How to Raise a Girl.

Via on Jun 21, 2014


I’m about to have two little ladies running around my house instead of just one. (I’m expecting a girl.)

And raising a girl is nothing short of a blessing.

But sugar and spice and everything nice? Nah.

I’ll take a sprinkle of naughty and a hint of “likes to roughhouse.”

I’ll throw in a pinch of burn-your-mouth spicy and maybe an occasionally sour too.

Because I’ve been thinking a lot about raising girls and about being one too.

I’ve been thinking about my own experiences, hardships and hard-won lessons, and what exactly being a woman means to me.

So, here we go: a compilation of my memories, self-experiments, personal gender studies, stories and teachings.

How to raise a girl:

Let her pick out pink, frilly dresses—and wear them outside to play.

Throw the baseball with her in the backyard so that she can break in her new baseball mitt.

Be comfortable with her nudity and with your own, so that she can grow to be comfortable in her skin.

Let her take off her teenage bra and not wear it for a year. Don’t freak out if she stops shaving her armpits. Let her disown her girlhood because she’s rebelling against—and mourning—leaving it behind.

Let her cover her breasts and wear baggy clothes—but make sure that she’s not covering more than her body from the world.

Let her eat, but teach her that self-indulgence is not self-care either.

Hold her when she’s fallen down and then help her learn how to get back up, for when you’re not there to grasp her hand.

Make sure she knows that she can date whatever gender she wants. Teach her that nice guys and girls do win, and teach her, preferably through example, to choose partners based on qualities that matter and not what’s between the legs, inside wallets or behind “mysterious” demeanors.

Teach her that she is whole alone.

Help her to be proud of her femininity when (and if) she discovers it, and teach her to appropriately equate this word with strength.

Encourage her to develop her voice. Reassure her that she can be loud and large when she wants to be.

Remember, if you’re also a woman, that she is not you and that just because she’s a girl, this doesn’t mean you will share experiences, perceptions or personalities.

Share your heart and your experiences with her, though, so that she becomes familiar with intimacy.

Kiss her and hold her and hug her for no reason. Let her know that she owes no one any of these things.

Toss her giggling, toddler body into the air. Wrestle with her and don’t tell her to “be careful” when she shows signs of being a daredevil.

Show her how to cook, do laundry and clean—not because she’s a girl, but because it will help her be self-sufficient.

Make sure she understands that “being good” doesn’t mean putting herself last or being small. Rather, it means being authentic and kind (and to herself too).

Dry her tears with your love and willingness to witness her pain, but don’t tell her that her crying should be stopped or that it’s a weakness. Show her that it takes courage to wear an occasionally tattered heart on her sleeve.

Tell her she’s beautiful. Tell her she’s beautiful when she’s just woken up, when she’s sweaty and not only when she’s all dressed up. Tell her she’s beautiful when she’s laughing and sharing her ideas and baring her soul.

Allow her to wear bright red lipstick when she’s old enough, but help her develop self-confidence without it.

And, most importantly, raise her not as a girl, but as the individual who she already is—and love her for it.



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Editor: Emily Bartran

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About Jennifer S. White

Jennifer is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She's also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people that ever lived and she's also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor's degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer then make sure to check out her writing, as she's finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer's first book, The Best Day of Your Life, is now available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram and on her website.


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22 Responses to “How to Raise a Girl.”

  1. Joyce says:

    I loved this! Thanks!

  2. Juli says:

    This is wonderful. Thank you.

  3. Solo says:

    Thank you for this article. I have found myself doing much of what you have written on my own and as a daily discovery. My daughter makes my life complete.

    • Jennifer S. White jenniferswhite says:

      I think life is all about remembering to check back in (that daily discovery idea). Thank you so much for your comment. xx

  4. Diane Lynch says:

    This is great! Is there an article for raising a boy?

  5. kimf says:

    Much wisdom in your comments and obviously they richly come from experience and the heart. Our household is a three generation household, and I find myself trying to do it "better" with my grand daughters. I really have to bite my lip and not say "be careful" when they have climbed to the top of our 30 foot pine trees…sigh!

    But I know it took me until midlife to find my voice, because I was basically raised to believe my voice did not count. So unfortunately, my daughters did not see the importance of this until their late teens. But on the plus side, they were raised with the sense of seeking. So I am daily, making a very directed effort to teach my grand daughters to develop their voice and honor others. I pray that I live long enough to see this empowering generation of young ladies of your daughters and my grand daughters help make a better world.
    thanks for the article!

    • Jennifer S. White jenniferswhite says:

      I bite my lip often to not say "be careful!" I want it to mean something when I do ;)

      I think many of us found our voice later in lives, myself included. Your family sounds amazing and I'm grateful for your sharing response. Thanks in return! xx

  6. Elise says:

    This is so beautiful! I have birth 10 days ago to my second child and my first girl. I have thought so many of these things, but you articulated them into a beautiful and poetic interpretation. Thanks for this :)

  7. Amy E says:

    I love this. Teach her to count on herself and be self sufficient. Her husband is her career. Don't encourage her to expect anyone else to take care of her. Encourage her uniqueness. Praise her strength.

  8. Mazerisms says:

    Perfectly said, thank you for posting and reminding us the importance of these little things in life that make a big difference!

  9. yasmin says:

    Loved it.

  10. Ashley says:

    Beautiful! My little lady is 2 and these are wonderful to share with her!

  11. Duchanne says:

    Thank you for this. I feel the total opposite about myself as a girl because my mother has difficulty with all of these things. I’m having my first baby – a girl – in four months and I live in terror that she will feel the way I do despite my best efforts. You remind me that I can do this. I don’t need to have been taught by example to teach her to love herself – or that I will love her unconditionally forever. I can break this cycle.

    • Jennifer S. White jenniferswhite says:

      Hi there. Thanks for your heartfelt response. I absolutely believe that we have the power to break family cycles of abuse. And one thing I've believed in even more strongly for years (way before I became a mother myself) is that the care, desire and willingness to give our children love and to question ourselves as parents is step one towards being great. I think you'll be doing just fine ;)


  12. Tamara says:

    Thank you. ..this really made me think about how I handle things ;)

  13. Nicky says:

    This article was so spot on! I have a 6 year old girl and a 9 year old boy, do u have an article on “How to raise a boy?” If not please consider writing one. Thank you!

  14. when my daughter was 4 she was getting ready for bed after her bath in a fluffy pink towel. She tossed away the towel and got into bed naked. ” don’t you want Jammie’s?” I asked her. “No Mommy”. She said. “I am comfortable in my feminosity”

  15. Hill Country Mama says:

    Love this…and preachin' to the choir. I have a 16 year old daughter who, to be expected, is finding herself and her individuality. She's a beautiful person and I hope I can continue to be there for her when she needs me. :) Thank you for your article, as it connected with me and my own relationship with my gal.

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