5 Ways to Raise Trail-Blazing Daughters

As a teacher at an all-girls’ school, I have the distinct privilege of encouraging my students to be independent thinkers every single day. Our community is dedicated to helping these young women become self-directed learners, compassionate leaders and critical thinkers with integrity. As they discover and develop their gifts and talents, we teachers want them to become the unique individuals they are, while respecting themselves and others. 

This is no small task in a world where people are discriminated based on factors that cannot be changed; where women are taught that their work is worth less than men’s; and where leaders lie with impunity. 

In her inspirational book “My Own Words” Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg asks, ”What enabled me to take part in the effort to free our daughters and sons to achieve whatever their talents equipped them to accomplish, with no artificial barriers blocking their way?

“First, a mother who, by her example, made reading a delight and counseled me constantly to ‘be independent,’ able to fend for myself, whatever fortune might have in store for me.”

So how can we raise young women to be trailblazers who refuse to follow the model that they see all around them? It’s not easy, but here are five ways to raise a trail-blazing daughter.

1. Avoid Being A Helicopter Parent

Your daughter is not going to gain the ability to be independent and fend for herself if you are constantly hovering over her, questioning and guiding her every move. In fact, this behavior has quite the opposite effect, as she will start to lose confidence and feel that her parents don’t trust her to do the right thing.

Children need to learn important lessons from their inevitable failures and mistakes, but if mom or dad is always there to pick up the pieces, that’s not going to happen. Let your child find her own way, while knowing that when things go wrong, you will be there, helping her to work through it. As a teacher, I have sat through too many meetings where parents tried to step in and explain away their child’s failures. This does nothing to promote her independence. Far better that she accept her mistakes, figure out how to deal with them, and move on.

2.  Help Your Daughter Find Her Cause

Young women can get very fired up about what they see as wrong with the world, so help your daughter figure out what she is passionate about, and show her how she can make a difference. Consider Savannah Walters who, at the age of nine, launched the campaign “Pump ‘Em Up” and started going door-to-door with 99-cent tire gauges, showing adults how to get better fuel economy by putting the right amount of air in their tires. Be inspired and share with your child the example of girls such as Anna Calbos and Rosie Scholz, two young women who recently discovered that SC Johnson uses animals in testing its Windex product. The two started a Care2 petition, asking people not to buy Windex because it tests on animals. Their petition has already garnered more than 178,000 signatures.

3. Teach Your Daughter To Be Confident 

“One of the coolest things that I’ve learned is that confidence is not something you’re born with,” says Rachel Simmons, co-founder of the national nonprofit Girls Leadership. As she goes on to explain, confidence is not ”this magical thing, either you have it or you don’t.” Instead, we can all become confident “by learning and practicing a set of skills and … skills are like muscles. The more we flex them, the stronger that they become.”

One way to develop these muscles is by role-playing with your daughter. If she’s having a hard time with a classmate at school, for example, have her explain the situation, and then the two of you can act out what she might say and do. You’ll be teaching her how to express feelings clearly, how to stand and walk with confidence, and how to speak assertively rather than aggressively, as well as how to say no when feeling uncomfortable or pressured by others. 

4.  Foster A Love Of Reading

As noted above, Ginsburg’s mother “made reading a delight.” Giving your daughter a love of reading will serve her for the rest of her life, giving her a passport to explore the world, and expanding and training her mind. Model reading, letting your daughter see that reading is something that you and your family value. Share books with her, reading aloud in situations that create positive associations. Try some of these top feminist fiction or nonfiction books.

5.  Focus On The Positive

As the mother of a young person with dyslexia, it was sometimes hard not to step in and feel sorry when my child couldn’t read like the other kids. On the other hand, she just had to hear her lines for the school play once, and she knew them by heart. She loved to sketch, especially animals, and won a couple of local drawing competitions. Focusing on what your child is really good at is so important and confidence-building. Look beyond the obvious interests like sports and music performance. These are clearly important ways for your child to develop her sense of self, but what about more subtle skills like understanding when someone is sad, and helping him? Or being good at finding out how things work?


Photo Credit: By DFID via Wikimedia Commons

And of course give your child plenty of role models: from Hillary Clinton to Michelle Obama, from Marie Curie to Sally Ride, and the incredible Malala Yousafzai, there are numerous trailblazing role models to inspire your daughter.



Amanda G
Amanda G2 years ago

Thanks for posting

Carl R
Carl R2 years ago


Marie W
Marie W2 years ago

Thanks for posting.

Chun Lai T
Chun Lai T2 years ago

thanks for sharing!

Simon L
Simon L2 years ago

thanks again

Nang Hai C
Nang Hai C2 years ago


Tin Ling L
Tin Ling L2 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

Marija K
Marija K2 years ago

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The blog is called ''Sublime Mercies''.

A blogger that I follow invited people to share it as it didn't seem to get enough attention and I'm not on the social media (other than Care2 and Youtube) so I thought I'd share it this way.

A quote from the article..
''People often say I'm an inspiration. You'd think I'd be happy about that but more often than not I'm angry. This post will explain why. Bear with me. The ideas I'll explore here are complex and difficult for me to put into words. The truth is I've been struggling with this post for at least a month.''

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Leong S
Leong S2 years ago


Chun Lai T
Chun Lai T2 years ago