A friend, and mother of a little girl, recently sent me this powerful article written by Lisa Bloom, for the Huffington Post “How to Talk to Little Girls”. In the article she talks about how it is ingrained in our culture to automatically compliment little girls as an icebreaker or greeting. Bloom describes her thoughts and initial reaction when meeting a friends daughter, “I wanted to squeal, ‘Maya, you’re so cute! Look at you! Turn around and model that pretty ruffled gown, you gorgeous thing!’ But I didn’t. I squelched myself. As I always bite my tongue when I meet little girls, restraining myself from my first impulse, which is to tell them how darn cute/ pretty/ beautiful/ well-dressed/ well-manicured/ well-coiffed they are.” After reading this, I thought yes, this is something I should try or at least something to be conscience of; I have two young girls myself and as I took a step back and listened to myself as I talk to them, I realized I am constantly telling them how cute their outfits are or how nice their hair looks. It was especially obvious when I was on vacation with my family and six little girls, the compliments were flying. Never once did I ask what they were reading. I do admit we did discuss how the vacation was going – what’s your favorite part, etc. But overall, the initial conversations generally started with comment on the appearance. Now the question is, is their hope for us, will my kids and nieces be completely obsessed about their appearance and image if we don’t do something about it? How will we, as parents, make sure that our kids are confident in their abilities and talents, not just what they look like on the outside? The first step might be to realize how we talk to our kids and change the topic, like another reader of this article did, we may be surprised in the conversation that comes up.
There are other ways to help boost our children’s self-confidence and help them become confident teens and adults. This article from Ask Dr.Sears lists 12 Ways to Help Your Child Be Self Confident, while I never really thought of myself as a parent to endorse attachment parenting (I always thought of this as never letting your kid cry and having them sleep in the bed with you – which didn’t work for our family), but in this article it really focuses more on being responsive to your child – specifically for infants and then as they get older – answering their questions when they ask, playing with your kids and letting them know they worked hard and did a great job at whatever the task at hand might be.
Additionally, I really believe in the idea of #2 on their list: Improving YOUR Self Confidence – FIRST! Wow, this is a big one, of course, the kids learn by example. If we are constantly being negative about our own self, the kids are going to model that behavior as well. As it says in the article, “a child’s self-esteem is acquired, not inherited.” Now is the time to work on our selves so that we can pass on the best behavior possible to our kids. Another great concept from this article is taking a look at your kid’s friends, school and environment; if you see your kid hanging out with kids that make them feel bad about themselves, it’s time to find some new kids to hang out with. Another idea is to make sure to keep a “Kid Friendly Home” – this way the kids will want to come to your house, and although that might mean more clean up and snacks to make, it also means you can keep an eye on what the kids are doing and how they are treating each other. There are a lot more ideas in this article that are helpful and can be applied all families.
I found another article from FamilyEducation.com interesting and helpful, as we get ready for the teen years, the article focused on “Building Your Daughter’s Confidence.” The main points of the article were the following: provide support, beware of your biases, check in with her often, focus on inner qualities, provide feedback, don’t focus on grades, help her find herself, don’t overreact.
After looking into this topic a bit more, it sounds like the bottom line for most children and parents is to first feel confident about your self, have open lines of communication, highlight the positives and don’t dwell on the negatives. And do the best you can in each moment.