Thursday, January 16, 2020

MOM LIFE :: Boosting Self-Confidence in Girls

The pre-teen years can be challenging, especially for girls.  Did you know that their self-confidence can drop by as much as 30%?  By the time girls are 14, boys’ confidence is a staggering 27% higher.  

So what’s going on?  Your daughter’s brain is developing and some characteristics of the female brain that start to kick in can actually work against them at their young age.  There’s the habit of rumination or dwelling on things which is way more prevalent in females. This can make girls more cautious and less prone to take risks.  Eventually, this can lead to setting really high standards for themselves and gaining this sense that they can’t fail at anything.  We foster both their cautiousness and perfectionism. We chalk it up to girls being girls but they can dampen our girls' self-confidence because they spend too much time thinking things through and they set really high standards for themselves.

By puberty, the multi-tasking ability that women have also kicks in and girls are able to manage more than one thing at a time.  You might have noticed at home how you can rely on your older daughters to take care of a couple of things for you but you probably would never expect the same from your sons (although there's always exceptions).  Once estrogen kicks in, emotional intelligence also spikes and then girls are even more adept to scan the emotional landscape around them which will make them even more cautious since now they also have to factor in the vibes they are getting from their surrounding.

So basically by puberty, girls are stuck in this see saw between their emotional intelligence and their over-thinking and balancing these two forces can be crippling.  At this time, we can observe some toxic patterns emerging that will be nothing but barriers to their growth. They might start to believe that everyone hates them if that popular kid in school will not talk to them. They start to get super conscious about raising their hand in school because the boys in the class might think they are lame. They might make themselves believe that anything bad is their fault.  A bad grade means they are not smart, not that they had a bad day. They are, after all, supposed to excel all the time.

Have you noticed big changes in your pre-tween from one year to the next?  If you haven't, you might want to ask your husband for his opinion. As women, we are less prone to notice these changes believe it or not. Your daughter is navigating an internal storm which also includes physical changes and she's doing her best to find her new balance. She needs your help through this process and fostering her self-confidence should be a prime item in your agenda.

The good news is that you can nurture and encourage confidence at home with some simple approaches.  Here are some suggestions. 
  1. Encourage her to take risks:  Your daughter might already be great at ballet for example.  But, what about trying a new sport? Maybe something totally outside the box like basketball.  Why not? Her first reaction might be that she doesn’t even know anything about basketball or that she’ll probably be terrible at it.  Sign her up anyways and don’t let her quit. It will be challenging for her and she might be terrible at it. But she might also be good at it and maybe even discover a new sport she likes.    
  1. Change her perspective on failure:  When that test doesn’t go as planned or the opponent ends up scoring a goal while she was goalie, help take the negativity out of a mishap.  I don’t even like to call it a failure. Don’t let her dwell on it. We tend to over analyze everything. Change the channel and then come back to it and try to come up with a game plan for next time.  I find that changing the channel is key. Take two steps back, decompress and then talk about it.  
  1. Put a stop on over thinking and negative talk:  Girls tend to look too much into everything (it’s the rumination) and sometimes they can over analyze to the point that they see negativity everywhere.  Come up with different scenarios to explain the outcome she’s experiencing. Maybe that classmate is not talking to her because she’s shy and does not feel comfortable.  It’s not because she hates her.  
  1.  Model good body image:  I feel this one is so important, especially with girls.     We don’t use the three letter word at home. Make sure you enjoy treats with your daughters too.  Many a times I see little girls having ice cream while their mothers stare at their phones. What message are you giving your daughter?  
  1. Remind her that you’ll love her no matter what.  It’s a tough age! Sometimes we just need a good bear hug.

If you have pre-tween/teens, have you tried any of these approaches?  Let me know in the comments below.  

Thank you for reading this post!

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