Raising kids is a tough job. As parents, we want to raise body-positive girls who know that beauty and health are about more than just their weight. We bookmark inspiring stories of girls like the teens behind the YouTube series Hyperlinked in hopes of sharing those role models with our daughters. We fill our shelves with diverse books like Strong Is the New Pretty to show examples of kickass girls and women who are living fearlessly. But in the age of social media, confidence for girls looks very different from when we were growing up. We chatted with parenting expert and educator Laurie Wolk, author of the new parenting-help book Girls Just Want to Have Likes, to get her best tips for building confidence in our next generation of women.
(Image via LaurieWolk.com)
1. Have a family fun night. Wolk suggests hanging out with your kids in a way where no texting or screen time is allowed. Instead, let your children decide the agenda for the night. “Thai food and jumping on the beds? A picnic in the living room? Whatever your family chooses, your kids will feel empowered by making the plans,” Wolk advises. “It’s a great way to reconnect with each other and the fun you can have in your home without phones. Reestablish that connection on a regular basis, and in a casual way weave into the conversation things you see in your child that you admire, appreciate, and notice. Nothing breeds confidence like knowing your family has your back (and can be pretty fun to be around too!).”
2. Show your daughters relatable role models. Choose books, movies, and TV shows with intelligent female protagonists — like these age-appropriate children’s books (from 0-12) that showcase a range of women who aren’t always the damsel in distress. “Show them the contributions made by women around the world, and make sure your girl knows that she can pursue any area of study or work that she wants,” encourages Wolk.
3. Model gender equality at home. Kids are very perceptive, and they watch everything we’re doing. “Make sure your girls see that you and your partner both share the chores, help with homework, and take on your fair share of the work that needs to be done around the home,” says Wolk. This type of modeling in your family will help them see that a couple is responsible for running a home together.
4. Debunk gendered stereotypes about what kids can do. A recent study found that by age six, girls are less likely than boys to think they are smart enough. Even moms who participated in a Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly TV segment who thought their daughters were all about girl power learned that their daughters also succumb to gender stereotypes. “Kids can pick up what parents and teachers think,” Wolk cautions. “Instead, we need to emphasize the importance of learning, studying, and having curiosity over innate ability.”
5. Let your daughter make mistakes. Instead of discouraging our girls from taking risks and making the mistakes that come with them, Wolk reminds us that missteps are the confidence-builders kids need to grow and develop. “Mistakes will grow their confidence more than any success ever will. Teach them this. Start to see things going wrong — like her worry over whether she’ll make the travel sports team — through a different lens. These life events are actually a blessing because they help build her resilience.”
6. Negotiate a family media agreement for social media guidelines. Instead of generating a list of rules that your daughter needs to comply with, let your kid have a say in a mutually agreed upon social media contract. “Explain the why behind the rules to help your girls understand why they’re important,” suggests Wolk. “If you’re worried your girl won’t comply, take a step back and explain that this is a new, different, and more positive approach for handling social media and digital device use in your family. Let them know that you understand social media is an important part of their lives and that you want to support them as well as keep them safe.” While you’re at it, put your phone down when you’re with your kids to model the type of screen-time behavior you’d like to see when you’re together as a family. “You can’t expect your girl to stay off her phone if you can barely pull yourself away from the screen yourself. Show that you’re comfortable and happier without your phone in your hand, and she’ll know that she can be too.”
7. Teach your daughter to stand up for herself. Bullying — offline and online — can be a huge blow to a young girl’s confidence. Help your daughter learn to identify her feelings and convey them clearly: “Girls should feel comfortable asking another person (online or in real life) to stop or start doing something. Nothing breeds confidence like the ability to identify your feelings and relay them to someone else. If you get them doing that on the playground or online early on, it will become their default way of showing up in the world.” (And if you need your own tips for standing up for yourself, we’ve got you covered.)
What’s your best tip for raising a confident daughter? Tweet us @BritandCo to let us know.
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(Featured photo via Getty)