The importance of a young girl having confidence in herself is hard to put into words. Without confidence, she will begin dumbing herself down for boys. Or letting every ‘stupid’, ‘skinny’ or ‘brainiac’ barb ruin her day. When a parent witnesses a daughter in pain from what can ultimately arise from confidence issues, the reaction can be everything from defensive to supportive.
- Defensive as in, I want to rip the pigtails out of that little brat for putting my daughter down.
- Supportive as in, you are the prettiest girl I know. He just doesn’t know what he’s missing.
I am a father and I have a 14-year old daughter. And yet, the steps I must take to maximize her self-worth pale in comparison to those her mother must take. A growing girl will not just look to her mother, she will shadow her. She will mimic her at times. She will relate more to her mother by sheer identity. If a mother and father are a good team, that same growing girl will be the best of both of them.
But what about those all too common situations in which the dad is not in the picture? Where does that same growing girl get the balance of adjectives that maximize her growth potential? From the mom of course and I’m pleased to say that while it sickens me to see a dad walk away from a child, I have seen plenty of mothers raise a confident daughter by themselves. And, in my observation, there have been three things they have done to aid their daughters growth:
- Lead by example: Remember the mimicking and shadowing? Well, who is that growing girl mimicking? Someone that themselves is confident and strong? Someone that makes good decisions? Someone that does not give up? A mother in motion is a mother with at least two eyes on her at all times. What do those two eyes see when her mother is being yelled at by her boyfriend? What about when her mother is being talked down to by a sales representative? The common phrase is ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. In this case, it’s a lot simpler. Be that which you want your daughter to be. Do in front of others as you would want them to do themselves.
- Be pragmatic: Overprotective is not in play when a parent is pragmatic. Neither is being defensive to little brats in pigtails. Instead, a pragmatic mother is realistic and fully understands that children will grow up with confidence issues. They also understand that children must work through those issues without an overabundance of interference or coddling. Otherwise, there is little to no independence and thus daughters will grow up without having developed their own self-awareness, self-management, and self-worth. A big byproduct of this can be a daughter that does not understand or believe in her ability to be herself or be by herself. Let them be and encourage and support along the way. Self-confidence comes from experience.
- Honor her accomplishments: Saying ‘good job’ and honoring an accomplishment are two different things. One is supportive and the effects short lived while the other is supportive and has a lasting impact on her. When you honor your daughter’s accomplishments, she will remember what she did but she will remember more what YOU did because of what she did. Honor an accomplishment by taking her out to dinner because of the accomplishment and listen intently as she tells you all about it. Then, ask he questions about how it makes her feel, requesting her to show or tell you how she did what she did. Later, you may consider writing about it on your Facebook wall and tagging her in the status. But beware: some kids can get embarrassed when you brag about them in front of others. However, if you couch it well, putting the accomplishment on social media and letting her revel in it from afar can be really rewarding for her. So can be imitating her and telling her how you did something differently because you saw her do it. Can you imagine what it does to a young girl when she knows that her mother was influenced positively by HER?
You do some of this already. Just keep doing it. You’re a great mother and she is watching you watching her.