March is Women’s History Month and it got us thinking: How do we as parents raise our young girls to not only survive the world we live in today, but teach them to thrive and make a positive impact as well? The “rules” of parenting are always evolving thanks to things like social media and bullying and while the 3 R’s of parenting 101 still apply- Respect, Responsibility and Resilience- parents of young girls especially can try and make a point to focus on influencing where it matters most. Our five tips below are by no means a perfect recipe, but we believe they can make the biggest impact.
1. Allow our girls to pursue interests- Make a point to create space in your daughter’s life for time to explore what she’s interested in and things she enjoys doing. By allowing her to do this, it gives her a comfortable place to build her self-esteem and social skills. Allow her the freedom to explore and find what she enjoys, even if it’s not what you think/believe/suggest she should be doing.
2. Avoid The “Princess Trap”- This one can hard but I think it’s important and don’t freak out and think I’m suggesting your toddler stop watching princess cartoons. I’m definitely not. But I do believe there is value to having open conversations about the illusion that a prince will come and “rescue” her or that girls should do the cooking and the cleaning. Instead, use it as an opportunity to explore how the princess could have saved herself or how girls can’t be confined to a specific gender stereotype.
3. Build Self Confidence through Positive Phrase- My 8-year-old daughter and I have a saying that goes “Girls can do anything boys can do except pee standing up- but actually we could, it would just be a little messier”. She giggles every time we say this but it’s our motto and our way of showing we believe in her, that along with positive phrase. We phrase imperfection, effort, creativity, kindness, etc. And yes, I will tell my daughter she looks pretty but for every compliment I give her about her looks, I try and give her 5 more about her actions and intentions. Building our girls up will make them stronger for when others try and tear them down.
4. Be Active– Encourage young girls to get outside and play! Being active and spending time outdoors can be a stepping stone to having discussions about positive body image. Teaching our girls to love their bodies includes teaching them how to stay active and healthy. Team sports are another fantastic way for our girls to stay active but with the added bonus of being a part of a team and contributing to a common goal. This will help build self-confidence, strong relationships and help her to understand commitment and teamwork.
5. Strong Role Models– Having strong role models in a young girl’s life is so important and we as parents are the most influential and significant role models a young girl will have. Fathers- Teach your daughters how men should behave towards women, so she can know by the time she is an adult how the men in her life should treat her. Mothers- So much of this falls on you! Everything from loving your body to standing up for yourself and being kind to others- the list is endless and the reverberations from these modeled actions can be huge. But you don’t have to be perfect, it’s more real not to be. Use mistakes and regrets as learning opportunities. And don’t forget about other female role models- make a point to call out when you see another female doing something amazing, whether it be a high school soccer player who your daughter looks up to or a female friend (like our own CEO) who builds and runs her own company. Positive influences can make a lasting impression.