Girl child playing with a wooden made aeroplane

Being a woman who earns, fends and decides for herself there is one thing I can vouch for, ‘No one messes with a woman who knows her self-worth.’ Yes, this sentence seems so powerful and each one of us would want to raise that daughter who would know her self-worth. But from a toddler who holds your hands to learn to walk to a woman who is absolutely self confident, there is a phase called ‘raising her up.’ And this is what stays with a girl. Though there are no fixed rules on parenting, here are a few ways you can guide your daughter to growing up into a woman who has enough self-esteem to take the world in her stride. With a couple of exceptions, these will be equally effective for moulding your son into a confident and caring man.

Mummy, you are your daughter’s first role model

When a girl is born, the first woman who is close to her and the one she trusts with all her might is her mother. She watches her every move and imbibes whatever she sees, without filtering. How you treat yourself is exactly the way your daughter will learn to treat herself. If you are over critical about yourself or if you always have negative things to say about yourself, know that your daughter is mirroring herself in you.

I have a friend who is obsessed about her hair. No matter where she gets it groomed; it is never the way she wants it. To us, she has perfectly silky hair. I met her mother a few months ago and she too has the same issue. So, that is where the daughter inherited it from. You as a mother are her first scale to confidence, if you are okay with who you are, she will be too.

How you treat yourself is exactly the way your daughter will learn to treat herself

If your life is full of tiny lies that you speak to yourself every day, for sure, this is what your daughter will learn as well. And no woman has ever built self confidence with lies imbued within her system of values. With your lies, you are destroying her self-esteem bit by bit. If you have promised something, then keep it. If you could not, explain why.

Daddy, you are teaching your daughter all she will know about men

Daddy is the first man a daughter is close to. It is her first non-sexual close relationship. You are mapping the way she will deal with other men in the future. Treat her with love and care and she will learn to be with men who treat her same. Appreciate her; tell her she is beautiful, she will grow up with confidence.

If you are criticising her all the time or are cold to her, later in life she will take criticism or coldness from a man as the norm of any man-woman relationship. If you are violent, she will learn that violence is okay and acceptable in a relationship. If you love her and tell her so, she will grow up to be a woman with healthy self-esteem, walking tall in the world. Whatever you say to her when she is a child she will process it deep down within her and one day manifest it somehow in her life. Your approval and love will give her the sense of being worthy, or else she will run after people to give her that sense which often ends in disaster.

Research shows that a girl with a loving father who is involved in her upbringing, finishes school, performs better at work and is less likely to date an abusive man. If you are a dad, just love her and tell her so, that will take her places.

Treat her with love and care and she will learn to be with men who treat her same

Give her positive images

It’s no rocket science that self-esteem grows with positive images. At home, what are the images you portray in front of your child? Do you always have negative stories to discuss with your daughter, like the friend who hurt you, the relative you hate or even worse, do you criticise your spouse? If you do, you are already schooling your daughter with distrust and the belief that relationships hurt and are bad. When she grows up, no matter how far she goes, forming intimate relations would be a task for her. And no woman has been confident with a bagful of broken or hurt relationships.

The greatest blunder parents commit is to tell their daughter who she should not be. Rather, all that energy should be vested on ‘what she could be.’ With what ‘not-to-be’ you end up creating a confused child, but when you give her an image of what she can and should be, that boosts her self esteem because she will have clarity, and clarity always boosts self-esteem.

Let her find her skills

Every child has an area of interest where s/he has an advantage over others. Let your daughter find her skill. It might be a hobby class or a gardening session. Anything a child is good at boosts her self-esteem. Do not choose for her; let her find it for herself. It might be a trial and error method, but she will find it. That way she won’t fear making mistakes in the future and also won’t take a failure as personal defeat.

The greatest blunder parents commit is to tell their daughter who she should not be

When she is very young, keep her away from popular culture

If we see what popular culture has to offer, the women are most certainly objectified sexually. They are thin, fair and sexually alluring. These are the figures that basically do the rounds. A stereotypical kind of beauty is talked off. It seems that if a girl does not fall into a pattern, she is not beautiful. So, the best way to deal with the invasion of popular cultural values is to nurture her inner qualities and appreciate her for it.

Appreciate and cherish her

This is the golden rule of parenting. Appreciate your daughters. They will blossom. Keep away that criticising metre. With each word of criticism or mockery, you break a tiny part of your daughter, who blindly believes in what you say and creates a negative image for herself that might haunt her for a lifetime. The worst thing you can do is to brand her as ‘lazy, weak, sick, mad, stupid etc.’ With each word you affirm, you put that feeling of unworthiness in her. Later in life, that feeling may leave her, but not very easily. It reflects in her relationships and work place.

Children are not soldiers from destiny to fight your unfinished battles. They are gifts to be cherished. Cherish your daughter, have fun. Hug her a lot, tell her she is worth the world and more, and one day she will prove that she is.

A version of this was first published in the October 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.


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