The one thing all mothers have in common with their daughters is that they were once daughters, too. Many moms go into mothering having strong theories about how to raise a confident daughter. These theories are usually based on their own childhood memories of being mothered by their own mothers. And these past experiences help them to highlight what parenting strategies worked and what didn't.
We moms want our daughters to feel strong, smart and powerful. But in an overstimulating world of mixed messages -- from school, friends, magazines and TV shows -- the goal of raising a confident daughter can feel understandably daunting.
It's probably no secret children learn the most about themselves by the way we as parents communicate with them. According to a survey done by care.com, when mothers of girls were asked what adjective they typically used with their daughters, a majority (54%) responded "beautiful," whereas only 15% responded "smart." And nearly one-third (32%) most commonly refer to their daughter's as sweet. As a mother 12-year-old daughter myself, I can honestly say I am guilty of referring to my daughter as "pretty" a lot, but not as guilty of calling her "sweet." I like to stick to reality, LOL!
There's been some debate about the impact of mothers over emphasizing their daughter's good looks. What message are we really sending our girls if good looks are the major trait we're overly-focused on? While I don't see it as harmful to send the message to your daughter that she's pretty, I also don't think this is the only trait she should be exalted for. As we all know looks fade, and there is always someone prettier and whatever-er right around the corner. Bottom line: Beauty alone is a dangerous characteristic to place all of your daughter's self-esteem bets on.
One of the best ways to raise a daughter who likes herself is to recognize all the various strengths she has. Make sure the message you send her about herself is an empowering one.
1. Do tell her she's beautiful, just make sure you also highlight the message beauty is as beauty does. How she carries herself as a person will have an even greater impact on how people perceive her.
2. Help her claim her strengths and be specific with your compliments. If she's a good cook, point that out. If you like how thoughtful she is, mention that too. Focusing on the areas she is good at, which also shows her you're interested in who she is as a person.
3. Share your daughter's passion. Parents can make a powerful connection with their daughters when they pay attention to their interests. It also sends the message what they like matters.
4. Point out positive female role models when reading or watching the news to show your daughter anything is possible.
5. Be Supportive and listen to what they have to say, but don't lecture. Help them makes sense of what's going on in their world. Share stories about yourself when you were young.
6. Help them claim and own their strengths with pride. There's a difference between being conceited and having confidence.
7. Share your approach to confidence-building with the regular caretakers, nannies and babysitters in their lives. It's important your daughter hears a consistent theme from all the people in her life.
In the end, having confidence is about how we feel about ourselves and our talents. And this feel-good experience always starts in the home.