By TY PHILLIPS
I found myself walking the aisles of Toys-R-Us the other day, looking for a list of things that I wanted to get for my daughter to start our Spring together. More sand for her sand box, new Minnie Mouse flip flops and of course, what spring is complete without a new ball for the pool. As I was finishing up my shopping, I came across a seemingly innocent comment from a mom as she grabbed a toy make-up kit for her little girl and said, “We’re going to make you look pretty.”
At first I smiled, and then as I took a few more steps, what she said started to sink in, and I found myself sighing as I thought about another generation of young women growing up thinking they aren’t good enough as they are. We teach our girls through cultural and marketing influence that they need to be thinner, prettier, sexier, and in every way, more pleasing to the male of the species. I rarely come across a young woman, or woman my own age, who is comfortable going out before they “put their face on.” While I am fine if a woman chooses to wear makeup, what I would prefer is that we teach our young ladies something more meaningful.
Here are four things we, and especially fathers, need to teach our young girls so they can grow up to be strong, independent, confident, and free.
1. You’re good enough
You are good enough, just as you are. You don’t need to add to or subtract from who you are right now. Don’t feel the need to cover or uncover yourself in order to please anyone or meet an unrealistic and sexualized expectation. We all go through stages of growth, and we all have fluctuations in weight and appearance. These don’t make you who you are. Your character does. A beautiful face cannot make up for a shallow and bitter heart.
Be willing to shine from within before you worry about what others think of your appearance. I know it’s hard. I’ve been there too and dealt with my own body issues. I’ve been made fun of and teased for being small, big-eared, and shy. Our looks are often the first thing others see, but our actions and our heart will be what those same people remember.
2. Brains over Body
Be intelligent. Pursue pastimes that build strength of mind and character. Believe it or not, intelligence is beautiful. A woman who looks like a super-model but can’t name the seven continents or fumbles over their, there, and they’re is, well, a turn off. A woman not afraid to engage intellectually and shine as a strong and confident person has a radiant beauty that will far outlast the time when gravity is no longer her friend.
Flaunt your books, not your breasts. While many an immature man will chase you for your appearance, an adult, a respectful man, will want you for your strength of will and wit. He will want a counterpart of equal or greater ability. Only a childish person wants someone to tag just because they look good on the arm.
3. It is Your Body
Don’t be afraid to say no. Whether that be sex, parties, or any other activity that you aren’t comfortable engaging in—it’s always your decision. Be your own person and respect your body. Sex can be an amazing experience, but it can also be degrading and emotionally painful if you aren’t ready and if you are not with the right person. Don’t be pressured into it.
Don’t feel that sex somehow defines you as a woman. It doesn’t. Our sexual relationships should be about trust and intimacy and open communication and sharing, not ownership and physical conquest; if you have any doubts, walk away. When you are ready for sex, respect each other. Possessive control and jealousy are ugly traits, and they only serve to destroy the good that you have between you.
Nothing will be so vital in your maturation process as the ability to communicate openly and honestly. Communication is the foundation of how we grow and learn. Your ability to say yes, or no, and to articulate why, will influence not only your home life, but each relationship you have—including work, friendships, and parenting.
Speaking your mind with clarity and confidence will be vital to your ability to create healthy boundaries and relationships. Communication can make or break every situation, and it can turn even a seemingly negative one into something positive. Don’t be afraid to speak your mind, to speak what is just and true.
* * *
While no article or book can encompass the entirety of hopes and wishes that we see for each other, small things do seem to make an impact. When I look at my children—my three daughters—these steps are something I want them to feel strong and confident taking. But the key to their learning this is my respecting them. I must model the respectful behavior from a man towards a woman that I want them to cultivate in their lives. The changes or nature we wish to see in them, we must first create in ourselves.
We mirror each other. It is how we learn, how we communicate, and how we manage social situations, for good or for ill. Have the courage as a parent to be a reflection you will be proud to see. While there are always exceptions to the rule, we are the greatest influence our children have. To help your children choose well, be the type of person you want them to respect.
Ty Phillips is a former big city bouncer turned pacifist and Buddhist, and the cofounder of TheTatooedBuddha.com. http://www.thetattooedbuddha.com/. He is a columnist for Petoskey News-Review and freelance writer whose pieces have been published in Patheos, Rebelle Society, Elephant Journal, BeliefNet, Lions Roar, and more. He is the father of three girls and in his spare time he powerlifts in his freezing garage.
“4 Ways Dads Can Raise Stronger Girls” appeared first on The Good Men Project. It was reprinted with permission. Read more awesome The Good Men Project stories here.
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.