The beginning of the new decade has brought with it tremendous transformation across various spheres. We are now in a world where stereotypes are constantly being broken, where we see role reversal every day, where expectations and equations in the family are transforming, where the lines of gender are beginning to blur, where people are being perceived as individuals and not on the basis of gender. In a transformative state like this, an important question that arises is ‘Has the way we bring up our sons and daughters changed enough to match the societal changes?’ 

We have witnessed monumental changes in the way gender roles are being perceived today. We can spot major differences in the role that women play in society. More than ever before, women are taking charge; they are venturing out in the public domain and are contributing to the family’s economic growth. 

There remains no sphere that has been untouched by women. They have been to the moon and back, they are joining the armed forces, they are excelling in sports and are making a mark for themselves on various different platforms. Despite this, the truckload of expectations that is often placed on women by society is a little unfair. Girls are often expected to mould themselves into becoming nurturers, take full responsibility of child-rearing, become perfect housewives, look a certain way, talk in a certain manner and present themselves in a particular way as dictated by the society. 

Dealing with all these pressures while also trying to find your voice and carving a path for yourself at the same time can be too overwhelming. We as parents cannot really make our children escape this pressure but we can prepare them well so that they are well equipped to deal with it when they reach that stage. 

While a large part of what we teach our children remains the same, I believe that there are certain things that need to be taught to sons and daughters differently so that they can be prepared to be treated equally later in life. As the mother of a seven-year-old girl, there are so many things that I want to tell her, and most importantly, I want to lead by example because I know that she is watching me every step of the way. And because there’s a lot that we have to prepare our daughters for, it could be a challenge to figure out where to begin. For this purpose, I have curated a list of 5 things that we must teach our daughters. Read on! 

1. Be Aware, Be Independent, Be Conscious: Children learn through stories, both the ones that we tell them and the ones that they see unfolding right before their eyes. When we tell little girls stories of princesses stuck in towers, waiting for a knight in shining armour to come and rescue them, they would look up to the princesses as their role models. In fact, daughters need to be reminded that princesses can be warriors, that they are no less than those knights and if need be, they can save the prince who is stuck atop a tower. 

Girls also need to be taught to stand up for themselves. They must know how to defend themselves both in word and in action. Telling them, the stories of strong women would open up a whole new world for them and would prepare them to face everything with courage. 

Along with that, girls need to be taught that during the times they are made to feel like they owe something to someone, they must confidently stand up for what they believe in. Love, affection and expression are very personal feelings and they must be reminded that nobody is entitled to their affection unless they feel connected to them. Being aware, independent and conscious goes a long way in how our daughters react and respond to various situations. 

In addition to empowering girls, build a strong blanket of family members that you can trust. Encourage girls to not be afraid to reach out to them in case of any problems. This would leave them feeling safe and secure. 

2. Respect Yourself and Realize Your Self-Worth: Girls must be taught to respect themselves and recognize their worth. The society often attaches a sense of superiority to boys and keeps bringing down girls. But it is important to instil the value that people are more than their gender. No matter what the gender is, every child must be taught to work hard and become independent and financially self-sufficient. 

Being a girl should never be a hindrance or an excuse to underperform or to squirm out of uncomfortable situations. Little girls must be raised with the value that there is absolutely nothing that girls cannot do. We must encourage our daughters to dream big and then be brave enough to pursue those dreams. 

3. Be Assertive and Set Goals: Girls need to be taught to set goals for themselves and not lead a life complying to those set up for them by society. Personal aspirations need to be kept alive and we must encourage our little girls to follow their goals and aspirations with all their might. 

Getting married and having kids should not be the only objective of a girl’s life. It can be a part of life if they want it to be but not everything should begin or end there. They must be taught that their goals, dreams and expectations are as important as their male counterparts’. So they don’t need to be afraid of anything and nothing should stop them from following their dreams. Teaching them the importance of being focused and assertive while trying to achieve their goals will ultimately help them reach wherever they want to go. 

4. Love Your Body: Loving yourself for who you are and being comfortable in your own skin is an excessively essential element of empowerment. Such empowerment of young girls eventually leads them to become strong women. Eating healthy, staying fit and grooming oneself and staying polished are essential aspects of self-improvement. But it is also important to understand that the images projected to us as the standards of beauty have gone through multiple edits to look the way they do and we must not regard them as the benchmark of beauty. We must teach our girls to love their body and all the aspects that are regarded as “flaws” because those very flaws set them apart from the crowd. 

The prettiest girls are the ones who radiate a glow of confidence around them. Being courageous, hardworking and ethical is what makes people truly beautiful and that’s what girls should aspire to be. 

Along with this, we must teach our girls to value their “me time”. Taking some time off and spending time with your own self is a great way to relax, rejuvenate and to show love to your body.  

5. Support Girls and Women Around You: Empowerment is never an isolated phenomenon. Supporting other women around is an essential aspect of being a strong woman. We must teach our daughters to not hesitate in extending that helping hand. 

Teaching our daughters to be the girl that other girls find a friend in is an important trait in order to create a world that celebrates the spirit of shared sisterhood. 

Every effort that we put into raising our children today will subsequently contribute to bringing about a change in the world tomorrow. I sincerely hope that together, as parents, we are able to raise the next generation of wonderful, secure, confident young women. 

For further information on this topic, watch the full episode on this topic on the ‘Get Set Parent With Pallavi’ YouTube Channel. 

October 07, 2020 — Dr. Pallavi Rao Chaturvedi
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