Recently, women have become more empowered than ever.  We are calling out those who have belittled us, betrayed us, and made us feel unworthy- we are no longer taking a back seat, looking pretty with smiles on our faces. We are taking back our well-deserved power. We are the playwright, our own Shakespeare, and the future is bright. We are raising our daughters to be strong, confident, amazing young women. The future is female.

We no longer settle for what the world is handing us. Instead, we reach out and take what is rightfully ours.  This new dynamic is fantastic but raising a daughter to fully embrace who she is while society insists on writing a different story is hard.  We can, and we will raise them to be more than just a pretty girl but what is the secret to raising confident girls? What can we do to help our girls cope with the world around them?

Things Young Girls Say

Society inundates our girls with images of “beautiful” women.  Pick up any magazine, and you’ll find women dressed perfectly, makeup on, and looking as far as society is concerned- beautiful.  It seems we equate success with beauty.  Or, at least they are on an equal playing field.  Girls are bombarded with images of societal beauty while simultaneously telling them they can be anything. So, when they think of what they want to be, that idea ingrained in their brain is that they want to be beautiful. Does society push our young girls into believing that something beautiful is the highest achievement? Is that subconsciously what we teach our girls their place should be?

Girls and Stress

A recent study from Pediatrics suggests depression among all teens is on the rise.  Peer pressure plays a huge role in how and why this is happening.  Children are never out of range for peer ridicule thanks to the internet.  Psychologist and author, Catherine Steiner-Adair comments, women are “continually bombarded by media messages, dominant culture, humor and even political figures about how they look — no matter how smart, gifted, or passionate they are.”

Girls outperform boys on almost every level.  Let’s reiterate that, girls outperform boys, but society measures them on some impossible scale of perfection. A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration that the rate at which girls reported feeling depressed tripled in just one year. Psychologist and author Catherine Steiner-Adair comments, ” [women and girls are] continually bombarded by media messages, dominant culture, humor and even political figures about how they look — no matter how smart, gifted, or passionate they are.”

Practice What You Preach

Be a positive role model.  If you want your child not to succumb to social peer pressures, you have to rise above them yourself.  Show her you aren’t afraid to wear brightly colored shirts or go out of the house without makeup.  Teach her about causes that matter to you.  Get her thinking about ideas that are important to you and why.  Your confidence will inspire her own.  Show her your strength.

Kristyn Kusek Lewis from Parent Magazine comments, “Even teenagers, whom we assume are easily swayed by peer pressure, say that their mom matters most: 63 percent of girls who report that they have a role model say it’s their mom, and 48 percent turn to their mother for support when they have a problem, according to a survey of nearly 1,100 girls ages 13 to 18 by Keds and Girls Leadership. Only 15 percent go to their friends first for advice. Younger girls are even more reliant on Mom.”

Lift her up

A study conducted by the American Association of University Women found that between elementary and high school, a girl’s self-esteem drops 3.5 times more than a boy’s does.

In the past, we’ve told girls to conform to the norm.  We’ve taught them that there is a certain look that is pretty, a certain waistline that is desirable, and certain careers they should take.  We read stories that set them up to believe they are to sit and wait until a man sweeps them off their feet leaving their treacherous life behind.

Shatter those ideas.  Let girls be who they are, and more than that encourage them to be different. The best way to combat peer pressure is to know who you are from the inside out. The stronger, more confident person your daughter is, the better she’ll be at adapting to the world that surrounds her.

Explore all of the riches of that the world has to offer. Don’t pigeonhole her into one type of activity, maybe she’ll love dance, but maybe she’ll like soccer. Buy her toys that encourage different concepts- building, designing, mathematics. Have her make messes, get dirty, let down her hair; gone are the days that we sit still looking pretty waiting for our prince to come.  Teach her to be her own damn savior.

Drop the Lady

Girls are told to do things that are ladylike- sit with our legs crossed, quietly color, or play babies.  Girls are more likely to be perfectionists than boys.  Long before subjecting girls to the ridicule of the world, girls will care about how they look and how the world perceives them. Encourage them to drop the perfection and live more on the idea that imperfections are beautiful.  The world is meant for exploring explicitly and tangibly- move with the tide, get your hands dirty, dig deep into the souls of the earth to explore where we’ve been and where we will go.

Raising Confident Girls

We tell our children they can do anything, be anything, but- oh wait, just kidding, not that.  We live in a society of hand-holding, how is a child supposed to believe the words you tell her if you are always there doing everything for her?  We’ve got to let our girls make mistakes. Mistakes happen and it’s ok- we learn from mistakes. Perfection is not beauty, and the world does not determine who we are.  We do with our messy hair and pantsuits.  Who runs the world? Girls.

Find more inspiring words to share with your daughter in our post Stories of Powerful Women: Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls.

Photo Credit: Ashley W

Sources: Parents, NPR, The Guardian



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