We want to raise our girls to be strong and independent, girls who can become leaders both professionally and in their personal life. But what is it that helps a girl find her inner-strength and passion in life? How can we encourage our daughters to be their best selves?
A female CEO shares her ideas on raising strong daughters - and it has everything to do with playing sports.
Never give up
Current CEO of New York Road Runners (which manages the New York City Marathon), Mary Wittenberg says she developed her work ethic during childhood through athletics. Her dad coached several sports, though that didn't mean Wittenberg always ended up on the winning team. "All those years of losing made me want to win," Wittenberg said.
She tried many sports - she was good at some, not so much at others. But winning isn't what matters. Win or lose, being on a team allows for girls to work towards a goal, together. Sports can also teach participants that achieving goals isn't instantaneous, unlike many things in this world. Hard work and perseverance are what lead to improvements and success.
"Don't let a girl quit. You can learn so much about yourself if you just don't quit. You learn that you have the will to continue on. Then, when someone or something down the line tries to stop you, you won't allow it," said Wittenberg.
When a job, or relationship, or other venture doesn't work out at first, this attitude and outlook give girls the courage to try a new path instead of quitting.
You can learn strength
We can't be helicopter parents rescuing our children from potentially difficult situations and expect them to learn how to function and grow on their own.
When things get hard, that's when we have the chance to prove ourselves and overcome with perseverance. Wittenberg said, "I think it's so important to prove to yourself than you're stronger than you thought you were. But there has to be a risk in order for you to prove it."
Having opportunities to prove yourself is necessary if you want to grow to be strong and independent.
Parents have great influence over their daughters. From the time they are really young, girls need encouragement to try harder. Learning to tie their own shoes, buttoning their shirts and riding a bike are specific situations where we can encourage them to try harder, instead of coddling your girls. Remind your daughters that they are capable and that they can do it, even if it's hard at first. As bigger and more difficult situations arise, your girls will have increased their self-confidence by learning they can persevere and achieve their goals. They won't quit.
Even if sports aren't for your family, there are other team and confidence building activities like dance or playing in a band or orchestra. Those moving parts have to work together to make the finished product. It requires dedication, hard work and never giving up.
Whether it's sports or another positive activity to help build up your daughter, Wittenberg explains agrees how powerful these activities are. "Being an athlete has given me a sense of possibility and an understanding that nothing is guaranteed. Nothing is a given. It's given me patience and perseverance in my relationships. It's given me candidness. You compete against your buddies to leave it on the field. None of it is about being healthy and strong - that's just the beautiful byproduct of being an athlete."