It’s often not the one huge, earth shattering thing that occurs, rather a series of small things that cumulatively make a big difference.
That point was hammered home when I read the book 9 Ways We’re Screwing Up Our Girls and How We Can Stop by Anea Bogue, and in our subsequent interview.
As a mother of two grown daughters myself, I read with interest to make sure I hadn’t ‘screwed up’ my girls too badly! I took the ‘Mom’s Self-Assessment’, I made my hubby take the Dad’s Self-Assessment’ and made our daughter ‘assess’ us both.
And sure enough – yep, we have screwed them up! 🙂
Alas, all is not lost as we have made a plan to all go out and learn how to change tires, wash the car and check the oil. None of us really want to do those things, but we recognized that it’s good to be able to know how to do those things.
So in the spirit of raising strong, healthy, confident girls – whether they are our own daughters or we are having impact on other girls in our community – check out Anea’s suggestions in her guest blog post below and enjoy our whole show here – bet it will make you think!
9 Tips for Parents on Raising Strong, Confident, Healthy Girls
Excerpts from: 9 Ways We’re Screwing Up Our Girls and How We Can Stop by Anea Bogue
- Mom, embody the woman you want your daughter to become. More than anything you say, what she sees in your behavior will shape the woman she becomes. If you want her to become a strong, confident, self-loving, and empowered woman one day, you must model this for her in your own daily interactions: how you speak of yourself and other women and how you allow yourself to be spoken to. Use your voice, be assertive, avoid negative self-criticism, and make time to take care of YOU. This will guide her and give her permission to do the same.
- Dad, set a healthy standard for what she seeks in men and how she sees herself in relation to men. First and foremost, avoid ‘daddy’s little girl’ behaviors when you interact with your daughter. Your goal is to help her grow up to be a strong, whole, adult woman who believes she is worthy of being treated with love and respect, NOT as a damsel in distress. If you treat her like a helpless little girl who needs your constant guidance and protection, she will only ever see herself this way and simply replace you with other domineering men who control and ‘protect’ her. Encourage her to know and practice her strength both emotionally and physically, and allow her to solve her own problems with some guidance from you rather than solving them for her.
- Mom AND Dad, be conscious of modeling a relationship of equality if you want your daughter to seek the same for herself. Your daughter’s sense of what a relationship can or should look like comes most directly from the way she sees her parents interact. If you model mutual respect and partnership in the way you speak to each other, make decisions, AND parent, she will learn (in spite of what she may see in media and various other aspects of her life) that a healthy relationship of equality is possible. Be they friendships from the time she is young, or romantic relationships as she moves through her later teen years and into adulthood, her ability to seek and create healthy relationships is a critical part of her overall wellbeing and will significantly increase her chances of reaching her highest potential.
- Create your own media filter, and then guide your daughter to do the same. In our age of ‘everywhere media,’ the messages carried through television, movies, magazines, music, and internet are constantly shaping a girl’s sense of what it means to be female. Make no mistake; most of mainstream media is wreaking havoc on our daughters’ self-esteem. No matter what the form of media, they receive messages about how a girl/woman should look, behave, and interact with the opposite sex and with other females. These messages all set a literally impossible standard for beauty and, for the most part, tell them that the most desirable woman is one who is physically attractive, not especially smart or powerful, and in need of a man to ‘save’ or ‘complete’ her. As you become more aware, take small action steps that will make a BIG difference: be vocal with your children about media gender stereotypes when you see them, search for books and movies that are girl-friendly, and make your home a ‘fashion magazine-free zone.’
- Insist that her education be gender-balanced. Traditional core curricula at most schools (public and private) provide a whole set of messages that shape girls’ sense of value in the world. Across the board of core subjects, the contributions and experiences of women are marginalized or ignored in many textbooks. The reasonable conclusion drawn by the reader, consciously or subconsciously, is that women have made few contributions to culture, have always played a less significant role, and, therefore, hold less value than men in shaping our society. This has a direct impact on how girls see themselves and their value. Be diligent in finding out what your daughter is learning in school and the degree to which administrators and her teachers are conscious of this issue. Whether you are paying for your daughter’s education through taxes or tuition, you have every right to request and expect that her academic experience is truly inspiring her to reach her highest potential, not holding her back.
- Avoid raising a ‘pleaser.’ So many of us are programmed with the ‘girls are sugar and spice and everything nice’ adage, that we in turn program our daughters with the same limiting, and potentially damaging, expectations. A pleaser adapts herself to be what somebody else wants or needs her to be. She’s usually focused on gaining acceptance, rather than simply being what she wants to be. She allows herself to be defined by others, whom she perceives to hold power in her life rather than defining herself. Listen to your daughter to find out who she really is when she’s not trying to please everyone else. She will tell you with her questions, statements, and actions who she is and what makes her heart sing. Above all else, teach her to put on her own oxygen mask first – it is what will enable her to become all she has the potential to be and to give to others throughout her life in a healthy, balanced way.
- Remember that her path is her own. In spite of the profound importance of teaching a girl to be her own personal authority, most of us are not doing so. In large part, this is because of the way our programming leads us to view the female half of our species. While we tend to perceive males as being capable of being in charge of their own paths and the paths of others, we are still stuck in devastatingly flawed thinking that tells us that females are not capable of being in charge of themselves or anyone else. Whether a girl’s adolescent journey is beneficial or damaging to her growth is determined largely by what she is carrying in her toolbox as she steps onto the bridge. If, during the first decade of her life, we nurture her strength and capacity to be her own personal authority and problem solver, this is what she will step onto the bridge carrying. What she needs from us while she is making the journey across the bridge is our support. In adolescence, this means providing reasonable guidelines, space, and our demonstrated confidence in her to explore and discover who she is and desires to become.
- Encourage her to become the subject of her own sexuality rather than the object of someone else’s. Even those of us with the best parenting skills tend to ‘white knuckle’ our way through our daughter’s sexual development, because we have been programmed to be terrified of it. In fact, her healthy sexual development is a critical piece of her healthy psychological, physical, and emotional development. It is essential that your daughter be encouraged to stay connected to her body and desires and given space to safely explore who she is as a sexual being. Attaching fear and shame to her sexuality will only lead her to disconnect from her body, which in turn will lead her to stop being in charge of it and protecting it.
- On that note…Actively raise your daughter to understand and appreciate menstruation as a powerful cycle of the female body. I can’t emphasize enough the damage that is done to girls and women (and has been done for generations) every day that we perpetuate the myth of menstruation as a ‘curse.’ Whether by blatantly stating it through various religious teachings, or implying it by making her period a taboo subject, girls learn that this core biological function of the female body is shameful. I have seen firsthand a dramatic shift with hundreds of girls I’ve worked with on this subject. When girls begin to fully understand their female body and perceive menstruation as a magical and powerful cycle, they begin to see themselves as they truly are: valuable, important, deeply powerful beings. After all, the menstrual cycle allows for the continuation of our species, for ‘creativity’ in many forms, and is an innate connection to the life-sustaining cycles of the universe – most obviously the moon cycle. Talk openly on the subject of menstruation and guide your daughter to understand and love her body. More from Dr. Christiane Northrup on this important subject here: http://tinyurl.com/8hrefaq
Stephanie Staples, CSP* is the author of When Enlightening Strikes – Creating a Mindset for Uncommon Success, an internationally acclaimed motivational speaker, and the recipient of the 2014 Manitoba Woman Entrepreneur Award for Contributions to Community. Stephanie empowers audiences & clients across North America to bring their ‘A’ game to work and to life. Stephanie has a special interest in working with and empowering nurses and healthcare providers. She happily calls Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada home. You can get loads of complimentary resources to help with issues such as work/life balance, wellness, stress management and happiness in general, as well as find out more information about her coaching and speaking services at http://www.YourLifeUnlimited.ca.* Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), conferred by the National Speakers Association is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform proficiency. Less than 10 percent of speakers have earned this credential and are recognized as some of the best in their fields. Stephanie was one of only five professional speakers in Canada (and the only woman) to attain this designation in 2013.