There is no one right way to raise a daughter—everyone is so wildly different with varying beliefs that are bound to affect their child-rearing. However, parents can find common ground on one factor: making sure their daughters know they’re important and loved.
Danielle: My mom instilled many great practices in me—expressing gratitude, being kind to everyone, the power of communication—but perhaps her greatest mantra was her constant reminder that my voice mattered.
Below are a few aspects we’ve found to be helpful in raising empowered women through our mother/daughter relationship:
The Power of Choice
Danielle: Growing up, my mom made me feel I was in charge of my own destiny. She was never one to ask me what my grades were in school, and she didn’t push me to be number one. She made me feel as if I had a choice. Because I was allowed to function so independently, and given the space to think on my own, I didn’t want to disappoint her.
If a difficult situation would arise, she would talk through it with me, and we would lay all the options out on the table. But, ultimately, it was up to me to decide what I was going to do.
Cynthia: Know you are a vessel for life but your daughters are not an extension of you and your life. They are their own beings, and you are there to nurture them and let them grow into themselves fully. The process of raising daughters is a gradual growth into trust—trusting they are growing into themselves as they make their own mistakes and have their own adventures in the world. You can be there to help pick up the pieces, give a bit of time-tested wisdom, and allow in the excitement of discovery through their eyes.
Cynthia: Be present to your daughters fully and also allow them to have space to learn and grow into healthy boundaries. Notice who they are and foster opportunities for them to explore themselves and their interests. Be a cheerleader, but also a silent observer. Learn when to be which.
Make sure you have your own interests and life beyond being a parent. Let your daughters know about who you truly are as a full person with a life of your own. This gives them a model for themselves to also be a full person in the world.
Teaching How to Stand Up for Yourself
Danielle: Too often women are expected to roll with the punches—sit back and be quiet, we are often told from a young age. However, when someone says something rude or makes us uncomfortable, we need to hold each other accountable to speak up. I’ve learned this quiet self-respect only after years of practice, and constant reminders from my mom. Having watched her stand up for herself both professionally and in personal situations, I see what a positive effect it has had on my life. Now that I know my own self-worth, I find myself speaking out against injustices, and not just those committed against me.
Being Open to Having Honest and Real Conversations
Cynthia: Hold your daughters accountable for what happens; don’t bail them out. However, you can also be a soft place to land for discussion and decisions on what to do next time, and how to make amends for this time. Let them out into the world to test who they are and discover their own boundaries. Give them a strong foundation of truth to stand in. Then let things roll. Be ready to trust them to learn and grow again.
Cynthia: The practice of gratitude is just as important as being honest with one another. Take the time to appreciate your daughter and tell her why you’re grateful for her. This can be in the form of small notes (Danielle: My mom likes to leave little ‘thank you’ cards around the house) or just a simple ‘thanks’ when you notice she’s done something nice.
Cynthia: Allow your daughters to see you as a real person with emotions, someone who makes mistakes and who is fully, vulnerably human. Let them in, but don’t make them responsible for holding you up. Know you will scar them in some way no matter what because we are all out of balance with ourselves and the world from time to time. Let them hear “I’m sorry” from you here and there, and talk through why.
If you are divorced, try to co-parent well, allowing the traumas and dramas of your adult world to stay between you and your ex. Let your daughters know they are the product of two people who came together for good reason for the time you were meant to be together, and that life does not guarantee “happily ever after,” but it does guarantee you can stay strong, resilient, and even loving, through turmoil and pain. Let them know that love for the time it was meant to be is good enough. Show them that being a woman who is single is enough, and relationships do not define who we are, but may challenge us to grow into the best parts of ourselves.
Encouraging Growth Through Education and Pursuing Passions
Cynthia: Valuing and respecting your daughters by allowing them to show the way toward what draws them is important. Then support them with enthusiasm and helpful mentors and teachers to assist them in reaching toward their own light through their passions. Make sure they contribute financially too, if possible, so they come to understand the importance of personal investment by earning their own way.
Raising an empowered daughter is like allowing a tree to take root and grow. You are the fertile ground upon which she stands and firmly roots herself. All the while, she reaches her arms toward the sky and leans into the winds of life, knowing the ground is always beneath her no matter what.
Danielle Drake-Flam is a recent graduate of Washington University in St. Louis. She was born and raised in Houghton, Michigan. Currently, she works as a freelancer for Footwear News in L.A., and as the Director of Journalism for the pro-bono consulting initiative Rem and Company.
Cynthia Drake is blessed to be mother to three strong, courageous, unique daughters. She’s a community builder, encouraging people to find their deepest potential via her life’s work: raising daughters, as a transition coach, grief counselor, Quaker youth leader, and living as a full human being.
Excerpted with permission from the Fall 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.