I look at my children some days and I am in awe of how different they are from one another. In theory, both my 13 year old son and my 11 year old daughter were raised almost exactly the same, right? Same house, same rules, same experiences (for the most part) so why did they turn out completely different from one another? My son is an introverted child who lacks confidence even though he is very bright and quite a sweet kid. My daughter has always been a leader….ready to charge on ahead even if she didn’t quite know where she was going. She is also outgoing and confident amongst her peers. So, what did I do differently with her? I have absolutely no idea! Is it just a case of nature versus nurture? Is there some inner gene that controls confidence and personality? Raising confident girls is an important issue to address. Confident girls grow up into confident adults who hopefully have fewer issues with self image, career success, and happiness than women who are insecure about themselves (as I personally often am!) So, if you have a daughter and are curious about how to parent her, here are some tips for raising confident girls….just in case our parenting actually has anything to do with the way our kids turn out!
Tips for Raising Confident Girls
1. Encourage them to step outside their comfort zone: I try hard to give my children experiences that teach them new things and encourage them to jump in with both feet. Whether it is rock climbing (okay, INDOOR rock climbing!), kayaking through swamps with alligators, or even just trying new foods it is important that our daughters realized that there is NOTHING that a girl can not or should not do. Every experience, whether it is good or bad, teaches them a lesson!
2. Allow her to pursue her interests: Every child is going to have likes and dislikes when it comes to their hobbies. Raising confident girls starts with encouraging her to pursue her dreams. Whether she wants to start her own lemonade business, learn to sew, cook dinner or collect bugs we should not limit our daughters based on our own preconceived ideas about what girls should and should not do. When my kids were younger my son played with dolls and my daughter caught frogs…and then they would try something else. Giving in to stereotypes just holds our daughters back and is not at all helpful when it comes to raising confident girls! My daughter loves to cook and rather than micromanage her recipes I try hard to step back and let her do things her own way. Even if that means we are eating rainbow colored pudding for dessert!
3. Do not focus on what she looks like! I may get some slack from the parents of child models on this one but I will never, EVER teach my daughter that she can get anywhere in this world based on the way she looks. She is more than just a pretty face…she is a brain and a heart and a conscience and a ton of other things. I never pushed the whole ‘princess’ thing when she was little (although she did like them well enough) and I will not encourage her to take up cheer-leading. Now, I know cheerleaders have to be physically fit and hard working but there is a ‘type’ when it comes to most cheerleaders and as someone who spent 8 years in the band I am not a fan of having my daughter bounce around waiving pompoms and wearing tight and skimpy clothes. Teach your daughters to use their heads and not rely on the way they look to get what they want out of life.
4. Encourage a healthy body image: This goes hand in hand with not focusing on the way your daughter looks. I have already noticed a few of my daughter’s friends who are overly concerned with calories and their weight. And she is only 11! Do not let your daughter see you measuring food, skipping meals, or talking about dieting. Encourage eating healthy foods and occasional treats. Do not be overheard saying ‘Oh, I can’t have that cookie because I am on a diet’. Do not make comments about her weight or if she is too skinny or too fat. If you focus on teaching your child to eat healthy and exercise body image will not become an issue.
5. Let her make mistakes: Listen to your daughter’s concerns, questions, and curiosities and offer guidance but not necessarily answers. Sometimes, the key to raising confident girls is letting them make mistakes occasionally so that they can learn. Making small mistakes now will help them make smarter decisions when they get older. Confidence comes with knowing you are going to succeed…and sometimes you have to know what failure feels like before you get things right!