Sep 23, 2011

Teaching Little Girls.

I often wonder how to teach Busy to be confident and have good self esteem?
How can I teach her to feel good about herself, feel that she is worthy, smart, funny, creative, caring... that her looks aren't the most important thing about her?

I have noticed that the first thing everyone who greets her does is comment on hair or her dress or in some way her looks.  I know people are being kind and it is nice but it is often the only way people know how to break the ice with little girls, I know I have been guilty of it too.  I feel like I have to counter act this with some other ways of making her feel good about herself that aren't based purely on what she looks like. 

Busy herself has noticed this too and said to me this morning "do I look cute?" I don't know how to to teach her that yes it is important to make an effort with how you look, for your own self but that in doing so it is not the most important thing about you.  She watches me get ready in the morning and wants to do the same. I don't wear makeup- other than mascara but she wants to do that too. I pretend to put it on her when she has her eyes closed... I know this is just mimicking and normal at this age, she puts my shoes on when I get home from work and walks around the house with a handbag talking into her her toy phone.

 The messages she gets from society are all about growing up quickly. It is important to me that she remains a little girl for as long as possible. No sleepovers yet,  no clothes that are similar to anything I would wear! (Trying to find a swimming costume for her that didn't have something bra- like in the top was an exercise in self control. Or didn't have a logo on it- It took me 2 hours! Two hours of looking in every shop to find something that was appropriate for 4 year old. Finally found something but I was appalled at what I was faced with.)

I have been reading a bit about this and I guess I work on this self esteem stuff with her by teaching her new things and allowing her to try everything. Pointing out to her how she has improved and what she has learnt  Praising her for trying rather than focusing on if she succeeded or not. But is this enough? 

As she gets older and I know what is around the corner... very soon she will be worrying about  things that happen in the playground... and I know the body image stuff starts sooner rather than later. I worry about this. Busy is pretty adaptable, she is often shy at first and if anyone comes over or we go somewhere new she will cling to me for the first 20 minutes then she is fine but I wonder what I can do to make her feel confident and secure.

What do you think you do to boost  your children's self esteem? I would love to know.


  1. I nice big heap of unconditional love never goes astray!

  2. I agree with Andi! Sounds to me like you're doing all the right things, it's not easy, even with boys. I feel like I can be a bit overprotective as far as sleepovers, movie ratings and things go, but I just don't want them to grow up before they have to. We strive to teach them well, we want them to feel secure in themselves & confident, happy with who they are. This challenges us everyday..

  3. Really important issue to me. No specific answers but I just make sure I let my kids know it is okay to be shy or however they are feeling. It really angers me when I see friends push there very young kids into a social confrontation they clearly don't feel right with.

  4. Just having an awareness of these issues and thinking about it...having it MATTER to you, is a pretty good start I reckon. I certainly wouldn't take out any mother of the year awards but I have found LISTENING to have had a huge impact on my kids. Really listening to what they are saying, no matter how tired I am, how busy, but looking up at them and listening to whatever long winded story they are telling me. I want them to feel like whatever they have to say is important to me, that I have time to listen and to be interested-no matter how trival, that they MATTER.I think your self esteem is pretty good when you know you matter to someone.

  5. I agree Lea. Listening and validating their feelings is huge. However painful those lonog winded go nowhere stories can be the fact that she wants to tell me is in itself the most important part of it.

  6. Raising a girl, and an only child at that, is a hard thing. My daughter is 14 and is super confident, just ask her how awesome she is, she won't be afraid to tell you! All I have ever done is encourage, let her know her weaknesses and highly praise her attributes. I think the biggest role model for a girl is of course their mother and I have always raised her with this heavily in my mind. Almost every decision I make is based around her. I let her know I'm confident and comfortable in my body and am also not into the makeup etc, so she has always mimicked that. I think by the sounds of it you are doing a great job, so just keep it up!

  7. it's a very important issue isn't it.
    I think you're doing all the right things Cath, the thing about finding other things to compliment her about aside from her looks is really important I think.
    I agree with both Andi and Lea, the making time for them to express themselves and tell your their troubles is important too
    I actually know this sounds out of left field, but show her you feel good about yourself. My parents constantly put themselves down in front of me and I think somewhere in that I go the message that it's normal, ok and what should be done if that makes sense?!
    I know it took quite a bit of learning on my part to learn that wasn't good, or healthly xoxo

  8. I've been thinking the exact same thing lately. My girl starts high school next year and seems to be changing from her usual talker with no shyness personality. I know that everything a 12 y.o goes through is daunting, so I'm trying to keep the communication channels open and make sure I always have time for her, but it's hard. If only we all came with a manual(: Re: busy...sounds like you are doing all the right things xx

  9. My dauhter just turned 5 and is incredibly shy, painfully shy... Big school is only 3 months away and i am worried... i have the same sentiment as you, i want my daughter to be as young as she is and not forced to grow up too quickly.
    It seems like Busy's environment is nurturing, loving and positive! You are doing an awesome job! xxx

  10. That's a really interesting point about complimenting little girls on their looks. I only have boys and that has never occurred to me. I'm sure I've done that with the little girls of others and will try to think of something else to say now!
    We often tell our boys 'you rock!' (often accompanied by hand signals U and rock like rock-paper-scissors). They love it and it's kind of about non-specific, general awesomeness.

  11. I'm always thinking about this @ my house too. I want my daughter to be strong & confident. I want my boys to be the same. I want all the kids to know it's ok to be emotional, different... whatever makes them, them. It's a rough path sometimes, now that the older 2 are in school.

  12. With two little girls I am also very aware of this.

    Lucky for me, my Mum has a kids clothes shop and she sources their bathers, and she is picky and wont stock in her shop things she considers 'grown up'.

    I also don't ever buy or keep in the house any womens mags. They really just have so many articles that I don't want my girls to see.

    With school starting next year I worry about body image comments being made to my eldest.

    I do allow them to choose their own clothes (within reason) and though they may look mismatched I like to think if they love it, then it gives them the confidence to say so.

    My girl is determined when she wants to be, but easily bullied and takes criticism to heart for a long long time. I know she will be great at school academically, but I truly worry about the rest.

  13. Hi..I have never commented on a blog before but when reading your blog I felt compelled to tell you of a storybook we have just been reading with our 4yr old called ' Feathers For Phoebe'. It has a great message along the lines of it's ok to be a little grey bird you dont need the bright feathers of another bird to make friends. A lovely book. Jodie

  14. I know what you mean - girls get a lot of comments from a very young age about their appearance! This year I am trying to compliment my daughter more on her bravery, gentleness, strength, intelligence, kindness and focus less on the looks side of things, but it's easy to fall into old habits. Good luck!

  15. Talk with them about everything. Show them that its okay to talk about everything. And like you've said - listen to them.
    I think self esteem is such a hugely important thing, as my mother did not encourage that in me. Praise - without going over the top - is so important, as well as clear boundaries.

  16. I wonder the same things about my 4 year old girl... She is herself OBSESSED with how she looks (skirts, accessories, clip on earrings on the second she is in the door!) When she asks me if she is "fancy" or "beautiful" I always say that yes she is always beautiful, but that I love her most because she is kind and lovely and clever. And I give loads of praise when she does something new, or kind, or helpful. And I try not to worry about the current 'looks' obsession as I assume it too will pass, one day!

  17. did you see this article:
    I've been thinking a lot about this issue lately too. It's tough when society places so much importance on looks for girls. I guess I just try not to make looks and materialism something that we value highly in our home so that my daughter will have something to balance out the things she encounters in the wider world. Plenty of time in the great outdoors in bare feet is good for giving everyone some perspective!

  18. This is something I think about constantly...but like you am not certain how to go about it in a successful way. I just try to make sure she knows I'm confident in her and her abilities and that I'm there to support her decisions. So small at this age, but I'm sure her world will become much larger all too soon.

  19. It's an interesting issue Cath. My children are all grown now and I think the issues you discuss are even more prominent than they were when I was having those same thoughts (80s and 90s) My daughter went through the shy stage, the self obsessed stage the overconfident stage all of it. We were talking about her childhood the other day and she told me that the best thing I did for her was to let her make her own mistakes but also to make her feel that she could try and do anything she put her mind to! I wouldn't let her dress to old for her age, I let her play with boys toys (her brothers played with girls toys)I encouraged her to be brave and always do the right thing. As for appearance, we always 'got up and got out' no worries about what to wear or how we looked far better to be doing and having fun. She's 25 now and an amazing person, out discovering the world. She's beautiful, inside and out, fun and happy with who she is. Your daughter will be a composite of all she sees and is shown and from the sounds of it she's going to be a lovely person. Stick to what you believe in and don't feel guilty about the choices you make as a parent. if it feels right in your heart, it is right!
    Happy weekend ♥

  20. What a thoughtful post. You've stopped me in my tracks! My daughter is only fifteen months, so not quite to the mimicking phase yet, but I can see the start of the hair/dress/shoes praise already. And wow did we get a shock when she got a micro bikini for her first birthday! Yes, making more effort to praise behaviour sounds like a start. And perhaps letting it show that even when you're not 'polished' up , you're still happy and confident?

  21. Did you see this article?

    It seems so obvious written down but it's too easy to always talk to girls about their appearance.

  22. I just squeeze mine tight and hope for the best!! If I over think it my brain will explode.

    As for the bathers. I have a huge amount of success with spedo. They last for ages and they dont fall off the shoulders, go up the bum or expose to much SKIN!!

  23. For my mind mimicking is the key. I try new things and I'm careful about what my children overhear.

    A friend of mine declared to me that her 4yr old daughter is "fat-ist" and then exclaimed that she didn't know where she would have developed that attitude from. Yet I have witnessed my friend critise her own body for being fat at length. This is where the child got the attitude from???

    The other thing I try hard to do is not pre-empt fears and anxieties with my kids. Just because something freaks me out doesn't mean it will do the same for them. So while the idea of meeting new people at school brings back memories of being terrified as a child - I wait for them to tell me they feel the same before I talk about it more because maybe they'll be lucky and not feel that way at all. TRY lots of open ended questions... but hey - it is harder to do than it sounds.

  24. Oh I think about this a lot.
    Sounds like you are on the right track though.
    I read a fabulous article recently about talking to girls and actively trying to start the conversation about books or something else rather than their looks/clothes. Its a hard habit to break but so worthwhile.
    And listening's always good.

  25. Great post Cath. I have referred to it in my post here
    It is certaibly challenging "growing" happy, confident and well adjusted girls!

  26. My girl is 9 now (country girl so I think less exposed to advertising billboards and kids with constantly clean clothes and cool haircuts!), abit more concerned about her appearance that I would encourage- but I try not to make too much of a big deal about it, her 'style' is pretty basic- demin shorts and t-shirts. I have had some conversations with her after hearing her say (my legs are fat, and after she changed out of her bathers top because it 'made her look fat)- I freaked out on the inside, but tried to be open and inquiring in a non threatening way as I chatted with her!! Not sure how I did! Self esteem wise- I like to pick up on their strengths and point them out (like, my girl is really unreal in sensing someone is out of sorts and goes and hangs out with them- so I might say, I noticed you did X and that was really thoughtful), her and her mate often have a bit of a 'cafe' in the holidays and cook together at one of their houses- then the other family are invited to the 'cafe' for dinner- they make invitations, menus, plan the meal- I reckon supporting their 'ideas/ jobs/ tasks/ projects' that they can complete is remarkably rewarding/ self esteem building...


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