However, young girls often think otherwise these days ― believing that boys are stronger, and given more opportunities, and that girls often take on the submissive or passive role.
Just take a look at most fairy tales ― the prince is often the hero, while the female is usually a helpless girl waiting to be rescued.
In a study published in the journal Science, girls as young as 6 were less likely to believe that the female gender is brilliant. Because of this gender stereotype, girls at this age are more likely to shy away from activities targeted at children who are "really, really smart”.
Take the Harvey Weinstein scandal, for instance, which has rocked the entertainment industry in recent months. The lesson to be learned here is the importance of not just empowering young women to assert themselves and stand up for the truth, but also, to teach males to respect them for their abilities and achievements?
Girls as young as 6 were found to be less likely to believe that the female gender is brilliant.
To empower our little girls, it’s important to teach them that their character is what matters, as well as their achievements and personal beliefs, and not their dress size, or how flawless their skin is.
We outline the best ways to raise a strong and confident girl from young.
1. Be body positive
As her mum, you are your daughter’s best example of a self-confident, powerful woman. Use positive words and look after yourself because you have an important role to play in raising an assertive young woman.
Avoid saying things like you wished you were slimmer, or that you’ve put on so much weight since having kids. Instead, eat well, exercise, look after your body and tell your daughter that you are doing so because you want to be healthy and strong.
2. Recognise your own strengths
Women are often their own greatest enemies ― it’s not uncommon for mothers to be really hard on themselves. You gripe that you aren’t able to keep a clean home, are falling behind on your chores, can’t pack the perfect organic lunchbox for your kids, or that you suck at your job.
Utter these self-depreciating comments only when your little girl isn’t around. Instead, let her know that you are proud of being good at your job, for being able to balance motherhood, and for having your own interests and hobbies. Let her see a mum who is confident in her own abilities and strengths. Since you are her role model, she’ll learn to recognise her own immense potential.
3. Point out strong women
Highlight real-life strong women (such as former US First Lady Michelle Obama and actress and United Nations ambassador Emma Watson), as well as notable fictional characters like the brilliant Matilda, the titular character in the Roald Dahl classic, as examples. Then show your sweetie that girls are strong, smart and well-equipped to work on things passionate about.
4. Ask for her opinion
In many societies, industries and communities, women have little or no say on issues that affect them (such as marriage or having children, in some instances). Let your daughter know that she is growing up in a space and time where she should embrace that right to make her own decisions.
Right from the start, involve her in making decisions as a family. Just because kor kor is older, it doesn’t mean he always gets to pick where to have dinner, or which playground to head to on the weekend. Ask your little girl’s what she likes to eat, and where she thinks will be the best place for the family to have fun.
Children respond well to praise, so make sure to point out things that matter when you shower praise on the little ones.
5. Develop her powers of judgement
As she’ll invariably be exposed to lots of traditional media, social media and the Internet, there are many ways that negative media messages can harm your daughter’s self-esteem. Challenge her to think about the female characters in her storybooks ― for instance, in Snow White, it seems important to be the “fairest in the land”, while in Cinderella, it looks like the girl needs a “Prince Charming” in order to find happiness in life.
Point out that “it seems silly that the girl in the movie is simply waiting to be saved by the Prince”, or “It’s just a story, but in real life, it wouldn’t be right for the Prince to kiss Sleeping Beauty is she doesn’t give her consent!”
Encourage her to speak up for what she believes in, but also ask her why she feels that way. Don’t tear her down when you disagree with that she says ― instead, encourage her to think about how she can defend her views.
6. Avoid complimenting someone’s appearance
Children respond well to praise, so make sure to point out things that matter when you shower praise on the little ones. When you’re meeting your daughter’s friends, do you often compliment them on their pretty dresses, or how nicely their mummies did their hair?
Well, it’s time to change that. Ask the little girls what their favourite books are, or compliment them on being confident and speaking well, instead.
7. Encourage her to try new things
It may be ingrained in your little ones’ minds that boys are stronger, faster, bigger and taller. However, make sure to also remind your little girl that girls are by no means the weaker of the sexes.
Does your sweetie love the outdoors? Is she agile? Perhaps she’d like to try rock climbing. Is she nimble and quick on her feet? She’d probably make a fantastic football player. By breaking gender stereotypes, you’re sending the message that she can do anything she wants, as long as she puts her mind to it.
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