strong girl

What we say to our children is so important in their development; and the messages they hear, particularly from those who are close to them have a massive impact on the stories they tell themselves about who they are, what they can and can’t do and what they can achieve in the world.

Encouraging them to be themselves with how they show up in the world, using empowering language with them and inspiring them with positive words is more important now more than ever.

While we need to know the phrases that empower the next generation of women, it’s also good to learn what NOT to say. Even as a joke. What we might think is a light hearted jibe can actually hit quite deeply.

Here are some common phrases that should be eliminated from your parenting communication……

1/ Don’t say

“Stop being so bossy.”

For some reason, society will brand a girl bossy and the same trait in a boy; “a good leader”. Enough of the bossy comments!

Telling a girl she’s ‘bossy’ feeds into the stereotype that only boys get to be assertive and girls should be quiet and retiring. Instead, celebrate that she feels confident enough in her opinions to instruct others. Say something like, “You’re so good at making plans for games! Remember that your game should be fun for everybody. Let your friend make some decisions too.” This helps her hone those emerging leadership skills.

2/ Don’t say

“Get to the point.”

If your daughter shares details about her day-to-day life with you, consider yourself lucky.  Knowing that an adult has their back no matter what, means that they have somewhere to go to seek advice when life gets a little overwhelming, or when they make mistakes.

Show you’re there for her, even if you’ve heard enough about YouTube and TikTok to last a lifetime. Listen to her now so she will open up to you when it’s crucial, later. If you absolutely can’t listen right away, try saying this: “You’re important to me, and I want to focus on what you have to say. Can you wait for me to finish this task so I can listen to you?”

3/ Don’t say

“Boys will be boys.”

This old-fashioned response to a girl expressing her dislike of a boy’s behaviour is encouraging a derogatory opinion of boys as well as unhelpful stereotypes. Girls should be taught from a young age that boys shouldn’t get away with unacceptable actions due to their gender. Parents can show their daughters that they take these issues seriously by listening with empathy and taking steps to change the situation.

4/ Don’t say

“You should watch your weight”

Want to know how to talk to your daughter about her weight? Don’t. Instead, teach her what types of food and exercise it takes to make her body healthy, strong and well-nourished. Make sure she knows that the bodies she sees in magazines and social media have been digitally edited to achieve that look. Talk about how amazing women are in all shapes and sizes and discuss the pressure that  society’s put on women to look a certain way, and how wrong this is.

Model a healthy relationship with your own body and talk about things you love about your body and what it can do.  If she sees you loving your real world body and all it is capable of, it will be easier for her to develop a healthy relationship with food. If she sees / hears you complaining about your body, constantly dieting and worrying about it then those things rub off on her.

5/ Don’t say

“You got lucky.”

Center for Creative Leadership study found that “nearly ½ of all women interviewed attributed their success to “luck” compared to only ⅓ of men.” 

If we want girls to grow into women who own their achievements, we need to celebrate the work they put into achieving their goals. Did she get an amazing test result? Tell her you’re proud of the way she worked hard for it. Did she learn to play a new song on the piano or score a great goal in football? Celebrate her commitment to regular practice. The more we connect girls’ achievements to their efforts, the easier it will be for them to avoid impostor syndrome as adults.

6/ Don’t say

“You would be a lot prettier if you smiled more.”

This phrase implies that your daughter’s feelings are less important than looking attractive to everyone else. If you’re worried that your daughter is appearing a bit negative, find ways to discuss the issue without connecting it to her appearance or how other people perceive this. She needs to know she is loved and appreciated regardless of how she is feeling.

You can help her to view life more positively, look at how to help her to see the positive in situations and feel happier, if that is an issue. Ideas such as starting a gratitude journal, reading some positive books, listening to music and getting out in nature can all help develop more positive attitudes.

Or have her tell you two positive things about a situation every time she says something negative. You’ll not only help her notice the good details in life but also help her regulate the stories she tells herself.

7/ Don’t say

“It’s a good job you are so pretty”

There is no explanation needed here!

8/ Don’t say

“Girls are so much easier / stroppier / harder / more work than boys”

Girls don’t need this subconscious narrative to underpin them as they grow up. It can create a divide in families and is equally as unhelpful for boys to have as an underlying expectation of girls. It is of no use to anyone to use this narrative!

9/ Don’t say

“Have you got a boyfriend?”

This is giving the expectation from an early age that they need to be part of a couple and that girls main purpose is to be chosen as a girlfriend / wife / sexual partner. They don’t need to feel like it’s something they need to focus on to have value.

And part from anything else, they might not be interested in men. They might want a girlfriend. Or they might not know. They need to love themselves first and foremost!

What you MUST say to your daughter…

On the other hand, here are some positive, empowering messages that you should be saying to your girls; as often as possible!

Things to ALWAYS say to your daughter….

1/ Do say

“I trust you”

It’s important kids know you trust them and this will be the foundation for good communication as they go into the teen years.

2/ Do say

“You make the world a better place just by being in it.

 

3/ Do say

Thanks for giving me a hug, I needed that.”

 As kids grow older, they’re less likely to want to snuggle up as much but when they do show affection, let them know how much you appreciate it.  

4/ Do say

 Isn’t it great that your strong legs can help you run super fast?” 

Praising the things a little girl can do with her body instead of noticing how it looks will help her appreciate, and strive for, a healthy lifestyle.

5/ Do say

I love the colour combinations you’re wearing today, it’s very creative! “

It’s good to say nice things to your daughter that don’t focus on how she looks. By complimenting her on her colour choices with her outfit you are focusing on her creativity rather than how pretty she looks.

 6/ Do say

“You are a kind person.”

Compliments for girls that focus on kindness, courage, and honesty will go far in building self-esteem.

7/ Do say

I am proud of you.

Because kids need to hear this from their parents. Every single day.

8/ Do say

“You are showing qualities of a great leader”. 

One of the best things you can do for your daughter is showing her that being a leader isn’t just “being bossy.

9/ Do say

Just be yourself. It’s enough.”

Girls are constantly being told they aren’t enough, and it’s time to break the cycle and encourage confidence and self love.

10/ Do say

Your ideas are important, and I want to hear them.”

Kids in general, but especially girls, need to know their ideas are awesome and worth sharing.

11/ Do say

You’re strong, you’re smart, and you can change the world.

Because she can!

12/ Do say

I’m here for you. Whatever.”

She needs to know that she can come to you for anything and that you’ll be ready to listen.  Whatever she has done and whatever the situation.

13/ Do say

“You have a choice”

Girls need to feel empowered to make their own choices, based on their own beliefs and values. They should not be persuaded by anyone to do anything they do not want to do. And they should not be made to feel like they need to make choices based on pleasing others.

14/ Do say

I’m sorry.

No one is perfect, and sometimes we lose our cool. An apology shows that we can admit when we’re wrong, which is an important life skill. And also important to model taking responsibility for your actions.

15/ Do say

 “Always love and accept yourself. No matter what”

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