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Raising confident girls: practical tips for parents

Written by Rebekah Brately

Tragically, girls’ confidence falls by about 30% from age 8 to age 14. Boys don’t face this same reality, which means that your daughter needs a bit more attention during this period of her life. The tween and early teen years are hard on a girl as her body changes and her self-image adjusts. So, let's start teaching skills during their early years. 

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But it isn’t all about what she thinks she looks like. Confidence also includes what your daughter believes she can do. For higher success rates in life, teach your daughter the importance of confidence. I can remember these tween years personally. Acne robbed my confidence. Training bras made me self-conscious. And the symphony of life pressures made me feel like life was no fun all of sudden. But we know more now through robust research and an emphasis on female empowerment.

Raising confident girls is possible and starts long before your daughter starts in the early years to learn how gender develops during a girl's childcare years. Follow these tips to boost your her confidence throughout her life.

1. Teach her to be assertive Some view assertiveness as a bad thing, but that isn’t the case. Teaching your daughter to express her needs to adults and peers from a young age can help her feel good about sharing her opinion. When girls stand their ground, their voices are heard. Assertiveness can also protect your daughter from bullying and poor treatment. Teach her to tell people when she doesn't like the way they are talking to her or treating her. Your daughter should feel confident respectfully speaking her mind.

2. Compliment your daughter’s intelligence It’s easy to fall into a rut of telling girls how pretty they are or what a cute dress they are wearing. Instead, we need to compliment our daughters’ intelligence and behavior. Teach them that not everything is about how they look. Be specific when you compliment your daughter. Don’t just tell her she’s smart. Tell her the outstanding ways she uses her intelligence at home or school. Praise more than grades too so that her worth isn’t tied to only school.Recognize progress and improvements. Your daughter will see through false praise if she knows she isn't truly good at something. Instead, praise her for how well she's doing with growing and improving in various areas of her life.

3. Explain why she might not be invited to everything Self-doubt can creep in from some unlikely places you wouldn’t suspect. When a girl from your daughter’s class has a party and your daughter isn’t invited, it makes her wonder why. Do the other girls not like her? Did she do something wrong? Is she not fun enough? Quiet those fears and help your daughter understand that each friendship is unique. There are good reasons for not being invited to every party and it has nothing to do with not being liked.

4. Allow her to do things herself Parents can easily fall into a rut of doing the heavy lifting themselves or asking a son to do it. Allow your daughter to do things herself, whether that be homework or household chores. Your goal is to show your daughter that she can do anything she sets her mind to. When you make her seem like a delicate flower or lead her to believe she needs to ask for help with everything she does, you’ll rob her of her confidence. That’s not to say you shouldn’t offer to help her or help when she requests it. It’s perfectly fine to help your daughter out, but you shouldn’t automatically do things for her.

5. Support her desire to play sports If your daughter is interested in playing a sport, encourage her to do so. Sports can boost a girl’s confidence and give her a great network of friends. Plus, a girl should believe that she can do anything she puts her mind to so showing her that sports are not just for boys is important. Support her interests and show her the importance of hard work. Getting involved in sports will also show your daughter that her body is for more than just looking cute and pretty. Strength is just as important for girls as it is for boys and sports can help illustrate that for your daughter.

6. Help her have a healthy body image Your daughter’s body image is about more than just thinking she’s pretty. She should believe that she’s strong, can do anything and doesn’t need to hide behind makeup or fancy clothes to be beautiful. When you talk about your daughter’s beauty, go beyond her looks. Tell her you liked her confidence during her recital today or that her smile was the most beautiful thing about her. Her looks will change rapidly over the next several years so try not to tie her self-image solely to that. This is another reason why it’s helpful to have your daughter involved in sports or other activities. That way, you can show her that her beauty comes from her intelligence and skill at various activities more than just what she looks like.

7. Model confidence for her Mothers should model confidence for their daughters. Households where the dad has the final word or makes all the decisions won’t help your daughter learn confidence. Instead, show her what a confident woman looks like.And you should surround her with female role models who exhibit confidence as well. Female role models could be her teachers, coaches, relatives or anyone else she spends time around or looks up to. When another woman you spend time around regularly does not exhibit confidence, point it out to your daughter. Explain that this is not how your daughter should act or needs to act. Ensure that the television programs and books she reads feature confident women. The more you can surround her with women who exhibit the behaviors you hope to see out of your daughter, the better.

8. Protect her from sexism in your household Teaching your son how to treat women properly is just as important as teaching your daughter how to be confident. Likewise, a girl’s father plays an important role in her confidence. Get the whole household on board with building your daughter’s confidence from a young age. When you attend family parties and relatives ask sexist questions or make sexist comments, do your best to redirect the conversation. Your daughter does not need any reason to believe that she isn't good at something or that the activities that interest her are only for boys.

If you experience negative comments from outsiders, explain to your daughter what sexism is and how to deal with it. Lead by example in these scenarios and then discuss with her once you're away from the naysayer.

 

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