Powerful girls grow up feeling secure in themselves. They learn to take action, make positive life choices and do positive things for other people too. They can think critically about the world surrounding them and express their thoughts and feelings in caring ways. As a teacher and now a principal I have watched many chidlren develop and my experience tells me boys and girls need to be supported in slightly different ways. Here are some of the areas that I believe are important to support girls in as they grow and develop.
Get out and get physical
Opportunities to learn new skills that take them outside their physical comfort zone is key for girls’ development. This means taking on physical challenges, getting involved as early as possible in sports programmes and outdoor pursuits. You’ve heard it before but by simply trying something new or taking on something physical that they wouldn’t normally consider, girls will get an inner satisfaction – then stand back and watch their self-belief blossom! Obviously the list of possible activities is endless but when girls form an understanding of their physical prowess they will quickly become happier in themselves and more confident.
Learning peer mediation
Peer mediation is an interesting concept used in some schools that shows young people how to support other people in times of conflict. It’s all about looking at things from other people’s points of view and helping people resolve small differences that often flare up. Playgrounds can be perfect places to practice these skills and the older students can lead by example and help the younger ones through disagreements. Peer mediation is particularly great for girls because –
- Their self-esteem will improve when they use the skills in real scenarios to help other children
- They will learn important life skills – listening, negotiating, problem-solving and critical thinking
- Mediation emphasises that perspectives are not right or wrong but different
- Mediation teaches young people to look for different perspectives in conflicts and help see all sides of a conflict
This set of skills is so valuable for girls as it will help them stay objective in disagreements and become comfortable with not giving up their convictions just to please other people.
Failing can be turned into learning
Sometimes we think it’s kinder to protect girls from the pain of failing but avoiding dealing with failure can make them feel helpless and angry at themselves later on. Everyone knows that we can learn from our mistakes but dealing with failure is easier said than done! The key is learning to deal with it in a healthy way. Girls must learn that being compassionate to themselves and realistic about what is needed to fix it will help them grow. Girls who turn failure from a ‘reason to quit’ to an ‘opportunity to grow’, realise they can overcome setbacks and achieve things on their own. This is quite difficult but very powerful.
Really listening will get them interested
Girls often think that people are talking at them not with them and so of course this means they stop listening, thinking and most importantly reflecting. When they know we are actively listening to them they then have to think about what they are saying, and they tend to be much more engaged. Keeping an open dialogue with girls keeps them interested and interesting.
Use the 3 Ps to draw them out
It’s great to encourage girls to express their personal point of view. In discussion with girls it is good to use the three Ps – Posing questions, praising their ideas and probing to look more deeply at an issue. Questions such as ‘What do you think about that?’ ‘Why do you think that happened? How did you figure that out?’ will help them sharpen their ideas, refine their thinking and learn to express their personal opinions.
Developing a positive self-esteem
Self-esteem is the positive feeling we have about ourselves which influences how we think and act towards ourselves and other people. Finding and sharing success with girls reinforces the positive experiences in their lives and pays tribute to their individuality. It is much easier to find times to celebrate and encourage individual achievements when girls have a wide range of activities and experiences. Within reason, a life full of variety with lots of personal challenges together with positive reinforcement from people they care about is the key to living a happy and healthy life.
Naturally, powerful girls develop with love and encouragement. When you add a generous handful of all or even some of these ideas to their lives you will see them grow up with a ‘can-do’ attitude feeling good about themselves and embracing life. All parents hope that their daughters will grow up to lead full, valuable lives, that they are able to recognise their strengths and potential, and that they have the resilience to persevere to achieve their personal best in all that they do. Of course, they will still have times of insecurity and self-doubt, but these feelings don’t have to be paralysing when they have the tools to work through their challenges and problems.