“She wasn’t looking for a knight, she was looking for a sword” ~ Atticus
Powerful girls grow up feeling secure in themselves. They learn to take action, making positive choices about their own lives and doing positive things for others. They think critically about the world around them. They express their feelings and acknowledge the feelings and thoughts of others in caring ways. Powerful girls feel good about themselves and grow up with a “can-do” attitude. Of course, strong girls may have times of insecurity and self-doubt, but these feelings aren’t paralysing because the girls have learned to work through their problems.
But how can we raise a powerful girl?
- Encourage your daughter to pursue a passion. Let her choose an activity that she will love, which in doing so will boost her self-esteem and resilience and affirm intrinsic values rather than appearance. Having a passion keeps her busy, instead of being swept up in online drama.
- Let her have a voice in making decisions. Where you can, let her make constructive choices about her life. Let her choose her own clothes, within appropriate limits, what after-school activities she participates in and how many she wants to do (as long as it works for the rest of the family too and to your budget).
Encourage character, not performance or appearance. Praise is an essential part of parenting, but we have to be careful that we’re sending the right message, both in our words and in the timing of those words. If your compliments constantly highlight performance or appearance, you may be raising a daughter who will become overly focused on these things, rather than on the traits that will determine her true character.
Instead, commend your daughter when you observe moments of strong character. Perseverance. Courage. Honesty. Applaud her for these things. If she decides not to quit some activity or job that is too difficult, tell her that you are proud of her resilience.
- Encourage her to solve issues on her own rather than fixing things for her, and give her space to fail. It is so easy for parents to take over when things needed to be fixed, meaning our girls don’t develop the coping skills they need to handle situations on their own. Childhood is an excellent time for your daughter to practice the fine art of falling down — the most important lesson of which is developing the tenacity to pick herself back up.
- Encourage her to take physical risks. Girls who avoid risks have poorer self-esteem than girls who can and do face challenges. Encourage your daughter to go beyond her comfort zone, even if it is just in small steps.
- Get girls working together. Encourage your daughter to participate in team-building activities or join clubs that rely on teamwork. Girls who work together do much better in taking large risks or facing challenges. These girls report an incredible sense of accomplishment and feeling of competence, both of which give a huge boost to self-esteem.
- Allow her to disagree with you and get angry. Raising a powerful girl means living with one. She must be able to stand up to you and be heard, so she can learn to do the same with classmates, teachers, a boyfriend, or future colleagues and bosses. She will need guidance about how to put their point across and show support for not giving up on their beliefs, as well as making choices on how to express their feelings, and to whom, whilst always listening to the other person too.
- Make regular time to listen to your girl. By creating consistent, predictable times when she knows that you are receptive and available to listen, like riding in a car, taking a walk, or when you say goodnight at bedtime, you will eventually be let into her world. Let her use you as a sounding board to sort out what she is going through, without solving problems for her.
- Help her process the messages in the media. Help her avoid the narrow focus on appearance that often dominates the media. By helping your daughter process the messages she sees on the screen and develop her own ideas about them, you can prepare her to better resist the media’s general stereotypes.
- Acknowledge her struggles but keep a sense of perspective. We have to acknowledge the pain our daughters are experiencing, so they feel heard and accepted and empathised with. But we also need to put it into perspective, to stay calm and listen to what they are experiencing without projecting our own experiences onto theirs.
There are many other ways that you can teach your daughter to be strong, independent, and fierce. Are you using another different method?
Be sure to let us know.