Five life skills to teach your daughter

I’m not a mother, but somehow proxy motherhood found me when I was least expecting it. Or so it was when I married a man with a daughter from a previous marriage. So, reflecting on reaching my (almost) mid-thirties what life skills do I want to teach my teenage step daughter?

1. No. No. NO!

This took me years to master. Why as women do we feel uncomfortable when you say no to someone? What is it in our biology or our upbringing that makes this so hard? That cringy feeling of discomfort and feeling like you’ve letting someone down? Why do we end up apologising profusely when we do say “no”? And why do you then feel guilty when you do have the courage to say it? This for me has been the hardest life skill to crack, but the best advice is start small. And keep doing it. Practice makes perfect. And if you’re still struggling, ask yourself this: What would a man do in this situation?

2. Learn how to have a difficult conversation.

The people that progress in the workplace and have the best relationships are the ones who can confront uncomfortable situations. I don’t want to repeat what I wrote above, but again, it’s awkward right? Why does this not get taught in schools!? How do you get better at it? Practice in private, say it out loud. Verbalising it is powerful. Make power poses before-hand, science has proven it raises testosterone, which makes you feel stronger. And again, start small and keep doing it.

3. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Be shameless. Ask for more. No one is going to give you anything in life if you don’t ask for it.

4. Your gender makes you a target.

This really pains me to say this, but as a woman you have so much s**t to contend with. In the UK, you have a 1 in 4 chance of being a victim of domestic violence. 2 women are killed every week by their partner or ex-partner. 75% of women in the UK have faced harassment or violence in public. And let’s not forget how rape is still routinely used as an instrument of war. On a personal note, I was 7 when my Mum was beaten up by her then boyfriend on a drunken bender. He broke her jaw and her hand as she tried to defend herself. Whilst at University I had a boyfriend who was horribly aggressive to me. I was 29 when I was groped on a train by a stranger. And I was 32 when a doctor groped me when I was admitted to hospital. When each of these incidents happened, I felt sick to my stomach. I have no advice for how to avoid these situations, but you can fight back. Unfortunately, only once was I able too.*

5. Be financially independent.

If you earn your own money, you have control over your destiny. You can live where you want, buy what you want and party as hard as you want. You don’t need a man to buy you flashy jewellery, clothes, shoes or handbags. Have the satisfaction of knowing you worked hard and bought it for yourself because you’re awesome and you deserve it.

*Sadly, I’m not the feeble women you probably think I am. I was an Army Officer at the time and had served on operations in Afghanistan. #suckstobeawoman