Caption: Neyo with little sister Nikki.
We’ve embraced the fact that our boys need fathers. We’ve even said those who don’t need male role models. According to most fathers – boys are easy. You can toss them around. You can raise your voice. You use the bathroom the same way. You have so much in common. Girls need men in their lives too. Especially after they reach puberty and the hormones kick in. If you are that man in a girl’s life – her big brother, her uncle, or her father you should:
(1) Listen to her. Don’t just hear her. Ask her about her opinion. Encourage her to speak her mind even if she doesn’t agree with you. Through her conversations with you, she will learn how to make a logical argument, how to negotiate and how to stand her ground. This is especially important because the corporate world – heck our world in general is patriarchal and she can best learn how to function in this world by dealing with patriarchs who have her best interests at heart.
(2) Show her that she is beautiful. When you see women or girls who share similar characteristics – allow her to hear you comment on how beautiful the woman or how pretty the girl or young woman. If she sees you abusing women who share her characteristics or talking badly about their attitudes – those generalizations will rub off on her. Likewise, if she sees that you only date women who dress a certain way she will consider that a viable option as a role model. If you’re single, think about the last three dates or girlfriends you introduced your sister or your daughter or your niece to. Are they women you’d want your sister or your daughter or your niece to be or become?
Caption: Rev. Run with daughters Vanessa & Angela
(3) Help her reach her dreams. Convince her that anything is possible. If she’s younger, expose her to traditional “male” or “boy” things like legos, chess and athletics. While it’s okay for her to celebrate her gender as a female, it is important that she not be married to pink or that she becomes resistant to math or science because she believes “it’s for boys.” The only way for her to move away from those rigid gender roles and gender lines is for someone to expose her to other options. When she says she wants to do something – talk it through and help her find the resources to make it happen.
(4) Protect Her. Both emotionally and physically. Even if she disappoints you by choosing a poor partner or by disobeying your words – she needs to know that you are her paramedic – available at a moment’s notice and you will always be there.
(5) Show her what love is… show her what respect is… She needs to see at least one healthy romantic relationship. Even if you aren’t on the best terms with her mom (in a romantic sense) she needs to hear that you respect her mother. If you aren’t her father and you’re a big bro or uncle – have an honest conversation about what makes you love (or hate) a woman, and what makes you respect (or devalue) a woman. Be very honest. Be very specific. She will get the message.
(6) Understand that she’s going to make mistakes. She’s not perfect and she needs you to be there when she falls. If you ignore her or cut her off then she may go further into a dark tunnel and become more rebellious. She needs certain things from you – conversation, support, humor, a shoulder to cry on, advice – and if she is not getting those things from you, she will be looking in another direction for those things.
(7) Share your experiences. Open up to her about your life experiences and tell her what you learned from them. You’d be surprised how much she’ll learn from just listening to your stories. Tell her about the time you were afraid, or the time you lost your cool. Tell her about how you had your heart broken or when you disappointed your parents. She’ll learn from your cues.
I was blessed growing up to have a strong male figure in my life – my mother’s older brother. By watching him I learned a strong work ethic (he NEVER missed work and would often have to work on holidays because he was a fireman). I learned the importance and value of travel – he would haul my cousin (his daughter) and I into the back seat of his Crown and we’d drive all over the country – to Michigan, to California, to New Mexico just to name a few. He was there to celebrate major milestones in my life – birthdays and graduations and he had a strong voice in our family often making the hard decisions. My father was here and there but my Uncle often treated me like his daughter and I know that I would not be the woman I am today without his influence. So if you’re a brother, an uncle or a father please think about all of the women (young and old) in your life… we desperately need you…