If we are going to break down gender-based stereotypes, our children need to witness both parents having equal roles.
By Nancy O’Reilly
Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg has said that if a father wants to raise his daughter to grow into an empowered woman, he should do his share of the housework. That might not be the first thing that pops into your head when you are thinking about how to raise strong daughters, but she was right. If we are going to break down gender-based stereotypes, our children need to witness both parents having equal roles. Fathers who implement the six strategies below empower their daughters to develop into strong confident women, who pursue their passions and find their voice.
1. Tell your daughter she is capable of anything
Help your daughter to see and realize her strengths rather than focusing primarily on how pretty she is. Tell your daughter that she is smart, capable and that her potential is immeasurable. When you convince your daughter that anything is possible, you are well on your way to raising a strong and independent woman.
2. Notice women’s contributions
Daughters need to see their fathers valuing women as smart, opinionated and ambitious. Look for opportunities to show your respect for women by mentioning their accomplishments and intellect. Focus less on appearance. Point out women doctors, scientists, leaders, speakers, mathematicians, entrepreneurs and politicians. Doing so will show your daughter that who she becomes depends more on the decisions she makes than what society expects of her. Listen to your daughter and show her firsthand that you value her voice and thoughts.
3. Encourage independence
As a father you can encourage your daughter to try new things, take on challenges and figure things out on her own. Reinforce a sense of confidence by telling your daughter that she can do it. Get your daughter involved in money management. Notice if you have a daughter who is good in math, science or technology. Work against societal gender roles by letting your daughter know she can do or be anything she chooses if she works hard enough, and that you will help her.
4. Let your daughters fail
The greatest growth occurs during the most difficult times. You can teach your daughter to be more resilient and to trust in her own abilities by letting her handle disappointment and pick herself up again. If we try to run interference and not let our daughters fail because we want to save them from a painful experience, we are teaching them (unintentionally, of course) that they can’t handle failure. Give your daughter the skills she needs to handle failure by letting her make mistakes and discover that she can recover and try again. Not only will you be teaching her to be open to change and trying new things, but you also will be teaching her the essential life skills of tenacity and resilience.
5. Develop critical thinking
Use mealtime to encourage discussions where you value critical thinking and questioning. My co-author Dr. Janet Rose Wojtalik wrote a great piece called, The Seven Secrets of Parenting Girls, where she suggests that dads ask daughters for their opinions: What did you think about that? Why do you think that happened? How do you figure that out? Ask gently probing questions and guide her to analyze her own thinking. Your attention and approval will help your daughter value her ability to solve problems and think on her own.
6. Be an example of gender equality
Our kids always watch what we do more than they hear what we say. When daughters see their fathers doing a fair share of the household work, they assume that it’s totally normal for men and women to divide chores equally. It might sound like a small thing, but it sends a message that goes against the gender-based stereotype that there is such a thing as “women’s work.” When your daughter sees an equitable distribution of household labor between both parents, she sees equality. When a daughter sees her dad respecting her mom’s career and respecting his wife for being a strong, independent woman, a girl learns that it’s OK to become a strong, independent woman herself.
Girls want to please their fathers, which is why dads play a significant and influential role in shaping the women their daughters become. The world needs women ready to play a strong and creative role in this world because they believe what their fathers taught them, that their potential is limitless.
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This article was previously published on Maria Shriver. Read the original article.
Nancy D. O’Reilly, PsyD, is an author of “Leading Women: 20 Influential Women Share Their Secrets to Leadership, Business and Life” and urges women to connect to help each other create a better world. As a clinical psychologist, motivational speaker and women empowerment expert, O’Reilly helps women create the satisfying and purposeful lives they want to benefit themselves, their families and their communities. To accomplish this, she devotes her energies to fulfilling the mission of theWomen Connect4Good, Inc. foundation, which benefits from her writing and speaking services. O’Reilly is the founder of Women Connect4Good, Inc., and for seven years she has interviewed inspiring women for online podcasts available on herwebsite.For more information please visit www.drnancyoreilly.com and follow the author on Facebookand Twitter.
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