Raising Assertive Girls

Many parents want their daughter to be able to ask for help, speak up, stand up for others and express their feelings.  But, for some girls, it’s harder to do than for others.  For centuries girls have been taught to be polite, be courteous, and to be nice, which has caused some to shy away from asserting themselves out of fear of being perceived as “rude” or “bossy”.

But, I have a question for you…how do you want your daughter to show up in the world?  Do you want her to be quiet, play it small, or be a push over?  Nah…I’m pretty sure you don’t want that.

We want our girls to grow into confident, resilient young women who aren’t’ intimidated to express their feelings, advocate for themselves, and speak up for others.

Our girls deserve these rights:

  • To be respected
  • To be heard
  • To be able to say “no”
  • To express her feelings, thoughts, ideas, and wants
  • To feel supported
  • To be able to gracefully disagree with someone
  • To feel anger, sadness, or disappointment, and to express those feelings

Can I get an amen?

I know that you want your daughter to show up confidently in this world, so here are three tips to help our girls become more assertive.

  1. Sorry. Not Sorry. – Encourage her to stop over apologizing.  Some girls apologize for things that don’t require an apology out of fear for asking for something. If your daughter has a need or a want, encourage her to ask for it without apologizing for asking.  For example, if she wants to ask her teacher a question after class, that’s totally fine.  She doesn’t need to say “I’m sorry Mrs._______, but I have a question. Can I come after class to speak to you, I’m so sorry to bother you”.    Yes, it sounds polite, but we need to help our girls stop apologizing for things out of discomfort.  Apologies are necessary when you hurt someone, not when you are asking for something that you need or want.
  2. Say No. – Teach your daughter how to set healthy boundaries with others.  Teaching boundaries is a way to teach your daughter respect for herself and respect for others.  There are physical boundaries and emotional boundaries, and there are times when your daughter will need to be assertive enough to enforce them.  One way to support your daughter in this area is to teach her to say “no”.  Saying “no” can seem harsh at times, but giving a good firm “no” can potentially stop further questioning and uncomfortable conversation.   If she doesn’t want someone to hug her, say “no”.  Don’t want to hang out with friends on a school night, say “no”.  Don’t want to date a certain guy, say “no”.  And encourage her not to apologize for saying “no” too.  She has a right to express her values, and to say “no” if she feels like her values or needs have been violated.
  3. Ask for what she wants. – My grandmother always said that “a closed mouth doesn’t get fed”.  This is what I think of when I am coaching girls on assertiveness.   We’ve got to encourage our girls to ask for what they want, without being passive aggressive. No more beating around the bush, no more just taking anything… nope, all of that stops today.  Let’s help our girls ask for that they want and need.  In order to do this, we need to teach our girls how to describe the situation that they are in and how they feel about that situation.  Then, clearly state what they want to happen.  For example, let’s pretend that your daughter wants to express her feelings to a friend regarding a sticky boyfriend situation, she can say: “_________ I really enjoy the time that we spend together when we hang out, but lately you’ve been bringing your boyfriend to chill with us each time.  I really miss spending time with you, and I’d love it if we could spend more time together, with just the two of us.   I think it could make our friendship stronger.”  This conversation is great because her friend may not have even know that your daughter had issues with her bringing the boyfriend.  My point is, your daughter’s chances of getting what she wants/needs are lower if she doesn’t ask for them.  Let’s help her use her voice to express her needs.

Here’s to all the assertive, confident, and resilient girls out there who are expressing their feelings, asking for what they want, and setting boundaries with others.  You are not bossy.  You are not rude.  You are honoring yourself.  You go girl!

If you’d like more tips on helping your daughter become assertive, contact me.  I am happy to help.


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