Girls can certainly do anything and everything these days. Gone are the old stereotypes/ expectations in mainstream life and ways of thinking about what girls can and cannot do, how they should ‘be’, dress, their career choices/ hobbies etc. In saying that, they also have the right to be ‘girly’ girls and also choose to do what was considered primarily careers/ hobbies and activities for girls if they wish to. So amidst our daughters choices, we as parents (and I think most would agree) want to be informed, would appreciate some guidance and consider these 5 ways to raise a strong and independent daughter.
#1. Drop the expectations.
No longer should there be expectations on girls (especially from us) to be a certain way, dress a certain way, have certain jobs, and particular hobbies etc. Our daughters need to know we LOVE them because of WHO they are not because of WHAT they look like, how they dress, their choice of hobbies and/ or career choices. Growing up there was such a tomboy side to me; I wanted to climb trees, walk in the mud, loved fishing with my pop, hiking etc. (as you may well know these days activities like this aren’t classified as ‘tomboy’) and there was also a ‘girly’ side – which at the time was encouraged and more acceptable. Well I’m very happy that those days of stereotyping are gone!
I also grew up alongside other girls who were very much pressured to follow a certain career path. They didn’t question it at all, it was just something that was strongly put forward and some of them followed that path and others didn’t. All I can think of is how terribly unfulfilling it would be to do a career that someone else had chosen for you to do.
#2 Focus on the inside Inner strength, standing firm on what you believe and character should be the focus, not the outward. Don’t get me wrong I love wearing nice clothes, buying makeup and doing my nails etc. however beauty is much much more than skin deep. Teaching girls to notice the beauty inside themselves and others like; their talents, kindness, humility, empathy, personality, character etc. rather than the outward is also a good place to start.
Otherwise the message we are teaching our daughters is to place value and self- worth on how someone looks and in turn setting them up to have a very unhappy life and especially as they get older where looks and appearances fade.
As we know most of social media is based on fantasy and unrealistic expectations, with the focus on image. Our daughters should be taught they can achieve anything by working hard and being determined based on their skills, talents, character not getting ahead by how their outward appearance.
#3 To Be Resilient
Let’s face it our daughters will face being ‘hurt’ emotionally that may come from a variety of sources; friendships that are no longer, missing out on getting ‘that’ job, bullying to any number of other experiences. As parents we want to protect them from these ‘hurts’, however they need to learn how to deal with these emotions, and that’s where we can step in and be there for them to encourage them, by talking about solutions and to get back up and keep going. Ask them “What do you think you should do?”, and possibly discuss the outcomes of each scenario that is presented, giving her the choice to decide how to go forward (Even if you don’t agree).
#4 To be accountable
Teaching our daughters the value of accountability and responsibility early on will sow the seeds of independence early on. It’s never too early to start in many ways like; making her accountable for tidying up her own room, other cleaning, starting to look at budgets, how to pay bills, managing a bank account etc. Otherwise if everything is done for them, what a shock it will be as they enter adulthood ill equipped in this manner, then realizing what is required in day to day living. In teaching them this our daughters are also more likely to be responsible citizens of a community— and not expecting others to look after them as if it’s their right to sit back and do nothing and let everyone else do it for them.
# 5 Failing is an opportunity to learn Part of being strong and independent is accepting you will fail but also knowing that this is an excellent opportunity to learn. Success involves failure and failure is part of life. Your daughter should know that perfection in life isn’t the goal. The goal is to learn throughout the process. Strong, independent women seize failures and move forward looking at all variables for improvement.
In closing, in this blog I wanted to focus on 5 ways to raise a strong and independent daughter and not what is deemed ok for girls to do and don’t, that isn’t relevant anymore. However I do want to mention that it was recently suggested (and everyone is entitled to their opinion) that my two books (written thus far) in my series for girls, were focusing only on older traditional roles/ hobbies/ activities. However the main character in each book – ‘Tessa’ represents every girl. As the creator/ author I started with my first book on how to have a tea party and then went on to write my second book on how to have a ballet performance – but this is certainly only the beginning. Tessa will be exploring, travelling, rock climbing, horse riding, kayaking, designing, working with woods/ metals/ paints, playing sports, looking after pets, learning musical instruments, teaching on a variety of subjects, writing short stories etc. I certainly didn’t envisage Tessa doing exclusively ‘girly’ activities and as I said in opening – girls can certainly do anything and everything.