I teach my daughter to love herself by demonstrating my own love
for me: how I talk to myself, take time for myself and celebrate my
Rita Hyland, Elmhurst
I tell my daughter, make your mistakes. I will not judge
you. I will hold you and love you no matter what choices you make.
It's always about what you do next that determines who you
Deb Casey, Elmhurst
We have certain basic rules, but within those guidelines
our daughter knows she is free and encouraged to make her own
choices-she picks her friends, her clothes, how she wears her hair,
how she keeps and decorates her room, how early she gets up in the
morning, what activities she is involved in, how hard she studies
for a test, what classes she takes. In the end, our hope is that
she learns to trusts herself and knows herself well enough to make
decisions that are best for her.
Christine and Drew McFadden,
We teach our girls to love themselves by modeling self
love and by reminding them how their uniqueness and individuality
are celebrated and cherished.
Tricia Fitzgerald and James Haworth,
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Girls are taught to be nice. They are expected to
be "good," considerate and polite. They are under tremendous
pressure to make others feel good and to always look good.
Unknowingly, parents often contribute to this
So it's important to be aware of what we expect from our
girls and what we really want to teach them. If we want to raise
daughters who enjoy life and who give back to the world in a
meaningful way, we need to teach them the most important lesson of
all-to love and value themselves.
Girls need to know that they are enough just as they are,
and that a certain look, weight or outfit will not result in
It's not easy when billboards, magazines and the
entertainment industry focus solely on girls' looks and sexuality,
but you can create a home that supports your daughter, starting
with some very basic steps:
Allow her to express herself
Girls get mad sometimes and that's OK. If girls are
allowed to feel their anger and share their feelings, they will be
better able to release them and move on. The more we tell them not
to feel anger, frustration or sadness, the more they will deny or
repress these feelings and inevitably, those feelings will turn
into something else (low self-esteem, bullying,
Girls should be able to express the full spectrum of
emotions without being made to feel guilty or wrong. The more you
respect your daughter's emotional responses, the more she will be
able to speak up for herself, ask for what she needs, and not
internalize her discomfort.
Teach her the real definition of beauty
As a society we have a very limited perspective of
beauty-it's based on appearance, fashion and the "look of the
moment," which usually is unattainable for the majority of the
So we need to remind our daughter (and ourselves) that the
cover of a magazine (although not Chicago Parent's cover) is
airbrushed and altered. We need to remind her that TV shows, even
reality shows, aren't reality.
Then we have a better chance to teach our daughter what
real beauty means-it's the way she carries herself with confidence
and joy, the way she laughs and smiles, the way she shares with
others, the way she runs or throws a ball, the way she dances or
pretends to fly, and the way she falls down and gets back up again.
Consistently offer tangible definitions of beauty so your daughter
can claim this word and know that you really see her.
Ask her opinion, value her opinion
We can become very attached to how our daughter looks or
acts, believing that it somehow is a reflection of us, but really,
our job as parents is to help her embrace her own look and
opinions. Instead of trying to make your daughter like you or what
you "dream" she could be, allow her to be herself.
Next time your daughter asks what she should wear, ask her
what she thinks. Next time she asks what her paper topic should be,
ask her what she thinks. Next time she has a challenge, listen as
she shares with you, but then ask her what she thinks. Let her know
that you trust her and teach her to trust herself by listening and
valuing what she has to say.
Encourage eye contact, discourage unnecessary
Once your daughter is old enough to socialize and interact
on her own, remind her to keep her head up, make eye contact and
give a firm handshake when one is offered. Body language expresses
confidence and also builds confidence.
Girls tend to over-apologize, even when something is not
their fault. They want everyone else to feel comfortable, so they
will take the blame or shrink back in an effort not to offend.
Moms, notice if you do this and notice if your daughter does
this-if so, be aware and make a point to discuss it. Meaningful
apologies always are thoughtful and appropriate, but apologizing so
people like you is inauthentic and disempowering.
Talk to her about sex and
Talk to your daughter about her body parts and how they
work, and teach her the real names of her sexual organs rather than
make up names so you don't have to say the real ones. Help your
daughter embrace and respect all parts of who she is by speaking
frankly and lovingly about what it means to be a woman.
Teach her to respect and understand her cycle rather than
dread it, teach her to honor her body and not give it away, teach
her to love what she was given rather than wish she looked
differently. Moms, treat yourself and your body with respect. Dads,
treat women with respect. Your daughter is watching and learning
from both of you.
Cathy Adams is a certified parenting coach, yoga instructor and mother to three girls.
See more of Cathy's stories here.
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