Being the parent of a daughter is an incredible blessing of epic proportions; becoming the parent of a girl can make you see life in a totally different way. But it can have a unique set of challenges as well. It's no secret that history hasn't always been kind to women. Dating back centuries, women have been prevented from:
- Holding positions of power,
- Being able to sue someone without her husband's permission,
- Owning land, and
- Having their own bank accounts.
Stifling societal expectations of women were upheld by many institutions that set stands of a "good woman" as someone who was quiet and submissive. The world has always preferred an agreeable woman.
Bit by bit, women have been fighting for a seat at the table. Thankfully, undeniable improvements in equality have been made. However, it can take generations for social expectations to evolve. In small but harmful ways, the old ideology is asking today's girls to be quiet and to play small.
This leads to overwhelming pressure to be "perfect" and can be harmful to their self-esteem. How can today's parents empower their daughters to take up space and use their voices in a world constantly trying to hush them?
Finding Her Voice
Speaking up in any form (asking questions, calling out injustices, expressing, consenting, or dissenting) requires a young woman to have access to information. From this access, knowledge can be gained. This knowledge is gained from having time.
- Explore different interests,
- Read for leisure,
- Listen to her intuition or "gut", and
- Indulge in curiosity.
Taking time to do these things means slowing down the pace of life a bit more than we might be used to. Instead of hurrying our daughters from one place to another, is it possible to occasionally stop and smell the roses?
As a woman, how many times have you had an idea, solution, or question but silenced yourself before presenting it?
Whether for fear of getting in the way, interrupting, or assuming their contribution isn't important, many women have a sort of "auto-mute" button built in. As mentioned in Harvard Business Review:
Men apply for a job when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them.
Men are also more likely to ask for raises. This isn't because men are inherently more business savvy, and it isn't because women think they aren't capable of doing the job. Women undervalue themselves more often than men.
In an article published on LinkedIn, Mei Ibrahim writes,
"Men are not exempt from low self-confidence or doubting themselves...but they don’t let their doubts stop them as often as women do."
Building confidence is essential to helping young women and girls find and exercise their voices. This begs the question; how can a parent teach their daughter to understand how valuable her voice truly is?
Provide Opportunities To Practice
Girls will only use their voices if they have opportunities to express themselves and are taken seriously as a result. Teaching young girls their value starts with respecting their opinions. This process is essential to start and continuously practice at home, according to Fiona Ghiglione, Ph.D. Impactful questions that can be asked on a regular basis at home include:
- What do you think?
- What would you prefer?
- How does that make you feel?
These questions empower girls to reflect and respond and it allows them to feel heard and respected. By asking these questions, you're showing a young girl that her thoughts, opinions, and preferences matter. When a young girl feels as though she is allowed to have opinions, take up space, and stand in her power at home, she will feel more emboldened to do the same at school and in her community as well.
Fortunately, there are many examples of strong women using their voices for good. Encourage your daughter to find vocal, confident role models in industries that pique her interest. For example:
- Alex Morgan or Serena Williams for girls interested in fitness and health
- Michelle Obama for an aspiring lawyer
- Maya Angelou for a budding author
- Brittney Wenger for girls interested in pursuing STEM
Reading and hearing about the achievements, strengths, and innovation of women sets the stage for girls to believe that their worth being heard.
Teaching Girls' to Know Their Worth
Raising girls who aren't afraid to use their voices doesn't happen by accident. They need the right tools, environment, and support in order to grow and thrive. When we show our daughters in everyday home life that they are worthy of being listened to, we start breaking the cycle. We are saying that we won't tolerate a world where girls and women are forced to make themselves small for the sake of someone else's comfort.