Bringing up daughters is complicated. Empowerment messages and impressive achievements are everywhere, yet depression and anxiety are very real threats.
This year’s International Day of the Girl Child, which comes up on the 11th of October, celebrates the incredible potential of girls worldwide, and recognizes their right to a ‘safe, educated and healthy life, not only during these critical formative years, but also as they mature into women’.
I have brought up 4 girls, all grown now, and I can tell you that it is not easy at all. But we got through and I am a walking encyclopedia on how to handle the tweens, and teens…. I will try to remember! So let us talk about how you can help your daughter become her best, well-rounded self in spite of it all that is thrown at them. They have to deal with technology, peers and even some unconscious negative behavior of their parents.
It is very important that both mother and father play a role in their lives – especially with the onslaught of technology. Girls have an innate desire to know that they are beautiful and worth fighting for.
Here are few secrets to raising productive, well-rounded teenage girls.
Secret 1: Brand Early
Children are what we say they are. Begin now to take every opportunity to inform your daughter of her strengths. She will view herself as you view her. Send messages of self-confidence and heartiness: “You are smart.” “You are strong.” “You can do anything.” “You can be anything.” Your words will become her beliefs. One caution about praise: be matter of fact, be genuine, and don’t over inflate her.
Secret 2: Promote Independence
Encourage your daughter to do for herself and to try new challenges. Continue to send messages of strength: “You can do this.” “You can figure this out.” Teach her to manage money, to fix things, to camp, to enjoy math and science, to play ball, to golf, to throw, to make a go-cart, to build a tree house, to play chess, to use tools, to paddle a canoe, etc. She will grow to learn that she is capable of doing anything.
Secret 3: Promote Thinking
Parents have a responsibility to teach their daughters to think. Ask them questions. “What do YOU think about that?” “Why do you think that happened?” “That answer is correct. How did you figure that out?” By questioning, praising, and probing you will help your daughter sharpen her ideas, refine her thinking, learn to express her opinions, value her intelligence and achieve more.
Secret 4: Promote Learning
No matter what a girl’s age it’s important to encourage her to learn. Read together about important things. Encourage her to read about active, hearty females and about women inventors, artists, and writers. Read about women in leadership. Every time a girl opens a book and only reads about an active, adventurous male and a weak woman, she learns that she is worthless. Rather make it a point to promote learning about powerful women. [Read about some of them here Role Models, Stories & Adventures).
Secret 5: Promote Education
Do not allow your daughter to have the opportunity not to choose education. Frame your conversations with her about her future with expectations of higher education. “When you go to college…” “When you study hard and become a successful woman…” Do not, and I repeat, do not say “If you go to college”. This gives an option. Teach early that college follows high school. Enough said!
Secret 6: Promote Open Career Options
Show your daughter that females can and do select careers in all fields. Point this out whenever you can. “Did you notice that the doctor is a woman?” “Sarah’s mom is a lawyer. What do you think about that?” “A woman ran for president. What do you think about that?” Let your daughter know that she can choose what she wants to do. Encourage math and science fields. Let her read about women in these fields. [Read: How to Raise Entrepreneurs]
Secret 7: Promote Awareness
Help your daughter become aware of gender bias. Girls need to recognize it in order to respond to it. Pose questions to her about fairness. “Do you think only girls should do the dishes?” Get her thinking about and noticing when people make her feel inadequate or uncomfortable. Encourage her to speak up and speak out. Teach by example. When you see gender bias happening, politely call attention to it.
The truth about raising daughters is this:; it takes plenty of good humour, a lot of time and a huge amount of love. Lastly, there will be the odd occasion when you have to just cling on tight and hope the road is not going to stay so bumpy for long.
But when I think back to when our fourth daughter appeared, I can truly say it was the day that made me feel like the luckiest woman alive; and nothing that has happened since has ever dented that feeling for long.
Contributed by Dr. Laila St.Matthew-Daniel