I am a girl and I am fierce
Everyone has encountered the big B. She’s a popular caricature in today’s modern culture — she smokes cigars with the guys, drops F-bombs and you wouldn’t see her crying if her life depended on it.
Being strong and tough is one thing, but being raunchy, aggressive and pushy is quite another. How you raise your daughter influences the persona she will develop. What kind of woman do you want her to be?
What your daughter learns and believes about behavior begins with you. Do you curse at telemarketers, roll your eyes at cashiers or applaud the mean girl on TV? Learn how to give your daughter the strength she needs to compete in life without turning her into someone people will love to hate.
Where does the big B begin?
Those of us with willful, stubborn, wild little girls appreciate their spunk and verve, but their personalities can be incredibly challenging. No mother wants to dampen her daughter’s spirit, so how do you stoke the fire within without creating an inferno?
There are things that you can influence, and you should, such as the power of body language. “Teach girls how to communicate effectively,” says Sherianna Boyle, author of Powered by Me for Educators. “Girls don't realize very little is communicated through words. Subtle ways — tight lips, squinty eyes, shallow breathing and tense shoulders — and obvious ways, like crossing our arms, signify defiance or anger.”
Find strength from the right sources
Raise a strong girl
With a world full of mean girls, reality television and fashion magazines full of photo editing, girls can easily fall prey to low self-esteem. Theresa Rizzo, a licensed clinical psychologist, offers recommendations for parents to help their daughters develop a healthy sense of self-worth:
- Encourage her to join a sports team or academic club to give her the experience of working cooperatively with others.
- Give her positive, constructive feedback. Start with reinforcing what you appreciate about her, then identify specific areas of improvement.
- Be aware of your language when speaking to her. Use terms of empowerment rather than words that shame. Be clear in identifying the specific behavior you don't like rather than criticizing her as a person.
- Don't compare her to others. Comparisons are unfair and usually don't honor the child's experience or abilities, neither do they give her enough understanding of what you want or expect from her.
- Help her develop assertiveness by encouraging her to verbalize her needs to others and be responsive when she does.
- Tell her often and freely that you love her.
Every woman has been there — crying when you desperately did not want there to be tears. One incident like that can create a take-no-prisoners kind of gal. While strength can certainly grow out of moments of weakness, when raising a daughter it’s crucial to help her understand that strength truly comes from confidence and a belief in oneself.
“By loving and admiring your daughter, she will internalize this acceptance and come to appreciate her unique strengths and gifts,” says Dr. Debra Kissen, clinical director of the Light on Anxiety Treatment Center. “B****iness comes from a place of insecurity, where one enhances their own feelings of self-worth by minimizing other people’s assets.”
“Teach girls to look within before reacting to what is happening outside of them,” says Boyle. “The problem is not necessarily being ‘b****y,’ it is more so believing that you are and using it to get your way.”
Parent your girl proactively
Catch your daughter saying or doing something unsavory? Call her out on it then and there by questioning her attitude, tone and choice of words. “Give her the compassion test,” recommends Julia Simens, author of Emotional Resilience and the Expat Child. “Would you say those same words to Grandpa? To a teacher? Would you like to see that on the internet under your picture?”
Toddler diva or teen queen bee, “Don't let your daughter display behavior that is not consistent with the type of person you want her to be in the future. Parents might let bad behavior pass when they think the young girl is ‘cute,’ but this means they give approval for that type of behavior,” Simens adds.
Being sassy to younger siblings, curt with Dad or disrespectful to peers isn’t a personality trait or a rite of passage — it’s simply b**** behavior. And it has to be stopped at home if there’s any hope of preventing these attitudes from permanently featuring in your daughter’s daily life.
What’s influencing your daughter’s attitude?
You’re not the only one who’s teaching your daughter. Her sources of inspiration and motivation in pop culture are also responsible for forming her into the woman she will eventually become.
“The types of media a child is exposed to — books, films or music — have a tremendous impact on how they see their place in the world,” says Carolyn Danckaert, founder of A Mighty Girl, an online resource for parents to find media, books, clothing and toys that feature girls as leaders, heroes and champions that save the day, rather than just damsels in distress. “Girls can't be what they can't see, so exposing girls to these types of empowering messages from a young age is essential.“