What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up: Tips for Raising Daughters with A “can do anything” Mindset

The world is your oyster. That is the message we are supposed to tell our children from a young age, isn’t it?

As you mamas (and papas) know, raising kids is not easy, but girls (and I have THREE of them) have their own unique set of challenges - especially with everything going on in our society today.  The world is different, more complicated, for so many reasons. We, as women, have made progress for these young girls to follow us, but it is hardly perfect.

Last week, one of my daughters came home from school and said she and one of her girlfriends had been joining the boys at recess to play football.  She proceeded to tell me how much fun they had, but that they aren’t allowed to be the “Q” (quarterback) and that only one of the boys was “nice” and passed to them; the other boys wouldn’t.  Apparently, this had been going on for a while. My first reaction was anger, and I asked her if she talked with the other boys about it (which she did, but it didn’t seem to do anything). But then, I quickly calmed down as I felt proud and relieved that my daughter didn’t get discouraged by these boys’ actions and continued to stick with it and play.

It was at that moment I had a bit of a wake-up call.  What (more) can I be doing to set my daughters up for success and let them know the world truly is their oyster?

While it seemed like a very benign and trivial situation, this experience for my daughter is only the beginning of what I envision will be her future of navigating gender discrimination.

Not sure a clear roadmap exists, but here are a few things I have been doing to (hopefully) steer my kids in the right direction and instill strong values: I tell them that they can overcome any adversities, be and do whatever they want when they grow up, and know that just because they are girls doesn’t mean they can’t play football with the boys.

1. Read about other women in history who have paved the way for women’s rights today.

We enjoy biographies, and lately my girls have been enjoying the “Who Am I?” biography books.  My daughter brought one home from the library about Emmeline Pankhurst, a British political activist who fought for women’s rights, and another one about Ruth Bader Ginsburg persisting.  Seek out these stories and share these women’s achievements, and help your kids understand the barriers they had to overcome. It builds character and perspective.

2. Expose them to and introduce ideas for lines of work or career possibilities.

The designated “National Bring Your Kids to Work Day” is a great way to show your children in a more hands-on way what you do.  Consider even swapping with a friend in a different field so your kids can see another line of work. Seek out community events and experiences. Take a tour of your local firehouse or police station, go to museums, and find guest speakers like authors or scientists for other avenues of exposure.

3. Connect school work to real world ideas and applications.

All the theories and abstract information we learned over the years have real-world value and connections. Take the time to help your children understand why they are learning a concept.  For example, my third grader was learning about area and perimeter in math. I explained why this concept is important in the context of being an architect or engineer to help make sense of it.  Connecting these concepts to actual jobs in the world will expand their horizons about all they can do.

4. Encourage and support their ideas.

Kids have wild imaginations about what they might do when they grow up (I may have an astronaut, chef, and zookeeper one day!). Embrace their imaginations and encourage the innovative thinking. This helps foster creativity and nurtures the entrepreneur in our kids.

So, if you are on the all-girls team like me, we have a big job that can feel daunting. Just remember the little things we are already doing and can do to pave the way for our daughters to be pioneers, innovators, and leaders just like the incredible women they’ve read and learned about.  This is enough for us to say the world is your oyster and feel good about it.