Start with what's present, not what's absent
Clinical psychologist Julia Simens says, "Give up the 'perfect' mold and hone a strength: Most moms want their daughter to be perfect. We tend to bombard them with what they could do to be better: Better grades, more friends, more community service and much, much more. Start with what’s present — not what’s absent — and talk about what works for your daughter."
Think outside of the box
"Think outside of the box and define your daughter's strengths more than intellectual or physical. Look at her interpersonal skills, her dispositions, interests and motivations. These are keys to empowerment," says Simens.
It's hard in our culture, but it can be done
Silvia M. Dutchevici, president and founder of Critical Therapy Center says that raising a confident daughter can be quite challenging in our culture where there is plenty of objectification and sexualization of young women. After years of counseling both adolescent girls and young women, she suggests these specific ideas for encouraging confidence:
- Encourage daughters to express their emotions and not be afraid to speak up.
- Encourage young women to challenge assumptions about gender roles in our society.
- Talk with your daughter about her self-worth and view of herself; perhaps watch TV together and talk about the portrayal of women in television and how this reflects a deeper objectification of women.
- Having a male role model who believes that women can do the same things that men can do is as crucial as having a woman role model who is confident and independent.
- Remember that children learn by modeling. As a parent, portray attitudes of self-confidence and compassion with your daughter, while teaching her how to resolve conflict in a collaborative way.
Don't forget the basics
Silvana Clark, author of 12 Going on 29: How to Survive Your Daughter's Tween Years, reminds parents of some basic, but important skills that can help your daughter's confidence from the time she is a little girl through adulthood.
- Make eye contact - "Girls need to be taught basic skills such as making eye contact when speaking to other people, especially adults. I started teaching my daughter at an early age how to speak to adults with confidence. When she was 3 and people would ask, 'How old are you?', I taught her to answer by saying, 'I'm 3 years old and my birthday is in November.' Immediately the adult would comment how smart she was, which of course reinforced her confidence. As she got older, we role-played how to answer questions to teachers and adults in full sentences."
- Speak with authority - "If working in a school-group setting, let them know it's OK to give ideas in a strong way. I beamed the day my daughter came home from seventh grade and announced, 'I figured something out today. If you say anything with confidence, people listen to what you say.'"
- Get her out of her comfort zone - "Instead of hanging out at the mall every Saturday, help her find a simple one-time class or activity she hasn't done before."
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