Pro Tips For Raising Confident Daughters
She’s growing up so fast. And here she is already at the age of 6 years. It just seems like yesterday you were holding her in your arms and kissing her for the first time. Your sweet, maybe a bit sassy, funny, smart, perfect daughter. She is wonderful, in all her challenges, but you know she has so much potential to do great things in this world. You want her to grow up strong and confident.
And then the bomb drops!
You are shocked, and amazed, when you hear her exclaim at the sweet young age, Mommy I can’t wear that because I am fat!
Once you compose yourself and pick your jaw up off the floor, you anxiously wonder, Where is this coming from?
As an eating disorder specialist, body image and self-esteem therapist in Texas, I am often asked by parents What did I say to my daughter? or Did I do something wrong?
We live in a health-obsessed world.
Consider all the “health”, “wellness” and diet and beauty ads you see in a day. Think about the conversations you have about food, bodies, and health with friends and co-workers. You even have a conversation about your weight with healthcare providers. Your daughter sees and hears this as well, even at their tender young age.
I always tell parents that children see, hear, and know a lot more than what we give them credit for. But consider all the images your daughter sees every day. She is bombarded with ads, commercials, stars, and peers who also get the same message.
Your sweet and sassy daughter is affected by our culture social media and society and the inaccurate message that in order to “fit in”, “be popular” or to “be accepted” you have to lose weight and look a certain way. No wonder she is making this shameful body comment. How is it even possible to raise a daughter to be confident in herself and her body, despite the flood of misinformation surrounding her?
Parents, stop talking about bodies.
Here are 5 Pro Tips to help you give your daughter confidence!
Give compliments that are non-appearance related. For example you can tell someone they look happy or comment on how they helped you. Do not shame other people’s bodies. If you want your daughter to grow up respecting her body, she needs to see you respecting other’s bodies as well.
Pro Tip: Teach your daughter that all bodies are different and all bodies deserve respect.
Next, parents, stop talking about your body. That’s right! She heard that statement you made about your body when you got dressed last weekend. Your body also deserves respect and you can model this for your daughter by being grateful and thankful for all your body has done for you today.
Pro Tip: When your daughter makes hurtful comments about her body you can help her gain back body respect by asking her to remember all the ways her body has helped her today. Ask her, what did your body help you do today?
And while we are here don’t be fooled by claims about weight and health. Health and weight are not that related. A person can be healthy, successful, and happy at any weight and body size.
Pro Tip: Learning to respect her body can be done by moving it enjoyable ways. If she hates running then she doesn’t have to. Show her how to have confidence by trusting her body to know when it is hungry, to know when it is full, and to know what it wants to eat. (I know that feeding children is not easy, but that is a whole other post) Don’t moralize food. She is still “good” when eating chocolate. She is not “bad” when she would rather eat pizza than salad.
Psst...parents, this is true for you too! So start eating foods that you enjoy and ditch the diet.
Now that you have your composure about you following your beloveds comment about her body, you can talk with her about how she is going to grow and change. Her body has a lot of fun things to do and without the ability to grow she is not going to be able to do all those fun things.
Pro Tip: Nothing in life stays the same and neither will her body. Teach her how her body works. Explain all the good, the bad, the ugly. Use proper terms to teach her how her body works. Allow her to see this body of hers is precious because of all the things she is able to do with it.
In order to raise a more confident woman, she must learn that her value is found in who she is by learning all the ways she is valuable every day.
Pro Tip: Instead of giving your daughter an appearance based compliment, focus on what you see her doing. If she is helpful, tell her. If she rocked her math test, celebrate it. If she stayed up late working on homework tell her you noticed her dedication.
The more specific you are with your compliment the more you will avoid obnoxious eye rolls, and the more you will see a young girl acknowledging her own strengths.
It is important to raise a daughter that respects her body and can have a healthy relationship with food because as the incident of eating disorders rises it is becoming clear that cultural messages about health, wellness, and body size are a significant factor. Despite messages and cultural expectations for your daughter to look a certain way, it is possible to raise a daughter that has a healthy relationship with her body. I like to tell my clients that your relationship with your body is just that, a relationship.
Teach your daughter to respect her body, honor her body, trust her body, and care for her body just like she would a dear loved one.
You are the biggest influence in modeling this for her, so as you work to improve your relationship with your body she will too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Dr. Stephanie Waitt
Dr. Stephanie Waitt resides in Sherman, TX. Stephanie is a therapist that specializes in treating eating disorders and is a body image, self-esteem, and eating disorder recovery coach. She works with young adults and teens to recover from disordered eating and find confidence and happiness. Stephanie is dedicated to helping individuals receive access to eating disorder treatment. She believes that everyone deserves quality and specialized treatment.
She is passionate about eating disorder awareness, dogs, and Wonder Woman. You can find her spending time with her husband visiting comic book stores or a craft brewery, and hanging out with her beloved Golden Retriever Prince Fenway and Corgi Lord Odin.
You can learn more about Stephanie at www.texomaspecialtycounseling.com