Written by Nalina Ramalakshmi and published on 13 July 2021.
We all want our daughters to grow up confident with a strong sense of self-belief and self-esteem. Read on to see how you can boost your daughter's confidence.
Be smart and strong. Be confident. Be beautiful and sexy. Get your voice heard. Don't be too bossy and loud. It's not about how you look. You need to lose weight. Play sports. Stay away from the sun, you could get tanned. Study hard and top your class. You need to get married. Be responsible. Help with chores at home. You need to have a career.
Confusing, right? Yet, these are the mixed messages girls hear daily from family, peers, media and, yes, social media. Can you imagine what it does to their confidence level? They are expected to be perfect in how they look, in how they perform at school and in their careers, and in how they take care of their family and home. We seem to be asking for the impossible from our girls!
Girls today are achieving success like never before-in school, in their careers and in various aspects of their life. Yet, thanks to the mixed messages they are bombarded with, they begin to doubt themselves and their abilities, thinking, "I am not good enough" or "I don't look good enough." They constantly worry about what others think of them, and this hurts their self-confidence.
Before we get into how you can help boost your daughter's confidence, let's try to understand what we mean by "confidence."
Confidence is all about believing in oneself and one's ability to do things and succeed.
A confident child feels:
Capable - I can think, make decisions and get things done.
Accepted - I feel safe and secure. I belong to a loving, caring family. I'm surrounded by people who respect me for who I am and who will support me as needed.
Resilient - I take risks, I try, I fail, and I learn.
Effective - I did it! I feel useful and valued.
This is what we, at ParentCircle, call C.A.R.E for confidence.
The moment a baby girl is born, stereotyping begins-pink dresses and pink decorations and dolls as gifts. As the girl grows, we keep adding to this stereotyping: Don't jump around like a boy, sit like a lady, sports are for boys, girls must learn to sing and dance, girls are better at language and boys are better at math, engineering is for boys, teaching and nursing are women's jobs, girls should look after the family and home, boys should be the breadwinners ... the list goes on and on. With comments like these, we are ignoring our daughters' interests and personality, and boxing them into a fixed stereotype. This makes our girls self-doubting, which can prevent them from achieving their full potential.
What you can do: Accept your daughter for who she is, with her likes and dislikes, her interests and passions, her strengths and weaknesses. Avoid comparisons with boys, siblings, cousins, peers and friends. Give her your unconditional love and make her feel accepted. It will give her a sense of belonging and security, which in turn will boost her confidence.
Have you heard the saying, "Girls need to be seen and not heard?" Yes, girls are often told they must listen to others and not question, they must speak softly and gently. We are telling our girls that their opinions and ideas do not matter.
If your daughter is exposed to such messages, how will she have the confidence to speak up or participate in class discussions? How will she have a voice to stand up to bullies and aggressors? Later, as a grown woman, will she have the confidence to express her thoughts and share her ideas at home or at work? To achieve success in career, relationships and in all aspects of life, to be a leader, to be able to stand up for their rights, girls need to be able to communicate with confidence. There's no doubt we need to give voice to our girls to make them feel capable and accepted.
What you can do:Encourage your daughter to share her thoughts and opinions. Pay attention and hear what she has to say. Do not brush aside her ideas as being silly or not good. Instead, you could acknowledge her views and say, "Oh, that's another way of looking at it." Involve her in making decisions and allow her to make her choices. Encourage her to take part in debates, public speaking and drama where she is encouraged to speak her voice.
We are often quick to point out weaknesses and mistakes, as we believe this helps our children improve. But too much negativity only hurts a child's confidence, as she begins to feel that she's not able to do anything right. Instead, if you help your child focus on her strengths, on things that she's good at and likes to do, she feels capable and she feels effective. As she experiences success in her areas of strength, this confidence spills over to other areas of her life.
What you can do: Provide opportunities for your daughter to explore her interests and develop her skills. Let her try different activities to figure out her strengths, interests and passion-from robotics and science to art, music or sports. Enrol her in classes, expose her to the works of the best people in her area of interest, introduce her to mentors. Don't forget to acknowledge and show your appreciation for what she does.
For generations, women have put aside their feelings and needs to look after the interests of their husbands, fathers, children and families. Women sacrifice their own desires and talents to take care of their families. When there's limited food, the men and children in the house get to eat first. The leftovers are what the women get to eat. This attitude is slowly changing as we realize that unless the mother and the women of the house are happy and healthy, they cannot effectively take care of their families.
What you can do: Encourage your daughter to share her feelings and needs with you. Listen without judgment, empathize and be there to soothe and comfort her. Emphasize the need for self-care-eating well, exercising, sleeping well and making time for herself to do things that relax and calm her. Knowing you care helps her feel loved, accepted and secure. This gives her the confidence to take risks and push boundaries, knowing that you're there for her no matter what.
According to research, by the time a girl reaches the age of 8 years, she begins to lose her confidence. And although girls perform extremely well in academics in school and college, when they are thrown out into the open world, they become insecure, as they have to take more risks. The prefrontal cortex or the thinking brain develops much earlier in girls. Hence, they are able to see the bigger picture in any situation and are thus more aware of the consequences of their actions. Hence, they are unwilling to take risks. However, it has been shown that when a girl takes risks and challenges herself by stepping out of her comfort zone, she gains confidence. She feels resilient, capable and effective.
What you can do: Encourage your daughter to try new things, to explore and experiment. Is she scared of heights? Get her to climb small trees or take her rock-climbing. Don't expect perfection. If you never allow for mistakes, she'll always be afraid to try in case she fails. Instead, let her know it's okay to make mistakes, and fail. The key is to motivate her to learn from these failures and keep trying. Remind her that no one succeeds on their first try. You need to keep trying and practicing in order to learn and grow and eventually succeed.
As they say, actions speak louder than words. If you just keep telling your girl, "Be confident," it's of no use. Previously, the role of women was very narrowly defined-a daughter or a daughter-in-law, a wife, a mother or mother-in-law, a housewife. Today, we are fortunate to be living in a time when women's roles have evolved, and they are succeeding in all walks of life.
What you can do: Expose your girl to women role models-loving, caring, strong women in your own family your daughter looks up to; women achievers in different fields from sports to music, science, business, art and technology; women and girls who are making a difference to society. Talk about young girls like environmental activist Greta Thunberg or Time magazine's first ever "Kid of the Year," Gitanjali Rao. Listening to their stories can give your daughter the confidence that she, too, can achieve her dreams if she tries.
Find your daughter mentors who will inspire her, guide her and motivate her-it could be a teacher, a coach, or even an aunt or a cousin. A good mentor can help boost your child's confidence by making her feel capable, accepted, resilient, effective and valued.
Girls are expected to look "beautiful", and beauty is defined by media, fashionistas and social media. Today, in India, the definition of beauty is "fair, thin and tall." This can make girls who don't fit this definition feel inferior, which in turn hurts their self-esteem and confidence.
What you can do:Indulge in positive body talk at home. As a mother, your own body image can influence how your daughter feels about her body. When you say things like, "This outfit makes me look fat" or "If I go to the beach, I will get dark because of the sun" or "Wow, look how slim and perfect that model looks," your daughter picks up on these cues and builds her body image.
Remind your child that the so-called beautiful women she sees in movies and ads, or even social media, use makeup to hide flaws or have their pictures edited to make them look that way. Explain to your child that we all come in different shapes, colors and sizes. There's no one type of perfect look or body. The key is to keep her body healthy and fit, and be confident about herself. It is this confidence that will shine through and make her look beautiful.
The reality is our girls are constantly on social media. It helps them connect with friends or people with similar interests. But girls can be easily impacted by what happens on social media. Your child's self-confidence could take a beating when she does not get many likes for her posts or if she begins to think she's not as good as or as capable as others she sees on social media. Sometimes, girls can face cyberbullying on social media, and this can hurt their confidence.
What you can do: Remind your girl that in reality life is not as perfect or glamorous for everyone else as portrayed on social media. Explain how people usually post only their best photos, vacations, achievements on social media. Sit down with her and discuss the pros and cons of social media. What can she do to reduce her use of social media? How else can she connect to her friends? Come up with a plan that helps her reduce her social media dependency.
It's easy for us to point out mistakes and criticize. But this only makes our girls feel "no good." Instead, when we acknowledge good behaviour and appreciate our girls' efforts and achievements, they feel valued and capable.
What you can do: Acknowledge and praise your child when she shows responsibility, or when she is kind and helpful ("You cleaned up your room, you are so responsible" or "I like the way you helped your little sister with her homework").
When your child does something, focus on the effort and not the outcome. Be specific in your praise-"I noticed how much time and effort you put into that drawing of the bird. I can see so much detail on its wings."
10. Encourage her to help others
When we reach out and help others or get involved in a social cause that has an impact on the world around us, we feel valued and we feel good about ourselves. This builds confidence.
What you can do: Encourage your girl to help with chores around the house. Instead of saying, "It's your duty," you could say, "I need your help." She could spend time with the elderly, help a neighbor in need, or even take care of a pet or care for plants in your garden.
Encourage her to volunteer with different organizations that work for a social cause. She could even start a cleanup drive or charity drive in your neighborhood.
There will be times when your child is stressed or gets upset or loses her temper. During such times, learning to regulate her emotions will boost her confidence, as she'll be able to better manage the situation.
What you can do: Equip her with tools that will help her gain control of her emotions when she's upset or agitated. What can she do if she's angry? Ask her to take a few deep breaths, put on some calming music, run around the block, sit in a corner and punch a pillow-whatever helps her calm down. Introduce her to yoga, meditation and mindfulness techniques that will help keep her mind calm and in balance.
We all want our daughters to be confident. Confidence is a feeling of self-assurance and a belief in oneself and one's abilities. Arrogance, on the other hand, is the attitude of "I'm the best, I'm better than everyone else." Nurture confidence and discourage arrogance-and see your girl grow up believing she has the power to achieve her dreams!
About the author:
Written by Nalina Ramalakshmi on 23 January 2021.
Nalina Ramalakshmi is the founder and editor-in-chief of ParentCircle.
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