It was fifth grade. The school bus had just dropped me off, along with all the other kids who lived in the cluster of apartment complexes near mine.
As a painfully shy kid, I hadn’t made any friends who lived nearby. No one to sit next to on the bus. No one to walk home with, chattering about the day. But I didn’t mind because I could get lost in my thoughts. And if I hurried, I might catch The Addams Family.
This day was like every other day, mostly. Stepped off the bus. Kept my head down. Started towards the apartment in silence.
Except that a group of sixth-grade boys got off the bus right behind me. Usually they sat at the back of the bus and took their time getting off, so I was long gone by the time they hit the pavement.
That day, they must have been in a hurry to get home. And loud. So loud.
“Ow!” one yelled while another laughed, but I didn’t turn back to see what happened.
I sped up, my shins burning.
They all cracked up at the same time.
Then got quiet.
I willed my legs to move faster.
I wasn’t sure why I was hurrying. Still, adrenaline surged through my heart.
One at first. He barked like a dog. At me.
The others laughed, then they barked too.
Can you see it?
A 10-year-old girl hurrying down the sidewalk, her ponytail swinging side to side, and a group of four or five boys following behind her, barking.
What was I afraid of? Who knows.
But for some reason, I got a bad vibe off those boys on that day. As a latchkey kid, I knew there was no adult at home waiting for me. Nobody who would come looking for me if I wasn’t home at the right time.
I’m still not 100 percent sure what they meant by barking. That I was ugly as a dog? That’s my best guess.
Just kids being mean, and not really a big deal.
Except for One Thing
As an adult, I’ve relived that afternoon more than it deserves.
Why didn’t I turn around and tell them to shut up? Why did I run? Why didn’t I at least laugh it off?
The truth is: I never stood up for myself as a kid.
I just let other kids say mean things to me.
Like in fifth grade when I was supposed to write a story that was two pages long but instead I wrote 20, and I was so proud of myself. When it was my turn to read the story out loud in class, my voice squeaked and the paper shook in my hands. After I read “The End,” a boy laughed and said “She just stole that from The Goonies.” (Which was true, but still.)
Or my crush in sixth grade who told me I was “flat.”
Or the boy in ninth grade who told me: “Your nose is too big for your face.”
I want to go back in time to that shy girl, grab myself by the shoulders, and shake her until her hibernating confidence wakes like a cranky bear.
What Changes When You Have a Daughter
In college, I finally learned how to stand up for myself.
But now I’m in charge of raising three girls.
The thought of other kids saying mean things to my daughters? Spreading gossip, snubbing them, barking at them? Talk about waking a cranky bear.
I’m not silly enough to think I’ll be there to protect them.
We have this thing we say at our house when any of the kids get scared or are about to do something dangerous.
My husband or I will say: “What’s my number one job?”
And the kid will answer: “To keep me safe.” Unless they’re dead-set on doing that dangerous thing. Then they’ll just glare, and we’ll say that part for them.
But part of keeping my daughters safe is teaching them how to keep themselves safe. How to speak up. How to demand respect.
11 Best Girl Power Songs for Raising Strong Girls
We’re a big fan of family dance parties at our house. When the mood is tense or tones get snippy, you can throw on some dance music and boogie away the bad juju.
Lately, I’ve found myself craving a playlist of songs to inspire my girls to be confident, strong, and brave. Recent, fresh songs. Not stuff my grandma listened to. But also nothing that mentions twerking or milkshakes or “that boom boom that all the boys chase.”
Are my expectations too high for a Saturday afternoon playlist of songs for girls? Maybe.
But I know from experience that songs can inspire you to take a stand for yourself.
And so I put together a playlist for my daughters. A playlist for strong girls, even if they don’t know how strong they are quite yet.
If you’re raising a girl, play these songs for her.
Let the lyrics of these girl empowerment songs percolate in her growing, learning, blossoming spirit.
And when the day comes that someone is mean to her, your daughter will be ready to stand toe-to-toe with the meanness and tell him to shove that bark where the sun don’t shine.
1. Fight Song by Rachel Platten
“This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
(Starting right now) I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me”
2. Put Your Records On by Corinne Bailey Rae
“Girl, put your records on, tell me your favourite song
You go ahead, let your hair down
Sapphire and faded jeans, I hope you get your dreams,
Just go ahead, let your hair down.
You’re gonna find yourself somewhere, somehow.”
3. Brave by Sara Bareilles
“Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly I wanna see you be brave”
4. Race You by Elizabeth & The Catapult
“‘Cause there’s a shortcut down the beaten path
One step to the right, three to the left
The moon’s so high
The wind’s so fast
Makes us feel like goddesses”
5. Mean by Taylor Swift
“You, with your words like knives
And swords and weapons that you use against me
You have knocked me off my feet again
Got me feeling like a nothing
You, with your voice like nails on a chalkboard
Calling me out when I’m wounded
You, picking on the weaker man
Well you can take me down with just one single blow
But you don’t know, what you don’t know…
Someday I’ll be living in a big ole city
And all you’re ever gonna be is mean”
6. Nobody Ever Told You by Carrie Underwood
“Take off all the makeup girl
Shine your light, show the world
Don’t be shy, don’t be scared
You don’t have to hide under there
Let’s throw away all the magazines
Turn off the static on the TV
Wish you could see yourself the way I do”
7. Roar by Katy Perry
“I used to bite my tongue and hold my breath
Scared to rock the boat and make a mess
So I sat quietly, agree politely
I guess that I forgot I had a choice
I let you push me past the breaking point
I stood for nothing, so I fell for everything
You held me down, but I got up
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, you hear that sound
Like thunder gonna shake the ground
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now”
8. Make a Noise by Katie Herzig
You see the sky on fire
The water’s getting higher, now
Believe that you can change the world
Your dreams, have been living in a code of silence
So let them out
Find your voice, find your voice
Make a noise”
9. Afterlife by Ingrid Michaelson
“You and me
We got this
You and me
We are going to be alright
We got we always got the fight in us”
10. Whole Wide World by Mindy Gledhill
“I’m gonna walk a hundred miles
I’m gonna whistle all the while
If that’s what it takes to make me smile
I’m gonna walk a hundred miles
I’m gonna run right up this hill
Summer sky or winter chill
If I gotta take a break I will
But I’m gonna run right up this hill”
11. Now Is the Start by A Fine Frenzy
“Now, oh, now is the start
Oh, and it goes with where you go
Don’t lose faith for the friends
You don’t need a thing, you already know
You are right as you are”
Get the Spotify Playlist
If you use Spotify, head over to this Girl Power playlist and click the heart button to add it to your own Spotify library. Bonus: As I discover new girl power songs, you’ll get extra songs not yet featured in this post!
For more tips on raising strong girls, check out How to Teach Young Girls to Demand Respect.
Before you go, get my FREE cheat sheet: 75 Positive Phrases Every Child Needs to Hear
What’s your favorite girl power song? Share in a comment below!