Raising Strong Daughters
Guest Posted by Holly Wehde
I admit it. I am a strong, independent woman. Because of this, I wanted to raise strong daughters who didn't let people push them around…but were kind, sweet, courageous and powerful! Daughters who became confident women who believed and acted on the fact that they have a responsibility to bring change where there is an injustice in the world.
I set out to raise strong women and I did. I have 5 children and two of them are girls. My girls are amazing young women of 26 and 19 years now, but they started out just like me. They were confident…until their first failure and rejection. Then they retreated and pulled back, and the world suddenly looked big and scary. And it seemed so much easier to stay in the shadows. But NO ONE belongs in the shadows. So I did what I think parents should do. I prepared, not protected, them for the hurdles, struggles and disappointments and failures that were sure to come.
Here are some of the ways I did that:
No Comparisons: We did not compare our girls to each other OR their brothers. We did not compare them to anyone. The journey was theirs and as long as they kept growing and stretching and challenging themselves, they were on the right path.
Find Unique Traits: We made a point to draw out and celebrate their differences and to find something special about each one that was very different from the others.
Praise Effort & Risk, not Result: We praised them for trying new things even if they didn’t succeed. They were always celebrated for the bigger win, which was conquering the fear of putting themselves out there to fail. We’ve always taught that failure paves their way to success, and it can be exciting because it means you tried and are taking risk! They were taught to embrace and enjoy that journey!
Teach A Healthy Kind of Strength: We’ve always taught our kids to be strong. But no matter if you’re a girl or boy, strength is manifested through loving other people, standing up for what’s right, and having bravery to walk the path set out for you. Having a skewed sense of strength can lead some to encourage traits that do not uplift others. But we taught our kids that our strength will always uplift others, not tear them down. And that having emotions and being vulnerable with others is a great strength in and of itself.
Have a Belief Mindset: We taught that instead of having a fixed mindset, they should cultivate a belief mindset. A belief mindset says that they can learn anything, change when they want to, and grow. A fixed mindset believes you are who you are and don’t have the ability to move forward much, but a belief mindset is crucial for finding success and joy in this world.
Challenge Them: We’ve “prayerfully” put challenges before them, like asking them to order their own food at a restaurant, challenging them to ask for directions, being creative and putting on plays for friends, going out of their way to meet their neighbor, making their own doctor’s appointments, and paying for products at the store. These challenges, though scary at a young age, have given them confidence in their innate abilities to be independent.
Be Vulnerable: I’ve chosen to be vulnerable as a woman and mom. I have intentionally been an example of trying new, scary things and when I failed I still celebrated myself for trying. I’ve also been open about the many different sides of womanhood that a woman lives. They’ve seen me run a million dollar company…and at the same time volunteer to clean the bathrooms at church. They’ve seen me get all glammed up to go out on the town with their dad…and then the next morning shingle our roof. We’ve encouraged them to play dress up and feel pretty and climb trees and get dirty, to love barbies and hot wheels, and find ways to be kind AND strong. We don’t believe that life has to be lived in black & whites, and embracing the beauty of different kinds of womanhood is freeing for them!
Let’s end on this last point because it is so important - being vulnerable. Being vulnerable for your kids isn’t easy. But I believe it is the most important way we can illustrate the complexity of life and how to navigate it with joy. Here are some ways I’ve shown up in vulnerability for my girls:
My girls have seen me enjoy and celebrate my body at a size 6 and a size 16!
They’ve seen me have healthy relationships and enjoy and love people.
They’ve seen me walk away from unhealthy people and bad influences. They’ve seen how it hurt and they’ve seen me cry for the loss of friendships. But they have seen me pick myself up again and heal.
They’ve seen me be passionately in love with their dad and receive his compliments, care and protectiveness, not as a weakness, but as a gift.
They have heard me say, “Please forgive me.” Many times when I blew it with them, their dad and others. They have forgiven me and learned to admit when they blow it too.
They’ve seen me treated differently because I’m a woman. And they’ve seen me choose to not let it change who I am or my attitude about life.
Lastly, they have seen me have a personal walk with God and look to him for how to be a good mother, a good wife, and a good friend. And I praise God they have continued that in their own life. There is nothing that could make me happier.
My husband and I have let God guide us for the needs of each of our children. Some needed more praising, others needed more challenging. Every child, girl and boy, is different and deserves a unique relationship.
We’ve raised our girls to be strong by loving who they were uniquely made to be. We’ve raised strong girls because we’ve taught that strength and femininity are NOT mutually exclusive. We’ve raised strong girls because we haven’t put any preconceived notions on them about what they could do. We believed God had a plan and purpose for them and we were just along to help guide that purpose, not change it.
We haven't gotten it all right, but all our girls thank us for encouraging them to take healthy risks and to never be afraid to fail. And I am so proud of the strong children we have today, that navigate life with strength, grace, and kindness.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Holly Wehde is an accountability coach, entrepreneur, pastor, business mentor, mom to 5 grown kids, and wife of 30 years, She believes that we were all created to live with passion + purpose. She is passionate about inspiring people to be all they were created to be.