How can I help my daughter be more confident?
How to raise strong, secure and confident girls is something that many parents struggle with. In fact, according to the latest statistics, 70% of girls believe they are not good enough and 62% of girls feel insecure about themselves. We actually interviewed Dr. Jennifer Harstein, author of Princess Recovery, A How-To Guide to Raising Strong Empowered Girls Who Can Create Their Own Happily Ever Afters on this very issue! Dr. Jen is a psychologist in NYC and is a CBS The Early Show contributor who focuses her treatment on promoting strong self-awareness, distress tolerance and acceptance.
Here is is part of our interview:
Heather (host): What does it mean to have a princess syndrome?
Dr. Jen: Little girls dressing up as princesses is NOT the problem. The problem, where princess syndrome comes in, is that you are all about what you look like, waiting for someone to save you and rescue you. So the idea is ‘Be a princess, but fight the dragon yourself – don’t wait for the prince to save you.’
Heather: Is there an innate component to this?
Dr. Jen: There is definitely an innate element. The problem is that it is exacerbated and perpetuated. You walk into a toy store and there is a pink aisle and there is a blue aisle. The pink and blue is not the problem – it’s the lack of choices.
Heather: What do I do when my daughter shows signs of Princess Syndrome?
Dr. Jen: The first thing you have to do is look at yourself and your partner and see what you are doing. So if you, as the parents, are all about appearances yourselves, your daughter will pick that up. We all want to look good, but how much of your focus is on wanting to look perfect all of the time?
Heather: How can we as women and as moms make this shift?
Dr. Jen: You can have the conversation out loud with your daughter, but make sure you know how you feel first. You don’t want to be confused when you speak with your daughter. First step is to have a real self inventory and then relay that message to your daughter.
Heather: You say that 70% of girls actually believe they are not good enough.
Dr. Jen: It’s really tragic. Eating disorders have risen 119% in the past few years in girls under 13. Even 3- and 4-year-old girls are saying they are fat. I don’t remember being 8 and feeling like this. I remember it came more in middle school. But 4th and 5th grade is becoming the new middle school.
Heather: “There is a way to curb your daughter’s influence without living in a bubble” How can we do that?
Dr. Jen: They are going to be exposed to things you don’t want them to see. The key is JUST to be having conversations. Those conversations early on helps your daughter to become a critical thinker.
Heather: The COO of Facebook talks about the ambition gap of girls and how it follows them into the business world and from how at a very early age, the traits that are important in the business world are taught to boys but not girls. If a girl goes for what she wants, she is bossy. But if a boy does, he is considered confident. What is your take on this?
Dr. Jen: It is definitely something that continues. Research says that women don’t speak up as much as men in meetings. We are raised as women to focus on relationships and to build positive relationships more than men. And in business this doesn’t help us to get to the top. We need to stop labeling. A determined girl is a lot different than a bossy girl.
Heather: What does it mean to be a heroine?
Dr. Jen: Someone who has balance – recognizing life is more than just looking in the mirror – working to be confident in who you are. Being able feel good about ourselves in the world. Not defining ourselves by what you have but instead by what you like. Being well balanced and rounded.
Question from listener: My daughter is extremely confident and knows what she wants, but she is a definite girly girl. Loves pink, loves princesses, loves girly stuff – but is happy and confident. Should I still be worried about her not being balanced?
Dr. Jen: No. If your daughter is feeling good and is able to go to the park in her sneakers and run around, then don’t worry. It’s okay to be pink head to toe as long as she is not allowing that to be all that there is. If she isn’t afraid to jump in the mud puddles, then great!
Question from listener: I’m a mom of boys. How can I teach my boys to respect girls in this increasingly quid pro quo world?
Dr. Jen: Boys are bombarded with the same messages and don’t know how to interpret them either. It’s so important for moms to have the same discussions with boys. Ask questions. Have conversations. What does it mean if a girl is pretty? Does that mean you should act differently to her?
Question from listener: We are talking a lot about the mom’s point of view. What is there to be said about the dad?
Dr. Jen: Dads have a huge influence. And it’s a shame because they don’t get the attention they deserve. There is so much research that says that the father is the first relationship a girl has that teaches her how to interact with the opposite sex. I encourage dads to say “I’m going to go build this, do you want to come?” Dads need to include daughters in activities that are stereotyped as ‘men’ things. Encourage daughters to do the same things that boys do. Have special dad/daughter bonding time.
To learn more about this topic, fee free to listen to our whole interview with Dr. Jen Hartstein.
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