Women’s History Month has been celebrated in March since 1987. To honor the observance, here is a compilation of ways we Smarty mamas can try to encourage and raise strong daughters in our own homes. Raising courageous, intelligent, empowered, and kind children is no small feat; we can all use a little help along the way. Pick and choose ideas from this list, and share yours in the comments!
1. Read about inspirational females. The Charlotte Mecklenburg Public Library staff can lead your child to the nonfiction section to select autobiographies, biographies, and memoirs about women who made or are making history in special ways. Most young girls have regular literacy homework, so these titles can be helpful ones to read and explore together.
2. Remove “feminine” and “feminism” from the “F word” category. Too often, others define cultural terms for us. If we go to the dictionary though, these words at their roots mean things like “gentle and sensitive” and “advocating for social, political, economic, and other rights to be equal to men’s.” Engage in a vocab lesson with your household, including the boys and men, since they too can strive to have feminine qualities and be feminists.
3. Think before we speak. Shout out to Dr. Cross at Novant Eastover Pediatrics! She called my daughter up to view her growth charts and explained how “healthy” and “strong” she is becoming by choosing to be “active,” “eat fruits and vegetables,” and “use her brain” in many different ways. I was so impressed at her word choices and that she didn’t resort to easier verbiage like “perfect, pretty, nice, and good.” While there is nothing wrong with being those things, Dr. Cross helped me reflect on being more intentional to praise qualities that generate authentic, meaningful confidence in growing girls.
4. Enroll her into a tribe of positivity. Today, my daughter and I have our first GOTR (Girls on the Run) practice. We are both excited about what we’ll experience and learn with our team. Achieving the 5K goal at the end will be momentous for us as well. There are other empowering groups, such as Girl Scouts, for your girl to find her fit. Know of others? Tell us below.
5. Teach her how to defend herself. This includes against online predators. Additionally, think about martial arts as an extracurricular for your girl, and consider enrolling in a self-defense class together if your child is older. Ask her what she’d say if someone who looks like a grandparent rolled up and started chatting with her while playing outside. What would she do if someone she trusted crossed the line? These conversations about being polite versus knowing what to do when something seems off are key to developing independence, while remaining safe.
6. Give her chores. In a generation of helicopter parenting, it is important to know when and how much to let out the lead. Age-appropriate responsibilities, along with allowance, are helpful ways to move through this process of fostering independence –– and to enlist help around the house!
7. Don’t solve it for her. Of course there will be times we need to help our daughters, but many times, they can solve issues on their own with guidance and direction. For instance, ask questions that move her through a math equation instead of jumping in and fixing it. Cheer her on and tell her she can do it as she scales a rock wall instead of reaching over and pushing her feet upward.
8. Gift her brain games. The critical thinking she needs to solve her own problems develops more naturally when she uses her brain strategically on a regular basis as part of play. It is truly awesome when your child disappears for two hours to get lost in LEGO land or when she beats you, without letting her win, at a game of chess. Chess and mac and cheese at Legion has become a regular daddy/daughter (“dadder”) date for my husband and daughter.
9. Lead her to expect respect from others. Taking our girls out on parent/child dates is one way to teach her how it feels to be treated with courtesy. Another is to listen as she shares stories from the playground, neighborhood, or high school halls. What is happening in her circle of friends? Often, they’ll divulge this information while you’re doing an unrelated task like shopping or folding laundry together. Ask questions about ways she can respond next time that allow her to express compassion but not be a pushover. Teach her phrases she can try out to assert herself. EX: “I’m sorry you feel that way today. Let’s try to play again another time when you’re more ready to take turns.” or “Let’s catch up next week to chat some more. The pic you posted really made me feel left out. I’ll be catching up with some friends from camp this weekend, but we can talk again Monday.”
10. Model self care. I’d blow our budget if I booked a pedi and massage too often, so I invested in a fancy schmancy foot spa to use at home in between appointments. My daughter has one, too, so I try to ask her to take a break and do this with me. We sip flavored seltzer water in fancy cups, soak our feet, listen to T. Swift, and paint our toenails. It seems silly, but I hope she knows one day when she’s a busy woman caring for others, that she’s worth caring for herself, too, top-to-bottom, heart-and-soul.