I remember thinking as a young dad that I was committed to raising strong daughters who someday could lead others. And yet, unfortunately, I often found myself intuitively thinking of my son as a strong leader and my daughters as, well, softer. I’d focus on wanting my daughters to be compassionate and kind, or something like that.
Now don’t get me wrong. I do want that for my daughters (and my son)! However, I also want my daughters to know they are strong people who are capable of leading. Of course, they don’t have to be CEOs, but they can know they have something to offer. Here are 5 tips for raising strong daughters that I’m learning as I go.
1. Encourage them to take risks.
Remember the famous Teddy Roosevelt quote (recently popularized by Brene Brown)?
“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena …who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Of course, Roosevelt used the masculine. Most of us default to that as well. However, we want both our sons and daughters to dare greatly, to take worthwhile risks.
2. Let them fail.
If you’re going to encourage risks, you’re going to have to learn to let them fail. Failure is part of life. Any risk has some probability of failure (otherwise it’s not actually a risk). But don’t protect your daughter from failure. Let her fail and then help her learn from her failure. Help her get back up and try again.
3. Give them responsibility at home.
A significant part of leadership is taking responsibility for what is yours. As parents, we play a key role in developing this in our children. It can be tempting to want to make life as easy as possible for your daughter. Yet, there are valuable lessons for her to learn in having to step up and take responsibility for herself.
Encourage her to get a job when she’s old enough. Give her chores to do around the house. Talk with her about managing her money. Have her cook dinner once in a while. These are basic skills, but they are also building blocks for teaching her to take responsibility for what is hers.
4. Give them role models.
As I grew up, my world was filled with strong male role models both in life and in fiction. From leaders in my church to Indiana Jones and Luke Skywalker, I constantly had men who modeled leadership in ways that allowed me to imagine myself as a leader. That kind of imagination helps our daughters to see themselves as leaders. What role models are you giving your daughter? Are you intentionally introducing her to strong women leaders in real life and fiction? This is important if she’s going to be able to see herself as a leader.
5. Bite your tongue.May we, as dads, be our daughters’ biggest advocates.
There will be times you might be tempted to make snide comments about your daughter being overly emotional, or dramatic, or “needing a man,” or something else you don’t really mean. But you heard your dad say it to your sister, or it sounds funny—stop. Bite your tongue. Remember, your words are powerful. Words make worlds. Use your words to build possibilities for your daughter, not barriers.
May we, as dads, be our daughters’ biggest advocates, raising strong daughters who feel empowered to lead with all the gifts and resources they’ve been given.
Sound off: What are other ways that you can raise a daughter who feels empowered to lead?