Girls today are straddling two worlds – one in which nobody blinks an eye upon seeing a woman run for office and one in which girls are being sexualized at a younger and younger age. How do we raise our girls to believe in their full potential when their most common role model is a Disney princess?
In celebration of the first International Day of the Girl, it’s a great time to think about how to increase the self-esteem of the girls in your own home. Here are the key steps:
1. Tell Her You Believe in Her
When I hosted my internet talk show, I interviewed 75 guests from Al Roker to Dylan Lauren. All were super successful in dramatically different fields and all had one thing in common – parents who told them repeatedly that they could achieve anything they set their minds to. Give your daughter this message – and repeat it.
2. Get Her Outside
Giving your daughter the comfort and skills to play outdoors will instill a greater sense of her body as a source of strength and teach her to take healthy risks. Teen advocate Debbie Reber explains that when you: “push them outside their comfort zone, they realize that no matter the outcome, they survived and have the strength to face any challenge.” So introduce her to tree climbing, bug collecting, and camping – even if you prefer being indoors.
3. Pursue Her Interests
Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making, stresses the importance of showing your daughter that her interests are taken seriously. “Take the things that your daughter shows an interest in and help build on and deepen those so that ultimately she has a passion for something.”
4. Minimize the Princesses
When my older daughter was four years old I asked her what princesses do. She answered without hesitation: “They clean houses and they wait for princes to marry them.” Case closed. Focusing daughters on beauty and femininity at such a young age are focusing her in the wrong direction.
5. Parent with Empathy
You don’t have to agree with your daughter to express empathy about how she feels. Empathy makes your child know that she matters and that her feelings are important. Empathic, non fear-based parenting leads to greater self-worth in kids.
6. Help Her Love Her Looks
If your daughter catches you loving your whole body no matter what shape or size, she will grow up to love hers. Never put down your own body in front of your daughter and don’t have a “wardrobe crisis” in her presence. Go with the first outfit you try on.
7. Sign Up for Sports
Putting your daughter in sports at an early age makes her appreciate her body for its strength rather than just its beauty. Michelle Obama has a policy that each daughter plays one sport of her choice and one that her mom chooses for them.
8. Show Interest in Her Academics
Demonstrate that academics are important by showing an interest in your child’s academic life. Get involved in the school, volunteer, show up at school events and check in on homework.