I have an adult friend who has incredible intuition and is able to respond with confidence and grit to unexpected circumstances. I admire the way she trusts her own instinct and can articulate position or needs. She has learned to honor the voice inside as she navigates the unpredictability of daily life.
I want this for myself, but even more so, I want my daughter to have this confidence.
When our girls are young, we often encourage them to go along: with our plan, with our schedule, with our likes/preferences/program. Compliance has its benefits, resilience has rewards. Yes, we need to get through the morning routine in a reasonable manner, but sometimes we squelch the opinions of our girls by taking away too many choices. It’s easy to become a bulldozer in my quest to just get to the next task or to miss the blooming interest in something new. The balance is tough to achieve, but it’s worth the effort to cultivate your daughter’s voice.
I don’t want the extremes of a rude, harsh, demanding and mean daughter NOR a kind, soft girl who isn’t equipped to stand up for what she needs or those who are weak. My goal is to teach my daughter to trust her instinct and to gauge a situation based on truth and not emotions.
Give her skills of tact and courtesy, while remaining assertive. Make sure she knows to respect all people, to use a voice that demonstrates understanding and yet allows her to disagree or step back. Teaching the tried and true methods of polite interaction (like please, thank you, not interrupting, etc.) will elevate your daughter’s standing with others. We are polite because it communicates respect given to others. That respect is then reciprocated and gives your daughter tools for speaking in a way that others will honor.
Does your daughter have permission to say no? “Respect the no” is a key phrase in our home as we learn boundaries among siblings. Let your daughter say no to physical touch, to playing with a friend or even to eating when she isn’t hungry. This teaches her that her desires matter and to listen to herself and determine what she really wants.
Celebrate the unique attributes of your daughter. Her freckles, willowy frame or snorty laugh all make your daughter wonderful in her very own way. Help her to see and own the quirks that make her stand out. Build her confidence in every way possible, especially in those years before she begins to compare herself to others and social media. As she grows, notice what she likes about herself, and emphasize those traits. Confidence is a platform for helping our girls through the rough and tumble years ahead.
Let your daughter know that while courtesy is always appreciated, she has permission to be blunt when she feels unsafe. It’s alright to be rude to someone hurting you. In our effort to raise polite girls, sometimes we take away their ability to speak out when feeling violated.
Let her know she doesn’t have to be perfect. We all make mistakes. We don’t start out being good at a sport or art or in the club. Most of us start at the bottom and rise through hard work and practice. Praise the effort and the commitment as those are the traits that will carry her through so many new experiences in life.
The greatest impact is made through kindness. All of us get into a situation where there is a power play among a team or group. Speak up for others and for what she believes is right. Even if that isn’t the way a decision goes, encourage her to voice what she feels is important in a respectful and clear way. We can’t always impact change, but letting your daughter be heard goes far in teaching her that her thoughts are important. Even when there is conflict, others will notice when your girl can articulate her thoughts with kindness.
Another way we prompt our daughters to use their voice, is to step back when it’s time for her to step forward. As your girl becomes an adolescent, it’s time to encourage her to be responsible in new ways. Let her contact the teacher regarding help. Give her the contact info to make her own appointment. Go with her to set up her own bank account and give her the controls to manage her own money.
Let her know that you have confidence in her that she can handle these things. Remind her that you believe she is capable, and that you are there to step in when and if she needs the extra support. “You will make the right choice,” is a powerful phrase. At each stage and season, you can train your daughter to honor herself with age-appropriate choices.