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Having daughters is such a beautiful combination of gifts and responsibilities. These incredible little women provide us with an opportunity to have the deepest and truest feminine friendship for life, and to gift the world with the next generation of strong, compassionate and driven female souls.
But this takes work—there's no doubt about it.
Harmony between mothers and daughters and the ability to lead them (and have them listen!) doesn't just happen. It is a relationship that has to be created and nurtured. Mutual respect can be taught from a young age, empowering both moms and daughters to truly feel like they belong, both in our relationship together and in the world.
Anchoring this sense of belonging for our girls is one of our most important jobs as a parent. Teaching our daughters that they belong in a world that often fills them with oppositional messages can be tough, so empowering them is key.
When looking to build our girls up, commit to empowering them to:
- Develop their voice
- Believe in themselves
- Lean into their desire to feel powerful
- Love themselves
- Trust their gut
- Chase their dreams
- Be firm with their no's
- Be respectful and persistent in their stand against injustice
- Seek peace in the areas they see a need
- Allow their emotions to guide them
- Trust their heart that vulnerability is good
- Always believe in their innate goodness
- Allow empathy to guide them
- Use their hearts to freely give compassion
- Have confidence that they can create any kind of life they choose
Consider using these phrases with your daughters to empower them to lean into the strength, kindness, vision and power they each hold:
1. “I love you no matter what."
Take a break from: "Be good today," or "If you're good, I'll give you extra hugs tonight."
Example: "I want you to know that I love you no matter what. You will always and forever have my unconditional love, no matter what."
Explained: Unconditional love is at the core of Positive Parenting and means that our love for our kids does not depend on the level of good behavior they have. Rooting our parenting in unconditional love is essential to building strong, confident girls. Trust that your daughters ARE good ALL the time, no matter what mistakes they make, or challenges they face each day.
Feeding this truth into our girls pours into their need to belong, which is a key motivating factor that Dr. Rudolf Dreikurs (grandfather of Positive Parenting) helps us understand is underneath kids' behaviors. Remove conditions and lean into unconditional love, even amidst imperfection and tough days or stages of life.
2. “You are absolutely beautiful, inside and out."
Take a break from: "You look so pretty in that dress."
Example: "I love you in that dress AND you are absolutely beautiful inside and out. Your heart is just as pretty as your princess gown!"
Explained: The world will give our girls plenty of messages that their beauty is all about what's on the outside, so let's be sure to remind them often how true beauty comes from within. Confidence, kindness, optimism, compassion, kindness—these traits radiate beauty from the heart in the most powerful ways.
3. “You are strong, and you've got this! I'm here to support you."
Take a break from: "I will talk to that girl's Mom, it's not okay for her to treat you like that."
Example: "It sounds like you don't like the way your classmate is treating you. How will you let her know that you'd like her to be kind to you? You are strong and you've got this! I'm here to support you."
Explained: In order for our girls to feel empowered to solve their own problems, it's essential that we let them try. Resist the urge to do it for them, rescue them or always give them the answer. Allow them to be stretched so that they can find courage and seek to use that courage in their life. Support them by being by their side, but allow them to use their voice for peaceful conflict resolution and to initiate change.
4. “How do you feel?"
Take a break from: "Oh, don't cry…it's okay honey, don't worry about it, everything is fine."
Example: "How did you feel when that happened?" or "I can see your brother has upset you…how are you feeling and how will you take care of yourself to feel better?"
Explained: Feeling and processing emotions fully is essential for our girls to develop emotional strength. As parents, it's important to know that emotions are neither right nor wrong, they just are. Teach your girls that emotions are good and that identifying how they are feeling will help them take action to feel better.
Communicating that emotions such as sadness, anger and hurt contribute to the wholeness of life is important to help our daughters embrace all emotions. Resist the urge to fix when guiding your girls and expect some level of messiness. Lean into the power of listening, which will guide your daughters to find their own solutions.
5. “Gosh I love my __________ (body part)! What is your favorite part of your body?"
Take a break from: "Uggggh, I hate my stomach, I need to lose 5 lbs."
Example: "Gosh, I love my strong legs and how they were formed from my 15 years of springboard diving…they are my favorite part of my body. What is your favorite part of your body and why do you love it?"
Explained: Teaching our girls to focus on one thing they love about their bodies instead of telling them they need to love every inch of themselves takes the pressure off having a "perfect body image." Allow your daughters to express negative emotions about their bodies and resist the urge to make them wrong for their feelings. Instead, guide them to find one thing they do love and empower them to put that at the top of their mind.
6. “Oh yeah? Tell me more."
Take a break from: "You should do this _________," or "Well no wonder that happened, you shouldn't have _________."
Example: "Oh yeah? Tell me more. How did you feel, what happened? What did you do when the teacher said that? I'm here to listen to you…"
Explained: Developing a strong ability to listen intently to our daughters empowers them to find and use their voice. It also allows them to express themselves freely and fully instead of being interrupted or rescued. When our daughters know they have a parent who will listen without always trying to fix them, they will open up more, learn to trust their voice, express their feelings and communicate effectively both with us and in the world.
7. “How can you be a light in this situation?"
Take a break from: "Stop being mean, I refuse to raise a mean girl."
Example: "Friendships with other girls can be really challenging. How can you be a light in this situation and use your kindness to solve the problem?"
Explained: Girl relationships can get sticky and messy. Take a break from using the term mean and instead fill your daughter with the truth about who she really is—kind, good, loving, funny, resourceful, creative, caring and smart. Guide her to seek creative ways to use those strengths to solve problems with her friends, classmates, siblings and YOU! Supplementing this phrase with a lesson on peaceful problem solving is always a great idea.
Teach kids to take turns using a win/win exercise with this verbiage: "I feel __________ and I want _______".
8. “You have a strong desire to feel powerful and that is GOOD!"
Take a break from: "Don't be bossy, no one likes a bossy girl," or "Why can't you just listen, you always push back on rules. What is wrong with you"?
Example: "You were gifted with a strong desire to feel powerful and that will make you an incredible leader. You need to practice expressing yourself with respect however, let's try that again." Or, "You have a strong desire to be in charge and that's a gift! Can you try asking your friends to play the game your way instead of telling them what to do?"
Explained: Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, writes in her book Lean In, "I want every little girl who's told she's bossy to be told instead that she has leadership skills." What a gift it would be to mentor our daughters on how to see this need they have to seek power as good, instead of something that makes them unattractive or bad. Encourage your daughters to find ways to feel powerful in respectful ways and how to lead with integrity.
9. “How will you be the change you want to see?"
Take a break from: "Stop complaining about it, they'll never change." Or, "Those girls are mean, don't be friends with them."
Example: "I can see that you don't like the way those kids are acting, how will you be the change you wish to see? How can you respond to them in a way that you want them to follow suit?"
Explained: Empowering our daughters on how to influence others with integrity fills them with the capability to create positive change in their peer groups, schools, community and even their own families. Teaching our girls how to continue acting with kindness, compassion, self-confidence, grit, determination and respect—even when others aren't—helps to develop strong character and high self-esteem.
10. “I am not okay with ______," or “I'd like you to _______."
Take a break from: "You need to stop that," or "You should listen more to what I say."
Example: "I am not okay with you using your hands to solve problems with your brother. I need you to take a pause button, then use words to peacefully resolve your problem with him."
Explained: Using "I" statements and taking responsibility for our own emotions and desires, teaches our girls to do the same. It also mentors our daughters to ask for what they want (vs. telling people what they don't want), which increases the rate at which others cooperate with them.
Raising daughters who use "I" statements to own their choices, wishes, dreams, and goals helps to create a future generation of women who blame others less and take control to create the life they want (instead of waiting for others or outside circumstances to provide the way).