Raising Strong Daughters

Two years ago I wrote a series called Raising Daughters with Moxie (you can find all of the posts on my Favorites page) about the importance of raising strong daughters. I’ve been thinking about that series a lot lately. As Cady gets older it seems to become even more important to teach her how to be a strong woman.

Every day I see examples of forces at work that want to tear our daughters down or “put them in their place.” Just yesterday Heather wrote about the nurse practioner at her pediatrician’s office telling her six year old that she needed to watch her weight.

As mothers we are the front line between our daughters and a world that is ready to tell them they are not good enough. It is our job to teach them that they are so much more than good enough. Two summers ago I wrote these six tips for raising strong daughters. I think they apply even more today then they did then.

being a mom

1. Believe in her. How can you expect your daughter to be able to achieve her dreams if YOU don’t believe that she can. My Mom has always supported me no matter what I’ve tried. She’s always had more confidence in me than I have in myself. I want to be the same way for my daughter.

2. Let her be herself. How many moms do you know that try to live vicariously through their daughters? Don’t be that mom. Encourage her interests even if it is something you don’t particularly care for. If you have always been a “tom boy” and your daughter is into dance and makeup then suck it up and learn more about her interests. The vice versa also holds true as well. If you always dreamed of having a girly girl that you could dress up in hair bows and lace dresses, but all she wants to wear is blue jeans and a ponytail then give up YOUR dream. Don’t make her give up hers.

3. Expect more from her. Studies have shown when we expect more from our daughters then they expect more from themselves. As I said before, my mom has always had more confidence in me than I have. She pushes me to do better, be better, and to try more things than I would normally try on my own. She believes that I can and that makes it possible for me to actually achieve more.

4. Let her know when you’re proud of her. Our daughters will face tons of people from their friends to their teachers to their future bosses pointing out what they do wrong. What they really need is someone in their life that points out what they do right. As parents we so often find ourselves in the role of “punisher” that we sometimes forget that our most important job is “encourager.” Or at least that is the way it is for me. Sometimes I get so wrapped up in daily life and am pointing out all the stuff Cady needs to do that I forget to praise her for what she does.

being a mom


5. Let her fail. I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned the most from mistakes I’ve made. Of course we want our kids to succeed and excel at everything, but that just isn’t possible. When we let our children fall down, they learn how to pick themselves back up. If we constantly run in to catch our daughters before they fail, then they are never going to learn how to overcome.

6. Be an example. I read recently (I don’t remember where) that our children learn more about how to be from the same sex parent. In other words, our daughters learn how to be women by the example we set. When we are confident in our abilities, when we don’t belittle ourselves, when we have a positive self image, then our daughters will learn that is the way to be. My Mom had lots of reasons to give up, but she never did. She was determined to create a better life for herself and her children and that is just what she did. Now from that example I can strive to do the same thing for my kids.

What are some of the things you are doing to ensure that you are raising strong daughters?

For more posts in this series you can select the Girl Power tab above or visit one of these previous posts:

Teaching Self Worth To Our Children
Teaching Our Girls to Turn “I Can’t” Into “I Can!”
Raising Our Daughters to be Themselves

Linking up with Mama Kat for Writer’s Workshop.


    • says

      I love that my friends like Stacie and Kristi had kids before me. They are such great moms and I know that if I ever need any advice I can go to them. I really admire the job they’ve done with their girls.

  1. says

    This is great advice! As the mother of two daughters, I am amazed at how they respond so differently to life. I encourage them to take chances and not to be afraid of not being perfect.

    Blingerz Community Manager
    Dana recently posted…Summer Clothing Color FunMy Profile

    • says

      YES! I think there is so much pressure put on them to be perfect and good and to fit this certain image. It is up to us to tell them that is, well, bullshit.

  2. Kristi Baumbach says

    Love this! As mom to three girls, it’s so important to hear it repeated! I try to do all of these and hopefully am succeeding enough! So far, my girls are wonderful and I love their differences! And they all seem strong and have opinions of their own so I guess so far so good! :)

    • says

      Like I commented to Carrie above, I love that you and Stacie had kids before me. I think you are both such great moms, and I know that I can always come to you for advice. I really admire the job you are both doing with your girls.

    • says

      My mom set such a good example for me. Even still today, she thinks I can do anything. She is always very encouraging. I want my daughter to one day be able to say the same thing about me.

    • says

      Oh yes. That may just be the hardest one on the list. We want them to be so, so successful, but you never learn by doing everything right or constantly having someone there to fix what you screw up. Plus you never learn to own up to your mistakes, and as an adult I see just how important that is.

    • says

      You are going to be such a great mom one day. I see what a great job you are already doing with your sister and brothers. You rock B!

      PS I hope I get to see you in Dallas in Sept.

    • says

      Oh yeah. Me too. I fall into this total slump where I’m all “you need to,” “why didn’t you,” “what were thinking,” and then I have to stop and check myself. I have two pretty awesome kids and they need to know that I believe that.

  3. says

    I don’t know if I ever told you this, but your Moxie Girl series is what led me to your blog in the first place. It was a great series and this is a great post.

    All of these ring true for me. And I think you are right as our girls get older the more important they become. I was trying to pick of just a couple I was working on with TweenStar, but honestly I have recent stories for each of them.

    We should team up and do some sort of parenting our daughters series for the fall. There is lots out there in bloggy land for moms of boys, but not as much for moms of girls.

    • says

      I’m so glad it did because I love ya!

      We totally need to hook up on that idea. I’ve been thinking of writing more on this topic because it is so dear to me.

  4. says

    Amen, amen, and amen! This post rocked my own socks off. I have an almost four year old daughter and our relationship is so very important to me. I think having a daughter is one of the scariest things in the world because so many women have screwed up relationships with their moms. I think you hit on every important part. I don’t know if you read that viral article about talking to little girls, but I totally believe that one of the best things we can do for our daughters is take interest in things beyond their “pretty clothes” and “girliness.” To take interest in what they are intellectually interested in–books, ideas, themes, what they like to play, who they want to be. You have totally inspired me with this recycled post–gonna go back and read the other ones! Oh, and I’m pinning this one as well :)
    hilljean recently posted…How To Be An Awesome SisterMy Profile

    • says

      Oh I’m sure I read it. I read lots of those! LOL I’m glad you came over and shared my post. I may recycle some of the others from that series. I’m thinking of posting more on this subject in the future so I hope you stick around. 😉

      • says

        Please do post more on that subject! I would love to be referred to more information regarding parenting on daughters. I also read the post you recommended about the six year old that “needed to watch her weight.” I just couldn’t believe it. It just emphasizes how important and fragile raising a daughter can be in this day and age.
        hilljean recently posted…How To Be An Awesome SisterMy Profile

    • says

      Oh yes! I use these same things with my son. I just focus on “daughters” because it seems (to me) that boys don’t have as much trouble being strong.

  5. Keri says

    I have 2 very different daughters, 8 and almost 10. I encourage them to do the things they enjoy and not to compare them. I have always heard stories like “why can’t you be more like your _______” I don’t agree with that at all. It ‘s very discouraging. Another really good tool I use is to encourage my girls to stand up for what is right even when every one else is heading down the wrong avenue. Don’t be afraid of what others think and be a good judge of character.

  6. Tammy says

    Hello this was a great article with some wonderful advice. I can tell you that raising a daughter is tough in this day and age; however, I would not have changed it a bit. My daughter is now 18 and is fixing to start college and I am so proud of her. I always told her she could do whatever she set her mind too and being a single mother it was tough at times but she has turned out to be a respectful, caring, and loving young woman.

  7. says

    You hit everything on the head. I loved this post, and I agree with you. I did all of that, and now my 17 year old daughter will be graduating at the end of her Junior year, already has her eyes on a great college. In school she is involved in drama, marching band, concert band, symphonic band, editor of the literary magazine, co editor of the newspaper, tech club, mathletes, chess club…and ugh, there is 1 more…..anyway, I just needed to tell you that I agree with everything you said. Moms, listen and do what is said and your daughters will be nothing less than great!

  8. Carolyn says

    I love these tips! I think another one that I value with my six year old is honest and respectful discussion…. We have had “big girl” talks about things that are really important (like when she was telling boys at school she wanted to kiss them) where I lay out why some behavior isn’t appropriate and leave the forum open to get questions without getting angry or judgmental.

  9. says

    #6 there scares the crap out of me. I struggle with this. I was tortured as a child. I don’t have a positive self-image. I have PTSD and General Anxiety Disorder. I think… a lot of bad things about myself.

    I struggle with figuring out how to handle the fact that I know my brain is malfunctioning. I am safe now. I am in a good place now. But I’m still sad. I feel very bad that I am being this kind of model of an adult.

  10. says

    As the lone male (I think) commenting on this article I would like say that I really like the article. I, too, think raising strong daughters is immensely important. I also think that some of these points could be re-framed from a father/male point of view. I have read, I do not recall where, that the father figure for girls is very important as they become young women and begin interacting with young men. Perhaps there is also some “perspective” gained by the father role that as a counterbalance to “made like me” and vicarious living in point #2.

    Good job.

  11. Jen says

    Thanks for writing this, I think all mothers need to read it! My daughter is an amazing 6yr old and is very different to me at that age and I am fascinated to watch her grow and develop. I am a big believer of letting children be who they are and strive to encourage them at every turn. My daughter has made me look at myself differently and I used to be very negative about my body but because I don’t want her to grow up with a negative self image I have made a big improvement of being,acting and voicing my new found pride in my body….! So thanks again :)

  12. says

    Wow. What great advice. My daughters are grown with daughters of their own. As a Grandmother I let my granddaughters know that they are perfect, beautiful and capable. I am their biggest cheerleader. I don’t have to teach them all the things their Mother does. I just let them know they are awesome. Motherhood was serious work, being a grandmother is the frosting on the cupcake!
    cindy recently posted…Cinnamon white chocolate, Cranberry BarsMy Profile

  13. Jl Johnson says

    I praise effort and don’t label her “smart”. If she succeeded, I point out that she worked hard and reached her goal. Praising effort means that she can accomplish anything if she tries hard enough and that intelligence isn’t something that somebody is born with but something that someone works for.

  14. Aja says

    Very awesome list. My 4 year old is going through the ” I can’t do it! ” phase. I tell him I don’t want to hear ” I can’t do it ” until he’s tried a couple different ways. Sometimes it’s just plain physics that’s working against him. But he has since started telling me ” I’m getting frustrated” instead of ” I can’t do it” and will ask for help. And I just encourage him to think it through and he usually solves his own problem.

  15. Maegan says

    I am a mother to one little girl age 8 going on 9. She is extremely book smart but has no common sense, at all! Bless her sweet heart! She also has an extreme talking issue. Anyone have any advise on helping her through school without loosing my mind!!

  16. Haley says

    You are so right! My little girl has two older brothers, which, honestly, helps her in a way because she feels like she has to do everything they do, and usually does! I love my kids and honestly, I think this article could apply to boys, too. Every child needs to believe in their own potential and learn how to trust that voice inside themselves that will always lead them in the right direction- no matter what anyone else thinks of it. If I never teach my children anything else, I will consider my job as a parent a job well done if they can do that some day. This helps. Thanks.

  17. Deisha says

    I truly think these are amazing tips. I’m not a mother, but I am a daughter that was raised by a wonderful mom. Mom always told me how beautiful I was and always helped me in whatever I did. She told me that when I was a baby(toddler) every time she would change my diaper or clothes or give me a bath, she always told me how special and beautiful I was. She always supported me and helped me get involved in many activities (piano, choir, gymnastics, cheer leading, church). Now, I am an Honor’s student in college, a Phi Theta Kappa officer and one of the most confident people I know. Even when people being me down, I know that there is at least one person in this world who would say otherwise: my mom

  18. Deisha says

    I truly think these are amazing tips. I’m not a mother, but I am a daughter that was raised by a wonderful mom. Mom always told me how beautiful I was and always helped me in whatever I did. She told me that when I was a baby(toddler) every time she would change my diaper or clothes or give me a bath, she always told me how special and beautiful I was. She always supported me and helped me get involved in many activities (piano, choir, gymnastics, cheer leading, church). Now, I am an Honor’s student in college, a Phi Theta Kappa officer and one of the most confident people I know. Even when people being me down, I know that there is at least one person in this world who would say otherwise: my mom.
    So here is my advice to moms:
    1. Every moment alone with your daughter is quality time. You don’t always have to plan some elaborate event. The little things matter too. My best memory with my mom is me watching her cook. Even if I was in the way, she never kicked me out of the kitchen. She even put me to use sometimes.
    2. Once your daughter is older, it can sometimes be hard to talk to a parent about something. I was always scared to talk to mom about some things because I felt she wouldn’t understand. But those few occasions that I did talk to her, she offered me advice. She didn’t tell me what to do. Therefore, the choice was left to me (if it wasn’t a serious situation) and I felt that mom was more of a friend than a parent.
    3. Become interested in what your daughter likes. In middle school, I liked being in band. My mom liked music, and playing piano, but bringing a loud instrument into the house was kinda irritating. However, even though I didn’t stick with it for more than a year, I learned how to read music better and now I have a scholarship for a special choir ensemble based on music literacy.

    Being a girl in this type of world is hard, especially if you don’t feel good about yourself. Set the example. If your daughter constantly hears you complain about your weight or looks, she’ll learn that it’s okay to do that to herself. Be the type of person you expect her to be :)

  19. Kia LaBracke says

    Great post, very thoughtful. I have two sons and my littlest is a girl – so she’s quite outspoken and stands up for herself. However, there are a lot of times when I have to step in and discourage some of the attitudes/behavior/buy-in to bad examples. She knows she isn’t allowed (at our house – even though I can’t control others’ viewing) to watch shows where the girls speak Valley and talk only about cute outfits, shopping and crushes on boys.

    I only take one issue here. As long as the pediatrician isn’t speaking in front of your daughter on this matter – that would be NOT okay, though difficult logistically in the context of a well visit with a younger patient – there is a real concern over obesity in children. (I work for the American Academy of Pediatrics, in full disclosure.) We know that EARLY EARLY EARLY (similar to brain development) kids are creating the amount of fat cells they will have forever. You can’t get rid of them later in life, with exercise or diet. The long term potentially grave health effects (high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes) must be understood with parents to keep the child healthy. It’s current best practice and standard anticipatory guidance. A pediatrician would not be doing right by his/her patient (your child) by not getting the parents on board/educated about why diet is important, and measuring BMI.

  20. Kia LaBracke says

    One more thing – it certainly would be appropriate for a physician to speak to your daughter in age-appropriate terms about healthy diet, how it keeps her strong and helps her grow, etc. So positive conversation. I would be upset, though, if the doctor used words like you described.

  21. Kristy says

    I was wandering how I can get my daughter to take a shower by herself. She knows how but wont and is too scared to stay by herself in the bathroom?

    • says

      I would start small. Stay in with her, then close the curtain, then in and out every minute or so and increase the time until she can stay the entire time.

  22. Marion says

    I know there are many different circumstances and situations within families. You can’t account for all of them. My daughter’s mother, my wife, has been sick for my daughter’s entire life. She is 14 now and has learned a lot about life from a male perspective, me and her older brother. Much of what you have given us is how boys are raised. Her mom I think has taught her one very important lesson… perseverance under duress.

  23. Bart Jenkins says

    doesn’t this apply to boys to? seems like good advice, but there is a definite ovary-centric stance being taken.

  24. says

    I’ve raised my own daughter in these principles. She is 14 now, does not follow peer pressure, walks with confidence and chooses her her own activities. She now has chosen to be in Jobs Daughters, where she is learning leadership among other skills.

  25. says

    Hi there, I have three daughters and I loved your article. I think one point you missed was how to ignore the ignorance of those around you as the mother of daughters.. Coming from Europe I was shocked as to how in America some people would make comments like ” oh you have three daughters, omg” implying as if it was something derogatory to have daughters. These men and women have created a sexually dangerous environment for Americas daughters and then havecthw audacity to act as if it is the fault of these little babies who have just entered their disgusting world. I think it is shameful that America talks about rights and all but here Infact women are exploited everyday for everybrightvrhey are given . Daughters are blessings and the first thing we can teach them is to show them that we love ourselves because we are women and are proud to have given birth to future women. This is the foundation of their entire future character building!!’


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