*Eleditor’s note: Elephant is a diverse community of millions of readers and hundreds of writers. We are reader-created. Many blogs here are experience, opinion, and not fact or The One Right Point of View. We recognize that our audience members may not agree with gendered language or divisions. Join in on the conversation or start your own by submitting your writing here.
This is one of the best times in history to raise a daughter.
Women have more freedom today than ever before. Voting—check. Owning land—check. Wearing pants anytime they want—check. We can raise our daughters and tell them, “You can be anything you want,” and actually mean it.
Not that things are perfect.
While women have been to space, are the stars of movies and can be on the Supreme Court, there is still so much more work to do. Not all women get equal pay. Women aren’t always appreciated for what they can bring to the table.
We still have a long way to go.
In the meantime, we have daughters to raise. In all this, we need to realize just how powerful we are.
I remember when I got my first job; it was an exciting moment of course, but deep inside I was nervous and wondering if I would be able to do what was needed of me at my workplace. That’s when my mother stepped in and told me I could do anything I wanted to if I was committed and willing to put in effort and care in my work—or anything else for that matter. Since much before, my mother has empowered me with confidence and been my most encouraging companion.
So how do we raise confident and caring daughters in the modern world ourselves? Here are seven ideas to consider:
1. Be Her Biggest Role Model/Cheerleader.
Our words, actions and way of being will rub off on young girls. We can be her biggest role models. From us she can learn how to handle herself in sticky situations, how to work hard, and how to treat other people. It’s an amazing opportunity for us to grow alongside her and learn together. On this journey together, be her biggest cheerleader. Tell her she can do it—and then she will.
Role model ideas: Act as you would want her to act in all situations. For example, give to the homeless, be a courteous driver, and stick up for women’s rights.
Cheerleader ideas: If she isn’t sure if she will make the debate team, for example, tell her that they would be lucky to have her and that trying her best is important. You could also help her practice before the try-out.
2. Help Her Develop Healthy Relationships.
Some of the biggest influences in her life will be friends and significant others. Of course, we can’t pick our daughter’s friends, but we can help her meet other confident and caring girls her age. We can also help her develop a healthy relationship with other people in her life like siblings or aunts. When she learns about what love is, what friendship is, and as they enrich her life, she will soar with confidence and enjoy caring for others.
Healthy relationship ideas: Encourage her to join a group like Girl Scouts, a sports team or an art class, or set up a time when extended family can spend time with her.
3. Bring Her Along to Volunteer.
Nothing helps a child learn how to care for others better than by helping others. Something about getting outside ourselves and serving makes us focus on the most important things in life. As a young girl watches adults serve, and then as she serves others as well, she will realize how much she can help others.
Volunteer ideas: Volunteer at her school, at the local food bank or at a fun run, and bring her along.
4. Foster a Healthy Body Image.
This can be a tough one. My daughter, who is five, loves clothes and princesses and anything pink. She loves to dress up. After she dresses up, she asks me, “Mom, do I look pretty?” I tell her, “You are always pretty, inside and out.” I’m not sure she understands it quite yet.
How to encourage a healthy body image: Assure your daughter she is beautiful, even without makeup or fancy clothes. Talk to her about women she sees on TV, movies and magazines so she knows how much of it is digitally enhanced. Don’t obsess about your own weight and be positive about your own body. Eat balanced meals and do fun, active things with her.
5. Encourage Her in Her Passions.
Nothing feels better to a young girl than having support in doing what she loves most. Whether it is science, photography, building things, writing, singing or sports, see where she gravitates. Maybe she won’t ever be the best in that one thing, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is if she loves it and gets something out of it. In the process, she will more fully discover who she is.
Ideas for encouraging: Help her learn everything she can about that thing, and maybe sign her up for a camp or class in that area.
6. Give Her Responsibilities.
Early on, my mother gave me chores at home, and when I completed them I felt pride that I helped our home to be a beautiful place we could all enjoy. With responsibilities, your daughter will learn how much she can contribute to her immediate surroundings—and eventually the world.
Ideas for giving responsibility:: Give her (and her brother!) responsibilities like feeding the family pet, wedding the garden, or washing the car.
7. Discuss Other Strong Female Role Models.
Other strong females can be a good influence on young girls, reinforcing what we are trying to teach them.
Ideas for discussing strong role models: Watch movies or read books about amazing women throughout history. Besides the more famous female role models, we should look to our own communities, to people such as teachers, business owners, athletes and artists. We can look for female role models in our own extended families, too. Grandmothers, aunts and cousins are all great women for young girls to look up to and emulate.
Being the mother of a daughter is a wonderful opportunity. As our daughters grow and discover the world around them, we can help teach them that they can do and be anything. In the process, our daughters will become part of the next generation of amazing women, and perhaps be instrumental in advancing confidence and caring in women around the world.
Author: Malini Bhatia
Editors: Toby Israel; Renée Picard