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Five Ways to Be a Great Role Model to Your Daughter—and Son

Entrepreneur in Residence Elizabeth Cronise McLaughlin weighs in on the important lessons we #womenwhowork must teach our children.


Five Ways to Be a Great Role Model to Your Daughter—and Son
From Elizabeth: One of the great pleasures of working with Ivanka (and her team) is that she knows that raising children while being a woman who works is one of life’s biggest challenges, and also one of its greatest rewards. As mothers, we’re both keenly aware every day of the messages we send and the role models we’ve become.

As working women—and for some of us, as primary breadwinner women—we’re on the cutting edge of the continuing cultural revolution in corporate America, and we’ve got a novel opportunity to show our daughters how to succeed, live and work well. Needless to say, everything that we show our daughters also impacts our sons. I personally want to raise a son who believes that we’re all equal, and who admires and respects successful, ambitious women.

So how can we be the best role models we can be as parents and as #womenwhowork? Here’s five ways to lead by example and show our daughters (and sons) how to become the best people they can be.

Ivanka Trump and Arabella

Show and share your successes

As with all working mothers, there are days where my schedule is so busy that I feel like I barely have a minute to breathe, let alone share the stories of my day with my kids. However, I’ve noticed that on days where I hit a milestone, have an important meeting, or achieve a big win, sharing it with my daughter has a profound effect.

Recently, for instance, I shared with my three-year old daughter that I had an important meeting that day with a prominent figure in publishing. I talked with her as I got ready in the morning about who I was going to meet and why it mattered so much.

In a matter of minutes, she began play-acting about getting ready for her meeting, including packing her briefcase and preparing her “notes” for her “big meeting.”

While this may seem child’s play, what struck me was that as she went about her pretend day, my daughter had no preconception that there was any place she couldn’t go or anything she couldn’t do, and had no limitations about what was possible for her.

In other words, she was ready to follow in my footsteps.

Show your daughter what success looks like, and that it’s a part of normal life, and her own success will be inevitable down the road.

Five Ways to Be a Great Role Model to Your Daughter—and Son

Share and show your confidence

I’m keenly aware these days of the constant media bombardment of our daughters with images of what “ideal” success and “ideal” bodies look like. It’s awfully hard to avoid internalizing at least some of this, and particularly since having children, there have been plenty of days when I’ve not felt my best, or felt I looked my best, regardless of the other good things going on that day.

In an effort to counterbalance this in myself, and in my daughter down the road, I’ve developed a practice with her that we do every night. I do this even when I feel exhausted, overwhelmed, or like I’m having a bad hair day.

It goes like this.

Just after getting my daughter out of the bath, I hold her in my arms, wrapped in a towel, and we look at each other in the mirror. There’s usually a lot of giggling along the way as we say the following things:

Mommy: Who are we?
Daughter: Two pretty ladies!
Mommy: That’s right! What else?
Daughter: Smart pretty ladies!
Mommy: That’s right! What else?
Daughter: Strong pretty ladies!
Mommy: That’s right! What else?
Daughter: Brave pretty ladies!
Mommy: That’s right! What else?
Daughter: Kind pretty ladies!

And this continues until we collapse into giggles or we learn a new word or it’s time to brush teeth.

The first time my daughter, at two years old, pointed to her own heart and said “strong pretty lady,” I cried. And while this exercise is obviously meant for little ones, we can still model confidence and pride in the face of cultural standards of perfection that are extreme to say the least, by honoring our bodies and our unique and colorful qualities, in what we say about ourselves in front of our girls, no matter what their ages.

If we can raise our daughters to believe that they are strong and beautiful, and to say it out loud, we’ve given them a powerful inoculation against our culture or any individual telling them they’re not enough. When we share our confidence with them, we teach them that they, too, can be proud of who they are and secure in their own skin.

Five Ways to Be a Great Role Model to Your Daughter—and Son

Take care of yourself

I’m constantly mindful of the way that stress plays into every aspect of my life. While I’m not always perfect at preventing it, or preventing its effects at home, I am always looking for ways to make sure I’m conveying the message to my daughter that I believe I’m worth taking care of.

This feels especially important to me as of late because the last message I want my daughter to learn is that she can “have it all,” but only if she’s willing to sacrifice her health, her well-being, her friendships or her intimate relationships.

When I take the time to care for myself—even when that means some extra time away from the kids—my daughter sees a healthier and more put together mom, and also sees a model of success that includes health and wellness. Prioritize yourself and you’ll teach your daughter to do so as well.

Five Ways to Be a Great Role Model to Your Daughter—and Son

Model your family values

Lately, I’ve had reason to ponder the value of stuff over experiences when it comes to my daughter. She’s very bright, loves books, and is a great conversationalist. However, put a bunch of Disney’s Frozen gear in her sights, and she’ll ask for more stuff simply because it’s there.

There’s a fine balance to be struck as a parent between our values and our stuff. And that balance isn’t so different for us as adults. Do we value relationships first, or do we value having the latest model car? Do we value travel and cultural awareness, or do we value the number of “friends” we have on Facebook?

For each of us, the conversation is different, but conveying what we value, and why it’s important, is fully reliant on what we model to our kids.

In our household, a few of the things we want our kids to value include connection with people face-to-face, good food, experiences over screen time, difference and diversity, good money management and communication of their needs and wants.

To get to that outcome, we’ve had to make some choices in our everyday lives that aren’t always easy but really matter. For instance, I’m a rabid believer in no technology at the dinner table and family meals together at least a few times a week—even at the busiest times—to make sure we’re connecting with each other, appreciating what we have, and enjoying good food and good company.

Five Ways to Be a Great Role Model to Your Daughter—and Son

Practice kindness and compassion

In our day-to-day working lives, when we’re frazzled, dealing with a difficult client, or stuck in traffic, it may be hard for us to be compassionate all the time.

One of my greatest lessons in life, however, has been in learning how to be compassionate and kind to my daughter even when she’s in the midst of a raging meltdown.

Why? Because finding a way to show kindness and compassion even when others are acting out or having a tough time, and even when we might be angry ourselves, allows us to raise daughters who will do the same.

And in my view, that’s a game-changer, because compassionate female leaders have the potential to change the world—now, and for generations to come.

When we practice compassion, for instance, we change corporate practices that make it harder for women to succeed when they have children. When we practice compassion, we explore alternative models of success that include things like flextime and balance instead of 80-hour work weeks that break individuals and families. When we practice compassion, we invest in education and communities and the health of the planet.

The future depends on raising children who care. Being the best example we can be for our daughters—and our sons—requires us to live into a model of success that includes respect for ourselves, for others and for the world.

Leading by example, and showing our daughters what’s possible, means that we will raise proud, compassionate, confident women, who will make the world a better place.

And no matter what my professional achievements, I personally believe that if I can do that for my daughter, it will be the greatest success of my life.

For more from Elizabeth, read her recent posts on our site—and visit her online at emclaughlin.com and 40percentandrising.com.

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