Raising a confident young woman in a world that makes it painfully difficult to be exactly that is no easy feat. But there are some steps you can take as a parent to help instill self-esteem in your daughter. Here are seven parenting tactics to try.
1. Practice positive reinforcements.
Reinforce your daughter’s positive behaviors by letting her know when she’s done well. But don’t just say, “Nice job” on the success. Instead, acknowledge her hard work to achieve her success. If she gets a good grade in school or performs well in her dance recital or scores a goal in her field hockey game, acknowledge her ample efforts — even the seemingly small successes. This encourages her to keep doing her best and suggests that even small wins are wins.
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2. Validate and empathize your daughter’s experiences.
When your daughter talks to you about her experiences, both positive and negative, trust her truth and validate her experiences. You can do this by empathizing with her and sharing (appropriate) relevant stories of your own with her.
When she’s going through her first heartbreak or gets rejected from her first college application or loses her first basketball game, you can remind her that she’ll get through it because you, too, have been through it before — and you can do this all without invalidating her very real emotions because you know the feeling.
Stories of how you’ve overcome similar struggles or that suggest how she takes after you in some way may be inspiring for her in tough times.
3. Encourage your daughter to work.
Whether it’s paid or unpaid work, encourage your daughter to take on responsibilities outside of home and school. Having a job will help her to develop discipline and give her a sense of purpose, as well, which makes the perfect recipe for self-confidence. Never mind that she’ll probably be faced with adult-like situations from a young age and have to learn how to deal with them without you there.
4. Open up for candid communication with your daughter.
Keep an open door policy in your home so that, when your daughter needs to, she feels comfortable coming to you to talk about anything from school to work to relationships and more. Daughters with healthy, open relationships with their mothers — who have someone in whom to confide — are bound to have more confidence.
This means that, if she’s body-conscious or worried about her weight, she’ll be comfortable sharing that with you before it devolves into a mental health issue that can take a dangerous toll on her. It means that, if she’s concerned about a potentially abusive relationship in which she’s found herself, she’ll feel comfortable telling you about it knowing that you won’t judge her — and you’ll be able to give her guidance or get her help before it takes a dark turn. Confronting and tackling these issues, with which many young girls cope, builds confidence — and she can do that with your support.
5. Set clear expectations.
Instead of telling your daughter to “get the chores done” or “get better grades,” set clearer expectations of what you’d like to see from her. If you really want her to do the dishes or vacuum the living room, tell her. And if you want her to bring home an A on her next test, say it.
Women, in the professional world, notoriously receive sexist job reviews that seldom provide them specific and constructive feedback on how they can actually perform better. Rather, they’re often told what they’ve done poorly without any clear expectations as to what they should be doing instead. You can set clear expectations for your daughter’s improvement and self-growth from a young age, so when she’s in the real world, she’ll have the confidence to demand it.
6. Set some boundaries — on both ends.
Respect your daughter’s privacy. Don’t go digging into her journal or reading her phone or stalking her social media channels. By giving her space, you’re letting her know that you trust her — you trust that’ll she’ll make the right decisions and do the right thing. And this kind of trust builds confidence, as they’ll learn to trust herself, too.
7. Show respect for your daughter’s passions.
If your daughter is particularly passionate about different causes, encourage activism on her behalf and consider supporting the same causes for her sake. If you don’t necessarily agree with her reviews, you can still show respect for them and be proud of her for caring deeply about an issue of importance to her —and for practicing activism in that area.