“Who’s the true-blue you?” “Are you best friend material?”
Open any magazine aimed at tween and teen girls, and questions like these are sure to appear in quizzes that pepper these publications. It’s not surprising that most girls love to take quizzes for self discovery. Amid the emotional turmoil and physical changes of adolescence, girls crave help to figure out the “certainty” of who they are, especially in relation to their peers.
But many of the quizzes aren’t really helpful, with shallow questions that often trade on disrespectful and mean stereotypes about girls. And increasingly, quizzes focus on celebrities and shopping, leading a girl even farther from discovering insights into her unique personality.
The good news is that there are fun ways for your girl to find out something more profound than whether she’s more like Paris Hilton or Jessica Simpson. Parents can participate as well, taking quizzes in tandem as a light-hearted way to open up parent-daughter communication. Getting to Know the Real You: 50 Fun Quizzes Just for Girls (Crown Publishing) is one such guide, written by Girl Scouts girl-advice guru Harriet Mosatche and her daughter Liz, then 13 years old. Another pair of books, Psychology for Kids: 40 Fun Tests That Help You Learn About Yourself (Free Spirit Publishing) and Psychology for Kids II (Free Spirit), lets girls and parents learn more about each person’s personality traits and behaviors, which can reveal problem areas in family communication.
Even when girls take magazine quizzes that may make parents cringe, the situation can prompt some illuminating conversations. Many girls are already savvy about the oversimplified nature of quizzes, yet prize their entertainment value. “I mostly take quizzes for fun,” says seventh-grader Eva, who enjoys doing quizzes with a group of friends and notices that “when we do them together, we all get the same answers.” She is most drawn to quizzes that help her decipher friendships, and hates it when they are structured in ways that make the “right” answers too obvious, “like the ones where if I answer all Cs, then I’m a bad friend.”
You can point out the flaws in quizzes that reduce girls to silly stereotypes. For example, one recent tween magazine quiz asks: “What’s your personality? Are you a nature nut, funky chick, or a glamour queen?” Chances are, your daughter is somewhere between none and all of the above. “The ones that ask ‘What celebrity would be your best friend?’ – they don’t really matter. I’m never going to be friends with Hilary Duff,” says Eva. Be gentle in your critique—girls are thirsty for advice wherever it comes from—but remind her that when it comes to personality, there are no “right” answers.
Try guiding your girl toward more complex personality assessments. In Psychology for Kids, girls can determine their personal styles through inventories including Rorschach-style inkblot image interpretation, arm-folding type to determine right- or left-brained tendencies, and doodling exercising to assess achievement orientation. Many activities are rooted in widely known psychological tests.
Eva had never considered doing quizzes with her mom, but chose one about “How Involved are Your Parents in Your Life?” from Getting to Know the Real You. This book includes personal anecdotes and advice from both mom and daughter co-authors. In the parental-involvement quiz, each question describes a situation, such as “deciding what clubs or teams you’re going to be involved in at school this year,” with test-takers choosing between “too much, too little, or just right parental involvement.”
“These are perfect questions for parenting 12-year-olds,” says Eva’s mom Denise. “It’s the stage when kids are trying to push their limits. And the fact that some parents are more lax than others comes up all the time in our house.” Denise wasn’t surprised that Eva picked this topic, but she was surprised by some of her daughter’s answers. “No matter which quiz we took, I’m sure there would be things about Eva I didn’t realize before,” she says. When they compared responses, Eva liked hearing her mom admit that sometimes she does get too involved. And Denise had fun trying an activity that Eva normally does on her own or with friends. She adds, “I’m just glad I got a few ‘just rights’!”
Erin Trahan writes and works with nonprofit organizations such as the Girls’ Coalition of Greater Boston in MA.