How to raise empowered girls (or boys!)
The Philippine society traditionally honors and respects women, especially mothers. However, gender stereotypes still exist which can hinder our children especially from growing into the people God has designed them to be. Here are some ways to help your children especially girls to develop their confidence and find their voice:
1. Encourage your child to explore and pursue a passion.
Even at a very young age, children know what they like (and dislike). Allow your children to try new things and see how they feel about it. Once they express strong interest in an activity like sports or dancing, support and let them develop it into a passion, regardless of gender expectations. Your girl may just become an amazing baller, or your son a talented dancer. Don’t allow gender expectations to influence their inclinations too early, but allow them to decide for themselves what activities are worth pursuing.
2. Enable your child to make decisions on their own.
Few things build confidence like decision-making. Of course, choices need to be age-appropriate. Start with things like what they’d like to wear or eat, giving them options or boundaries that are safe (or won’t make you go crazy). Giving your child opportunities to decide on the small things gives them a sense of agency and responsibility. It also slowly builds their confidence in making bigger decisions later in life. It helps them realize that they do have a choice in many things, and are not just helpless or passive receivers of what life sends their way.
3. Give your child a voice, and listen.
Whether we mean to or not, we sometimes hush children into submission. “Keep quiet, just do what I say!” It’s a tricky balance, but there are times when we can let children speak their minds. Allow them to disagree on things that don’t affect core values or discipline.
Help them shape their thoughts and arguments clearly by asking questions. Give them airtime to say what’s on their minds. Address wrong thinking (e.g. they should have their way) or wrong motives (e.g. selfishness) that need to be corrected. You’re not only helping them become more rational when they want to express their opinions, but also shaping their character by looking into their thinking patterns and correcting wrong patterns early.
4. Encourage problem-solving instead of just fixing the problem for them.
By letting your kids figure things out (within appropriate limits), you enable them to become more resilient and creative. They learn the meaning of responsibility and owning up to mistakes. When things go wrong, particularly when it’s the result of their stubbornness, help your kids understand that there are ways to make things right again.
Guide them into the right path by prompting them with questions and possibilities. Ask them about possible actions and outcomes. And once they’ve given a satisfactory or sound *response, let them take care of things. There is a greater sense of triumph and ownership if children feel that they’ve figured it out themselves – even if it came with some hints from mom or dad.
As parents, we always need to be mindful of how much freedom and responsibility we give our children. Sometimes giving them too much of a say leads to rebellious behavior. You know your child best, and tempering their personalities with the right amounts of discipline and autonomy will help them grow into responsible, empowered adults. But as with your child, allow yourself to make mistakes, and correct yourself when needed. After all, nobody has figured out parenting completely.