March is National Women’s History Month — a time to recognize the contributions and sacrifices of women throughout the world who have blazed a trail so girls today can dream big, stand tall, and be proud.
However, headlines that populate our news and social media cycles may leave us wondering: “What can we do to raise, teach, and love girls to channel their inner ‘girl power’ throughout their lives?”
Gender stereotypes portray self-confidence as a male feature and these same traits are not usually emphasized for girls. Because of this, it’s not surprising that boys report higher self-esteem than girls. Furthermore, girls who exude confidence may be perceived as too dominant while boys would receive praise. It’s up to us to start bucking these gender stereotypes!
How we support and inspire girls now will influence the women they will become, how they view their own abilities and relationships, and even the careers they think they are capable of pursuing. Here are five ways you can help your daughter build the confidence to thrive in today’s world and become part of our next generation of history-making women.
Embrace Female Characters and Heroines
Read your daughter books—fiction and non-fiction—that feature courageous female characters and heroines. Strong female characters help transcend gender stereotypes and give girls the opportunity to visualize themselves in scenarios where they are the lead—not the sidekick. Talk about the characters. Ask your daughter to describe what makes this woman or girl courageous and what she admires about her.
From fictional works like “A Wrinkle in Time” and “The Girl Who Drank the Moon” to biographies on women like Sonia Sotomayor, Susan B. Anthony, and Condoleezza Rice, you are only a Google search away from finding books about smart, confident women.
Connect Her to Inspiring Female Mentors
Whether an aunt, grandmother, family friend, your college roommate, or a teacher at her school, connect your daughter with a female adult you trust who will boost her self-esteem, listen to her, and give her additional female role models. As girls transition into adulthood, having a valued network of women for career and life advice will be irreplaceable.
Make plans and go on an adventure! It doesn’t need to be extravagant. It can be as simple as a hike nearby that opens her eyes to new activities and increases her comfort level and confidence in unexpected situations. Outdoor activities also can help your daughter view her body as a source of strength instead of focusing on appearance. When you make plans, do it together so your daughter recognizes her input is heard and valued.
Help Her Discover Her Talents
We all have something about us that makes us unique. Help your daughter discover her talents by encouraging her to try different sports, join a club, learn an instrument, sign up for scouting, or participate in camps so she can find out what her interests are. Then, help her take concrete steps to use and develop that talent so she has a passion for something and feels empowered.
Teach Her It’s OK to Fail — But Not to Give Up
We want our daughters to succeed, but it’s also important to teach them it’s OK to fail. Explain how we all learn from our mistakes to become wiser and more adept. When your daughter doesn’t succeed at something, discuss how she can be more successful next time, practice with her, or role play the scenario with her. Setting unrealistic expectations about failure can cause anxiety that could eat away at your daughter’s self-worth. When girls or any child knows they can rebound from failure, they are better adjusted and happier.
Diana Davis is Milton Hershey School’s Social and Emotional Learning Curriculum Supervisor.