How to raise girls who lead

Follow these steps to help your daughter shift from observer to leader.

How to raise girls who lead

A 9-year-old girl sits in my office, twirling her hair and averting her gaze as she speaks. She’s trying to find the courage to run for student council at her school, an honor bestowed upon just a few fourth and fifth grade students. To do this, she has to write a letter to the director of the student council detailing her strengths and why she wants the position. That’s where she’s stuck. She wants the position, but she can’t think of a single reason why she should get it.

“I’m not the kind of girl that gets picked for something like this,” she says.

“What kind of girl do you believe gets chosen?” I ask.

“You know, the ones who talk a lot and everyone likes and the teachers always call on because they aren’t afraid of sharing answers in front of the class.”

This young girl is a quiet leader. Her teacher later tells me that she counts on her to lead group projects and set a positive example walking to and from other classrooms. Her teacher also shares that, though she doesn’t always raise her hand, her input is always insightful and well-received by her peers. As it turns out, her peers actually look up to her. She just doesn’t see it.

This young girl is not alone. As I detail in my new book, No More Mean Girls, research shows that girls lack the confidence to take on leadership positions for a variety of reasons. According to the findings from the Girl Scout Research Institute in a report titled, “Change It Up!”, common barriers to leadership among young girls include lack of confidence in skills and competence, stress, fear of speaking in front of others, fear of embarrassment, fear of appearing bossy, and negative peer pressure.

Research also indicates that girls struggle to support other girls reaching for leadership roles. In fact, results of a 2015 survey administered by the Making Caring Common (MCC) team at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education found that girls are reluctant to support leadership roles for other girls due to highly competitive feelings among girls, lack of self-confidence and self-esteem, and girls viewing other girls as “dramatic.”

What the research shows us is that girls continue to get the message to be quiet, kind and inclusive and to avoid being loud, bossy, and in charge.

In a time where girls are consistently told to follow their dreams and aim high, the messages they internalize remain confusing:

  • Be a leader, but not a boss.
  • Be assertive, but be nice about it.
  • Be successful, but don’t brag too much. You don’t want your successes to hurt someone else’s feelings.

It’s no wonder girls hesitate to step up and lead. Yet taking on leadership positions is exactly what young girls need to do to thrive in this world. When girls are leaders, they experience greater self-confidence, they internalize the message that they are competent, and they become more independent, responsible, and resilient.

Leadership helps girls prepare for adulthood. It’s up to us to inspire our girls to lead.

Follow these steps to help your daughter shift from observer to leader:

Rethink leadership roles

The problem with our current narrative on leadership is that it feels stressful. When we think of leaders, we think of presidents, CEOs and business owners. What we need to do is redefine leadership on a girl-size scale.

When my daughter was in kindergarten, she became fixated on helping the victims of a hurricane. She wanted to send sweatshirts to kids who might be cold after losing all of their belongings. She asked her classmates to donate outgrown sweatshirts and organized a school-wide sweatshirt drive. In her own quiet way, she found a way to lead.

Girls can lead in all kinds of ways. They can organize a mother’s helper club to provide an extra hand to moms in need in the neighborhood. They can host monthly bake sales to raise money for a cause. They can start a dog walking business or a homework helper club or a kid book club. The options are endless. All we have to do is give them the time and space to come up with a plan.

Practice public speaking

Public speaking is hard, even for adults. It’s anxiety-producing to stand in front of a crowd staring back at you in silence. Girls can learn to work through the feelings that hold them back by practicing deep breathing and visualization exercises. They can also practice speaking up at home by engaging in fun family events like running for president of the house, playing TV game show host, or giving speeches about changes they would like to see at home.

The more girls practice projecting their voices and speaking with confidence, the more comfortable they are when they do need to speak in front of a group.

Address self-criticism

It’s natural for parents to dismiss self-criticism when girls verbalize their inner thoughts because we always see the best in our girls. What girls need is for us to hear them out, empathize, and help them learn to practice self-compassion, instead.

We all experience feelings of self-doubt at times. That’s perfectly natural. How we choose to confront that self-doubt is important. I encourage parents to help girls learn to flip their negatives into positives by evaluating their inner thoughts.

If your daughter says, “I can’t run for student council because I’m not popular and no one will vote for me,” for example, you want to help her verbalize the emotions hidden beneath the surface (anxiety, fear), evaluate the statement for accuracy (list her positive qualities, name her friends and supporters), and flip the negative to a positive (“Running for student council is something I’ve never done before, but I am ready for the challenge.”)

Learning leadership skills requires time and practice, but it’s essential that we empower girls to take these healthy risks and confront challenges that make them feel uncomfortable. In doing this, girls learn that they have what it takes to step into leadership roles and amplify their voices.

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One of the main reasons we launched the Motherly Shop is to help take some of that stress away. We've tracked down the best brands and products developed by people (and in many cases, women!) that truly work to serve the needs of real mamas, especially throughout the overwhelming transition into motherhood.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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