Empowering our Daughters: It’s Up to Us
Here are some practical tips for parents or guardians to empower their daughters, from a young age:
- Let go of perfection
Women are programmed to chase perfection – it is our default state. As per the study released by Hewlett Packard in 2015, women would not apply for a job unless they met 100% of the required attributes listed on the job description, whereas men would apply for that same job even if they only met 60% of the requirements.
Women are harder on themselves and they are more afraid of failure. We need to teach our daughters that when we fail, we learn. For this reason, we must start praising effort instead of ability. Don’t praise them for a test result of 7 out of 10, instead praise them for how hard they worked to get that mark. According to author Carol Dweck, this is one sure way to give them a mindset that will lead to further success as an adult, giving them a hunger for learning, rather than a constant need to chase approval.
- Question everything
The rise of social media can be especially damaging to our daughters. Teach your girls to question everything they see online: has that bikini picture been airbrushed? (probably), does that celebrity really look like that when she wakes up? (unlikely). How much of what I am seeing is authentic, and how much is just a story? Life is not only happy picture-perfect moments and we need to remind them of that, otherwise they will have a warped sense of reality and their lives will always feel less-than. Psychologist Stacey Keizan has three daughters and says that it’s hugely important to “give her love and affirmation often so that she doesn’t need to look for it somewhere else,” especially from others through the lens of social media.
- Give her positive role models
Buy her books with strong female leads in them. Watch films together with women heroines. Introduce her to strong women who are forging their own paths. Celebrate the varied roles women play in society, so she becomes aware of all the opportunities available to her. Does she want to be an architect one day? Find a real life female architect and get her to explain what she does. Foster and nurture any positive interests of hers, however unfamiliar they may be to you.
- Give her awareness and ownership of her body
Sexual harassment is something we don’t want to think about parents, but unfortunately we have to. From a young age we need to teach our daughters that their body is their property and what is inappropriate behaviour, plus what to do in dangerous situations.
We also need to teach our daughters to be proud of what their bodies can do, and confident in their appearances. Exercise is one great way to encourage a positive relationship with their bodies and to make them value physical strength in women, as is having your own positive relationship with your own body. Never be derogatory about aspects of how you look in front of them, as they will pick up on this attitude and model it.
- Think outside the box
Society will condition our daughter, so it’s up to us to think a bit differently. Sure, buy her a toy kitchen if she’s a toddler who likes to cook, but don’t forget to get her a toy toolset too, and some Lego blocks so she can build a house. Maybe she loves everything pink and is desperate to do ballet? But maybe she’s more into science experiments, building cars or coding? Expose her to a variety of past times and pursuits and then encourage those she shows an interest in, even if it means finding extramural activities that the school doesn’t offer her.
The sooner we bring up strong-minded independent women who feel valued by their communities, the sooner we can address past imbalances, and the better off we’ll be as a society. It’s up to every one of us, and it’s especially up to parents and guardians.
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