8 Things Parents Should Teach Daughters

Important advice and wisdom to share with growing girls

confident girls - girl with chalk drawings of math and science
One of the most important ways to raise confident girls is to encourage your daughter to follow her passions. Justin Lewis/Getty Images

How can parents prepare daughters as they navigate friends, school, puberty and a host of social, emotional and physical changes? If you are the parent of a school-age girl, consider sharing with your daughter the important insights that follow. They can ensure that your daughter enjoys good mental health as she ages and knows how to take care of herself overall.

Don't Accept Limits and Dream Big

Tell your daughters to dream big.

Gone are the days when women could only be nurses and not doctors, or politicians' wives and not candidates in their own right. Girls today can grow up to be anything from astronauts to zookeepers and everything in between. Encourage your daughter to follow her passions and to work toward being whatever she wants when she grows up.

Challenge Harmful Images

Learn to recognize unfair and unrealistic images and portrayals of women. By the time a young girl reaches grade-school age, she's probably seen countless images of women depicted as sexual objects in everything from billboard ads to TV shows to magazines. The often airbrushed images will be exaggerated and sometimes, even offensive.

Girls and women will also rarely be the main hero in a movie or book. For every Katniss Everdeen, there will be dozens of boy heroes heading up the action. 

Raise Your Hand 

Your thoughts and opinions count, so speak out loud.

From classrooms to boardrooms across the country, girls often refrain from raising their hands and speaking their thoughts and ideas. The message we often get from society is that good girls are quiet and not outspoken or authoritative. (Facebook COO's Sheryl Sandberg's Ban Bossy campaign brings attention to this issue.)

You Are Not Your Body or Your Clothing 

Women and girls are still often labeled and defined by their appearance, much more than men and boys. Of course, it's normal to care about your appearance and want to look your best. But a healthy body image means recognizing that people have different body types, and the only thing a child should worry about is how healthy and fit her body is.

Beauty isn't one type of body, face, hair or any other physical feature. Some of the most beautiful people around us have a smile and happiness that radiates out, and in the same way, a selfish and mean and angry person may not be beautiful even if they physically resemble a model in a magazine.

As for those models? Be sure to remind your child that even they are airbrushed and Photoshopped and styled with makeup and clothes to look a certain way that isn't possible in the real world.

Respect Yourself

Never let anyone disrespect you and make comments about your body or touch you without your permission. News headlines about sex assaults on college campuses and cyberbullying attacks targeting girls are constantly in the news. Snapchat, Instagram and other social media posts contain comments and images about girls that are rude and attack them with words like "slut" or "bitch."

Teach your daughter to reject such labels and to speak to others with respect. Talk to her about ideas and thoughts that put girls and women in danger. Also, discuss ways she can protect herself and pay attention to her instincts.

Be Aware of Bullying

Cliques and bullying can happen, even among kindergartners. And mean girls do exist. Be on the lookout for signs of early-grade bullying such as regression, stomach aches and separation anxiety. And be aware that social media use by kids adds a whole new dimension to bullying that parents may not always see.

Let your daughter know that she can and should come and talk to you about any problems.

Strive to build a solid foundation of good communication with your child so that you become someone she will want to confide in when there is a problem.

Room for Improvement

We are moving slowly toward equality—but we still have a long way to go. Yes, we have seen women make tremendous strides in all fields, including medicine, tech, business and politics. But the fact remains that women still don't receive equal pay for equal work.

We are still lacking representation in Congress. And there are still far too few women in the top positions in boardrooms of corporations. It will be up to the girls of today and the girls of future generations to continue to move toward equality.

Housework Isn't Just for Women

We have come a long way since the days when women were expected to stay home and cook, clean, and take care of children. Men expected their wives to not worry their pretty little heads about anything outside the home. Thankfully, women and men today shoulder career and home responsibilities in more—though not yet equal—ways.

More men do their share around the house, shoulder more childcare, and some even take paternity leave. Things are still very far from 50-50, but hopefully by the time girls today are grown up and having their own children, we will have made even more progress.

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