How to Raise a Confident Daughter

Raising a daughter in today’s society can be a challenge. There are more and more opportunities available for girls as compared to the past, but there are also mixed messages and new issues our girls are facing. With the relationship and guidance provided from a parent, a girl can achieve and do great things, living a life with confidence, inner strength, and contentment.

I am a social worker, therapist specializing in play therapy, health and wellness expert, and have two daughters (and a son) of my own. I will be sharing with you some KEY methods for helping our daughters to have self-confidence, an important trait to living a fulfilling and joyful life.

Raising Daughters; Encouraging natural, internal beauty
(Raising Daughters; Encouraging natural, internal beauty; Source: leandroviliel)

Talk and Listen

Talking and Listening is very important for raising confident daughters.

When parents allow their children to talk to them about lots of different things, a girl is able to express herself freely and explore her own thoughts and ideas. What is even more important is for parents to ACTIVELY LISTEN to their daughters.

Active listening basically means to show that you actually heard what the other person said. To do this you can do things like: restate what she said, paraphrase what you heard, inquire about more information….Basically, any method that will show that you truly heard AND understood what your daughter says.

Your daughter also likely wants you to be part of the conversation, as well, so striking up conversations with her, such as by asking how her day was or asking her what she wants to do this weekend (or pretty much anything else) can help build her confidence by making her feel like her views, opinions, and thoughts matter.

Google defines self-confidence as: “a feeling of trust in one’s abilities, qualities, and judgment.”

Living Life with Confidence
(Living Life with Confidence; Source: Live Life Happy)

Parents as Role Models

Parents play an important role in what kids learn about many aspects of life including how to treat others, how to manage conflict, what feelings are okay to express, self-esteem, body image, self-worth and self-confidence.

Dara Chadwick, author of the book “You’d be so pretty if…“, talks about how mothers (or any woman) has a “body image history”. She is referring to how moms have subconscious beliefs (ideas a person is not always completely aware of) about their bodies. Some of these beliefs come from childhood, such as by seeing how their mothers perceived and managed their bodies. Other beliefs come from experiences, good or bad, such as being called names as a child, looking different from others, not meeting expectations presented by the media, and so on. Other beliefs come from within, thoughts a mom develops over time about who she is and what she likes or dislikes about herself.

It is important, especially for mothers, to present positive body image beliefs for their daughters. This will help your daughter to gain confidence in who she is. Having an unhealthy belief system about your own body image makes having confidence in life more difficult. It’s not necessary to try to meet the “ideal” look, but it is important to be comfortable in your own skin.

TIPS for role modeling healthy body image:

  • Say positive things about yourself in front of your daughter.
  • Take compliments. (Say “Thanks” instead of brushing off a compliment.)
  • Counteract negative comments you hear other people saying about your daughter (such as if someone says she looks like she’s getting chubby).
  • Dress in fashion you like and let your daughter choose what fashion she likes instead of comparing yourselves to what “everyone else” is doing or what you are “supposed to” wear.

Spending Time with Dad

Many fathers are spending more time with their kids these days. Many dad’s are being more and more involved in their children’s lives. Some dads even have the role of staying home with their kids while the mom goes to work. No matter your living situation, a father impacts a girl’s self-confidence (a mother does, too, but I will talk a little bit about a father’s impact since father’s are increasing their involvement with their children these days).

Here are some things that Dads can do for their daughters to help them grow up with confidence and self-respect.

  • “Rough-house” with her: As long as the rough-housing isn’t so rough that it’s harming her, this type of play encourages a healthy level of confidence, competence, joy, and builds the bond between father and daughter.
  • Allow her to do “boy” and “girl” things. Allowing your daughter to explore all types of activities, as well as actively participating in those activities with her, is a great way to enhance her feelings of self-worth and self-confidence, because it shows her that its okay to be herself and follow her own interests and uniqueness.
  • Recognize her emotions, be responsive when she wants to talk, and talk to her casually about things that are going on in her life. When a father is open to talking with his daughter, she is able to feel secure in being able to talk to him about different things she is going through. When a father recognizes and shows his daughter that he recognizes her feelings and understands her, then she grows up to feel confident because she has been heard, understood, validated, and loved.
Father and Daughter Bonding
(Father and Daughter Bonding; Source: Judy Baxter via Flickr)

Beauty DOES come from within

Yes, our appearance does have an impact on some things in life. For instance, consider this situation:

Think about going to a job interview. The employer has to select from two equally qualified individuals. One of the women has an appearance that includes having neat hair, a wrinkle-free blazer and dress pants, and whose mannerisms (body language, hand-shakes, eye contact) appear confident and assertive. The other woman’s appearance is not as well-kept. Her hair is a tad bit frazzled and has not been cut recently, her outfit seems a bit worn, and her mannerisms are more laid back and casual.

Who will the employer hire?….Most likely Woman #1.

So, as unfair as it might be, appearance does matter to some degree. However, the goal should not be to encourage your daughter to solely or even mostly identify appearance with self-confidence, self-worth, or beauty.

It is important to take care of ourselves. For instance, we can do things that will enhance our natural beauty (rather than use synthetic means, like make-up and jewelry-not that those are bad things). Some TIPS for this include:

  • Eat healthy foods. This will enhance the look of your skin and promote stronger cellular immunity to diseases and will allow your body to fight of antigens or irritants that might bother your skin, such as common concerns like dry skin, eczema, or acne.
  • Exercise. This will help our bodies and minds to function well which will also increase our self-confidence. Modeling a healthy amount of exercise to our daughters will help them to believe that it is important and to make it part of their life, as well.

So…TO THE POINT….despite that appearance is important in some ways, there should be a heavier focus on helping your daughter to believe in internal beauty.

Think back to the interview example. Woman #1 was made more appealing by having a confidence about her that likely made the employer believe that she knew what she was doing and that she believed she had the skill set to do the job well.

Parents can help their daughter’s self-confidence by emphasizing internal beauty, such as with the following TIPS:

  • Make positive comments about your daughters strengths, such as her academic skills, her singing skills, her hard work, her kindness, how she helps others, how she can solve problems, her independence, or whatever other trait describes her.
  • Recognize and validate your daughter’s feelings. When a child (or anyone) feels heard and understood, they are more likely to believe in themselves and feel good about who they are.

For More Info

For a bit more info, take a look at the video below. The speaker raises some good, but possibly controversial points. When viewing this video, consider your parenting style. For instance, he talks about how parents today sometimes have difficulty telling their kids “no.” He also says that many parents today are “over-involved” with their kids. So, consider if any of the info would apply to you or not. Take what info might be helpful for your family.

For me, I do need to feel a bit more comfortable saying no and thinking about myself first. I also need to continue to work on teaching my kids to solve their own problems (a lesson they’ll continue learning their whole childhood).

(Article originally posted on HubPages)

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About Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA

Heather Gilmore, MSW, LLMSW, BCBA. Heather has obtained a master's degree in clinical social work and a bachelor's degree in psychology with a youth services minor. Heather is also a Board Certified Behavior Analysts. Additionally, Heather is a dedicated and passionate freelance writer. Heather takes interest in topics related to parenting, children, families, personal development, health and wellness, mental health, happiness, and life coaching.
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