Strong girls are all around us. They’re tough without losing their gentleness; they turn adversity into a source of resilience. They may be loud or quiet; introverts or extroverts; there’s certainly no one-size-fits-all. However, we can be sure of this: they trust themselves. They know themselves. They’re confident in who they are.
What can we do to raise strong girls? Or encourage the girls in our lives if we don’t have daughters, ourselves?
To the extent that we can empower them now, the more opportunities they’ll have to grow confidently into the women they were designed to be. Some girls will grow to become world leaders; other women may be leaders within their own quiet homes. Strong girls come in many forms.
How can we help girls grow into confident women?
In short, we can teach girls the skills, give them the opportunities, and support them with the community they need to thrive.
We can (and should) also trust that we can’t “make” them strong (nor should we try). It’s important that we trust a girl to express her natural temperament. (The same is true for boys.) The more confident she is that we accept her exactly as she is today, the more she’ll thrive.
How can we support strong girls when they’re young? We can actively get involved in their lives in the following ways.
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Incorporate a strong female into your everyday play.
One way gender roles materialize when girls are young is through play. For example, when you play “pretend,” make the toys who have traditionally male jobs, female.
What that looks like: “Let’s take this teddy bear to the doctor to see if she can solve the problem…” or “Hmmm. Let’s ask the pilot if she can fly us to the moon” or “This is a BIG problem! Call the President to see what she can do!”
Normalize the idea that girls can do these things. Refrain from using the default “he” and change things up sometimes.
Read books about strong girls who demonstrate drive and resilience.
Some of the best picture books and early readers plant the seed early for girls and boys — showing them that every girl can blaze her own trail. Even young children can grasp the messages. These are some wonderful fictional books about strong girls:
Show them women who’ve been community leaders and role models.
Using non-fiction books and other teaching tools, you can point to these women to show boys and girls real-life examples of many who’ve overcome adversity.
Some historical books about strong girls include these:
There are many role models to whom young women can look for inspiration. Make them a part of your ongoing discussion.
Use the power of mentorship to empower strong girls.
Find an organization that knows how to support girls with the skills they need to achieve their goals. Perhaps they have a mentorship program, a paid or unpaid internship, or even a day where girls are allowed to shadow experts in their fields. Encourage boys to shadow women, as well. Now as much as ever, from a young age, boys need to see women doing what they consider important work.
Ideally, boys and girls should follow women with skills that interest them, not only to further their interest, but also to teach them how they can get involved in the industry. Girls can learn from men, too, but women who’ve succeeded in an organization — particularly where the typical “model” for the field is male — might be more impactful.
Choose qualified women providers that encourage strong girls.
Find female role models in the community and support their businesses. When possible, choose qualified female doctors, dentists, and other professionals to reinforce to strong girls that their goals are achievable. Let them see firsthand that women can have big and important jobs.
Many trade organizations have typically been male-dominated — those are good places for girls and young women to get involved, as well.
Being a strong girl isn’t just about the volume with which they speak or the attention they get.
Was every strong female just born that way? Is it innate? If a girl isn’t born “strong,” does she just not have natural strength in her?
Of course not. Some girls were called a strong-willed child; other girls didn’t find their strength until they were much older. Just like plants grow differently from one another, children do, too. Regardless when their strength became noticeable to others, it behooves us to support girls when they’re young to give them the greatest chance of fully embracing who they are.
As mentioned above, strong girls can be introverts we’ve supported well in their preference to observe the world rather than be loud in it. They may model strength in the quietest and most subtle of ways. Their skills might not be what the “loud” world needs, but they might grow to be women whose quiet influence moves mountains. Plate tectonics are real even though few people see them, yes?
Let strong girls be strong. Hear them; let them have the voice that comes naturally to them. Give them space to be fully themselves — and that’s exactly what they’ll grow to be.
Sarah R. Moore is an internationally published writer and the founder of Dandelion Seeds Positive Parenting. You can follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram. She’s currently worldschooling her family. Her glass is half full.