by Heather Freeman, click here to get all our posts.
It’s quite natural for parents to want the best for their daughters: for them to grow up feeling secure in themselves, to be go-getters, believe in themselves, have good friends, think critically about the world around them, make healthy choices, and to treat others with kindness. But as parents, we also see with our grown-up eyes, just how tough it is for girls in today’s world.
We witness the faltering confidence of our own once brazen and bold girls as they enter into their preteen years. We witness friends who were once considered a girl’s “best buds” morph into mean girls. And we ourselves playfully participate in the complicated world of social media while at the same time wonder how this online world will compound everything in her life, making it confusing and scary unless we figure out how to help her manage it.
What’s a parent to do?
How do you build her confidence and strengthen her resolve to weather life’s storms…to thrive as she was born to do?
I’ve got 8 ways to build her confidence and help her take on the world!
1. KNOW YOUR GIRL
A good starting place is to know your girl. Girls vary widely in their level of confidence and it can change over time. Some girls naturally voice their thoughts and opinions without any prompting, are decisive, and don’t think twice when it comes to taking a risk. Others are a bit more timid taking time to think before they act. While many other girls are situational powerhouses. A girl who is quick to raise her hand in school, may shy away when calling up a friend to invite over for a playdate. Knowing where she is at will help you better understand her confidence busters – those situations or experiences that are likely to shake her confidence rather than build it up. Want help in assessing your girl’s confidence? Check out our FREE ‘How Gutsy Is Your Girl?’ QUIZ and hone in on where she is at.
2. KNOW WHAT YOU VALUE
What are the ideal beliefs & values that are most important to your family? Is it being a caring person? A trustworthy friend? A risk-taker? Is it living authentically? Be clear on what you believe in and value most. Doing so will help you as you consider the ways in which you convey these beliefs and values to the girl in your life. It will make it easier to know when the moments arise in your own life and be her role model. She’ll learn from you and grows in her confidence.
3. FOCUS ON BUILDING A STRONG CONNECTION
There is no doubt, that the relationship a girl has with her parents is the foundation from which she builds all other relationships. And a strong relationship starts with how we talk with one another. You don’t have to agree with the girl in your life to express empathy about how she feels. Empathy - the ability to understand and share the feelings of another, lets her know that she matters, that her experience matters, and that her feelings are important. Non-fear based communication leads to greater self-worth in girls.
Believe in her ability to solve issues on her own and encourage her do so rather than fix things for her. When well-intentioned parents take over, girls are taken away the opportunity to develop their coping skills for handing situations on their own. Instead, ask her to consider three ways she might deal with a situation on her own. If she needs help, you can brainstorm 5 together – you throw out the first idea, she gives the next two, you share another, she shares one. Ask her about possible outcomes associated with each. Then let her decide what she wants to do (within reason). Even if you disagree with her choice, you’ve shown her how to analyze a situation and how to come up with different responses while giving her a sense of control over her life and instilling in her your belief that she can do anything.
Carve out regular time to listen to your girl. Create consistent, predictable times when she knows that you are available and open to listening — like snuggling in for bed, riding in a car, prepping dinner, or just sitting reading. Over time you’ll find she’ll come to you as her trusted confidant. Eventually, you’ll be invited in to her inner world where you get to be a sounding board to sort out what she is going through. With time she will eventually learn to find her own answers to problems from within and trust that she has the power to navigate life’s challenges.
Listen more than you talk. When we talk to girls, they often experience it as us talking at them. Notice her body language and you will see that they not only stop listening, they stop thinking and reflecting. However, when we stop to listen to them, their minds begin to process and think about what they are saying. This opens the door for self-reflection.
Be thoughtful of what you say and how you say it. Well-intended efforts to boost a girl’s self-esteem can backfire, depending on what you say. Focusing praise on her smarts rather than her effort can reinforce the message that her intelligence matters more than her hard work does. For instance, rather than responding to her test results as “Wow, that’s a good score. You must be really smart at this…….” you can say, “Wow, that’s a good score. You must have worked really hard.”
4. ENCOURAGE HER TO BE COMFORTABLE IN HER OWN BODY
Get Her Active. Whether it’s hiking in the woods, a dance class, biking, or throwing a ball – let her get in touch with the power of her own body. Giving her the comfort and skills to play actively will allow her to appreciate her body and instill a greater sense of her body as a source of strength.
Help Her Love Her Looks. If she catches you loving your whole body no matter what shape or size, she will grow up to love hers. Period. Never put down your own body. Celebrate, honor, and enjoy it and so will she.
5. SUPPORT HER THROUGH TOUGH TIMES
Show concern and take time to understand what she is going through. Treat everything as important. Don’t trivialize her experiences. LISTEN TO HER. Show concern and let her know you believe in her ability to manage the tough situation. Let her know she will be listened to without lecturing or intervening. When she’s feeling challenged, she’s counting on you to believe in her and her ability to get through the situation at hand.
Stay calm and listen to what they are experiencing without projecting our own experiences onto hers. ACKNOWLEGE IT’S HARD. And recognize, even if there are similarities between your experience and hers, she is having a different experience than you did. Allow her to feel heard, accepted, and empathized with. And when appropriate, share your own stories and how you got through confusing or difficult times. When girls know that they’re not the first or only ones to struggle, and that things do get better, they often start to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
6. LET HER VOICE BE HEARD.
Her voice matters. Raising a girl who believes in herself means giving her the chance to speak. She may not always agree with you and she may get angry, but that is ok. If you expect her to be able to stand up and speak with friends, classmates, coaches, teachers, a boyfriend, or future bosses, she must be able to stand up and speak with you and be heard.
Whenever possible, let her take the lead in her life by making choices. Let her choose which clothes to wear, within appropriate limits. Give her a voice in what friends she’d like to play with and what she’d like to do with them. Or give the choice of which vegetable to pick out at the grocery store to serve with dinner. Giving power to her choices at a young age will give her power over the more difficult choices later in life.
7. BE IN IT FOR THE LONG HAUL.
Stay Connected. Raising confident girls is a process that takes time…..and lots of it. Some days you may feel like you’re rockin’ it while others may feel like you’re lost at sea. The goal is to build her confidence over time as she gains more experience in life so she can handle any situation that comes her way. If it was easy – we wouldn’t be talking about it!
Keep her on goings on your radar – even as she gains independence, stay in the know about what she’s doing with friends, where she’s spending her time - online and off. And keep the channels of communication open so she knows without a doubt, she can come to YOU if things get too intense.
Find time to share in her passions and academic pursuits. Pay attention to what her interests are. Nurture them with the things you do. Continually show interest in her passions and academics so she always knows that what she does matters.
8. MOST OF ALL – ENJOY HER!
Raising a powerful girl can be exciting and energizing. The bond between you is like no other. Even if times get tough, you’ll always share this special bond between you!
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