Empowering our young daughters starts at home.
Little by little, we’re getting better at empowering women. But when it comes to our young daughters, the messages are still unclear.
As a mother, you can’t leave it up to someone else to introduce your daughter to powerful female role models. But perhaps, the strongest role model lies a bit closer to home.
Yes, moms, I’m talking about you.
There are a variety of ways moms can showcase the power of women, loud and clear. Here’s a few of them.
Crack Open a Book
Reading with your girls from an early age establishes close bonds and reinforces the magic of learning. It has never been easier to incorporate books about women, even for the youngest girls.
Here are a few books worth checking out.
- For those in preschool or kindergarten, try the Little Feminist Board Book Set, by authors Galison and Emily Kleinman, illustrated by Lydia Ortiz, to introduce them to strong women in history.
- For girls entering preschool to the younger grades: She Persisted: 13 American Women Who Changed the World, by Chelsea Clinton, and illustrated by Alexandra Boiger; and I Dissent: Ruth Bader Ginsburg Makes Her Mark, by Debbie Levy, and illustrated by Elizabeth Baddeley.
- For pre-teen and young teen girls, try Rad Women Worldwide: Artists and Athletes, Pirates and Punks, and Other Revolutionaries Who Shaped History, by Kate Schatz, and illustrated by Miriam Klein Stahl, a book that shares 40 profiles of powerful women worldwide.
- For older teen girls with a penchant for poetry or writing, try Literary Witches: A Celebration of Magical Women Writers, by Taisia Kitaiskaia, and illustrated by Katy Horan, a book of poetic vignettes showcasing the lives and work of influential female authors throughout history.
Highlight Powerful Women in History
History books have frequently overlooked the influences women have had on society, and there’s still some catching up to do. There are many impressive examples of women who changed the world, as demonstrated by this curated playlist of powerful women in history— documentaries that are suitable for teenage girls and older.
Does your daughter like computers and technology? Teach her about Ada Lovelace, a mathematician and inventor of an early computing machine that set the framework for modern tech developers.
Is she showing an interest in social justice? Talk to her about Harriet Tubman, Malala, Mother Theresa or other influential women.
Does she like sports? Teach her about trailblazing athletes, like Althea Gibson, the first black athlete—ever—to play tennis at Wimbledon.
Providing her with examples of successful ladies in history will encourage her to actively pursue her own interests.
Avoid the Princess Problem
Fictional stories about princesses, although entertaining, often deliver mixed messages to young girls. If your daughter admires princesses, make an effort to offer them examples like Moana, from the movie, “Moana,” and Merida, from the movie “Brave.”
These princesses highlight courage, independence, and inner beauty and strength. These heroines break the traditional damsel-in-distress mold that many classic princesses, such as Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella, often portrayed.
Another practical solution is to teach young women about real princesses and the important work they can do for the world. For example, you can discuss Princess Diana, and how she used her role as a royal to help eliminate the world of landmines.
Educating your daughter about women in power can open her eyes to issues of social justice and peace and can motivate her to one day help find solutions for worldly problems.
Take Your Daughter to Work
National “Take our Daughters to Work Day” on the fourth Thursday in April is a prime opportunity to allow your daughter to witness you and other women performing in different roles. She can learn about potential fields of work and discover how her own unique interests can translate into a professional career.
However, there is a lot of work to be done outside of a traditional office. If you’re a stay-at-home-mom, you can walk your daughter through the steps it takes to run a household, plan healthy meals or a family party, or teach her how to organize schedules and budgets.
It can also be beneficial to let her visit a sister or friend in the workforce. These observations can inform her of the different kinds of jobs women pursue, the skills and education needed, and the ways women in positions of leadership have evolved into their careers.
The Best Example Is You
There is no question that you are the best and most influential role model your daughter can have.
While we often want to be “perfect” for our children, whether by creating Pinterest-inspired parties or perfectly balancing our professional career with being a totally present mom, it is time to make peace with the idea that you don’t have to be “Super Mom.”
It is much more impactful for daughters to see their mothers failing and bouncing back and embodying resilience. By dealing with negative feelings and finding reasonable solutions or actions, we are teaching our daughters to honor their emotional intelligence.
Showing your daughter the importance of self-care is invaluable, even if it means stepping away from her to have lunch with a friend or take a walk alone. Showing her that you matter as an individual demonstrates to her that she does, as well.
The way you treat yourself will empower your daughter to stand up for herself in the future, identify her own needs, and create the pathway to meet them.