We have the power to boost and inspire the next generation of girls, just by the way we speak to them. The way we speak to them, and the way we support their decisions, pave the way for what they consider important in life. In order to prepare girls for success, we need to free them from the social constraints (whether intentional or unintentional) and strict code of conduct that limits their imagination and expressiveness.
1. Talk about more than just their looks
When people speak to a girl and say things like, “you look so pretty today!” or “look at your beautiful hair!” this emphasizes physical appearance and thus, in her mind, makes her think that that’s the most important thing about her. At the same time there needs to be a balance of other, more substantial things as well. Tell them how smart they are, how impressive it is that they’re reading a new book, what a wonderful imagination they have, how well they are sharing.
2. Don’t designate between boy’s toys/activities and girl’s toys/activities
This may seem like a no-brainer in 2017, and already young girls notice how ridiculous the superficial differences between “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys” are. Even so, steadfast ideas still exist in our minds about what toys/activities girls like versus what toys/activities are designated for boys. GoldieBlox is a great example — it’s an award-winning toy construction set geared towards a female audience. This provides a unique opportunity for young girls to strengthen their STEM principles and build confidence. Children can play with and enjoy a variety of toys, and participate in a variety of extracurricular activities not determined by gender.
3. Let them pick their own clothes
Letting young girls express themselves through what they wear is a way to build their confidence. To this day, I still overhear people in clothing stores say to their children “no, that’s a BOY’S shirt!” or “nope, those are GIRL’S shoes!” If a girl picks out a t-shirt she loves, don’t diminish that excitement by limiting that article of clothing for men only. This little girl was right when she called out the disheartening double-standard that exists for boys and girls. To prepare a girl for success, let her explore in creative ways, showing her that if she’s interested in something, she should give it a try, and there won’t be anyone standing in her way.
4. Speak up for girls
Educating yourself, and becoming aware of the little ways in which society polices the actions and decisions of little girls, is the first step towards supporting and building them up. Next is sharing with others about the issues girls face and the importance of girl empowerment.
Erin Ford is a public relations account executive and has been blogging for many years. While attending Penn State, she discovered a love for Women’s studies, which she found empowering and illuminating, and graduated with a minor in the subject. Since then, she finds fulfillment in speaking up about issues impacting women and girls, and believes that through honest conversations everyone can be empowered to do the same.