I read a recent survey of mom and daughters in which over 50% of girls worry about their weight and 55% of moms complain about the way they look, often in front of their daughters. This made me realize how powerful the media and social environment is to our girls’ development. But it also made me realize how much more influence I’ve over my daughter as her mother, especially during her formative years.
For right now, I’m still the most influential woman in her life. And I hope to continue being that for as long as possible. I’m also the one she imitates the most – from the words I use to the makeup I wear to the way I react to things. But I know she’ll one day be exposed to many other influencers in her life, so I’m making conscious effort to build her self-confidence as much I as I can now. Because if I don’t, I know someone else always will. My daughter is only three years old but I honestly believe that you can never start early enough.
So here we go, I’ve come up with five things I’m focusing on in building my baby girl’s self-esteem early. Things I hope will help her develop a healthy and strong sense of self for the rest of her life.
1. I Will Maintain Strong Boundaries
One thing realize about people (regardless of who they are or how old), they cross our boundaries because we allow me them. While I try to pick my battles and I’m careful my response isn’t “NO” to everything, I think that affirming a healthy boundary is my job. I’ve no intention of being the “good guy” because I recognize that loving her doesn’t mean that I have to let her have her way all the time. Watching me set strong boundaries will teach her to do the same with others and stand up for herself as she gets older.
2. I’ll Treat Myself with Kindness & Respect
What does this have to do with my daughter? EVERYTHING. As her primary caretaker and role model, my daughter gets her idea of self-love and self-respect from me. Scary but true. So how can I aspire to build her up if i’m not building myself up as well? It’s impossible to love and care for another human being when your own well is dry. When I take care of myself and get my needs need met, I’m more likely to feel worthy and confident. I’m also more likely to feel less mom-guilt, exhausted, and short-tempered.
I’m also making conscious effort to treat myself as I would my daughter. This means paying attention to that critical voice inside, acknowledging and validating my own feelings, and asking for what I want and deserve. I try to make time for for self-care through daily exercise, eating right, and taking pride in my appearance without being vain.
3. I’ll Focus On Her Capabilities Rather than her Appearance
Of course I plan to remind my daughter that she’s beautiful. But as a girl, she already gets way too much “she’s so cute!” comments from society. I think it’s more important for her self-esteem that I frequently compliment her on her talent, strength and intelligence because these are qualities that will take her far in life. Building my daughter’s self-confidence is deeper than her physical appearance.
I also want to encourage her to start playing team sport as early as possible. When she turned three years old I enrolled her in soccer but she didn’t like it. And when she turns four this summer we’ll try rhythmic gymnastics or ballet. Because research shows that girls who play team sport develop higher self-esteem since they’re too focused on developing their skills to seek validation from boys.
4. I’ll Encourage her to Love and Honor her Body
If and when I get tempted to criticize my body, I’ll imagine my daughter doing the same about her own body. And that’s all the motivation I need to watch what I say. Not only in front of her, but in the privacy of my own thoughts too. Because what I let dwell in my thoughts about my body will eventually find words. Instead I’ll continuously build myself and love the body I’m in. And when I don’t like something about my body, I’ll find healthy ways to make changes – like exercising, making healthy food choices and stepping up my self-care rituals.
I’ll not utter words like “dieting” and “fat” in front or behind my daughter. I’ll refrain from complaining about my weight and or how I look. And I’ll not let her complain about hers either. And I’ll try to keep her away from magazines and media outlets that focuses only on women’s looks and bodies. Although my daughter is beautifully made, she’s still more than her looks.
Girls, and children in general often act out because they need and want attention. One way I’m committing to give my daughter healthy attention is to spend quality one-on-time time with her. When she turn four years old this summer, I want to start a weekly mother-daughter ritual – going on weekly dates without daddy or her new baby brother/sister. Just the two of us. It might be dinner, tea time or simply going on long walks. I haven’t figured it out yet, and it honestly doesn’t matter, as long as she knows it’s a special time focused just on her.
These are by no means the only ways to build my daughter’s self-esteem. In fact I can think of 10 more ways right now. But these are my starting point. What else would you add to this list? I would love to hear yours!!