Family

I Chose To Parent My Son And Daughter Differently Because I Had To

Photo: Karolina Grabowska | Canva
Siblings in a pillow fight

Editor's Note: This is a part of YourTango's Opinion section where individual authors can provide varying perspectives for wide-ranging political, social, and personal commentary on issues.

I have a huge confession to make about parenting my kids. I have a daughter and I have a son. And, I parent my daughter much differently than my son, because she is female. I know this seems misogynistic or maybe a bit anti-feminist … but actually, it’s not either. It's survivalist. The way I parent my daughter has to do with her future, leadership, and human potential as a woman in a "man's world." These topics seem like huge issues that daily parenting can barely touch, but when I break it all down and look at the internal makings of my attitude and behaviors toward my kids, I have many more concerns about my daughter's future success than I do about my son's.

I think about her future with a different tone and apprehension. Because of my concerns, I push her to excel. I ask her to move her body and become strong. I show her how to love herself and lead her to grow confidently and with purpose as a woman. I nudge her along her path and pat her on the back, because I want her to receive my support so she doesn't get lost in a world that offers less opportunity to women than it does to men.  

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It's not that I ignore my son. I don't. It's just that I feel that it comes innately for him to be confident, accepted, and motivated — because he is a male. I feel like the world moves him along his path and includes him in success naturally because he is male. I just don't worry as much.

   

   

But when it comes to my daughter I watch her with an eagle eye, making sure she is being influenced in ways that motivate her success so that she can be ultra-strong and confident and stand up in a man's world with a posture of success. The thoughts I have about her extend far beyond mere excellence, and yes, this does influence my behavior with her. In her pre-teen years, I didn't know how tough it would be to watch her grow up. Life was simple and easy. Now, she's a teen, and the thoughts I have are way more powerful and sometimes fearful. I think about her as a woman making it in the world.

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And I wonder: How can I help her succeed in a world still so primarily influenced by men? How much time do I have left to help her? As I see it, when it comes to parenting my daughter, I have two choices. One, I can choose to look the other way — sugarcoat the truth and not do anything to better inform her. Or two, I can be real and honest — and deal with my fears for her head-on.

I choose the latter. So let's be real. I know what I don't want for her life. I don’t want my daughter to rise to the top on her good looks alone. I don’t want my daughter to have to play up to men and please them with her body. I don’t want her to be assaulted, violated, or treated with a lack of respect. I don’t want her to be controlled by fear or bullied with power. I don’t want her breasts and her butt to be her only assets worth hiring or firing her for. I don’t want her to have to sell her body for money or give herself over to advance in life.

I don’t want her to give her power away. I wonder if she will have these thoughts. “Why are you staring at my breasts? Are they all I’ve got going for me?” “Should my skirt be short and tight so I can get the job?,” “Do I need to sleep my way to the top?” “Are my looks all I have to offer?” 

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I know what I do want for her. I want my daughter to lead with her mind, excel with her purpose, and achieve great things with the relationships she creates. I want my daughter to respect others and to be respected for her value and self-worth. I want her to be stronger than me, wittier than me, and achieve more than I have done. I want my daughter to make it to the top and join men in the boardroom — and in doing this, I want her to feel confident and safe. I want her to make powerful business deals and affect world change.

   

   

I want her to manage her own life. I want her to be loved and honored by both men and women. I want her to find a soulmate who respects her power. Yet, in a world that has not fully embraced the power of female leadership, where looks override smart and successful, where bullying seems more popular than supporting other women, I wonder: Will my daughter even have the chance — or will she be cast aside by male domination?

I have coached women through these scenarios to become successful, and I have come to believe this: Women can change this paradigm. Mothers can choose to change this paradigm. Fathers can help support us. When women choose to lead with power and success, we will raise confident daughters. Women can have personal wealth that complements their female courage and strength. My confession is this: I have worries and fears about my daughter and her success, and I am willing to lead her forward, lead by example, and give her what she needs to empower her life. I want her to have the same opportunities in life as anyone else. I want her to know that success is not determined by gender. 

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Dr. Pam Denton is a leadership coach, author, speaker, and the visionary founder of Positive Evolution Consulting.