Raising girls who will rock the world!

Devon McManama

Posted on February 23 2018

Raising girls who will rock the world

We live in a crazy world.  Watch the news for just five minutes, if you’re not convinced.  There are times – lots of times – when we, as adults, find it difficult to make sense of things.  Imagine how challenging it must be for our children!  It’s up to us to guide them through the maze and equip them with the skills they’ll need to hopefully do a better job than we have of sorting things out.  

And we’re the first to admit, we’ll take all the help we can get doing it! 

“Girls today often face mixed messages about themselves. But proactive parents can empower their daughters to decipher those messages -- and make good decisions,” the experts at WebMD say. 

You might be telling your daughter that she’s talented and intelligent and can be whatever she wants to be, but when she walks out the door, turns on the TV or checks in with social media, she’s probably getting the message that she needs to look a certain way, weigh a certain amount and wear a certain color of lipstick. We may tell our girls that they should speak up in class and ask questions, but it’s not going to do much good if the teacher doesn’t call on them.  

We tell our beautiful, amazing, talented, smart, funny girls not to hide their light under a bushel but to let it shine for all the world to see.  And then the world tells them they’re being bossy or pushy when they do.  

As WebMD says, “Girls today could get whiplash with all the mixed messages about themselves, their bodies, their rights, and their abilities.”

WebMD turned to a Harris poll conducted for the national nonprofit organization Girls Inc. (an amazing nonprofit that we love!).  For the poll, girls in grades 3-12 were asked about gender stereotypes, their quality of life, and their plans for the future. From our perspective, the responses were more than a little disappointing:

  • 52% of girls said people think girls are only interested in love and romance.
  • 59% of girls said girls are told not to brag about things they do well.
  • 62% of girls said in school, boys think they have a right to discuss girls' bodies in public.

Still, that poll was taken more than 10 years ago, hopefully we’ve made progress since then.  Hopefully. 

"The time has come to treat girls as people and listen carefully to what they're saying. They're the world's leading experts on what it's like to be them," Heather Johnston-Nicholson, PhD, director of research for Girls Inc., told WebMD.

In other words, as WebMD said, “If you want to help your daughter as she struggles with body image, self-esteem, intellectual growth, and peer pressure, listen before you talk.”

"That's always the first lesson. Listen, and then ask questions,” Johnston-Nicholson told WebMD. “Ask her what she thinks. Look her in the eye and say, 'That's interesting, tell me about that.' Ask a leading question rather than assuming that you know what's going on."

When you’re shopping at Me and Kay, let her look at the outfits, too.  Let her see the Tutu Du Monde Victoria Dream Tutu Dress in bright pink and the Camo Cape Jacket from MIA New York. Maybe the Peace, Love, Fearless Dress from Flowers by Zoe – a t-shirt lace up dress that brings the comfort and the attitude is more her style.  Ask her what she likes – and why! 

Shopping for a beach vacation? You may love the Submarine Swim Butterfly Bikini or the Fashion Flamingo Belt Swimsuit from Shade Critters, but she may take one look at the Stella Cove Meow Suit and flip.

If she wants something that you don’t think is appropriate, talk about it. Ask her why she likes it.  Maybe it’s just the color she adores. You know how good it feels when someone listens to you, right?  Give her that special feeling.

Here are some more suggestions from WebMD:

  • Seek out opportunities for your daughter to be with other girls in communities and activities where they can do what they want to do -- whether they're "good at it" or not. Encourage her to try non-traditional as well as traditional pursuits -- take her fishing, work on the car with her, help her build a soapbox derby car. Girls Inc. and the Girl Scouts of America offer a wealth of ideas. 
  • Girls Inc. urges parents to become "a family of media critics" to combat negative gender stereotypes on TV, in the movies, in music, and in magazines. The Girls Inc./Harris poll found that most girls feel that they don't see "themselves" on television, and that the issues they're concerned about -- like divorce, making friends, drugs, and sexuality -- aren't being addressed in a way that speaks to them. 
  • "Make sure that the role models they see and the books they read are equitable, and encourage them to express their opinion," Fern Marx, a senior research scientist at the Center for Research on Women at Wellesley College, told WebMD. This means meeting with teachers, taking a close look at the books your daughter reads for class, and asking a lot of questions.

Of course, the best thing you can do is love them.  Love the hell out of them.  We have to accept our daughters for the wonderful human beings they are – not the wonderful human beings we want them to be.  Some days it may be a challenge, but, hey, nobody said this was going to be easy!

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