There’s no question that having a tomboy daughter can be confusing. The neighbor’s daughters are totally in love with dolls and pink floofy dresses. Come Halloween, they’re happy to dress up as fairies and princesses.
Your daughter prefers dinosaurs and toy cars and gets more fulfillment out of playing Squeeze The Lemon with the boys on the playground than she does out of playing House with other little girls.
So what gives?
Okay mom. Sit down and take a breath.
I was (and still am) one of those tomboy daughters. You know it well yourself: growing up as a girl is tough, no matter what you love to do.
That process can be more confusing for your daughter, too. She’s receiving messages that what she likes is “wrong” for her gender – an added stress that she doesn’t need.
So listen to her. Here’s what your tomboy daughter isn’t telling you.
She’s under a lot of pressure
Whether she seems to care about her appearance or not, your tomboy daughter is under a lot of pressure to look a certain way.
Especially as she approaches and navigates puberty, gendered stereotypes are constantly suggesting ways for her to be better, skinnier, prettier, and girlier.
And they’re coming from everywhere – television shows, social media, peers, friends, teachers, school, and yes, even you.
Just like you did in elementary, middle, and high school, she feels tremendous pressure to belong somewhere. That can be made more difficult when she doesn’t belong where society may expect her to belong – alongside her more feminine peers.
Like any other student, she wants to be liked by her teachers and her friends and other students. For her, that may look more like being the class clown than being the Prettiest In Class.
So don’t put more pressure on her. Whether her tomboy personality is a phase or not, don’t expect her to be someone that she doesn’t like. And don’t push her to grow out of it.
She gets a lot of disapproval
Some of it is subtle. Some of it is not-so-subtle. Much of it starts at an earlier age than you would like to believe.
In elementary school, the disapproval may come mostly from other kids. Maybe she can’t keep up with the boys’ four-square game during recess, but she couldn’t stand to play House with the girls.
In high school, the consequences might be greater. She may be bullied, or not quite fit into the changing social scene. School dances may or may not feel like a nightmare.
It’s no secret that your daughter’s confidence takes a major hit when she reaches puberty. If she’s a round peg in a square hole, this can make it even more difficult to feel confident.
The bottom line? Support her. You can’t stop some of the negativity that she’ll encounter, but you can always be on her side.
Her personality deserves respect
Whether she loves playing in the dirt and wearing cargo shorts or lives to build robots with her guy friends, she deserves respect.
Build her up. Tell her you’re proud of her. Respect what she loves to do, even if it’s not what you were into when you were 14.
If she doesn’t want to dress up and go to the school dance, don’t make her. If she excels at science, nurture that. Does she want to learn how to fix stuff? Love it. Tell her you think that’s awesome.
After all, I’m guessing you remember how difficult it can be to earn respect as a teenager. Make sure she knows that you give that to her – free of charge.
I can’t speak for every girl out there, but I can say this: growing up is universal – and it is universally difficult.
You love her and you want her to succeed. Listen when she talks, and be okay with what she says. Even if she doesn’t “grow out of it” (I never did), make sure she knows that that’s perfectly fine.
Besides, we need more badass girls in the STEM fields. Are you with me?