One of the things we have discovered in research for this series is how many stereotypes we so quickly and unknowingly reinforce with our daughters. How many times do you hear things like "don't get dirty", "be careful" or "say your sorry"? These statements are overwhelmingly said to our girls versus little boys. Most of us don't even realize we are doing so.
We compliment girls with words like "sweet" or "pretty" which is so very different then how we dote on boys. Boys generally will be complimented with statements like "strong" or "smart". These compliments undermine our goal to raise empowered children, as much as the types of warnings we give them.
Powerful girls have a voice. Whenever possible, let her make constructive choices about her life. Let her choose her own clothes, within appropriate limits. You can also 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). It will help empower her as an adult to speak up against injustice, maintain healthy boundaries and not be afraid to ask for equality.
Powerful girls take physical risks. Girls who avoid risks have poorer self-esteem than girls who can and do face challenges. We should urge our daughter's to go beyond their comfort zone within reason. It’s important to help even non-athletic girls develop some physical competence and confidence when they’re young. Whether it’s through team or individual sports, girls need to form a physical relationship with their body that builds confidence.
Within my own household, we have not fully discussed how we plan to empower our daughter with a voice and with confidence in her abilities. As she continues to show us her personality, we will do our best to be open minded and supportive of all of her interests and goals.
We want to thank Willow and Meadow for sharing their sister photo shoot with us!
Kansas City, Missouri