I was one of the lucky ones. I had a mother who was strong, self-reliant, and compassionate. I watched her and what I learned has helped me in my life, my career, and my relationships with others. I don’t have any daughters to pay it forward, but there are elements of what I took from my mother that certainly apply to raising strong, self-reliant, and compassionate boys. And I can see I was right, when I look at who they are today.
Empowering little girls involves these 8 principles:
Give her a chance to find out what she’s good at. It might be a sport or a talent or something she can make. It might be something as simple as a good sense of humor. Whatever it is, help her realize it has value and that she has value because of it. You are building not only her self-esteem, but also her resilience.
Help her define her own personal boundaries. Let her know it’s OK to say no, without having to dance around it or feel bad.
Let her play with dolls and play along with her. Direct her make-believe schemes to include characters that are leaders, that help people, and who include others. Give her dolls of many varieties, colors, and abilities.
Teach her to sort out what really matters and to let go of the rest. This helps deflect jealousy and envy… both her own and what may be directed towards her. Model friendships that value liking us for who we are.
Help her define and understand her emotions. Teach the difference between just being upset and realizing someone else is causing it. Demonstrate compassion, empathy, and grace… as well as having the nerve to say something if backed into a corner.
Give her the opportunity to face her fears, instead of always stepping in. Let her know it’s OK to be afraid, but that shouldn’t always stop us. Let her see you step outside your comfort zone sometimes and share how that feels.
Make sure she has a positive adult male figure in her life. This must be a man who has a sense of direction, purpose, self-respect, ethics, and who respects women. If he doesn’t measure up, designate someone else to take that role.
And finally, teach her the difference between leadership and being bossy… how her voice should be the strongest when she is standing up for someone else or for what she believes in.