In this age of early sexualization, lookism, perfectionism, and materialism, it’s easy to worry about how our daughters can stand up to all the unhealthy messages and conditioning rampant in the culture. Four types of girls cause us to lay awake at night the most, so let’s meet them and see if we can reframe how we look at them.
1. My daughter is so sweet, naive, and innocent that I’m afraid she’ll be eaten alive in middle school and beyond.
I want all girls to have the freedom to grow up at their own pace, and avoid being pushed beyond their comfort zones. Late bloomers will blossom in their own way and in their own time if we can stay out of their way. It helps if they can find friends who are the same developmentally and who share the same interests. It’s okay for a grade school girl to still play with her dolls.
2. My daughter is shy and I am afraid she won’t speak up and stand up for herself.
Girls find their voices at different times. You can practice at home by giving her lots of opportunities to speak her mind, offer her opinions, and set boundaries. Parents who were shy growing up and had bad experiences because of their shyness have the hardest time accepting this temperament in their offspring. Acknowledge her when she does speak up, don’t push her until she is ready, and accept her for who she is. She’ll find her voice, although it may take going through a few times of suffering because she lacks the courage to speak her truth. That may become the motivation she needs to stretch out of her comfort zone and express herself more fully.
3. My daughter is bossy, and I’m afraid she won’t have any friends if she doesn’t change.
Most of the dominant girls I meet are powerful creatures with rough edges when it comes to exerting their authority. They have to learn how to be a strong leader without blowing people away.
We need to find opportunities for them to channel their power in appropriate ways and focus on making other people successful. They need to learn how to do this while feeling like they can speak and lead with authority. Many women in influential positions have shared with me that they were like this when they were kids. These girls need guidance and support to find a good balance.
4. My daughter is obsessed with being popular and getting into the popular group at school.
Girls are hardwired to connect, be part of a group, avoid conflict, and maintain social harmony. They absorb messages from TV shows, movies, books, and magazines that fitting in is their most important social task.
Schools need to step up and guide girls to create safer, close learning communities. Girls would care less about popularity if their class was more united and clique-free. They need to become aware of the costs to them and their class when so much energy is placed on fitting in versus the benefits of being authentic, kind, and collaborative. Have your daughter make a list of the qualities she most values in a best friend, and then have her look at all the girls in her class to see who best matches the list. Those are the girls she might want to hang out with the most.