Strong girls are truly having a moment right now. Whether it’s physically strong teens, like Bianca Andreescu dominating on the tennis court, or emotionally strong female sexual abuse survivors calling for justice, today’s girls are showing us all just how many varieties of strength exist in the world.
But in a society where girls and women have been told for so long to let the boys and men in their lives literally do the heavy lifting—and where women are still being shown as damsels in distress in movies and TV shows—the act of actually being strong can be tricky for girls who are exploring the world and discovering who they are.
Can she be strong and pretty at the same time? If she speaks out and stands up to bullies, can she still be seen as sweet and lovable? The answer is a resounding yes—especially because today’s gender identities are more fluid than ever, and the walls of what’s “for boys” versus “for girls” are coming down fast—but that might not be obvious to your girl. Here are four simple ways you can help her embrace her inherent strength today.
- Give her strong girl role models
There’s nothing wrong with having some fairy tales in the mix, but make sure fainting princesses aren’t the only heroines she’s focusing on. From listening to female-fronted rock bands on your next road trip to reading about the adventures of Amelia Earhart during storytime, the more she sees (and hears about!) female strength, the more comfortable she’ll be owning her own strength.
- Toss labels in the trash
Gendered stereotypes like “girly girl” and “tomboy” reinforce the idea that there’s only one way to be feminine (or that one way is better than the others!), while everything else is better suited for guys. The time for that type of thinking passed long ago!
- Stop “fixing” her appearance
The more you fuss over her looks, the more she’ll fixate on them, too. That means she might shy away from trying out for the volleyball team for fear of getting sweaty in front of other kids or skip out of swim meets because she doesn’t want to have pool hair all day. That’s not to say she can’t use fashion and beauty as a form of self-expression and be strong—but let her rock her own look without projecting your own standards of beauty onto her.
- Talk to her about what strength really means
Many people equate strength with fearlessness or the ability to dominate in physical challenges. But strength is so much more than that, and it’s important for your girl to understand. Trying something new, even if she might not be great at it, takes strength. Trying her best takes strength. Creating boundaries and standing up for herself takes strength. Team up with your girl to create a list of at least ten ways that she’s strong. You know she’s made of tough stuff, but it’s important for her to realize that, too!