We all want our daughters to be secure and confident—to know how to assert themselves, think critically, and make positive choices for themselves. We are also aware that girls today are dealing with many issues unique to their generation that can negatively impact their bodies, minds, education, and friendships.
Here are 5 tips to help raise strong, powerful girls:
- Roughhouse with your daughter
We need to provide our daughters opportunities to develop physical relationships with their bodies that build confidence. As a culture, we tend to tolerate, and even encourage, rough play among boys, but are less tolerant when our daughters get rough. Our daughters need to understand that their bodies are powerful. The bumps and bruises inherent in roughhousing help kids develop grit and stamina for the inevitable knocks and bruises life will throw their way as they grow up. And this isn’t just for dads—mom should be getting down on the floor and pummeling their kids, too!
- Give her a voice—even if you don’t like what she says
In a world in which women are routinely underestimated, underutilized, and underpaid, it’s essential that we instill in our daughters a sense of agency and the confidence that what they think and say is important. It’s hard to avoid imposing our voices and opinions on our kids, but our daughters must learn to say what they really feel, not just what they think others want to hear. So, when our girls talk, even if we don’t like what they say or how they say it, we need to listen.
- Encourage your daughter to engage in sports and challenging activities
Engaging in challenging activities provides girls with the opportunity to take risks, overcome obstacles, and have structured social interactions. This will boost self-esteem and provide structure when girls might otherwise be getting involved in social-media and interpersonal drama. Playing sports and engaging in challenging activities teaches girls valuable life skills, including leadership, the value of teamwork and cooperation, how to handle stress and pressure, and how to set goals and work to reach them. Whether it’s the soccer team, the math club, or the band, these experiences will provide our daughters an opportunity to develop essential life skills that will serve them throughout their lives.
- Watch TV with your daughter
This may seem like an unusual tip, but it can offer a platform to engage our girls in important conversations about social media and gender stereotypes, and help develop a shared language to talk about various challenges our girls will inevitably face. While limiting social media is also important, girls are going to see the images and scenarios on television, and watching together may mitigate the negative impact of these images, while providing an opportunity for closeness and increased communication.
- Allow your daughter to struggle
If we don’t give our girls the space and opportunity to struggle, we reinforce the idea that they are fragile and can’t develop the coping skills they need to handle challenging situations. We don’t want to protect our kids to the extent that they never experience failure and they avoid risk, as these kids are more vulnerable to depression, anxiety and stress later in life. So while it may be painful to watch her struggle (and sometimes fail), we’re actually teaching her that she is capable, competent, and powerful.Some girls will struggle more than others, and it is sometimes hard to know when to let our kids flounder and when to rescue them, or when to push them to do something they don’t want to do and when to lay off. The professionals at Parents Place are available to help you to understand what’s happening for your daughter, and brainstorm ways to support her that are tailored to her individual needs.
Alyse Clayman, LCSW, is the Clinical and Site Director in San Rafael, CA. She provides consultation and therapy to families and children of all ages.