Parents: How to Support a Positive Self-Concept
I find that a lot of parents are confused about the best way to support their girls in developing a self-concept that is resilient and positive.
“If I give her too many compliments, she’ll get a big head.” Or “I can tell she feels badly about herself so I just tell her how amazing she is ALL THE TIME.” Or “I’ve been in a rut myself lately, and I’m sure she’s noticed my own self-esteem taking a nose dive. But I don’t know what to do about it!”
When girls are struggling with their self-esteem and how they view themselves, finding the right words or actions to support them can be super tricky. Here are some simple and effective strategies for supporting your girls in ways that are loving, authentic and relatable.
- Healthy Modeling: Parents, you are being watched! No matter how much you think your girl is ignoring you, I promise that you are the primary model in their life. It’s critical that you model self-loving behaviors for her so she can learn to implement such behaviors herself. Some areas of your life to consider:
- Acceptance of self and others: Do you openly say negative things about yourself or others? Do you frequently criticize, label or judge? If so, your daughter is hearing every word. Now is the time to start using language that is loving and supportive. If you do utter some negative comments, simply acknowledge them, retract them, and replace them with words that model acceptance.
- Embrace and celebrate your imperfections: We all have things we’d like to change about ourselves if we could wave a magic wand. But alas, no magic wands here. I encourage you to develop a sense of humor about your imperfections and find ways to celebrate them. For example, are you massively disorganized? Instead of complaining about your disorganization, throw yourself an organizing party once a month where you blast music, dance and have fun while cleaning up your disaster zone. Again, your daughter is watching and will learn to embrace her own imperfections.
- Assess your commitment to personal growth and self-discovery: When you feel challenged or stuck in your own life do you take actions to improve yourself and your life? Or do you wallow and bemoan your sucky situation? Which would you rather your daughter see?
- Positive risk taking: Show your girls that going out on a limb and making a fool out of yourself is more than ok, it’s fan-freakin-tastic! Girls are so worried about looking stupid in front of their peers that they fail to take risks in school, on the athletic field, on the stage, and so no. Showing her that you are not afraid to make a mistake or look silly will help her to do the same.
- Discussion Points: Changing your behavior is a great first step, but it’s not exactly the most direct approach. Communication is critical here! Engage your daughter in some meaningful conversations that will provide a space for her to share her thoughts and feelings about herself. Here are some relevant and relatable conversation starters:
- Be transparent: Being honest with your girl about your own struggles will make her feel understood. Share your personal experiences and challenges regarding self-esteem so she will feel safe in doing so herself. All areas of life can be covered: insecurities in business, school, friendships, relationships, body image… Adolescents often feel alone in their problems. Show your daughter you’ve been there, you get it and she’s certainly not alone.
- Positive labels vs. negative labels: Not all labels are bad. Some girls relish in their “book worm” status or love to be acknowledged as “volleyball star.” But, some labels create painful wounds that can take years to heal. Talk to your girl about what labels she’s been given and whether she feels empowered or stifled by them.
- Motives: Why do people use labels and stereotypes? This conversation can be super helpful if your daughter is indeed being labeled in a way she doesn’t like. Helping her to understand that others label out of fear, jealousy and insecurity can help her to develop the resiliency she needs to defend against others’ poor behaviors.
- Power of language: Perhaps your daughter is the one labeling others due to her own insecurities. If so, help her to understand the epic power of language and how she can use it to her advantage without cutting others down. (For more on this crucial subject, download my E-book From Paralyzed to Catalyzed!!)
- Impact of valuing oneself based on another’s opinions: This is huge. If your daughter goes through life allowing other’s to determine her worth, she is in for a world of pain. Help her to identify her intrinsic gifts and strengths that make her unique and special. Encourage her to focus on these qualities instead of other people’s opinions. Identify opportunities to cultivate these strengths on a regular basis.
Now you are officially armed with loads of strategies for supporting your girls. One more important note: choosing the right time to have the conversations describe above is just as important as having the conversation itself. CHOOSE WISELY. Trying to open up a heart to heart on the way to school before a big exam is not a good call. Pick a time when your daughter is not exhausted, starving or stressed to the max. And, to maximize the impacts of your conversations, check out my article called Active Listening!