I am the mother to a young son, but I was a daughter. I think about having a daughter a lot, and it scares me. I wonder, how will I raise a confident daughter?
While I had positive parental role models growing up, I did not have a great relationship with my mother.
I was often told how beautiful I was by both parents and I learned to believe it, but I wish that my parents, in particular my mother, had tried to get to know me better and focus more attention on my other positive characteristics when I was growing up: I could sing, I was a thoughtful friend, very organized, always loved to read, excelled in English Lit, History, French and later Spanish, I was active in student government, landed the lead in school plays and always a starter on school sports teams. But because those traits were never highlighted, it took me many years and a lot of soul searching to realize there is much more to me than my looks.
We put a lot of emphasis in our society on appearance.
In fact, in a recent survey conducted on Care.com, when mothers of girls were asked what adjective they typically called their daughters, a majority (54%) responded â€œbeautifulâ€ whereas only 15% responded â€œsmart.â€ And nearly one-third (32%) most commonly refer to their daughters as â€œsweet.â€
Clearly, we live in a world where beauty counts, but if that is the only message we are sending our daughters, it’s dangerous. And unfair. There is always going to be someone more beautiful.
We shouldn’t be taught to compare ourselves to images that are not even real, thanks to PhotoShop and airbrushing. You don’t want your child to think there is only one trait that matters. So, how do you fight it?
Your Voice Counts!
Your voice and the words you use live inside your child forever. Help your daughter understand that yes, while looks are important there are many smart, successful, competent women in the world.
Point out your daughter’s other important traits and things she is good at. Notice her strengths and emphasize those. Part of having high self esteem is knowing what you are competent and good at. These characteristics should also be highlighted and celebrated.
Share Your Daughter’s Passions
Plug into your child’s interests; follow her lead and send the message that what she is into matters to you. Encourage her to claim her strengths with pride and reassure her that she doesn’t have to be like Mom and Dad. She can have her own interests. And maybe you can help expand her interests into fields typically dominated by boys.
Listening Is Learning
Remind your child of her strengths and why she is a special girl. Assure her that you are there for her. Share stories about yourself during a similar time in your adolescence or stories of a positive public female role model that came out the other side.
Empathy and understanding are key and it is our job as parents to help our children make sense of what they are going through.
Incorporate Regular Care Providers into Your Approach
Make sure that the teachers, babysitters, extended family members, etc., know that you are choosing not to focus on just the physical aspects of your child, but the entire package.
In the end, encouraging confidence in our daughters is related to how we feel about ourselves, and the pride we have in our talents. And this feel-good experience always beginsÂ at home.
Photo credit: mtsofan