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What Parents Can Do To Promote Self-Esteem in Girls

What Parents Can Do at Home

  • Your words are powerful and can influence attitudes and performance in school and at home.
  • Suggest activities and experiences for girls that may be traditionally reserved for boys. Girls may not ask for the chance to fix a leaky pipe, build a fence or explore the cause of an electrical short, but are enthusiastic participants when given the opportunity. Encourage girls to explore non-traditional areas of interest. Praise demonstrations of daring, curiosity.
  • Stereotypes are powerful. Encourage girls, as well as boys, to question them.
  • Praise your daughter for her skills and ideas rather than for her appearance and neatness.
  • Resist rescuing girls or providing ready answers. Research shows that this kind of "help" undermines girls' confidence in their abilities.
  • Encourage new, non-traditional thinking and methods of problem solving. Help foster an environment where girls know it's acceptable to get sweaty and dirty in pursuit of a goal.
  • Become a media critic and encourage that approach in your daughter. Discuss with her the portrayals of girls and women on television, in movies, in magazines and in popular music. Does the media offer positive or negative role models for girls? Explore the messages and assumptions that the media is sending. These discussions provide ideal opportunities to explore the roles of girls and women in society.

Education

  • A new study confirmed that education plays a key role in improving women's lives. Among women who were college graduates, 95 percent said that things were going at least fairly well, compared with only 3 percent of the women who had not completed high school.
  • Women who take more than two college-level math courses often achieve pay equity with men, and in many cases, receive higher average pay than men.
  • Build your daughter's technological mastery and competence by finding a way for her to use a computer regularly; and by sending her to computer camp in the summer, especially after fourth grade.
  • If she shows an interest in technical things, buy her a subscription to Popular Mechanics or a computer magazine.
  • Don't assume that she is not interested in technical things.
  • Encourage your daughter to take advantage of volunteer opportunities, internships, and work-study programs, especially in her areas of interest.
  • Extracurricular activities add dimension. Support your daughter's interests and participation in extracurricular activities. Sports, clubs, field trips, etc. allow students to find new interests, take on new responsibilities, learn leadership, be part of a team effort, and build a resume.

Checklist for Parents

Encourage girls to:

  • Ask questions and not always accept the answers that are given.
  • Take risks, seek challenges.
  • Speak up and speak out - make sure their voices are heard.
  • Try and try again. It's okay to make mistakes.
  • Take on leadership positions in student government, sports or extracurricular activities.
  • Stick with math and science classes even if they are not their strong suit.
  • Play organized sports.
  • Participate in physical activities.

next: What Parents Need to Know About Eating Disorders
~ eating disorders library
~ all articles on eating disorders

Last Updated: 14 January 2014
Reviewed by Harry Croft, MD

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