“I’d like my daughter to be reliant and subordinate,” said no mom ever. Fierce, confident, and independent — these are what we moms want our girls to be, and it’s up to us to pave the way! When it comes to teaching independence and empowerment, one of the most effective tools is — surprise, surprise — play!
Take it from Beth, founder of Little Movers PT and mother of two, including five-year-old Melania. Beth is a business owner who was born with an “I’ve got this” mentality, and she’s raising Melania in a modern, multi-cultural family where independence, acceptance, and kindness are key. Melania has a tendency to be clingy, a quality that her mom is helping her overcome by encouraging strategic play that incorporates strong, honest, and communicative female figures.
To get an inside look at how strong moms help shape their daughters' characters for the better, Romper teamed up with American Girl. In a refreshing and inspiring conversation, Beth shared her experience turning play time into an invaluable opportunity to instill fundamentals shaping Melania’s future as an empowered and independent woman.
Here’s what Beth wants other parents to know about raising the next generation of strong girls.
Share Your Successes And Your Struggles
Little girls look up to their moms, so it’s important to share your story with your daughter, including successes and struggles. Let her see that you didn’t just walk into the life you lead — you worked for it! Beth’s entrepreneurial inspiration came from her nursing struggles as a new mom to Melania. She was told her challenges were typical first-time-mom issues, but a gut feeling told her it was something more, and she was right. It turned out that Melania had a tongue-tie that needed to be addressed before she began therapy to heal. This experience inspired Beth to start her own business helping other families in similar situations, all the while acting as an honest and uplifting role model for her daughter.
“[After Melania's diagnosis], I took it upon myself to dive into the research, take every course that I could find, and now I own my own business which exclusively treats babies who have feeding difficulties and issues associated with it," Beth tells Romper. "My entire practice revolves around that. My strong personality pushed me forward to say, ‘This is how it’s gonna be, and everybody should step out of my way, because I’m comin’ through!’"
Be Honest About The Real World
It’s not all roses out there in the real world, and it’s important for kids to know that. So when Melania shares stories about kids arguing at school, she and Beth talk through different scenarios and responses, including ways Melania would react if she were involved. It’s a good opportunity for Beth to encourage her to stand up for herself while still being kind and respectful.
“I tell my daughter, ‘You have to be really strong, you have to work much harder [than other people].’ I firmly believe that parents have to start now — teach them now that this is the world we live in, these are the obstacles that they're fighting against, and this is how they move forward. Be super honest about the world today.”
Provide Strong Female Role Models
Imaginative play is a great opportunity to teach the kind of characteristics you want your daughter to develop. That’s why Beth chooses American Girl dolls and stories that represent individuality, empowerment, and independence to inspire Melania. When they play together, Beth shows Melania that the characters can do or be anything they want to, and it’s up to them to decide. And it's obviously working, because when Melania plays on her own, Beth overhears her showing her dolls how to care for themselves, triumph in the face of defeat, and so much more.
“It’s really interesting because Melania's independence comes through when she says things like, ‘OK, Luciana, you have to put on your shoes yourself, because you’re four now. Let’s do it together,’ or ‘Take a deep breath, I know you’re frustrated.’ For her to be able to take the lessons that we learn in our daily lives and act them out with her dolls by herself is a really big step. The American Girl stories help facilitate more confident experiences for her.”
Teach Girls That Anything Is Possible
We know that our daughters can choose their own paths, and grow up to be whatever they want to be. But we have to remember to make sure they know that, too! As a child, Beth used independent play to learn skills that made her the woman she is today. These days, she uses the same type of play that worked for her to introduce all kinds of scenarios to Melania, which reinforces the idea that nothing is out of reach.
“When I was young, I used to take my American Girl dolls and make them into different things," Beth remembers. "One day my Molly doll would be a doctor, and the next day, she would own a hair salon. It taught me that American Girl allows you to be whoever you want to be. It opens up the doors to so many possibilities, and you can make of it whatever you want.”
This post is sponsored by American Girl.
Photographer: Erin Foster; Makeup Artist: Dre Brown; Hair Stylist: Sammy LaCombe; Art Director: Julie Vaccaro; Producer: Kat Fry; Editor: Suzanne McKenzie