Raising confident daughters in a world that is constantly focused on the appearance, actions, and clothing of women is going to be a struggle. With more accessibility and the rise of different types of social media platforms, including filters that completely reshape and smooth features, I worry about what this means for my daughters as they age into their tweens.
On top of appearance, young girls as early as age 8 begin to exhibit people-pleasing behaviors and begin critically questioning their physical and academic abilities. According to a poll conducted by authors Katty Kay and Clair Shipman, girls between the ages of 8-14 see a 30% plummet in self-confidence.
Here are five ways I am working to raise confident daughters.
Every morning on our way to the school drop-off line we recite daily affirmations. I try to make it fun and simple as my daughters are only 5 and 2. You can use any adjective following the phrase “ I am.” I like to use I am smart, strong, beautiful, kind, a good listener, a good friend, etc. I also add in a few things when they need a confidence boost relating to specific current struggles. I always like to end with “My mommy and daddy love me.” and of course a round of high fives.
Modeling Body Acceptance
Being surrounded by women who continuously critique their bodies can really wear on the confidence of young girls. Imagine being in a room of women you look up to and they begin to talk poorly about themselves or even other people around them. These things become ingrained in our daughters’ brains and they start realizing and picking at some of their own similar “flaws” and thus the vicious cycle of body shame continues. Body image is something that I struggle with regularly but I consciously try not to talk about my body negatively in front of my children. Maybe, just maybe, I can raise girls who will look in the mirror and see everything that is wonderful about themselves instead of picking at every minuscule flaw.
Praise Efforts Rather than Performance
It’s easy to get caught up praising a child for their performance especially if they win first place or bring home a perfect report card. However, it’s also a great idea to simply praise your child for trying their best regardless of if they won the big game or brought home straight A’s. I always try to ask my daughter if she had fun after her soccer games and if her answer is yes then I try to make a big deal about how fun it was, despite the score.
Supporting Them through Difficult Emotions
This one is so hard as a parent especially if you are also struggling with your own emotions. I admit I struggle, especially when I’m burnt out. However, when children are young and are learning about their emotions, it is important to allow them to sit with those emotions and give them space and assistance to identify and work through them. Building emotional confidence allows children to understand themselves better. When working with emotions encourage them to build proper coping mechanisms. This will enable them to develop skills and confidence to help them work through any type of adversity or conflict they may experience later in their lives.
Teaching the Word ‘No’… and Allowing Them to Use It
There are safety aspects to consider in this particular corner of my parenting toolbox. That said, I try to respect the word “no” from my kids as often as safely possible. It’s also good to consider that having a child who is confident in saying “no” is a huge aspect of their safety as well. Many times this is easier to explain using body autonomy.
If my kids don’t want to kiss or hug anyone they do not have to do it. If they say “no” to a game or anything that doesn’t impact their safety, we try to respect that.
For something like brushing their teeth, getting dressed, or going to bed if they say “no” I try to ask them what they think might happen if they do not brush their teeth, get dressed, go to bed, etc. This helps open the conversation as to why it is important for such things to be done. I feel as though girls having the confidence to say “no” is impactful in the long run and will help them distinguish between people-pleasing and actually doing things they want or need to do.
I am no parenting expert, but I hope that these small actions help keep up my daughters’ confidence and also help keep them safe as they grow into young women.
How are you raising confident daughters? Tell us in the comments below.