Mothers, Daughters, and Self-Esteem
By Barbara McRae, MCC
We’ve all heard that it’s important to build a child’s self-esteem but when that child becomes a teenager, moms tend to be unsure how to do this effectively. And the constant bombardment with images of “perfect” people in our culture (airbrushed so not a single flaw can be found), it’s no wonder girls are becoming even more self-critical. When this happens, they lose sight of the unique qualities that make them special and beautiful, inside and out.
Often teenagers (and some adults) think these models and celebrities actually look like that every day when they walk down the street! Then they compare themselves to these doctored images and feel they don’t measure up. And how could they? When this happens, girls may try anything to make themselves “perfect,” depriving themselves of food or convincing mom and dad to pay for the perfect nose!
You’re probably already trying to help your teen daughter in the self-esteem department. At this stage in her life, though, you might be hearing, “But you’re my mom, you HAVE to say nice things to me!” Kids believe that either you’re biased or there is some sort of Parents’ Rule Book that orders you to say these things and therefore your message can’t be taken as the truth.
So, how do you boost your daughter’s self-esteem to help her become a savvy teen girl?
1. Be affirming whenever you can.
Your teen daughters are more likely to believe your affirming words when you make your praise specific: “That was a very thoughtful gift you gave to your cousin.”
2. Help her receive a compliment gracefully.
Awkward teenagers brush off a compliment or say nothing at all. Teach your daughter to say a simple but sincere “Thank you.” (And make sure you do the same!)
3. Demonstrate that you value her.
These messages can help you do that: “How do YOU feel about …?, “I’m here for you!”, or “I value your opinion. What’s your take on…?”
4. Become aware of what you say out loud about yourself.
Pay attention. If you catch yourself saying or thinking how fat you look or how you can’t do anything right, realize that your daughter is learning it’s OK to talk trash about yourself.
5. Explore and acknowledge her concerns.
Don’t laugh or dismiss it when your daughter makes negative comments about herself. You may think it’s silly, but to her this is serious business. Use “what” questions to get to the root of the comment so you can help her see the good things about herself.
6. Encourage your girl to develop her gifts.
By encouraging your daughter to strengthen her writing talent or pursue her love for gymnastics, she will eventually realize that there is more to life than being “a pretty face.”
7. Participate in acts of service with your teenager.
Include your daughter in your humanitarian and charitable activities. We know that when we lift the spirits of others, it also boosts how we feel about ourselves.
As your daughter’s self-esteem increases, she’ll become stronger internally and won’t crumble when a classmate berates her. Children with high self-esteem are less prone to taking these angry statements at face value.
Barbara McRae, MCC
Teen Parenting Expert. Campus Calm™