At some point along the way, our daughters go from being self-confident and proud 4 year olds to shy teenagers in too-short shorts afraid to stand up for what is important to them. The good news is that there are many ways to build self esteem in girls but the key is to start early and often.
We have to instill in our daughters from the very beginning that their value and worth is intrinsically tied to things other than their appearance or their friends. We have to show them that what is truly important is how they treat others, how they give of their time and talents and how they respect themselves.
Sure the old adage that beauty is only skin deep is true – but how can we SHOW them there is truth in these words in a world that often values beauty as the ultimate test of success?
How can we show them that beauty is a complete package…that without a good heart and self respect, “beauty” will always be unattainable.
I have two young daughters and I am one of 3 girls myself. I feel I’m in a pretty good position to have this discussion. Not because I know all the answers but because I think it’s mission critical I try to figure them out.
Here are the 10 ways my husband and I are building up our daughters while they are young.
10 Critical Ways To Build Self Esteem In Girls
1. Be A Good Example
My daughters have never heard me bemoan my muffin top or wish I was 2 sizes smaller. They haven’t seen me grab a love handle or refuse to get in a swimsuit. Maybe I do it in the privacy of my bathroom when I’m all alone but NEVER for them to see or hear. I want them to know their body is perfect just the way it is.
2. Praise The Process Not The Outcome
What I mean is don’t focus so much on whether your daughter makes the basketball team or aces her Math test. Praise her for trying. Praise her for working so hard. Praise her for her efforts. We can’t all be math superstars (and take it from someone who was good in school, it makes little to no difference in the real world anyway).
3. Build Up Her Character, Not Her Closet
If you have the chance to tell your daughter what a good person she is or how brave she is, choose that over adding on to her wardrobe.
4. Teach Her To Give Back
I believe part of self esteem comes full circle in being able to realize how fortunate we are. When we are able to say, “Hey, I have a healthy body and a strong mind and parents who love me,” it goes a long way in realizing how fortunate we are. But these basics can be really easy to forget in the hum drum of the every day.
I’m not saying volunteer so that your daughter can say “Thank God I’m not these people” but rather “Thank God I am in a position to help them.” There is power in helping.
5. Spend REAL Time With Her
Do you enjoy date nights with the hubs? Girls’ Night with your friends? Now ask yourself – do you show that same enthusiasm when it’s just you and your daughter? If you want your daughter to feel good about herself, show her in your actions that she is someone worthy of spending time with. Go to a park. Go see a movie. Eat ice cream for dinner just the two of you. But love every minute of it.
6. Show Her She’s Not That Special
That sounds awful I know…but in some respects, the easiest way to show your daughter how strong and confident she CAN be is to show her everything she is enduring now is nothing every girl hasn’t gone through for the last 1000 years (in various forms of course).
Her changing body, mean girls, exclusivity, the desire to belong. We have all been there, done that. And most of us don’t escape unscathed…but we survive. And if we choose, become better people for our experiences.
7. Let Her Spend Time With Dad
I’m the first to admit my husband is the “fun” one in our house. (There’s good reason for it too…read about that here!). Dads provide something special to their daughters that only they (or a strong male role model) can.
Meg Meeker, M.D., author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters, says that girls take cues from the men in their lives from the time they’re little, and the attention they receive (or not) influences everything from seeking boys’ approval to finding their career path. Whereas daughters come to believe their moms love them unconditionally, girls often feel they need proof from their dad.
It doesn’t take much…A dad who washes car with his daughter, builds a special project with her or just hangs out and talks…it’s the simple things that will build her up.
8. Be The Person She Comes To When She’s Upset
I always get a lot of flack for my post on why I am my child’s best friend…but if people would truly take the time to read it, they would understand that I am not looking to be my kids’ drinking buddy but the one they trust in. The one they feel close enough to to tell anything.
Without fear of retribution or judgement. I knew growing up that no matter who laughed at me or made me feel insecure, I would go home and my parents would be there to build me back up. All kids need this.
9. Stay In The Know On Social Media
My girls aren’t old enough (yet) for me to have to deal with cyber bullying and mean girl posts on Facebook and Instagram. But when they are, I want to know enough about the technology to talk with some authority. Because the more I know the in’s and out’s, the more comfortable I will be in talking to my daughters about how to navigate social media and come out on the other side standing tall.
10. Show Her You Care About What SHE Cares About
This starts early my friend. I cannot tell you how many gazillion cartwheels, flips in the pool, and coloring pages I have “ooh”ed and “ahh”ed over. And I’ll admit it, sometimes I may fain interest because I mean honestly, how many different ways can you do a cartwheel?! But my girls don’t know.
They just know I REALLY seem to care when they master a new skill, learn something new at school, or make a new friend. If tomorrow my 7 year old develops a newfound interest in soap box derbies then by golly, I want to hear all about it.
Because nothing builds someone up like actually caring about them. And what they have to say. And what they have to share.
And when our daughters realize they have something to say and something to share, they will realize they are someone. Someone important. Someone who is loved. Someone who has something to give. Someone who, in their own way, can build up others along the way.
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