5 Tips for Raising Confident Girls
November 1st, 2022
Raising confident girls can be challenging for parents. As our girls turn from young kids to tweens, we see them growing up in a world that can have them managing unwanted (and impossible) expectations.
Data shows that as puberty approaches, confidence in themselves plummets. Our once strong-willed and fiery little ones can lose their sense of self as they age into adolescents. When surveyed, tween and teen girls said they didn’t feel confident in the way they dress or in making new friends, and that they feel pressure to be perfect.
But there are ways parents and caregivers can help foster confidence in their girls. While there are a lot of changes that come with puberty and the tween/teen years, losing confidence does not have to be one of them.
Let’s dive into some expert-backed strategies families and support networks can use to help girls keep and build confidence in themselves.
1. Let them know it’s OK to fail
3 out of 4 girls say they’re afraid of failure. This pressure can sometimes show up in perfectionism, or harsh criticism of self. Failing at something is OK, and there can be a lot to learn from failure. Helping young girls understand that having a growth mindset instead of a fixed mindset can help instill confidence in themselves and their abilities.
For example, if she gets a lower grade on a test or assignment, talk with her about why she thinks that happened. It’s best not to lead with shame or guilt. Saying things like “you need to try harder,” may unintentionally exacerbate feelings of perfectionism in her.
Instead, approach the situation with curiosity. “Why do you think you got a lower grade on this assignment?” Hear what she has to say and talk through solutions with her. Be there to support her in how she thinks she can improve or change outcomes in the future, and then support her in doing that for the next time.
2. Saying “No” is OK, too.
As soon as little kiddos start to talk and socialize with others, caregivers work to steward good behavior and manners in their children. While manners are appropriate and helpful to learn, they are not about saying yes to everything.
Imagine this scenario, your young one is playing and Grandma asks for a hug. Your little one says no. Now, Grandma may be sad and adults may try to fix this sadness by overly encouraging the little one to give Grandma a hug. Ultimately, the little one gives Grandma a hug and is then praised for her behavior.
This very small interaction, which can happen over and over, and over time, enforces that saying ‘no’ is bad, and making others happy by doing something she doesn’t want to do, is good.
Likely, none of this is intentional. But these small interactions, from toddlerhood to adolescents, and even adulthood, can transform girls’ confidence to follow their own hearts, with kindness and boundaries.
Instead of encouraging her to hug Grandma, you can encourage her to communicate that she doesn’t want to hug right now, or give her options of how she wants to say goodbye. For example, “would you like to hug, give a high-five, or wave to say goodbye to Grandma?” Then thank Grandma for understanding her needs. This will ultimately teach her that she is in charge of her own body and builds mutual respect and boundaries.
In adolescents, girls may feel pressure to say yes to things and activities they otherwise wouldn’t want to do. This sort of pressure could be built up over time, so addressing consent at any age can be helpful.
3. Show Empathy for Her Feelings,
Even if You Disagree
We’re not always going to agree with our children. And that’s OK. They are their own independent self and have agency in their own lives. When we show that we can respectfully disagree, feelings are still validated and understood, yet boundaries are still being upheld.
Showing empathy and understanding for her feelings when you disagree, can help her feel respected and heard. Yes, you understand she’s upset, mad, or disappointed and you can empathize with her, despite any disagreement. Teaching girls to communicate this way can also lay the groundwork for her to have healthy emotions and relationships in the future, ultimately solidifying her confidence and sense of self.
4. Surround Her with Empowerment
Girls thrive when they have positive examples of female empowerment to look up to.
The movies and television shows they watch, the books they read, and the stories they’re told can all be full of women unabashedly chasing what they want and being fully themselves.
Additionally, the people in their lives that they look up to can offer them good examples of empowerment as well. Strong women are created when other strong women inspire them.
You can watch Girl Power Movies together, or listen to Girl Power songs. Encouraging her to be proud of herself, and of the women around her models empowerment and confidence in herself, while teaching her to lift others up in the process.
5. Encourage Her Interests
When we encourage girls to pursue their interests and show genuine interest ourselves, then their confidence in their particular interests can grow. Some great ways to encourage and find new interests are joining your local Girls Scouts troop or finding local places that encourage girls to try new hobbies and activities like theatre, music, sports, and other fun extracurriculars.
Our impact as parents and caregivers is big. Our behaviors and actions model the behavior and actions of our girls. Raising confident girls starts with meeting them where they’re at and encouraging their growth in healthy, understanding, and empathic ways.
Raising confident girls certainly isn’t easy, but these tips can go a long way toward setting a girl on the right path.