I have two daughters, 10 and 12. As their curves become more evident and their schedules fuller, I realize their education as women cannot be left to chance. Celebrities, Photoshop, lyrics and their peers are all shaping their definition of the should, could and would of girlhood.
tYet what their culture is teaching them about authenticity and honor often misses the mark. The kind of beauty and popularity that lasts a lifetime can’t be achieved with a mascara wand or a few pounds lost.
t Here are 13 things I am teaching my daughters about being a woman every day. It’s not easy, because along with the verbal lessons I have to live them out for my girls to see. But I’m confident it will make a difference and they will be far better off than me.
1. The shape of her face
t Heart, square, round, oval, the shape of her face will dictate the shape of her eyebrows, her eyeglass choices, makeup application and haircut. Don’t let her wander the dark forest of trial and error. Tell her, show her and set her free to look much cooler than you did at that age.
2. How to be friends with a boy
t Man is our partner, lover, boss, son, coach, neighbor and colleague. Don’t let your daughter think boys are solely for romantic daydreams and first kisses. Anyone married for more than a few years will tell you friendship, not romance, is the cornerstone of the relationship. Teaching her to see the humanity in every human being is a lesson worth passing on.
3. How to get along with other girls
t Like the men, the ladies are simply part of the landscape of life, coming in a wide variety of personalities and roles. Teach your daughter how to handle and thrive among women. Help her to listen, to avoid judging, to see past the formidable strength and learn from other females. It will reduce the drama women experience on a daily basis.
4. How to walk in heels, please!
t There is a great deal of research that high heels are damaging to our feet. In fact, women’s feet are aging more quickly than ever before; I have the bunions to prove it. But while I wouldn’t advise as much high-heel experience as I have, most women will have to wear a heel at some point in their life. Teach her to handle the challenge, to walk gracefully and confidently. And by the way, don’t tell tall girls to wear flats. Allow them to enjoy their height. It’s a power position and they deserve to enjoy every advantage they have been given.
5. To accept… no, embrace… aging
t You will teach them primarily through your living example, ladies! Stop bemoaning your wrinkles and the crabgrass patches of white hairs. Don’t verbalize your wish to be 12 again, “if only I could have a stomach like yours.” Take a page from the Dove playbook and give yourself and womankind a break from pursuing eternal perfection and youth. While you enjoy the privilege of getting older (after all, the alternative is death), help her see the joy of aging. Step into your power and radiance, so she will see her next decades are something to look forward to.
6. What looks good on her
t As they realize the tantalizing nature of their bodies and society’s reaction to it, young girls tend to choose the craziest things to wear: shorts with butt cheeks hanging out, absurdly plunging necklines, things that are too baggy and certainly things that are too tight. Empower your daughter to look their best. Help her understand how to maximize her best and minimize the rest. Teach her the fashion “rules,” such as a tight on the bottom, loose on top or vice-versa. Show her how to pair the classics with the trends of today. Stop her from dressing for others, and instead dress for her own body type.
7. To connect in other ways besides gossip
t Men connect with a shared love or experience (pick up games of basketball, golf in the afternoon or military experience). For the ladies, it’s all about the shared perspective, which can easily fostered by the use of gossip. We feel connected and close when we can nod approvingly over a well-behaved child and equally connected as we judge our newly divorced neighbor. We also know a friend eager to gossip is likely to talk about us when we aren’t around. Teach her to live above the fray like thought leader Maya Angelou. Challenge her to rise above easy secret-sharing and focus on healthy support and challenge instead.
8. That a little quiet will go a long way
t Women have not become the master delegators men are. Superwoman is still defined as someone who can balance it all without breaking a sweat. Save her the high blood pressure and late-night breakdowns. Expose her to meditation. Encourage her to nap. Show her how to create an effective to-do list that includes silence and self-care. Most importantly, take your quiet time when she is home. She’ll need that mental picture when she has a family of her own.
9. That hormones are real
t Yes, the friend, brother or teacher might truly be annoying to the point of idiocy. During a hormonal rush, the level-10 reaction may not quite match the offense. Teach her to manage her responses during challenging moments and the bevy of choices available beyond crying and yelling (non-reaction, time alone, speaking feelings). Even better, talk about the relationship she will have with her hormones for the rest of her life. It’s not crazy, it’s womanhood.
10. To see food as fuel
t Intentional or not, you are teaching your daughter how to have a relationship with food. Sugar, fat and sodium are evil. Calories are elusive demons that mysteriously find a resting place in your belly. If you find the dialogue around food confusing, imagine how your daughter might feel. Define caloric intake and other measurements scientifically. Teach her to listen to her body and eat everything in moderation. Help her understand the powerful response her body has to good food and by example, show her what happens when you make good choices.
11. To see exercise as self-love.
t Show her the benefits of exercise over a lifetime. Exercise every day, no matter what is going on in your life and you will be showing your daughter that your daily run isn’t an indulgence, it’s a necessity. Show her that her body can’t be spot-reduced, and dieting for the next wedding only leads to fat storage when she is older. Celebrate her muscles, endurance and power. She’ll appreciate the centering powers of exercise for the rest of her life. Watch this video I created while working out with my daughter and see the empowerment in her face.
12. To dis-empower money
t Even in 2015, women are notoriously uneducated about finances. As diligent as you probably are about “the sex talk,” include a talk about money. Guide her to see money as a tool, not a reflection of her value. Teach her not only how to save, but how money grows. Let her experiment with a penny stock and help her grow a fortune. Empower her to invest in her dreams and make her understand money has no power except what we give it. Above all, don’t teach her to look for a life partner for economic reasons but help her see the value of shared dreams and necessary compromise.
13. To embrace their potential
t Your daughter’s future is limitless. Teach her she can do anything with the right connections, efforts and resources. Empower her to vision, research, try and most importantly, fail. Don’t let your fears and childhood mis-information seep into her dreams for the future. With the right skills and a little patience, our daughters will stop reaching for the stars and just be the stars they were destined to be.