What we say sticks with our children, for better and for worse. As a mother, you have the greatest potential to empower your daughter. Who better to teach her to be fearless and confident? As your girl grows up she will have many role models in her life. But the one she will look to first will be you.
Your daughter needs constant reminders of your care and affection. Studies show that during those critical years before she leaves home, a girl's self-esteem falls 3.5 times more than her male counterparts. As her greatest confidant, how you talk to your daughter will in great part determine how her self-esteem evolves.
As you raise your daughter, be careful of throwing out these five phrases that will hurt her self-esteem rather than help it.
"Let the boys get that."
Sure, many moves from one house to another have been saved by men with great upper-body strength but that doesn't mean your little girl has anything less to offer.
If your daughter tries to assist with a project but is told that she shouldn't, this may diminish her drive or creative capability. Instead of feeling empowered, she may feel weak. Let her discover for herself what is and is not within her power. The extent of her abilities may surprise you.
Not only that, but teaching your daughter that her effort is valuable in any situation also can inspire her to develop a charitable attitude.
"If you were a little skinnier ..."
Were there a handbook for mothers (can you imagine how convenient that would be?), one of the cardinal rules would be to never tell your daughter she needs to lose weight. Helping her to be fit or to eat healthy are worthy pursuits, but telling her to be skinnier can ruin her self-image.
One study found that parents who, even with good intentions, comment to their child about losing weight "may inadvertently reinforce negative stereotypes about weight that children internalize." According to the study, these children are more likely to develop unhealthy eating disorders throughout their lives. The world will tell your daughter repeatedly that she needs to be thinner; you don't need to as well.
Be there for your daughter by praising her for who she is. Create a home that promotes healthy living, and work together to lose weight if obesity does become an issue.
"Is he cute?"
We know affection is based on more than just looks. So, why are we so quick to ask our daughters about how cute the guy they are crushing on is? They may choose to only like a guy if he is cute in anticipation of this question. Girls are also more likely to place more value on their own looks if this is the case.
Teach your daughter instead that she is more than just a pretty face by not overvaluing the looks of others. Furthermore, praise her for her intellect, for her creativity, for her strength. Let her know that her worth is measured by more than her skill with makeup or her wardrobe.
"If you were more like ..."
Comparison is a struggle many women deal with daily. Don't teach your daughter to do it by comparing her to siblings or other children her age. Let her find her individuality and commend her for the talents only she has. You daughter needs to know how good she is, and she needs to hear it from you.
You know perfectly well that sometimes you are not fine, and neither is your daughter. When your daughter is upset, ask her why she is feeling that way before assuming she is overreacting; validate her feelings. Don't turn down affection when she needs just that. Talk to your daughter openly and without harsh judgment. Sometimes she doesn't need your advice; she just needs you.
Be there for your daughter when she needs a friend or someone to hold her while she cries. If she feels valued by you, she can develop her own self-worth.
Vote for women you feel best embody female empowerment with the Women's Choice Awards. Who do you think best teaches girls to embrace their inner strength and beauty and be forces for good? Vote now and let your voice be heard.