Our children grow up with their biggest influence being their parents. How we raise our children will have a lasting effect on them as they become adults, work jobs, go to school, have friendships, relationships, and more.
When I was a child, I was always a very quiet and shy child. I’d be outgoing to close friends but even then, would learn to not be “annoying.” I remember specific events that stuck with me such as being laughed at once when I answered a question wrong in school. It took a long time through college for me to get over the fear of speaking up in class and answering questions. Many people have an influence on us as we get older and become adults, but as parents we have the strongest influence on our children.
In order to raise strong, outgoing, level-headed, self-confident girls, it’s important to avoid specific phrases that have a lasting impact.
“That’s a job for a man”
There are no such things as boys or girls’ jobs. The history of gendered jobs have been steadily changing. Your children can do anything they want and watching your language early will teach them that.
“You’re wasting your time”
When your daughter has interest in something, help them, no matter if it may be something you foresee as a waste of time. If it is, it’ll teach them a lesson. But showing them, you support their efforts is great to build their confidence in you.
“That’s not very ladylike”
What’s ladylike truly? It’s an outdated saying. It brings up connotations of women who curtsy, are coy, are shy, it’s also classist. Girls should be open, confident, and speak up when they have something to say. All of those are not a part of the traditional ladylike ideal.
“Don’t worry your pretty little head”
Saying this is condescending. Speak to your daughter as a smart, competent, and strong human being. Do not downplay their ability to understand. Doing so makes them feel incapable, stupid, and unworthy.
Anything about her weight
Although often well-meaning, comments about a child’s weight can often bring on unhealthy dieting behaviors and reinforcing to negative stereotypes. Girls especially, are exposed to images of thinness and body weight having a strong importance in societal standards.
“Smile!” or “Don’t be sad” or “Stop crying, you’re okay”
Girls are allowed to have emotions. They do not have to be happy, bubbly, and smiling all the time. Telling a girl to smile puts on this expectation for them to be so or they’re not worthy or attractive. Let her express her emotions like she wishes.
Girls are often taught they should always be nice to others even if they are rude to them or make them feel uncomfortable. Doing so can cause your daughter to ignore her own gut feelings. It’s important to listen to our own intuition in order to stay out of unsafe situations. Let your daughter it is okay to walk away, not respond, or even speak back in an aggressive and strong tone when needed.
“It’s not a big deal”
No matter who it is, your child feels their feelings and it is often a big deal for them. Downplaying their concern makes it so they don’t feel heard or understood. Listen to their concerns. Perhaps you can discuss with them their concerns, help them with the problem but make sure you’re listening and understanding.
“Because I said so”
You have reasons for your rules. Tell your children those reasons. You’ll be surprised how often they understand. You may also be surprised how often they bring up a point that makes you reconsider.