Girls grow up surrounded by competing messages.
For example, the media tells them that they should be thin and pretty, but that it’s bad to take a healthy pride in their appearance.
When it comes to intelligence, they are expected to be smart and do well at school, but to avoid coming across as too clever.
By the time they reach their teens, the typical girl is less confident than the average boy.
She is likely to have lower self-esteem, place more emphasis on her looks, and assume that she is less capable than her male friends.
Luckily, there are tried and tested strategies you can use to raise a confident girl who puts herself first and believes in her own strengths.
Here’s how to do it:
1. Show her what a strong, independent woman looks like:
Lead by example.
Let your daughter know that you appreciate and value your own talents.
Take every opportunity to praise other women, and emphasize that it’s a good idea for a woman to have her own life outside of her relationships.
Develop your own interests, stand up for yourself, and show her that women are perfectly capable of handling their own lives.
Speak positively about your own body, and never insult another woman’s appearance.
2. Encourage her to aim high:
If you teach your daughter from an early age that men and women are equally capable and can succeed in any profession they choose, she is more likely to develop a wide range of interests and pursue a career based on what she loves to do rather than restrict her career choices to traditionally feminine jobs.
3. Encourage her to take part in a wide range of activities:
Help your daughter develop her intellectual, social, and sporting skills.
If she shows an interest in an activity – even if it’s seen as a “boy thing” – let her give it a try.
Group hobbies are a great way for girls to make friends and learn how to build healthy relationships.
4. Always take her concerns seriously:
If your daughter comes to you with a problem, do not tell her to stop being silly or that she is overreacting.
Your role as a parent is to provide a safe space in which she can talk to you about whatever is happening in her life.
Teach her that she has the right to be heard.
This will build her confidence because she will learn that her worries and feelings are valid, and that she deserves help when she is in need.
Non-judgmental listening will also foster a positive relationship between the two of you, which will lay the foundation for a strong bond for years to come.
5. Praise her achievements:
It sounds obvious, but girls and boys alike benefit from ongoing praise and encouragement.
However, with girls, there is an added complication.
From a very young age, girls are taught that their appearance matters more than their skills or personality.
To counter this message, be sure to congratulate her on academic and athletic achievements.
When she behaves kindly towards others, tell her how proud you are of her good character.
6. Teach her that relationships are important, but that her wellbeing should always come first:
For most of us, relationships play a key role in our lives.
There is nothing wrong with falling in love, wanting to be part of a circle of friends, and helping other people.
However, girls and women are often expected to act as emotional and physical caretakers simply on the basis that they are female.
They are expected to comply with other people’s wishes and are encouraged to please others rather than take care of themselves.
In some cases, they may be forced to put their careers and interests on the back burner.
They may become unfulfilled, depressed, and resentful.
Teach your daughter what healthy friendships and relationships look like, and tell her that she has the right to say “No” to anyone, even a partner or friend.
There’s no getting around it – raising a confident daughter takes a lot of love and effort.
You will need to model healthy behavior and have many talks about what it means to be a strong woman in today’s society.
Sometimes, it may seem as though you are fighting a losing battle against the unhelpful messages your daughter receives from the media, her school, her friends, and even her relatives.
However, when she looks back at her childhood as an adult, she will thank you for helping her build a healthy self-identity that doesn’t depend on the approval of other people.