Like A Girl: How To Raise an Independent Kid
When I was 14 I dreamt about owning a Ford F-150 truck. I’ not entirely sure why I wanted to own one but I know it had something to do with the good ol’ American nostalgia I experienced as a kid riding in my grandfather’s truck. I loved being seated up high with the windows down and the music blasting on the open Oklahoma country roads. To make this dream a reality, I got a job as a lifeguard and saved every nickel and dime I had. By the time I was 17 (with the help of my generous parents) I was living my teenage dream and driving my F-150 around town with so much pride. It wasn’t red like Winter’s little Ford push cart, but it was mine, and I can recall feeling a sense of girl empowerment, a feeling that I don’t think I had ever been attuned to before getting my truck. It wasn’t because I had a truck per se, but because I had a dream, worked hard and achieved it. Plus, it helped that I burned the stereotype down in my town that trucks were only for boys, because, hello, NO they are not!
When I was pregnant with Winter, I was certain the baby would be a boy. I had always envisioned myself with a son and it wasn’t until the final hour that my mind was changed and was convinced that I was having a girl (you can read what changed my mind in her birth story here). To say that I was shocked when Perry announced that she was a girl would be an understatement. While I was beyond elated to have a healthy baby, I vividly remember some insecurities about my ability to raise a strong, independent woman. I know each gender is faced with their own challenges, but for some reason, raising a girl just intimidated me a bit more.
Thankfully, my initial reservations thus far about raising a girl have dwindled significantly. And with gender roles and stereotypes surrounding us, I am even more bound and determined to make the statement, “Like a girl” symbolize strength, resilience, determination and hope.
Everytime I see Winter and this truck, it reminds me that I am a strong, fulfilled woman and it gives me hope that my independent, sassy 16-month-old will be too.
Perry and I work hard to increase her self-esteem and self-reliance on a daily basis. Below are 5 things that we are doing to help shape her into the incredible woman I know that she will be one day:
- Focus on effort versus outcome: I think it is so important to acknowledge a child’s effort on something rather than solely focus on the outcome. No, that doesn’t mean that I think Winter should get a participation ribbon for everything she does, but I do see the value in making her feel good for what she tries to do. Right now, she is obsessed with “putting her shoes on”. I write this in parenthesis because she will sit there for 15 minutes and not even come close. Yet, when she concentrates like that, I will often say something like, “Oh I see you are working hard getting those shoes on.” I know she is too young to understand exactly what I am saying but I am hoping I can foster self-esteem and self-reliance by noticing and acknowledging when she is working hard.
- Label difficult feelings: As a psychologist, I have been taught how to help people identify their feelings. It’s a skill set that takes a lot of practice and that even I struggle with from time to time. Whenever I see Winter frustrated or scared, I say, “You are mad/sad/scared. Take a deep breath” and then I will breath loud enough for her to hear. She will often pause and watch. She hasn't mimicked this behavior yet, but I am hopeful that as she continues to grow she will.
- Give thanks for what our bodies do instead of what we look like: I am all about focusing on the function of our body versus the aesthetic alone. When Winter and I look into the mirror, I model positive self-talk and focus on the things that I appreciate about myself instead of what I look like. Of course I have insecurities, but I don’t want to show her my inner critic. She deserves to be shown what self-love looks like. Plus, it’s great practice for me too!
- Try to squash gender roles or biases through play: We are not picky when it comes to her toys. Winter has a collection of monster trucks, a tool set, a Woody doll from Toys, and now this amazing red, 3 Ways to Play Walker F 150 by Bright Starts. It brings me back to my childhood days of my grandfather and driving my first truck. She lovesss the push-behind mode complete with truck sounds, lights, a gear shift and a steering wheel. She will even take her favorite stuffed animal, Lucy, on a ride. Winter can’t use the walker because she is too old. But if you have a baby at least 6 months of age, then you can use the walker mode. Or better yet, if you do have two kids, this product is amazing because two can play at once! One baby can play in the normal walker mode while the other is busy using the push-behind mode. I really can’t handle how cute Winter is with her truck. Needless to say, I am a big believer of not discerning or pushing gender roles and will gladly allow Winter to play with and be exposed to an array of toys and experiences. I am really trying to follow her lead as her interests continue to develop and in the back of my mind, I secretly hope her first car is truck too (wink!).
- Incorporate household responsibilities into her routine to foster pride and a sense of accomplishment: Winter loves to help out around the house and we have gladly invited this interest into our daily routine. After a meal, Winter will use a cloth to wipe up the table and floor surrounding her table. We allow her to water our indoor plants (she often waters the floor surrounding the pots), let her sweep, load the dishwasher and take out the trash. She beams every time we praise her for completing a task and will often say how proud we are of her for taking care of the house.
What do you do at home to blend and push those gender roles and foster independence and self-reliance?
This post was sponsored by Bright Starts. The Bright Starts 3 Ways to Play Walker Ford F 150 is available for purchase at Walmart nationwide. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
Photography by Brittany Renee'