10 Ways To Raise Precious Little Girls Into Strong, Capable Women

Photo: Photo by Patricia Prudente on Unsplash
raising daughter to be confident without becoming a pleaser
Family

Don't let her fall into the "good girl" trap.

This is what I know about parenting: No one wants to screw it up.

No one wakes up and decides to be a terrible parent. We are all just trying to get through the day.

We want a moment’s peace. We want our kids to behave. We want to make dinner and then collapse into bed.

We want our kids to be happy.


We know we can’t wrap our kids in bubble wrap. We know they need to experience the world.

Still, we worry. We worry about them being bullied. Being excluded. We worry about them fitting in. We worry about their health. Their education.

We want them to be eternally happy.

 

And so, as parents, we push up our sleeves and get to work.

We read to them. We send them to school.

They play sports and we dust them off when they get knocked down.

They have music lessons and play dates.

For our daughters, in particular, we empower.

We tell them they can be anything they want to be. Their teachers tell them the same thing. They shine in school, and we are proud of cultivating their self-esteem.


They become leaders.

The grass grows, the flowers bloom, the unicorns dance in the sunshine until one day our daughters hit a wall.

All the education and achievements and confidence mean nothing: They are stuck.

 

Where did we go wrong?

For all the advances and head starts they have, we still want our girls to be "good". We can’t seem to break the cycle of raising good girls and it is robbing them of rich, fulfilling futures.

If we want our daughters to be fulfilled, to truly live up to their potential then we must stop filling their heads with the idea of being good means avoiding conflict.


They must know that they will still be desirable if they rock the boat, if they challenge others, if they offend people.

Why is being good so detrimental?

Because it stops girls dead in their tracks.

It gives them reasons to play it small, to run around after people making them feel important while they shrivel up inside.

By being good girls, by learning to please others before herself and observing pleasing adults, girls shift their focus from others to self.

Focused on self, focused on how other's view her, she is trapped in an endless cycle of not feeling good enough. It kills the confidence she needs in order to fiercely after her own goals.


She will be used, manipulated and unable to please everyone. We simply set her up to fail.

And yes, she gets rewarded for her ‘goodness’ so why would she stop?

She feels wonderful when she makes other people happy. Things are smoother at home when she picks up all the pieces or does what she is told.

A girl who is taught to be good, from a very young age, knows not to make waves.

To do so could mean her mother and father fight. Or her mother will drink too much. Or her father will hit her.

She knows if she can be a good girl at school, her parents will have less to worry about. She is proud to take this burden from them. It makes her feel good about herself. She is rewarded with comments from teachers, from parents, from adults.

Perhaps, less dramatically, she pleases everyone to feel important.

Maybe she isn’t the best at school or sports, but pleasing is a way to get the warm rush of self-worth. Without a doubt, pleasing feels good.

For awhile.

In time, pleasing chokes us. We spend too much time worrying about other people’s feelings, worrying if they are happy. We assume we must act a certain way to keep in people’s good graces.

The longer it goes on the more detached we become from our true selves.

We become concerned more with keeping people happy and not rocking the boat than we do about tending to our own needs. We don’t speak our mind. We disregard our wants, our dreams, our hopes, our strengths.

We detach further and a vicious cycle ensues.

What many women don’t realize is that pleasing is actually the opposite of being selfless. It is self-centered.

Pleasers are constantly running litmus tests of how they feel, how they are perceived, what they need to do to make others happy.

Pleasers live in fear. They worry about what a horrible life they’d have if people didn’t love them. They fear being alone. They fear having to be good enough. They fear filling their own needs because it feels vulnerable.

Being whole, without excuses, is terrifying, so they please to feel good again. Safe again. Needed.

Being whole, being confident and fulfilled opens up a whole new door to living.

When we give up pleasing, we are able to give to others not because we need them to love us, but because we love them.

We give up the ego-centric aspect of service.  We give because we have something to share. Because we love them, not because we need them to love us back.

We do it out of joy, not out of excuses.

We all want our daughters to grow up with manners and to be well liked.

There is an inarguable need to establish right from wrong, conscience, and selflessness in our daughters. They should have strong moral compasses.

They should not be rewarded for pleasing us, their teachers or their friends.

How can you stop raising girls who are pleasers and instead are strong, independent women? Here are ten suggestions to get you started. 

1. Praise your daughter for being a team player and pitching in around the house.

Don’t tell her you couldn’t live without her help. She needs to develop her independence, not be tied to you, worrying that you need her.

2. Listen to her side when she gets angry. Let her explain her points. Part of raising an independent woman is living with an independent girl.

Don’t shut her down or brush off her opinions. She will need her voice when she must stand up to bullies, teachers, boyfriends and employers or a board room one day.

3. Comment on her unique ideas, her tenacity or her problem-solving skills.

Don’t make comments on her looks, her weight or food choices you disapprove of. Your daughter needs to know you love her for who she is, not how she looks.

4. Encourage her to take risks.

Don’t over protect her from physical or mental risks. Girls who take risks have much higher self-esteem and are more resilient as they age.

5. Let her solve her own problems.

As much as you are able, let her problem-solve on her own. Strategize with her if you need to, but let her choose her own path (within reason).

Don’t be her fixer. She needs to feel a sense of control over her life. Let her earn it.

6. Encourage her to establish boundaries. Whether it is friends or family, a girl has a right to expect that her personal space, her belongings, and her feelings be respected.

Don’t make her share everything. Some things, like her favorite clothes, toys or even her secrets need to be her own.

7. Reign in the drama.

It is to be expected that a girl will feel alienated, hurt or rejected at home or by friends. Offer perspective and healthy alternatives, such as ways she can feel more empowered.

Don’t expect her to be popular at all costs or disregard her feelings.

8. Expect her to have manners.

Don’t allow her to be nice, quiet and polite. There is a big difference between being kind and mannerly and being a doormat. Give her a voice and expect her to use it. This skill alone could save her life one day.

9. Instill the joy of service.

Allow your daughter to serve others, especially those less fortunate than her or her family members.

Don’t model selfless behavior that screams neediness and lack of self-esteem or boundaries. Shore up yourself. Your daughter is watching.

10. Enjoy your daughter.

Celebrate the differences you have. Celebrate her journey.

Don’t project your fears and your experiences on her. Your wisdom can serve as a beacon for her or as an anchor. Be the light she needs.

It's wonderful to raise your daughter to be kind, thoughtful, and respectful. And you should raise your sons to be those things, as well. But girls need more than just lessons on how to succeed at being sweet. They also need to compete in the world in which they will need to grow their careers — a world full of men who have sat comfortably above that glass ceiling. 

So teach them to be kind and respectful. But give them the tools to be strong, too. That's where true success will lie, regardless of the gender of our children.

 

T-Ann Pierce is a life coach who helps men, women and young adults learn the life hacks needed to feel empowered and in control of their lives. Life is short. Why feel stuck? To contact T-Ann, email her at t-ann@t-annpierce.com or call her at 847.730.7531.

Author
Expert