RAISING A STRONG AND INFLUENTIAL GIRL

Madre e hija en el parqueBy Maria Grazia Gualandi

A girl’s self-esteem is greatly affected with the onset of puberty. We want our daughters not to lose the confidence that characterizes them when they are little girls, and to strengthen this confidence more and more. We have everything we need to raise girls who can become women of strong character, able to face with energy and a positive spirit all the challenges of life. Both the father and the mother can make this possible. Here are some helpful ideas.

 

  1. SHAPE HER PERSONALITY

Let her have a voice in her own choices

According to the age and maturity of your daughter, let her make constructive decisions about her life. Let her have a voice about her extracurricular activities, the friends she wants to invite over, how she organizes her time outside of school. Remember that we only learn what we like or are good at by trying different things. Over time, she will feel that she is ready to make decisions and be responsible for them and their consequences.

Encourage her to solve problems instead of solving them for her

This warning goes especially to moms, who in order to simplify life, sometimes leave no room for others to grow in responsibility.

 

Let her disagree with you so that she learns to explain and support her opinions

Disagreement is not a bad thing as long as there is no disrespect. Educate your daughter to be a strong woman includes giving her the opportunity to practice expressing and arguing for her opinions with you, especially when they are different from yours. Only in this will she will be ready to have personal principles and opinions and stand up for them and carry them out. Brown and Lamb, co-authors of Packaging Girlhood, say girls need guidance on how to maintain clarity when they disagree with something and how to express their feelings. They need help not to give up their convictions. Not all girls will want to fight for what they think, especially shy girls. But do not be discouraged and keep trying.

 

Motivate her to be active and participate in sports and other physical activity (biking, hiking, climbing, running, dancing)

By age 17, after most girls have gone through puberty, more than half of girls (51%) will have quit sports. Girls need to create a physical relationship with their bodies to build their confidence. Sports teach lessons that cannot be learned anywhere else.

 

Benefits of sports[1]:

*Enhance girls’ ability to function as part of a team;

*Better self-reported health;

*Higher body esteem;

*Reduced risk of obesity;

*Healthier menstruation;

*Reduced cigarette and drug use;

*Higher self-esteem;

*Better social life/more community involvement;

*Leadership skills, self-reliance, self-discipline.

 

Push your daughter to leave her “comfort zone” so that she can go, little by little, beyond her fears through small conquests. Girls who avoid risk have a very low self-esteem compared to those who are prepared for challenges. Teach your daughter that being an athlete and being feminine are not mutually exclusive. It is also important to encourage girls who do not have an athletic tendency to develop physical competence when they are young, either in a team sport or and individual sport.

 

Show her that there are few things that cannot be accomplished

You just need to be determined to carry them out. Both mom and dad should tell their daughters some of their own experiences in overcoming your limitations. She will be impressed. Support her to have high goals and to achieve them. Almost everything can be achieved with determination, strength, and a positive spirit.

 

  1. PROMOTE A POSITIVE BODY IMAGE

Compliment her on her skills and personal qualities, rather than on her exterior appearance

Emphasize her virtues such as her courage, honesty, generosity, patience, modesty, responsibility, creativity, perseverance, integrity, forgiveness, orderliness, compassion, determination. That way you teach her that the beauties part of her is her soul, not her body.

 

Show her that being attractive is not the same thing as being “sexy”

For moms: the fact that you dedicate time and effort to your personal appearance, because you care about yourself and you respect the people you are with, affects the construction of her own aesthetic sense. Teach her that every occasion has different and appropriate attire, and the way she dresses communicates respect or disrespect to the others.

 

For dads: being present in your daughters’ lives helps to prevent or cure eating disorders. Dr. Meg Meeker affirms that the way a father looks at his daughter is very important. Don’t make her believe that she needs to do something in order to have your attention. Grant it spontaneously. Your daughter needs your attention and will do anything to get it.

 

Be the first to talk about physical changes, sex, and sexuality

If you don’t, another will, and probably not in the way you would like it.

 

  1. ENCOURAGE THE UNDERSTANDING OF HER INNER WORLD”

Take time to be alone with her and listen to her more than you speak. If you dedicate to your daughter consistent and predictable time, she will know that you are receptive and available. That will be the door for you to become more aware of her inner world and to be a small part of it.

 

Encourage her to have friends and to work together with them

Social life is very important for the growth and maturation of girls. Girls who work cooperatively are more likely to accept risks and challenges. In addition, expressing disagreement with her friends in a constructive way helps her to know her inner world.

 

Encourage her to find and develop a passion

Participating in an activity she loves with give her the opportunity to meet and overcome challenges, which will increase her self-esteem and resilience, affirming interior values over external appearance. Be aware not to project your own expectations on her. Tell her that cultivating a passion is a way to get to know ourselves better, to be happier, and to use our gifts to be of service to others.

 

  1. TEACH YOUR BOYS TO RECOGNIZE AND VALUE A STRONG WOMAN

We can raise our daughters to be independent, confident, determined and strong. But we also need to teach our boys to accept, admire, support, respect and love such women.

 

RESOURCES

  • momsTEAM The trusted source for sport parents http://www.momsteam.com
  • A Mighty Girl The world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls http://www.amightygirl.com
  • Brenda Shaeffer Love or Addiction? The Power & Peril of Teen Sex & Romance, Expert Pub, 2006.

Meeker, M. Strong fathers, strong daughters. 10 secrets every father should know, Ball

[1] BROOKE DE LENCH, Sports Benefit Girls In Many Ways,  http://www.momsteam.com

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