“You are such a good little girl” may be one of the most hackneyed phrases by parents when raising girls. Such a phrase illustrates what, more or less, is socially expected from your little daughter.
She's supposed to be sweet, adorable, obedient and responsible. Needless to say, that's not how it is and, what's more, it doesn't have to be that way, since every child, boy or girl, has his or her own personality, skills and a world view – which shouldn’t be related to their gender!
We talked extensively about gender stereotypes in our article about raising children. In fact, having specific tips on raising girls is nothing more than an exercise – you will soon realise that any tips will be better found if we choose them according to our child’s personality instead of their gender. So we’ve decided to frame the following ones in a way that they challenge the gender stereotypes usually attributed to girls: that they need to be sweet and quiet.
As we want the best for our children, we need to instil good manners and habits in them, but we also need to let them experience feelings and learn from their mistakes. It doesn't sound easy, does it? If you've just had a girl, you may want to take note of the following tips on how to raise girls.
1- When raising girls, let them be feisty
Let your daughter throw a temper tantrum and show her real emotions once in a while, which will help her shape her real personality. Don’t tell her things like “good girls don’t yell”, because girls don’t always have to be good, and sometimes they have to yell (don’t forget to set some boundaries, though). Let her be who she really is and will be, which is also what raising girls is about! If not, there's the risk for her to change dramatically her behaviour when she becomes a teenager, as a way to stand up to you.
2- When raising girls, motivate her to aim high
We’re used to seeing more men in positions of power and responsibility, something that is luckily changing, but there is still a long way to go. Encourage your daughter to be anything she wants to be, whatever the field and the competition.
3- Read them inspiring stories
Reading to your daughter is a good way to bond with her. You can sit by her bed and choose a book or a short story where women play an important role and achieve great things, so that she gets a sense of gender equality in regards, for example, to job opportunities.
4- Encourage them to pursue their dreams
As your son might end up playing with Barbies, your daughter might want to play football. When raising girls, it’s better to leave any prejudices aside and let your girl pursue her passion, whatever it is. That will make her feel more confident and assertive about who she is or what she wants.
5- Bring out the leader in her
Encourage your daughter to choose her own clothes (within limits, of course) or how she wants to decorate her room. She’ll appreciate having the chance to to try what feels best to her and change it whenever she wants to. This way, she'll learn skills that she'll need to manage different aspects of her life. Also, ask about her opinions and help her express them.
6- When raising girls, promote problem-solving abilities
When raising girls, you should foster problem-solving abilities too. Instead of taking over immediately when things don't turn out well, let your girl deal with the situation on her own. If the outcome isn't positive or she really struggles to handle it, then you should help her out. There will be a time when you will no longer be her safety net, so the sooner she starts solving her issues, the better.
7 – When raising girls, show them unconditional love
You may take this for granted, but it doesn't always happen that way. When parenting, girls or boys, some Mums and Dads can be too critical with their children or laugh at them pretty often. Even if they are not intending to hurt their children's feelings, that's what ends up happening. Praise your children when they do good to help them build their confidence!
8- Talk to them about 'healthy' sexuality…
At some point, you'll need to have a conversation with your daughter about how women tend to be sexualised in many cultures. She'll acknowledge it as she grows up as well, but it's good that you give her some advice about what she can expect from casual relationships and loving ones. Try not to freak her out, but you can focus on how sex isn't just what we see in films... there's a lot more, good and bad.
9- … And teach her how to be aware of her rights
Unfortunately, there are still many situations in our society that makes us far from gender equality. For instance, women are generally paid less – sometimes, even when they are in the same position as men! When raising girls, it’s important to teach them what they’re entitled to and the rights they have, and how they will sometimes have to fight to get them. This way, your daughter will be prepared and won’t shy away from what belongs to her in the future.
Make sure you spend some 'girl time' together, during which you show her how much you care about what she says and thinks. If you start doing that from an early age, she'll let you into her inner world, which will allow you to know her deeply. This is the best way to strengthen the relationship between the two of you.
10- Get her hands dirty
The idea that girls like to do quieter things is many times just that – an idea. Girls climb up trees and enjoy it as much as boys! Don’t make her feel responsible if she comes back from the garden with dirty clothes, since that’s what kids do! Even better, dress her comfortably so she’s free to run and jump and roll around as much as she wants.
Raising girls can be such a fantastic experience for a mother. You've been there before, so you can lead by example, without forgetting that your daughter will be a different person than you are. She can learn so much from you, so it's time to put some life lessons into practice. Don’t forget to take a look on our notes on raising boys as well, since probably all of them will be good advice for your girl, too!