With most of our girls headed back to school in the next few weeks, it is important to understand the connection between low self-esteem and girls. Research shows that by the age of 9, a girl’s self-esteem actually begins to decline. There is a shift in focus: outside appearances begin to take precedence over her internal qualities, competition among each other becomes prevalent, and insecurities are created. The girls I work with describe this time as uncomfortable; they feel that they have to “worry about what others think.”
Girls with high self-esteem feel confident about their talents and abilities, regardless of how smart or successful others perceived them to be. They express their feelings and respect themselves, as well as others.
Just this week, I was on KXAN, Austin’s NBC affiliate station, talking about self-esteem in girls, and how we need to start the dialogue about confidence and security at an earlier age.
The workshops my colleague and I have created, start this conversation and provide self-esteem skills to girls as early as age 5. The goal is to create more confidence, so girls can withstand the stressors and thrive once in middle school.
How to Build Self-Esteem in Girls
Parents and teachers should be prepared to help girls at even younger ages build their sense of self. Once we hit mid elementary school, this is when the decline in a girl’s self-esteem occurs. Why not give our girls tools and skills to combat this so that when faced with challenges in confidence and self-esteem, they feel educated and empowered. Most young women I speak with say they have never had this education. They can solve an algebra equation but cannot seem to talk themselves out of feeling “not good enough.”
The Secret: Empower her.
From toddler to teenage years, here are some tips for parents of girls.
- Let her fail. Try not to fix every problem. Girls who have to learn from their failures, say forgetting her homework, are more likely to creatively come up with solutions so that they don’t fail again. When your daughter comes home and is upset about this, it is an opportunity to talk about her feelings and ask her about how you can help her to remember next time. Solving her problems for her will not give her the insight or recall to do it differently next time.
- Praise her appropriately. Parents can over-praise, which is actually unhealthy. Telling your daughter she is good at everything or over-complementing her outside appearance creates a set up for low-self esteem. Instead, praise her for her efforts rather than her achievements. Studies show that girls who are praised for their grades actually have lower self esteem than girls who are praised for their effort in achieving that grade. “I am so proud of your hard work on the book report, you really gave it your all” versus “I am proud of you for making an A.” Praising the process helps her to continue working when times get tough.
- Watch Yourself. You are a role model and she is picking up on most of your behaviors. The girls we talk with tell us that they want to be like their mothers. They are your biggest fans. When they hear you discredit your body by saying something like “I feel so fat today, I need to diet” or you talk badly about others, “Oh my, did you see what she was wearing,” your daughter is more likely to pick up on this and have it play back in her mind. Most of the girls I worked with, who struggled with body images issues in adolescence, said that they heard their mothers bashing their bodies at a young age. Be a good role model.
This is just the first part of the conversation on raising girl’s self-esteem. It is imperative to lay the groundwork for a healthy relationship with herself at an early age, as it helps to prevent future self-esteem challenges, mental health disorders, and interpersonal relationship problems. Next week, the second part of this important topic will be discussed.
Take Good Care.
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Emily Roberts MA, LPC is The Guidance Girl. Her goal is to help YOU become the most confident person you know! Emily is an award-winning author Express Yourself: A Teen Girls Guide to Speaking Up and Becoming Who You Are, Psychotherapist, TV & Media Contributor, Educational Speaker, and parenting consultant. She travels around the country educating girls, women, and parents. Express Yourself is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon. To learn more about Emily click here.