Can We Raise Kick-Ass Daughters?

How Can We Raise Strong Daughters?

Pastel and many turreted castle in the clouds

No castles in the sky for me…

My dad wanted a daughter who didn’t buy into the Cinderella syndrome. No moping by the fire waiting for rescue.

Will his method work for your daughters and granddaughters?

For my dad, there was no being sweet in the face of mean treatment. He wanted me to speak up. Speak loud. Insist on respect.

He started on this project early in my life. He rewrote nursery rhymes. I still have a card he gave me where Miss Muppet stamps her foot and frightens the spider away.

Girl staring at spider's web.

Facing down the spider.

He read Snow White so that she saved the dwarves from a mine collapse, and taught them to think strategically, recognize evil intent and thwart the apple-selling Queen.

My mom supported this literary license with her poems of fierce appreciation of others and respect for each person, starting with self. When I finally learned how to read, I found Cinderella, Miss Muppet and their ilk very insipid.

For those of us with daughters, I realize my folks put a lot of thought into creating an independent and self-reliant girl. They were ahead of their time, but they also were of their time, so at some point, they dictated that my brothers could only play football with me if they played on their knees.

End of a promising career as a pass receiver.

In the face of advertising and media, how do you approach this tough subject with your daughters? What has worked? What attitudes are difficult to overcome?

My own daughter never played with the log trucks and the construction toys we bought her. She arranged them on the top shelf of her book case. The trucks hunkered there until she was almost two and a half.

Her next brother was about eight months old, crawling  up a storm of dust bunnies, when he saw them. He hauled them down. From that moment on, he raced them with engine noises  around everyone’s feet.

When our daughter was three, some danged babysitter read her the original Disney’s Cinderella without the rewritten passages where she tells her step-sisters to iron their own dresses for the ball, and then goes to a lawyer to retrieve her inheritance.

After that one reading, if we tried to read her the rewritten Cinderella, she corrected us. “No! No! No! Cinderella sat by the fire and cried!”

“Did she get up and take care of herself?” we’d ask.

“Fairy god mother, Bibitty, came.”

Nevertheless, that daughter soon got over seeking ‘Puzzled the Prince’. She got over waiting for Bibitty to save her. She grew up taking care of herself just fine – doesn’t hope for a pumpkin carriage to take her to the ball.

Girl using tools and wood to build.

New things to try every day.

She  isn’t afraid to try new things, solves her own problems and speaks up when someone harasses her, or any other person.

So, did she raise herself to be independent? How did that happen? Did all we tried to do have any effect? or was she able to figure it out from life-experiences.

How does growing up self-reliant happen for your daughters? Can we share stories and techniques on behalf of our children’s future.

I had brothers. Our daughter also had brothers. With my brothers, I re-enacted the most recent war – a baseball bat as my rifle. I played baseball and football with my brothers (up to Dad’s ‘on-the-knees’ ultimatum). Our daughter played soccer, threw the javelin and ran long distances. Very independent and sure of her rights.

And the women who have spoken up this year? How did they get the courage to risk losing face, job and reputation in order to call powerful twits on their extortion of women’s dignity?

Our daughter’s daughter is thoughtful of others, a careful friend to all in her classroom, but never unaware of her own rights and dignity. How has that happened?

It is the combined effort of her dad and her mom and her brother. Her dad talks to her in front of others about how smart and resourceful she is. To him, cuteness is the least of her powers. Her mother and dad honor each other – an example for their children that is not invisible. Her older brother encourages her efforts in any endeavor.

Our eldest son and our daughter-in-law have a daughter who is much younger, yet already knows her value while also valuing those around her. We hope to see her keep that sense of self-worth and develop her natural skills, athletic and intellectual, so that no one can knock her off balance as she becomes an adult.

Two children jumping as if to touch the yellow moon.

Girls can dream and accomplish those dreams

All in the family collaborate on making the young girls aware of their esteem. Cousins, aunts, uncles, parents all add to the on-going song they hear. “You are wonderful and strong. You can have dreams and work to achieve them.”

My father once learned what it meant to have raised a daughter who could scare away the spider. The lesson was hard on him.

I was new at the biggest high school in the state, but wanted to go to the first football game of the season. Dad decided to take me there. Since I hoped to sit with the other students, I convinced him to let me go to section C while he sat in section A. After the game, we planned to meet at the entrance to section F.

After the game, as I passed section E, there were several bullies who set up a whistling and cat-call chorus. I ignored them until someone behind poked me in the ribs. I reared back with an elbow to the gut, and a foot to the nearest knee. I made smacking-good contact, heard a satisfying yelp. Someone fell to the ground. The other bullies backed up.

The chorus silenced. The bullies stood still, eyes round with shock. I turned to see my father on the sidewalk, gasping for air.

“Dad, I thought you were one of these yahoos.”

He groped his way to sitting, glanced up at me and tried to smile. “I’m great,” he said, as I helped him up.

He spoke so the guys could hear him. “I’ll tell your mother. You can take care of yourself.”


  1. Lois Jean Bousquet says:

    Rae, thank you for a wonderful post that is so timely. I’ve sent to my daughters. I recently bought Together We Rise about the Women’s March (already a year!) and sharing not only with daughters but two granddaughters who just turned 16. Your post with be tucked inside. It rocks. Thanks again.

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