This is my guide to “How to Raise an Empowered Girl”. Yay!
Wait. Don’t get carried away. As I write in my book, it’s impossible to write a full proof guide. Girls develop the way do because of – but also despite – our best efforts. Parents play a role in how children turn out, but so do society, genes, luck and proximity to a Disney theme park. The variables are endless. If I claimed that following a set of guidelines will inevitably produce a girl who’ll kick the patriarchy’s ass and realize her full potential, I’d be lying. As in life, there’s no certainty in raising children. We’re all doing the best we can with what we’ve got.
Still, we’re parents and we do have some sway. This guide is the product of research, advice from friends and families and a few serendipitous finds. I’ll be updating this guide regularly, so please check back in and also get in touch with your own recommendations.
Happy Parenting to all the parents of Little Princesses! We are rocking this whole princess thing, one tiara at a time.
A Mighty Girl
This website has compiled a mighty impressive database of what’s out there to help raise confident, empowered girls. A Mighty Girl describes itself as the “world’s largest collection of books, toys and movies for smart, confident, and courageous girls.”
New Moon Girls
Nancy Gruver – along with her two tween daughters – started a magazine written by and for tween and teen girls. Today it’s a magazine and online community of “girls, parents and allies raising strong girls in a still-unequal world.” Because the content is created and written by girls, New Moon provides an opportunity for girls to express themselves, connect with their peers in a safe space and explore the world without the burden of harmful advertising.
jGirls is an online magazine written by and for all self-identifying Jewish teenage girls. This forum is a safe space for girls to explore their concerns and identities, cultivate their abilities to express themselves, and exchange ideas with girls from different Jewish backgrounds and perspectives.
Have Faith Will Parent
Have Faith, Will Parent was founded by Shoshana Kordova and Saadia Faruqi, a Jewish mother and Muslim mother respectively. They recognize that parents raising children in a particular faith – whatever that faith may be – have a lot in common and believe that religion can be a force that unites rather than divide. The founders invite everyone interested in the intersection of parenting and religion to join them.
*I’ll be adding books to this list.
Books for Little Princesses
The Paper Bag Princess
Some princesses are saved by princes while others are more proactive. In this fun, inventive story written by Robert Munsch and illustrated by Michael Martchenko, a princess named Elizabeth has her royal life all planned out until a dragon comes along with his fiery breath and spoils everything. But the dragon – and Elizabeth’s dubious fiancé Prince Ronald – are in for a surprise when The Paper Bag Princess demonstrates that she’s no pushover. The fun begins when Elizabeth takes control of the narrative in this delightful and subversive fairytale.
The Gardener tells the tale of Lydia Grace Finch who is sent to live with her grumpy uncle in the big city. Written by Sarah Stewart and beautifully drawn by David Small, this moving epistolary children’s book gently evokes the tragedy of the Depression Era while portraying the quiet strength of one little girl. Instead of being beaten down by a challenging situation, Lydia transforms the people and the place around her with her green thumb, her love of nature and her unique spirit.
A Unicorn Named Sparkle
Things don’t always work out the way we plan them, and people – and pets – are not always what we expect. When Lucy sends for a mail-order unicorn, she dreams of an elegant and well-behaved, dainty creature who will be admired by all her classmates. Then the “unicorn” arrives and he doesn’t live up to any of Lucy’s lofty fantasies. This charming story, written and illustrated by Amy Young, teaches worthy lessons about acceptance. We can’t always get what we want, but when we open our hearts to imperfection, we can embrace all the gifts in our lives anyway.
Rosie Revere, Engineer
Rosie is an innovative inventor, until one day her uncle Fred laughs at one of her quirkier creations. Mortified, Rosie withdraws. She hides her passion and buries her dreams. Fortunately, her great-great-aunt comes to visit, and she is none other than the American icon, Rosie the Riveter. Aunt Rose shares one last dream with Rosie Revere – she wants to fly. The prospect of making her beloved aunt’s dream come true reignites Rosie Revere’s creative spark. Written by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, Rosie Revere, Engineer helps children learn the merits of trying, failing and then trying again.
The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes
Beatrice Bottomwell never makes mistakes. And while her legion of imaginary fans admire her neatness and efficiency, Beatrice’s infallibility causes her to miss out. She never gets to learn from her errors or be silly like her less careful brother, Carl. On the night of the big talent show, Beatrice is finally forced to confront her imperfections. Written by by Mark Pett and illustrated by Gary Rubinstein, The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes helps young readers learn an important lesson: It’s definitely ok to make mistakes.
A classic for boys and girls. William really wants a doll. He’s mocked by other boys and discouraged by his father who keeps buying him balls and trains. Finally, his wise grandmother steps in to set things straight. Written by Charlotte Zolotow and illustrated by William Pene du Bois.
Atalanta and Free to Be You and Me
This is from the ‘Free to be You and Me’ book and album, a 1972 project in which actress and feminist Marlo Thomas promoted the messages of acceptance, equality, empowerment, love and peace. Thank you to the mother of 3 boys in Chicago who got in touch with me to remind me of this amazing and worthy classic. Highly recommended!
Grace For President by Kelly S. DePucchio
Imogene’s Last Stand by Candace Fleming
Ladybug Girl by David Soman
Me…Jane by Patrick McDonnell
Princess Smartypants by Babette Cole
The Practical Princess by Jay Williams
You Can’t Eat a Princess! by Gillian Rogerson
Zog by Julia Donaldson
Books for Bigger Princesses
Ramona Quimby Series
Beverly Cleary’s classic series traces the life of Ramona Quimby, a girl from the suburbs who gets into trouble, fights with her older sister, witnesses her dad losing his job and her mom entering the work force. Throughout, Ramona laments the injustices of her ordinary childhood. Though it was written two generations ago, Ramona’s authentic voice resonates as if it were 2017. Young readers have loved this series for decades because of Cleary’s ability to get inside the head and heart of a spirited and intelligent little girl.
Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves
A stunning book of photographs and quotes from girls being themselves – dancing, swimming, surfing, running – inspires young readers and redefines the notion of true strength. Read the reviews on this one. Girls love this book.
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Amber Brown series by Paula Danziger
Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery
Harriet the Spy series by Louise Fitzhugh
The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes, Louis Slobodkin
Matilda by Roald Dahl
RAD American Women A-Z by Kate Schatz
Tuesday McGillycuddy Adventures by Angelica Banks
Little People Big Dreams
A fantastic series which introduces young readers to exceptional women in history. Each figure started her life the same way – as a little girl with a big dream. From Rosa Parks to Amelia Earhart and beyond, these books educate and inspire.
Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls
These children’s books are packed with hundreds of bedtime stories about the life of extraordinary women from the past and the present, illustrated by 60 female artists from all over the world.
The Royal Series
A series of books about “professional princesses” who aspire to more than “landing Prince Charming”. The series’s founder Laura Venos was once a princess-obsessed little girl and is now a career counsellor and author who’s “passionate about girl empowerment.” Current titles includes: The Royal Dentist, The Royal Farmer and The Royal Architect.
These personalized stories reflect true diversity. You can choose your character and the other characters (single mom, two moms, stepparents etc) to truly reflect your family. Or let your child’s imagination go wild as she creates her own story. Create your story online anytime.
The Wollstonecraft Detective Agency Series
The terrific series features detectives who use math, science and analytical thinking to solve crimes. Great for mystery lovers and history buffs alike.
The Rise of Rabbi RocketPower
In the fall of 2001, when Rabbi Susan Abramson’s son Aaron was in the first grade, the world seemed to be a particularly vulnerable and scary place. She began to evolve Rabbi Rocketpower stories to focus his attention on caring and positive role models and to show him that his family had the power to overcome difficult situations. She saw how much he loved to read funny books, yet there was nothing in Jewish children’s literature which grabbed his attention in the same way. She also thought it would be important to feature a female rabbi superhero for children to admire. So together they came up with Jewish stories which made the members of their family into super heroes, saving each Jewish holiday from those who threatened to disrupt it.
TOYS AND GAMES
MindWare has a wide selection of toys and games to help young minds develop and learn. An award-winning manufacturer, this company doesn’t divide their toys into pink and blue.
Roominate is a line of wired building systems that inspire open-ended, hands-on play. Using circuits, motors and modular building pieces, girls can build and create their own unique and original structures or vehicles that can be joined together or taken apart and remade into something completely new and different. Roominate inspires the next generation to have fun with STEM, and to help develop hands-on problem solving and boost self-confidence, all while turning girls into creative engineers!
These are dolls for boys which “brings the power of friendship into the world of boys’ play.” Because boys love dolls too!
PROGRAMS AND ORGANIZATIONS
From their website: Princess Warriors taps into girls’ imaginations and fosters empowering ways of understanding their emerging selves, forming positive relationships and realizing their power to help the world. Carefully crafted programs promote social and emotional learning through interactive activities, arts and crafts, sharing, movement, nature exploration, social action, ritual and fun. In a supportive community of peers and elders, girls build life and leadership skills through meaningful experience.
Girls on the Run
From their website: Girls on the Run® is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to creating a world where every girl knows and activates her limitless potential and is free to boldly pursue her dreams.
Meeting twice a week in small teams, we teach life skills through dynamic, interactive lessons and running games. The curriculum is taught by certified Girls on the Run coaches and includes three parts: understanding ourselves, valuing relationships and teamwork and understanding how we connect with and shape the world at large.
Running is used to inspire and motivate girls, encourage lifelong health and fitness, and build confidence through accomplishment. Important social, psychological, and physical skills and abilities are developed and reinforced throughout the program. At each season’s conclusion, the girls and their running buddies complete a 5K running event which gives them a tangible sense of achievement as well as a framework for setting and achieving life goals. The result—making the seemingly impossible, possible, and teaching girls that they can.
From their website:
Girls Inc. inspires all girls to be strong, smart, and bold through direct service and advocacy. Our comprehensive approach to whole girl development equips girls to navigate gender, economic, and social barriers and grow up healthy, educated, and independent. These positive outcomes are achieved through three core elements: people – trained staff and volunteers who build lasting, mentoring relationships; environment – girls-only, physically and emotionally safe, where there is a sisterhood of support, high expectations, and mutual respect; and programming – research-based, hands-on and minds-on, age-appropriate, meeting the needs of today’s girls. Informed by girls and their families, we also advocate for legislation and policies to increase opportunities for all girls.
Our History – The Girls Inc movement started in New England during the Industrial Revolution as a response to the needs of a new working class: young women who had migrated from rural communities in search of newly available job opportunities in textile mills and factories.
Programs – Girls Inc develops research-based informal education programs that encourage girls to take risks and master physical, intellectual and emotional challenges. Major programs address math and science education, pregnancy and drug abuse prevention, media literacy, economic literacy, adolescent health, violence prevention, and sports participation.
Membership – Girls Inc. programming can be offered anywhere girls are found, including Girls Inc. centers, schools, churches, community centers and housing projects. The majority of Girls Inc. centers are located in low–income areas and provide a weekly average of 30 hours of after-school, weekend and summer activities.
From their webiste: Girlstart aspires to be the national leader in designing and implementing innovative, high quality informal STEM education programs that inspire girls to transform our world. Summer camps, after schools and other programs
Girls for a Change
From their website: Girls for a change is a 501C3 Non-profit Organization whose mission is to support and inspire black girls and other girls of color to visualize their bright futures and potential through discovery, development and social change innovation in their communities. In doing so, we help girls develop key skills needed for their success.
None of these are specifically about raising daughters but I include them anyway because parenting podcasts are fun, helpful and very good company.
Fun, informative and interesting weekly podcast about “the joys and complexities of caring for our little ones and ourselves” hosted by mom-in-chief Ellie Knaus.
Baby and Toddler Instructions
That adorable soft, cuddly,sweet-smelling, little bundle of joy is now a walking, talking full-fledged toddler whose favorite word is “NO!” What do I do now? Where are the instructions? Blythe and her guest experts will provide instructions to make those first years a breeze!! With advice, tips and insight on crying, sleep, temper tantrums, preschool and more.
The Longest Shortest Time
When you’re in a rough spot, the first thing you want is a voice in your ear telling you you’re not alone. That’s where this podcast comes in. They also have a list of resources on the homepage.
Mom and Dad are Fighting
Slate editors and guests review and debate the latest parenting news, and try to stay civil http://www.slate.com/articles/podcasts/mom_and_dad_are_fighting.html
The Mom Hour
Meagan & Sarah are two moms with eight kids between us, ranging in age from preschool to teen. New shows every week aim to help you feel a little better about your parenting. With tips and stories to give you that little bit of added confidence as you move through motherhood.
Coffee and Crumbs
A collection of stories about motherhood, love, and the good kind of heartache.
One Bad Mother
Comedy Podcast hosted by Biz Ellis and Theresa Thorn about motherhood and how unnatural it sometimes is. We aren’t all magical vessels! Join us every week as we deal with the thrills and embarrassments of motherhood and strive for less judging and more laughing.
EXTRA STUFF AND EXTRA CREDIT READING FOR PARENTS
I recommend meditation for EVERYONE. Headspace is a great place to start and they also have meditations for kids. MBSR is also highly recommended, but ask around – someone you know probably has a great recommendation.
Her Life Depends On It
This is the Women’s Sports Foundation’s comprehensive report that reviews existing and emerging research on the links between participation in sport and physical activity and the health and wellbeing of American girls and women
On the connection between sports and well-beinghttp://www.momsteam.com/successful-parenting/sports-benefit-girls-in-many-ways
Books for Parents of Little Princesses
Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher.
Cinderella Ate my Daughter by Peggy Orenstein
The Princess Problem by Dr. Rebecca Hains
Growing Up With Girl Power by Dr. Rebecca Hains https://rebeccahains.com/