Every Halloween, little girls all over the country choose costumes that reflect what they want to be when they grow up. And each year we see many girls choosing to dress as princesses and fairies, kitty cats and maybe the odd super hero. Rarely do we see young girls dressing as executives, scientists, or world leaders.
It can seem benign enough, but it does beg the question: are young girls still under the impression their choices in life are limited? And what can parents, particularly mothers, do to set a good example?
The Importance of Role Models
If you are a runner, you probably know that for most of human history no one was able to run the 4-minute mile. In 1940, someone actually got to 4:01, and for nine years that is where the record stayed, with not one runner in the entire world being able to break it.
It seemed to everyone that the human body, no matter how fit and trained, would never be able to break that record. But then on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier, running the distance in 3:59.4.
And then a very interesting thing happened: barely a year after this feat, someone else ran a mile under 4 minutes, and then more runners did it, and then even more. Now it’s common practice for runners to run the mile in under 4 minutes.
Role models show others what is possible, and that’s powerful. Humans tend to not attempt things unless we believe it can be accomplished.
Our children learn from watching us. They learn how to think, act, and feel about themselves and the world around them. Here are some ways mothers can set a strong female role model for their daughters:
It’s important for mothers to encourage their daughters to be healthy and strong, but not to obsess over beauty. It’s not enough to talk the talk. The brain has mirror neurons that facilitate social learning. That means you do not need to explicitly shame your daughter about their body to impact their body image adversely. No, a child’s brain sees how their mom looks at their love handles in the mirror and learns in that moment that “my fat must be bad too.” Moms have to model positive thoughts, behavior, and love for their bodies.
Unless they are shown otherwise, young girls may grow up assuming they must constantly please others and never say no. Moms, it’s important to show your daughters that setting boundaries is healthy and necessary.
Confidence comes from a mindset that failure and mistakes are merely chances to learn. It also comes from knowing strengths and abilities as well as limitations. In other words, confidence is a byproduct of knowing and accepting our authentic selves.
Are you having a hard time being the role model you’d like to be? Maybe you’re a stressed-out single parent who could use some coping strategies. If you’d like to speak with someone, please be in touch. We have a counselor on our team that may be able to help.