Leading Ladies: Raising Strong and Confident Girls
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By Mia Bolaris-Forget
Sugar and spice and everything nice, that’s what little girls, are made of. This may be true enough but sooner or later they “will” have to enter the real world, and they must be able to thrive and survive. And, that means making sure she’s got plenty of savvy and moxie to make it out there.
1. Applaud her individuality: Sure you want to “mold” your daughter into the precious young lady you see, but you also have to accept her for who she is. Remember, while YOU may be the corporate type, she may be more artsy and creative, and YOU need to embrace that and encourage her so she develops confidence rather than feeling like HER gifts/preferences are unacceptable or wrong.
2. Make her a good sport: Teach her all about competition and about being a team player by getting her involved in both individual and team sports, as well as other confidence and “stamina”-building activities.
3. Freedom of thought and speech: While it may be your house and your rules, and most of the time you actually MAY know better, don’t make the mistake of thinking you know it ALL. Encourage your child to question and even challenge you, and to develop her own ideas and express her own opinions, even if they stand correcting. But, don’t forget to keep an open mind, you may find that you too may learn or embrace something new…and this will give your child incredible “pride” (the good kind) and confidence.
4. Make her “defensive”: Let’s face it, times are changing and your little girl wills someday, perhaps sooner than you’d care to think about, be out there in a “dangerous” world. Rather than teaching her to be afraid of what’s out there, teach her about being strong and defending herself. Enroll you child in a self-defense class. Not only will it give her the tools she needs to physically guard and protect herself, but it will offer her self-confidence that will cross into other areas of her life.
5. No boys allowed: Sure you want her to grow up and meet Prince Charming, but there are very few princes out there these days, and a girl’s gotta be able to survive on her own or help out her man. And, that means getting a good education, which may be hindered in the coed environments of today. With no boys around she can focus on her studies more, and statistics show that girls in all-girl academic environments tend to develop greater leadership skills and show greater affinity in the math and science arenas, making them candidates for non-traditional careers that tend to pay more. Plus, they seem to have more self-esteem than their peers in co-ed schools.
6. A penny saved is a penny earned: It’s imperative to teach girls the importance and value of money, earning it and saving it, not just spending it. Start early by opening up for her a bank account and put her in charge (with your assistance) of making deposits, withdrawals (based on her allowance earnings), making her take it out (even if you intend on replenishing it) when she wants or needs to make a purchase. And, don’t forget to set up and discuss guidelines for saving and spending and having enough for “a rainy day”.
7. Making her growing and learning experience personal: Share with your daughter things that are important and mean something to you, but remain open to do the same. Take interest in things that mean something to her, and choose activities that will help cultivate her personality and nature. While you may turn her on, eventually to some of your interests, refrain from trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. And, be ready for her interests to change and for you to embrace and encourage those changes….it is essential in her defining herself and in her exploration of life to learn and grow.
8. Take an active and proactive roll in her education: Even if you can’t help with homework, make sure you let your daughter know you know she can succeed and that’s what you expect of her. In fact encourage her to excel. Make sure to keep in constant contact with teachers and ask about progress and performance, let her know her other girls may treat her and how to “maturely” handle it, and don’t hesitate to keep her company while she studies to “cheer her on”.
9. Begin at home: If you have sons as well, teach them from early on to respect their female sibling(s). And, make sure to get across the message of equality between the sexes early on.
10. Address social “stigmas”: While things may be equal at home, they are never equal in the real world. Prepare you daughter for the adversity she will face and the potentially inappropriate things she will hear. Most importantly teach her how to avoid it, and/or handle it.
11. Set the example: You can’t preach one thing and do another; otherwise that makes you a hypocrite, even in your child’s eyes. You daughter will learn not only vis-à-vis what you tell her but how you conduct yourself. Make sure your non-verbal behaviour and communication speaks the same language and just as loudly as your words.
12. Emotional Etiquette: Take note at how your daughter sees herself and others and how well she does if difficult or challenging situations and with others. Remember, besides being smart and successful, you’ll also want to make sure your daughter has proper communication, social, and coping skills.
13. Help her expand her mind: While it’s imperative to prepare her for all the “traditional” responsibilities and duties, it’s equally as important to prepare her for a more contemporary societal role. Let her explore her options by exposing her to careers and interests that are not “typical” and to let her know that there is nothing she can’t do, and that she doesn’t have to limit herself.
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Leading Ladies: Raising Strong and Confident Girls