Raising an Assertive Daughter: Launching Your Daughter Podcast
I had the opportunity to sit down with fellow therapist Nicole Burgess, LMFT, to record an episode for her podcast “Launching Your Daughter.” We talked about, you guessed it, assertiveness. Using themes from my book “The Assertiveness Guide For Women,” we discussed yet another aspect of this topic-helping our daughters and other young women in our lives develop the skills to be self-aware, set healthy boundaries, and express themselves clearly and authentically so that they can be stronger in their relationships. Here are some takeaways from our conversation:
Self-Awareness Makes You A Better Caregiver and Role Model
We all want to raise emotionally strong daughters, but sometimes we have to pause and do a little work on ourselves. If you are raising or mentoring a young woman, it’s important for you yourself to identify and own your insecurities, any past issues, and acknowledge any relationship hang-ups you might have. For example, maybe you don’t feel good about your body because of comments your mother made to you when you were a teenager. Or maybe you’re very sensitive to any jokes about violence because you’ve been the victim of assault. By taking ownership of your own emotional history, you won’t project these issues onto your daughter or repeat unhealthy cycles.
Differentiation is a Key Developmental Phase For Young Girls & Women
In my book, I write a lot about the concept of differentiation of self, which means that a person can simultaneously be close to someone else while still maintaining a distinct identity. Individuals with poor levels of differentiation have a hard time separating themselves from their family, friends, or romantic partner and can really struggle with making their own unique needs and wants known. When it comes to raising girls, we have to remember that they are still learning and developing who they are in relation to you and others in their lives. It can be frustrating and even painful when a daughter won’t obey you, doesn’t think like you, or maybe even breaks the mold of a family tradition or culture. While there are certainly times when a girl or young woman does need to act according to certain standards that her caregiver sets, we as parents and mentors need to recognize that she needs permission to develop her own beliefs, interests, and identity separate from us.
More Is Caught Than Taught
One of the biggest influences on a woman’s emotional life is the relationship patterns she witnessed and experienced when she was younger. This history includes understanding what emotions she was allowed to express (and what ones she wasn’t), how to handle conflict, and whether or not to communicate her feelings. She looks to the people in her family life (you!) as a template of proper behavior, so you should seek to model assertiveness as an example for her. This can include expressing your feelings (including your concerns), managing your emotions (not blowing up or letting anger get out of control), and advocating for yourself in your relationships. She’ll see these things and begin to internalize what a healthy relationship looks like.
Take Care of Yourself!
As women, we’re socialized to be caregivers, and while it’s wonderful to look out for the needs of others close to us (children, spouse, friends, etc.), this sometimes means we neglect our own selves. While every parent has to make sacrifices, chronically neglecting your own physical, emotional, and social needs can lead to burnout and will not be good for your relationships. By tending to your own self, you’ll not only be able to better be there for your daughter, you’ll also continue to set a positive example for her of what it means to be an emotionally healthy individual.
Learn more about my book “The Assertiveness Guide For Women: How To Communicate Your Needs, Set Healthy Boundaries, and Transform Your Relationships.”
Dynamic self & relationship expert Dr. Julie de Azevedo Hanks, LCSW loves to make a difference for women. She owns Wasatch Family Therapy and regularly contributes to KSL TV's Studio 5, and her advice has been featured nationally including Wall Street Journal, Parenting, Fox News, and others. Connect on Facebook & Twitter. Her book The Burnout Cure is available now and The Assertiveness Guide is available now.