Teaching Her to Speak Her Mind

Top tips from the Raising Confident and Courageous Girls Workshop

Girls are under enormous pressure to deny their true selves in order to please the people around them. By early adolescence, many are discouraged from expressing themselves honestly and directly for fear of hurting other people's feelings or coming off as arrogant, confrontational, argumentative or merely difficult. According to the Girls' Rights Survey, 56 percent of girls say it's true that "girls are expected to speak softly and not cause trouble." The message to say something nice or say nothing at all comes from all sides -- schools, parents, religious institutions, magazines, music, television, advertising and movies. It is especially powerful and upsetting for girls when it comes from their peers.

You can help your daughter develop confidence to speak out in public situations by first making her feel comfortable to voice opinions, even unpopular ones, in her own home. If you are concerned that she feels she has to lie to you about her life, and you would rather know the truth, now is the time to tell her that you support her right to express herself -- and that includes her right to tell you things you may find hard to hear.

Using Her Voice to Make a Difference

Community action is a great way for girls to learn important communication and negotiation skills. Engaging in social change lets them hone their talents as leaders and make a difference in the community. Encourage your daughter to speak out for or rally others around a particular issue. For example, she and her friends could collect money to help a needy family, or help organize a food co-op or community garden. Instruct your daughter to first research a problem, brainstorm possible solutions, then come up with a plan for change. As she begins to understand the impact and power of telling people what she thinks, she will be inspired to speak up more and make her voice heard.

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