Girls in 2018 face an interesting dichotomy. They are told that there is nothing they can't do professionally while simultaneously being judged first on their looks and their abilities second. The message that society is sending is confusing at best, creating a scene in which many girls face the never ending dilemma of being told to speak up and be themselves, while all the while being constantly reminded of the elusive beauty ideals that are never quite in reach. How do we as professionals, parents and adults even BEGIN to face this? Well perhaps we can take solace in at least a few of these strategies.
1) Tell her you believe in her. No, this isn't hallmark or cheesy. Yes , this won't give her a big head. Feeling respected, trusted, and most importantly, that other's BELIEVE in you is monumental to a girl's ability to be successful. This goes far beyond the programs you sign her up for or the tutoring you sign her up for. Success is not possible without someone first giving you a platform and a voice.
2) Be specific in your compliments- Challenge yourself to compliment your daughter on something that does not have to do with looks. For example: "You have great problem solving skills." Compliment her in a way that reaffirms her intelligence and her autonomy. Let her know that you believe in her ability to think for herself and make good decisions for herself.
3) Raise her to think about others- Adults with the best of intentions raise their daughters to think about others first, and to always prioritize "being nice." When we focus exclusively on this, we are eradicating a girl's ability to not only be able to speak up when she feels she isn't being treated properly, but also to be able to truly understand those orbiting around her environment. It can be hugely productive to explain to your daughter that people sometimes are rude and mean because of things going on in their lives as opposed to instill in her that she has to do something to 'fix' the situation. Sometimes it's enough to simply just understand people's actions.
4) Don't pigeon hole herAllow your daughter to be into sports one year and fashion the next. Engage her in conversation about her interests that promotes critical thinking but allows her the space to discover who she is. Don't assume that her having difficulty socially in grade seven means that high school will be difficult. Don't pressure her to stay 'true' to who she is in any given year. Allow her to grow, change, and blossom as a person.