. This explains why on average girls use 3x as many words as boys do.

Why does this matter?

Well, knowing this is the case, what we want to do as moms and mentors is approach our interactions with and training of girls with a working knowledge of how the female brain functions and allow that understanding to inform how we talk to them, make requests of them, help them evaluate and make decisions, support them to resolve conflicts with family members, and friends...you name it. 

Wisdom is the most valuable asset we can obtain and by passing on that wisdom to her we will create many benefits.

Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. Wisdom.
She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. 
Proverbs 3:13

The best thing you can do is to pass along this wisdom, this understanding of who she is to your daughter. So she knows that the female tendency and trend is to think this way (because of our design and not because of a lack of intelligence or the perception of others that we may be scattered or ‘all over the place’).

The challenge for this week is two-fold: 

1) Educate her about her orientation

2) Offer strategies that will help her organize her thinking and maintain her composure as she processes information the way God designed her brain to do it.

Let’s graduate from simply having a baseline awareness that boys and girls are different. Not just agreeing that yes, these differences exist, but deciding to move forward with intention by learning about those differences and then by asking ourselves the following questions:

  1. Is the way we interact with our girls optimal for what we know about the feminine design?
  2. Is our approach to teaching her appropriate for that wiring - the design God placed inside her?
  3. Are we letting her IN on how God designed her so there is less confusion, anxiety, and stress about how she thinks, feels and tends to behave?

As women, our brains are wired for connectedness. It makes sense that we are natural bridge-builders, connectors, and web-weavers. Helping our girls understand that wiring will give them a serious advantage as they learn to live authentically, lead from their values and own the spheres of influence they will be assigned to.

Helping even the youngest girls begin to understand their Orientation will manifest great returns when they draw upon that understanding to make sense of what they think and feel.

Here are three things to keep in mind:

  1. Leading girls will require us to seek wisdom about the differences between the masculine and feminine brain and biology. It isn’t enough to know there ARE differences. We need to know what they are and use that knowledge to lead girls effectively.
  2. Research consistently shows that the female brain processes information across both hemispheres while the male brain shows thinking is consistently localized and found in either hemisphere.
  3. There are strengths and challenges that come with networked brain activity, and girls need STRATEGIES that will help them organize and process their thinking.

Have an awesome day!

If this post struck a chord with you, I want you to know I'm working on a solution to help you grow deeper in your relationship with your daughter and equip her with the tools and skills she needs to lead. If you're looking for mentorship that includes practical tools and strategies, I am releasing a FREE video series called "3 Keys To Unlocking Her True Potential." Click here to be added to our email list and I'll let you know the second it's available. These topics changed my approach to motherhood, marriage, business, and life forever... 

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