Sponsored partnership with Dove and Mirum Shopper.
Last year my 8 year old came home from school and announced she signed up for the talent show with her best friend. The two of them were going to do a gymnastics routine and they worked out all the choreography and music during recess. My first reaction was to say “But darling you don’t take gymnastics classes. How can you do a gymnastics routine?” “Don’t worry Mom. Our routine is awesome. We are going to be the best ones at the show.” Her smile was huge. She was so self-assured. So confident.
I wanted to be supportive and encouraging and proud but secretly on the inside I was cringing. Oh gosh. She doesn’t take gymnastics classes. She is going on stage in front of the entire school and doing some routine they came up with at recess. This is going to be a mess.
The girls kept at it for a few weeks, practicing in 10 minute increments here and there. I did my part by picking up matching outfits and getting front row seats for the talent show. On the day of the show, I was absolutely blown away. Those two girls executed a perfect routine, had no nerves, tons of excitement and looked strong, confident and beautiful. Most importantly, they had a fantastic experience and were extremely proud of themselves.
My girls (girls aged 7 and 9) constantly amaze me, challenge me and teach me important life lessons. What really hit me as I was watching these two girls shine on stage is how can I capture this and bottle it up and save it forever? How can I skip over the parts where my girls will feel less than or belittled or ashamed? What can I do to create an environment where my children aren’t afraid to try new things, to take risks and don’t even consider that they might fail? How can I give them the tools to cope with constant social media bombardment that tells them they aren’t enough?
Since the talent show experience, I have been reading a lot of information about how to raise confident girls and wanted to share a few ideas with you. This came just in time for us as my oldest is now 9 and apparently 9 is a very pivotal age for girls. Sigh. Apparently 9 is the new 12.
Here are five takeaways from my research:
Give Specific Compliments. We all know that just telling girls “You are so pretty” or “You are so sweet” can actually reinforce the stereotype that little girls should be quiet and attractive above all else. I try to give my children very specific compliments that are genuine and true to their abilities. (And note- I totally tell them how beautiful they are but I also compliment 100 other qualities they have not just appearance.) Some examples “Addy you ran really fast in your soccer game. I can see you were really trying to be first to the ball. I loved watching you play today.” or “Maya that outfit you picked out is perfect. That shade of blue is beautiful on you.”
When I can, I try to reinforce options for the girls to open up their imagination for the future. “Addy I don’t know what I would do without your help setting up for parties. Did you know you can actually have a job as a party planner or a wedding planner?” “Maya you are so good with the new puppy. Do you think you might want to be a Veterinarian when you grow up or will you have a farm with lots of animals?” And on that same note, we acknowledge mistakes and I try to help the girls find solutions. “Addy you know you didn’t do that throw in properly and the other team took possession of the ball and scored a goal. It is OK to make mistakes as long as we learn from them- what should we do to make sure all your throw ins are clean from now on?” On that last example my daughter was actually sobbing after a game because she made a mistake and knew it. We acknowledged the mistake and brainstormed to find a few ideas to prevent it from happening again. The tears stopped as she was actively trying to problem solve instead of beating herself up for making a mistake. I could see a hopeful little face that was set with determination in the rearview mirror instead of a crushed face that felt defeated. #winning
Encourage a healthy body image. This one is so hard with images on tv, magazines and social media of perfect air-brushed faces and bodies. I remember starting my first diet when I was just 12 years old. Now when I think about it, I am horrified and I pray that my girls won’t feel the need to change who they are so young. Ultimately I think I am the one that will help my girls have a healthy body image. I never comment on my own appearance negatively and actually try to say nice things about myself. “Hey girls do you like my haircut? I feel so pretty today.” “You guys I totally killed it at the gym today. I feel so strong!”
We talk about being healthy v. unhealthy when it comes to food choices. I really struggle with getting my children to embrace vegetables and so we have lots of discussions about food being fuel for energy and healthy bodies. We enjoy treats (I am a baker) but I try to encourage moderation and balance. Most importantly we don’t put other people down for the way they look. I try very hard to limit exposure to teen magazines, music videos, tv shows and social media. I would much rather have my girls in the backyard kicking a ball around or creating art with toilet paper rolls than trying to see what happened to the Kardashians today.
Find positive role models. There are so many impressive women out there! We are working on pointing out these women and girls every chance we get! At a birthday party recently I overheard a 7 year old telling his buddy they were kicking a boy off their soccer team because “he plays like a girl.” Nice right? The ultimate insult to a little boy is apparently suggesting he plays sports like a girl. Sad and infuriating for me but what on earth do my little soccer playing girls think when they hear things like that? My 7 year old asked me about it after the party because she genuinely didn’t understand. It had never occurred to her that girls weren’t as good at sports as boys. A heart crushing moment I won’t forget especially when I watch little girls play their hearts out week after week in soccer.
Now I am on the hunt for positive role models to point out to my girls. Once you start looking, you see them everywhere. We recently went to a soccer tournament and noticed a little girl that was the goalie for a boys team. I made a point to sit and watch a few minutes of the game and show my girls that this little girl was every bit as good as the boys on her team. That wasn’t a rec team it was a competitive team that chose her above other goalies because of her skill. We had another tournament in Palo Alto and we took my 9 year old on a tour of Stanford University. We were incredibly lucky to find the Stanford girl’s soccer team practicing for a game that night. Obviously those girls were intelligent, accomplished and formidable athletes. Perfect role models for my little girl. I am hoping these experiences stick with her just as much as the crappy remark from that little kid at the party.
And one last note on this topic, finding positive role models starts at home. I have found myself gossiping lately with Mom friends and occasionally commenting on other parents or coaches or kids. We have had some negativity at school with other families and it is starting to change the person that I want to be. I am really focusing on stopping those conversations. It doesn’t make my life better to put someone else down and it certainly doesn’t set a good example for my children to see Mommy gossiping. Plus I just don’t want to be that person. That little boy commenting negatively on his teammate- most likely those remarks came from what he experiences at home. I don’t want my girls to have me being petty as the model for how they should behave in the world and then going out and crushing other children’s spirits with meanness.
Encourage good choices. My oldest daughter has really struggled with finding good friends. We had quite a roller coaster ride for awhile with friends that made my little girl cry or bullied her or left her out. Exhausting. I keep reinforcing to my children the famous Jim Rohn quote:
I ask my girls constantly- “How do those kids make you feel? Is that how you want to make other people feel?” I want so badly to make the girls understand that good friends that support and encourage are worth more than gold. Stinky friends with bad attitudes make everything around them stink.
Recognize feelings and actively listen. This is another tough one. I often see adults dismiss kids or interrupt them or lose patience with them. We had a coach once that would never let the girls speak- he was too busy pushing his thoughts and opinions out there. I am really making an effort these days to listen carefully to what my kids say. For my oldest the minute she gets in the car she spills it and chatters the entire way home about anything and everything. My littlest I get one word answers from but I have found if I find a moment of quiet at night – such as walking the dog or if I just go in her room and fold clothes or whatever- she volunteers all sorts of information and secrets. These little conversations are so incredibly important. I walk away with more of an understanding of who they are and they walk away feeling like what they think matters.
So those are the things we are working on in our home to (hopefully) raise confident and strong little girls. As parents of girls we certainly have our work cut out for us these days don’t we?
And you can imagine why I was so excited to partner with Dove on their new campaign to change the conversation in social media.
Dove wants to remind people that words have power. They started a #SpeakBeautiful campaign to encourage people to be kind in social media. Instead of tearing other people down, why not be a voice of kindness and encouragement?
52% of girls think negativity they see online damages their confidence.* So why not make an effort to break this cycle? Dove is encouraging women and girls to change the conversation online and make social media a more positive place for beauty and body confidence.
And as a simple daily reminder, you can pop into Target stores from now until 11/12/16 and when you purchase (3) Dove skin, hair or body care items you can also pick up a #SpeakBeautiful bracelet for free (while supplies last).
I stocked up on a few of our favorite Dove products and picked up bracelets for myself and for my girls. You should find a large end cap display at your local Target featuring several Dove products and these cute little bracelets.
*2016 Dove Study, learn more on Dove.com/Selfesteem
Sponsored post by Mirum Shopper. All opinions are my own.