Let’s Raise Powerful Self-Confident Girls
Dr. Wendy Ghiora
Posting #134 – April 4, 2016
What exactly is a powerful, self-confident girl? Self-confident 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 (like all of us) have times of insecurity and self-doubt, but these feelings aren’t paralyzing because the girls have learned to work through their problems. Powerful girls will grow up to lead full, valuable lives.
Here are some of our experts’ ideas to help you raise powerful daughters:
1. Let her have a voice in making decisions.
“Whenever possible, let her make constructive choices about her life. Let her choose her own clothes, within appropriate limits. Give her a voice in 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). Remember that knowing what she cares about most will come from trying some things and finding she doesn’t like them, as well as from finding things she loves to do,” recommends Jane Katch, Ed.D., author of They Don’t Like Me. “Your daughter might need to make a commitment for a short time for an activity (one soccer season) but when that’s over, it’s okay to try something different!”
2. Encourage her to solve issues on her own rather than fixing things for her.
“When parents take over, girls don’t develop the coping skills they need to handle situations on their own. Ask your daughter to consider three strategies she might use to deal with a situation, and then ask her about the possible outcomes. Let her decide what she wants to do (within reason). Even if you disagree with her choice, you give your daughter a sense of control over her life and show her that she is responsible for her decisions,” says Simmons.
3. Let your daughter know you love her because of who she is, not because of what she weighs or how she looks.
“Encourage your girl to eat in healthy ways, but don’t over-obsess over what she eats. Listen to her opinions (about food, and other things) and show appreciation for her uniqueness, to help her develop herself into the person she wants to be,” says Steiner-Adair. “Comment on the way she carries herself into a room or the ideas she is expressing before commenting on her looks. She needs you to know her insides and validate the developing person within, as well as noticing her emerging young womanhood,” adds White.
4. 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 bosses,” says White. Lyn Mikel Brown, Ed.D., and Sharon Lamb, Ed.D., co-authors of Packaging Girlhood, write, “Girls need guidance about how to stay clear in their disagreements, and they need support for not giving up their convictions to maintain a false harmony. Help girls to make considered choices about how to express their feelings, and to whom.” Steiner-Adair notes that “Not all girls will want to do this, especially shy girls, but you can still help them develop the skills.”
5. 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 just sitting reading — you will eventually be let into her inner world. Let her use you as a sounding board to sort out what she is going through, without solving problems for her. The answers that come from within her are the ones she will eventually live by,” says White.
Listen more than you talk.
“When we talk to girls, they often experience it as us talking at them, and they not only stop listening, they stop thinking and reflecting. But when we listen to them, they have to think about what they are saying, and they tend to reflect more. And we need to keep an open dialogue — we can’t dismiss their chatter about ups and downs of friendship as trivial, and then expect them to talk to us about the important stuff,” says Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., co-author of Mom, They’re Teasing Me.
6. 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 empathized 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. Your daughter is having a different experience than you did, even if there are surface similarities,” says Cohen. “After all, she has something you didn’t have: you.”
All of the points listed here are important for developing self-confident girls who will be well-equipped to possess the initiative, drive, and intentness to be successful and respected as an equal, but there is one more that may be the most important. The mother must set the example. Teachers, like mothers, can dispense important information to students. Nothing helps those children become successful adults quite like the example that teacher or parent sets.