Ask her what she thinks of her new teacher, a political figure’s view on an issue or which outfit she thinks you should wear to an event. Getting her opinion and encouraging her to vocalize it teaches her early that what she thinks matters. She should never be afraid to express her thoughts through words. So often girls from a young age are sent unconscious signals that a girl’s role is to be quiet and dainty; which is ok if your daughter is naturally this way. However, when she has an opinion about an issue teach her that it is ok to speak up. If she struggles with expressing her words, enroll her in a public speaking class, an acting class or urge her to join the debate team at her school.
6) Encourage a healthy body image
It is helpful to teach her early that she is special just the way she is. Let your older daughter know the fashion models she sees on magazine covers have had their pictures altered to make them look thinner and more flawless. Encourage her to get involved in a sport of her choosing. In addition to acquiring the benefits of learning a new sport, she will adopt a healthy, active lifestyle as a result and be less likely to fall into unhealthy weight-loss schemes. Teaching her, early, to embrace who she is, flaws and all, will make it easier for her in her tween and teen years when she really begins to struggle with peer pressure, body image and self-confidence.
5) Teach her how to forgive herself
Studies show that by their teen years, girls develop much less self-confidence and poor body image than boys do. By the age of 6 years old, girls lose faith in their own talents compared to boys. Girls are much less forgiving of themselves and their flaws and tend to internalize criticism much more than boys. Tell her, every day, that she is special and loved. If she hears it from you, she is much less likely to tolerate a negative, abusive relationship in the future. I have found that sharing my personal struggles with self-esteem with my daughter and how I am continually learning to forgive myself can be a good way of teaching this skill in a non-intimidating way. Your daughter should know that she is not perfect. No one is. And this is ok. In fact, it is an asset because it makes her more unique and special.
4) Be specific when you give her compliments
Tell her, “I’m proud of you because you studied your math every day and got an A on that test” instead of “Good job getting an A.” Try, “You made excellent eye-contact with the crowd during your speech” rather than “That was a great speech.” Giving specific feedback can be a very robust way to build your child’s self-confidence, especially if the compliment is in an area they’ve made an active effort to improve in rather than in areas they have less control over.
3) Check your own biases
We may have biases we may not even be conscious of that could, from a very early age, send signals to your daughter of what role she is expected to play in society. Seeking out her thoughts and desires on anything from what to wear to school all the way to which sport she would like to take part in are key to ensuring that she is encouraged to engage in what she gravitates towards naturally. Fathers or father figures can also play a crucial role early, in helping to shape their daughters self-confidence.
2) Expose her to positive role models…
Have her read books or watch movies with inspirational female role models. Have conversations with her about female role models in the news or in her daily life who are exceptional. Point out women doctors, lawyers, business owners, senators, judges, team coaches, astronauts, engineers and stay-at-home-moms. Show her that women can do anything they chose if they put their mind to it.
1) …Including yourself
Be a role model. The old mantra “The apple doesn’t fall very far from the tree” rings true. Young girls learn confidence and how to behave mostly from your behavior. Eat well, exercise, avoid gossip, and minimize self-criticism. Be honest and open with your child about your mistakes and shortcomings and parent with empathy. Even if you don’t agree with her ideas, show her that you do care what she thinks and her opinion matters. As mentioned earlier, girls are encouraged early to be perfectionists which breeds self-criticism instead of embracing her strengths and utilizing her weakness as opportunities for self-development and growth. Your modeling an attitude of self-acceptance and healthy self-analysis and not criticism will show her that personal growth is the goal.
Have tips on how to raise confident girls? Please share below!