A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my first experience when my 5 year old asked “if she looked fat.” My husband and I do our best in raising a confident young girl, we both realize that it comes from both of us. The advice I received from our school’s director was fantastic in recognizing what the real underlying issue was about.
What can we do as parents? Studies show this foundation begins early and the building starts when girls approach their tweens, around 8-12 years of age. It is what we do in the home that can help battle the pressures of peer behavior in schools and other extra -curricular activities.
Good parenting starts with positive relationship building that begins in the home. According to Jill Hope of I Shine Kids, communication is key.
“One of the most important things we can do for our kids is to create a space for open communication,” Hope said. “The more you can instill a safe and positive space for open dialogue, the more she will feel comfortable sharing her thoughts and feelings with you.”
Carving out some every day is important. At least a few times per week, my daughter and I have “couch time.” We sit on the couch, cuddle and just chat about our day. Sometimes I can get something out of her that is bothering her and other times it is just chatter.
What else can we do as moms and dads?
1.Love their mother. This is first and foremost. Dads, you are the role model for the type of man you want your daughter to marry. She needs to see you embrace, kiss and lift up their mother in a positive way. One that builds your little girl up too. Do not eye another “hot” mama, it is insulting and disrespectful towards her mom and your daughter. Speak highly of other women in front of them, women are not objects and neither is your daughter.
2. Lift her up. Yes, telling her she is beautiful is important, but she needs to know what makes her so special. You fell in love with your wife not because she was beautiful, but because you found characteristics that you adored. Your daughter needs to hear those same things. She will eventually find a man who appreciates all the things you love about your daughter too.
3. Make time for her. Start early and go on daddy/daughter date nights. A couple times a month is not much to ask. It can be a breakfast date or take her to see a children’s play. Whatever it is, make it her time. Put away your phone and engage in conversation. Showing her she is worth real time conversation will be valuable as she learns to interact in the real world.
4. Tutor her. Show her that academics are important, but the ability to complete a task, to follow through on what she started is equally important and will teach important life skills. Yes, teach her to use a wrench and eventually change a tire. Whenever your “honey-do” list is to put together, have her be your little helper. Even if it takes you twice as long. There is nothing cooler than a girl that knows the difference between a flathead and a Phillips screwdriver.
5. Have fun! Ok, so we know you are the ones that come home from work and it is all fun and games. Yes, you know who you are or what I like to call it “Disney Dad.” But we need that kind of spark and life from even our hectic days as moms. Letting loose is good, but just try not to get them all riled up RIGHT before bedtime, ok?
- Respect Your Husbands: Showing compassion, giving him grace and respect towards her father is what lifts him up and helps him to be a better man. She doesn’t need to hear you complain to your BFF about what he did not do or do for you that day. Have that discussion directly with him. This is a valuable part of teaching her that you not only respect him, she will respect him as a father too.
- Don’t dwell on your shortcomings: One of the worst things we can do as mothers is to walk around saying “I am fat” or “I feel fat today” or “Do these jeans make me look fat?” See where I am going here? It is the one thing I am conscious about and refuse to pass this down to my own daughter. Your self-esteem is going to affect how she views herself. Instead, say, “I exercise to keep my body strong so I can keep up with you” or “I eat healthy for my heart and keep my energy levels up with nutritious foods.”
- Allow her to make some decisions and choices: I like this one from Jill Hope. I am just as guilty in making decisions for my daughter. If she gets herself dressed in the morning and it does not match, I swallow my pride and say, “What a good job you did getting dressed today!” This not only empowers her, but is another step in fostering independence. Now if it is 20 degrees outside and she puts on a sundress, yes I am making her change her clothes. But, I am quite sure she won’t go to college looking like Fancy Nancy.
- Don’t tell her how she feels: Raise your hand if you have told your daughter, “No you don’t feel that way” or “Oh come now I didn’t hurt your feelings” or “Don’t cry, only babies cry.” This is one way we can demean their ability to express themselves in a honest way. How often do you want to be heard when your feelings have been hurt? Children feel the same way. We teach boys to step up, but girls to be more timid and quiet. Allowing some time for her to express herself will be a characteristic you will be proud of someday.
- Love her and have fun: Tell her you love her daily and why you love her. Tell her at least one thing daily you love about her to lift her up. Moms, we can’t be serious all of the time, allow for those giggles and when dad comes home from work, let loose too.