GIRL POWER - NURTURE AN UNDAUNTED DAUGHTER
Young girls are bombarded with media that undermines self-image and self-confidence -- whether it's the plethora of reality TV shows featuring "mean girls," the Disney princess culture, or the many unrealistic portrayals of women's bodies. How do we balance raising an independent and assertive girl with one who is empathetic and kind? As a mother of two daughters, I've weighed these questions countless times. Here are my favorite tips for empowering your daughter to become a compassionate changemaker.
-Jenny Friedman, Executive Director
NURTURE AN UNDAUNTED DAUGHTER
Make a Difference...
Teach your daughter to speak up for herself and for others in the face of unkindness and injustice. Talk about how to safely "upstand" when she sees bullying or someone in need of assistance. And even young children can feel empowered by fighting for a cause they believe in -- endangered animals, the right of education for girls, ending homelessness.
Be your daughter's emotion coach. Teach her how to identify and express negative feelings without resorting to meanness. This starts by learning to accurately label emotions in herself and others; providing strategies that calm these emotions (deep breaths, time alone, etc.); and encouraging her to say "I feel..." rather than "You made me feel..." when working out a problem with another person.
Encourage competence. Allow your daughter to struggle on her own to solve a math problem, fix her bike or climb a tree before you step into help. Achieving victory on her own, and overcoming frustration, can build resilience and self-confidence. Spend time outside with her, encourage her passions and take an interest in her schoolwork.
Provide leadership opportunities. Women are still underrepresented in leadership roles in everything from politics to entertainment to business. Girls can find "taking charge" challenging, for fear of being termed "bossy." Help your daughter develop the skills she needs to be a leader by providing opportunities for public speaking, problem solving, decision making, and working in teams. It can be as simple as having her place the call when ordering a pizza to something as big as working with her to plan your next family vacation.
Select media that inspires girls. Visit A Mighty Girl for a fabulous collection of girl-empowering books, movies, websites and more.
FAILURE AS AN OPPORTUNITY TO LEARN
Talk About It...
Don't overdo it. It's great if your daughter wants to have a long conversation, but don't over-talk when she's sharing information. Make your points quickly. Your job is to really listen to her thoughts. She's much more likely to want to have the next conversation if she's not concerned about being lectured.
Talk about the influence of media. When you read a book or watch a movie together, talk about how the girls acted and how your daughter might react differently. Ask how she thinks girls are typically depicted on TV -- and whether those are characteristics she admires.
Ask your daughter for advice. It doesn't have to be about anything momentous (and definitely not anything too serious or scary), but seeking her opinion suggests you value her judgment.
Conversations can be easier if you're involved in an activity together. Spend one-on-one time with your daughter hiking, reading, playing games, cooking, building or sharing a small indulgence like hot cocoa at your local coffee shop.
Learn About It.....
Brave Irene by William Steig. Ages 4-8. When her mother, a dressmaker, becomes ill, Irene braves the elements to deliver a ball gown to the palace on time. This imaginative tale introduces us to a young heroine who is kind, caring and brave.
Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun by Maria Dismondy.
Ages 4-11. This is a simple story about a lovely, unique little girl who gets picked on by the class bully. When the bully finds himself stuck atop the monkey bars, our little friend is prepared to go tell him just how mean she thinks she is... that is, until she sees the tears in his eyes. She overcomes her own hurt feelings to help him out of his trouble, and in the end, she has made a new friend.
"A woman with a voice is by definition a strong woman. But the search to find that voice can be remarkably difficult."
- Melinda Gates philanthropist