This post written by Jennifer Wilkov was originally featured on YourTango.
Her self-esteem is in your hands.
Is your daughter your "little princess?" Princesses are great. The tiara, the dress, the shoes ... all lovely. But, when it comes to helping your daughter grow into her potential, how you (and others) speak to her — from as young as 30 months — seeps into her little brain and start shaping her self-esteem, her gender-driven beliefs about boys and girls, and ultimately what she believes she's capable of achieving as a grown woman.
Now, we're not saying that if you tell your daughter she's pretty, she'll never do well in the board room. But, if her appearance is the only thing you compliment, that's a red flag. Look at how else you're unknowingly directing her beliefs about herself as an adult.
Kids hear and absorb everything. They hear you whispering (whether that's about a surprise party or secretly planning a divorce), they read body language, they pick up on intonation. Little kids know when you're lying, when you're placating them, when you're silencing them, and when do or don't seriously believe in them. They KNOW.
So if you want to raise your little girl to hold her own in the world with confidence, you must remember these four things:
- Your belief in her colours her belief in herself. If you say she is smart, she will feel smart. You are her greatest champion. She will trust your words when she hears them said with real confidence and when you push her subtly to try things she may otherwise shy away from. She needs to KNOW you believe in her.
- The world around her influences her self-esteem dramatically. From friends, peers, media influences (TV, aps etc.) and her family, your daughter ingests the messages from all of these influences. They wash through her mind and shape her view of herself. As a parent, you are the gatekeeper of your daughter's wellbeing. You can't control everything, of course, but you do have sway over what influences enter your daughter's life.
- She won't know she's powerful if you don't help her see it. If you show her that only girly things are worth her attention, she'll gravitate there (although she may rebel later). Certainly there's nothing wrong with being a princess. The question is: Are you holding her back from exploring other sides of herself? Other strengths, talents and interests? If you're going to buy her a Barbie Doll, have the courage to get her a lightsaber, too. Teach her that she can master her mind and do anything she wants. Then, she will feel truly empowered and capable of conquering the world in her own unique way.
- She will model what she sees you do, good or bad. If you truly want to raise a daughter who is comfortable in her own skin and who can hold her own in the world, you must look inward to see what you're modelling to her. Learn to love yourself and show her what being a kind, strong, confident woman looks like ... and then watch your little girl blossom. She will trust that it's possible because she has seen you change.
Ultimately, as our good friend Jennifer Wilkov told us in the video above, teach your daughter that she has a voice. Teach her that her voice matters; her opinion matters; her feelings matter, her ideas matter ... because SHE matters. You never know when teaching her to speak ends up being the very thing that saves her life or keeps her safe.
It's never too late to raise a strong, independent woman. The earlier you start, the better. But for those of us who are not raising infants, just remember you have an incredible amount of power to show your daughter just how amazing she is. It starts with you, and from there, anything is possible.
Want to know more about speaking up? Learn more about why speaking up makes a difference and how you can master this important skill at the Speak Up Women Conference at the United Nations on March 5th, 2016. Visit SpeakUpWomen.com to register and for more information.
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