Raising Strong Girls Requires TLC (Tender Long-term Care)
In my ongoing mission to raise strong young women, I’ve lately found myself putting in overtime when it comes to building up my daughters’ self-esteem and sense of empowerment. These relentless “girl power” times we’re in are awesome, but the extreme pressure to succeed, speak up and feel absolutely flawless — like all of those impeccable Instagram posts we all seem to be obsessed with — can be too much to deal with, even for the most confident among us.
I remember my own mom’s nonnegotiable style with my sister and me when we were growing up. She raised us to learn and hold onto confidence in our own thoughts and actions, no matter what (I’m still figuring it out!). It takes a lifetime to learn resilience, to truly feel empowered, and the clock is ticking with every new day as I try to teach my girls this life skill. So I’ve come to rely on repetition through actions, day after day.
My tactics? Shooting from the hip with an empowered certainty that even fools me into thinking I actually know what I’m doing sometimes. Take a peek:
I interrogate them in the car. “Tell me about the day, one great thing and one terrible thing! Was there anything that made you feel sad or mad today? Did you help anyone today? Who did you sit next to and what did they say to you…and [if applicable] what did you say back?” Keep in mind that our car rides to and from school are about six minutes total. My girls usually spill the goods — mostly because they know I won’t let up until I have answers of some kind and I don’t let anyone get out of the car until I’ve heard some kind of story from the day. “Start early and don’t stop talking with your kids,” an older and wiser parent once told me. I’d like to think my girls are more game to talk because I’ve been jabbering with them since they were days old — First 5-style! The more they’re able to tell me about their day — good and bad — the more likely they are to be unafraid to communicate their thoughts as they grow. Empowerment. (Here’s hoping this pattern lasts through the tween and teen years…)
We talk about good words and bad words. Words can empower us or disable us, and my daughters need to know which is which. (I just did a cool workshop with my older daughter about the power of words.) Knowing how different words make us feel differently from the inside-out when someone says them to us is a very special skill that can empower the way my girls speak to others and themselves…now and in the future.
I put the kibosh on screen time. Learning how to live without a screen in your face is probably the rarest form of empowerment there is these days. Knowing that it’s okay to be “bored” sometimes (so that you can create something to do), that it’s perfectly acceptable to not have a smartphone and be confident in your lacking (in spite of your friends who might already have them) and that talking with others (learning how to have a conversation in a restaurant without a phone in your face) might prove to be this generation’s foundation for what true empowerment means.
I make them compliment and cheerlead each other. If one of them is performing (in a dance recital or in our living room), the other one is required to be said performer’s “automatic cheerleader.” The ability to appreciate someone else’s talents and celebrate someone else’s goals — even when you have nothing to do with it — is a gift. This type of empowerment comes in handy when your friend gets that promotion at work (the
one you wanted too) or your spouse’s career hits a surge (while yours is stalling). “Tell your sister what you like best about her,” I sometimes say at the dinner table. (They look at each other and giggle.) Learning how to give a compliment, freely and with joy, is something we can all use towards empowering each other at any given time.
I let them see me cry. Being vulnerable and showing how you really feel isn’t weak it’s — strong (as long as you don’t dwell, I say). Giving myself permission to vent without hiding in the bathroom all the time — to cry, to yell, to be frustrated, to be disappointed — shows my girls that all those feelings are absolutely natural and anything can be conquered once we “let it out.” No one is perfect. We all have ups and downs. Even the strongest of us have our challenges; how we harness them, solve them and bounce back is long-term empowerment at its finest.
Developing confidence in my daughters is not an option. It’s not a matter of “Well, I’ll try my best and see what happens.” It’s not a matter of hoping they grow up to feel beautiful from the inside out. It’s my priority and requirement — as a parent, as a mother, as a woman — especially in this age of picture-perfect social media and aggressive mixed-messaging from peers and acquaintances. No second guesses, no second chances. Teaching my girls how to recognize their own power and self-worth is on ME. And I’m tackling this challenge head-on.
Affectionately known as “The FAB Mom” on-air and online, Jill Simonian is a TV Personality and Author of the latest “it-book” for first-time pregnant moms, The FAB Mom’s Guide: How to Get Over the Bump & Bounce Back Fast After Baby. Southern California television viewers know Jill and her mission to keep moms “focused after babies” from her 175+ twice-weekly parenting segments on CBS Los Angeles News between 2016 and 2018. Jill has also appeared on NBC’s Access Hollywood LIVE & TODAY Show, CBS’ The Doctors, E! News, HLN, Hallmark’s Home & Family and writes for several popular parenting lifestyle websites. Connect with Jill on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TheFABMom.com.