Talking to your Daughter
Notwithstanding today’s embracing of unisex and transgender roles, the majority of youngsters still tend toward many characteristics traditionally associated with their birth genders—and face peer pressure in areas where they don’t naturally match up. Here are some ways to help a girl appreciate her femininity without compromising her unique identity.
Encourage Her to Be Sensitive and Strong
The idea of a “proper lady” as helpless and frail has met a well-deserved demise. But that doesn’t mean any girl should put on a perpetual stoic expression for fear of appearing “weak.
Remember—and let your daughter know—that tears sometimes are natural and healthy. When they come, offer your shoulder to cry on until the outpouring runs its course. Then, discuss with her the details of what triggered the upset, and encourage her to come up with ideas for remedying the problem. But don’t step in to solve it, or tell her that the issue is “silly”—let her figure things out for herself.
Encourage her to talk about all her feelings regularly, and assure her you will never reprimand her for expressing a thought, even if she’s angry at you. Discuss (and model) healthy ways of dealing with strong emotions, rather than “politely” bottling them up—that sort of politeness is the route to self-hatred and depression.
Teach Her to Be the Best Kind of Lady
A closer look at the classic “lady” shows she wasn’t as helpless as modern folk assume: she knew how to express righteous indignation and get what she needed. Still, you probably want more for your daughter than the supporting role—or at least you want her to understand there are other options.
But there was one aspect of “being a lady” that everyone should continue to practice: don’t be too proud to accept help. The secrets of accepting help without being helpless are:
- If someone holds a door or steps aside for you, acknowledge the courtesy with a smile and “Thank you.”
- If someone offers you a bigger courtesy (such as their seat), it’s your choice whether to accept or say “No thank you, I’m fine.” In either case, keep the smile.
- If a stranger or casual acquaintance offers any potentially dangerous favor (such as a ride), put more firmness into your “No, thank you.” Make unwavering eye contact and keep your voice calm and confident.
- If you really need help (not necessarily in a physically dangerous situation), ask for it rather than letting things get worse—or stewing because no one spontaneously offers.
Encourage Her to Be Herself
In these days when female submissiveness is scorned, many girls find more social risk in leaning toward “domestic” interests than toward “tomboy” pursuits. But expecting anyone to stifle any natural attraction toward any good-in-itself activity is damaging to the individual who never reaches her full potential—and to the society which deprives itself of the best contribution she could make.
Whether she’s a born housekeeper or a born construction worker, your daughter is one of a kind. Talk with her regularly about her passions and dreams—and about ideas for pursuing them effectively. That’s the route to becoming a truly powerful woman.