By: Jacqueline Herrera, MA
Have you ever found yourself in long grocery line, thinking of all the things you still have to do and wondering if the chicken will defrost before you get to your car?
Your train of thought gets interrupted when you see a picture of the perfect summer sponge cake. The image is glossy, the colors are bright, and the cake looks so moist, so inviting, you’re pretty sure you just tasted it. Next thing you know you realize how much you need that cake in your life — even though in reality, you don’t even like sponge cake, it’s too… spongy!
You probably know the drill when it comes to see enticing sweets. You know images are enhanced digitally. You know that’s probably not even a sponge cake. It’s probably a prop! You also know yourself — you don’t like sponge cake! You are aware that too many sweets aren’t the best for your waistline and you’re still trying to get into those favorite pair of old jeans. You are also busy! You have purpose in your life — little ones that count on you, people at work who rely on you, and not to mention the dog. You know how to “survive” the few seconds of sweet temptation and move on.
But what about your daughter?
Let’s take this whole scene and swap some pieces out. Say, instead of a grocery line, it’s a cellphone. Instead of a baking magazine, it’s her Instagram (or Snapchat). Instead of sponge cake, it’s back-to-back perfectly bronzed summer models, or friends so filtered they are unrecognizable. And instead of your daughter wanting cake, she wants flawless skin/bigger eyes/fuller lips/smaller waist/longer hair (we can keep going here).
Now, let’s pause.
How often is your daughter thinking about these things? Does she know about digitalized images? Does she know professional photos are also enhanced? About how often she is exposed to these images? Does she also follow “real” people that seem to have purposes in their lives greater than their image?
Our daughters will have moments (sometimes years) of insecurity. They will compare themselves to others and not just with their looks, but with their grades, SAT scores, running time. Comparison is normal and healthy to a certain degree. When your daughter starts to compare herself too much to her peers or images she sees, she may begin to be dissatisfied with herself.
So how can you help your daughter feel good about herself? Help her discover who she is. As a parent, you get the opportunity to help guide her in self-discovery and give her real, genuine compliments about who she is and how she looks.
- Limit her screen time by encouraging more “live” activities, such as assisting with meal preparation, playing sports, joining a club, and/or engaging in a hobby
- Modeling limited screen time is also important. How often are you on social media or using your phone?
- Many empowering women have social media accounts. Encourage her to find women she can look up to, whether it’s a local community member, authors, singers, athletes, actresses, etc.
- Give her honest and genuine compliments about who she is (her character), what she does (positive reinforcement), and how she looks.
- Character examples include praising things like integrity, generosity, kindness, sincerity, loyalty, self-control
- Behavioral examples include praising her while she is involved in the action or praising a behavior you’ve noticed she has struggled with in the past.
- Complementing how she looks should include words to affirm who she is and be tailored to her instead of saying “pretty” or “beautiful.”
- “Your eyes stand out with that shirt you have on, especially when you smile.”
- “Your hard work is really paying off, I can see your time has gotten shorter on the track field, good job!”
- Be mindful of your own self-talk. Kids tend to mimic what we do, not what we say. Modeling healthy self-image is a great way promote it.
- Another area that often goes unnoticed is what we, parents and adults, say about others behind their backs.
- We may make a comment like, “Looks like Susie can’t lose that baby weight” or “Wow, Julia looks really great, she’s lost a lot of weight. I can’t believe she let herself get so big before.”
- We send a strong message to our daughters through these “passive” comments.
Kids will cherish their parent’s affirmation, even if they hide it or it does seem like it. This is an incredible opportunity to build your daughters’ self-esteem and helping her develop a healthy self-concept.
For further information, including how to help build healthy self-esteem at different stages of development, read these articles: