I had an interesting and sad conversation yesterday with a few other mothers. We were discussing how their daughters only in preschool and first grade were already coming home with disturbing ideas about being beautiful and living up to their peers expectations of beauty, as well as a disturbing trend in the kindergarteners to discuss calories and diets. One mother then asked "How do I raise a confident daughter?"
That is the question I would like to address today. I am not going to pretend to have all the answers, because I think every one needs to work with their own personal situation and find what is right for them, but I do have a few ideas and some resources for you to go to and get more ideas.
First things first. If you want your daughter to be confident in herself then give her a good role model! You daughter will adopt your attitudes about your own body image faster than you know. Those kindergarteners were only parroting ideas heard from their mothers. They don't actually understand calories and dieting! Take an inventory of how you feel about yourself and what you say about yourself. Then start with the easy step; stop saying demeaning things about your body. After that you can tackle the hard part and stop thinking negative things about your body.
Second. Get rid of the scale!! Or at least hide it away and only weight yourself every now and then. Reinforce the idea that weight is only a number and what is more important is overall health and how you feel.
Third, Dump the fashion magazines! Studies show that after only 15-30 minutes of flipping though one, women show significantly decreased body-image and self esteem. I would also advise keeping an eye on your teenage daughters television viewing as some of the shows today can be as bad as a fashion magazine.
Fourth, talk, talk, talk! If you see something that bothers you about the way our society views women and their bodies, talk to your daughter about these skewed images ideas and why they are wrong.
Need ideas, or don't quite understand where we get our ridiculous ideas about body and beauty from? Check out these resources.
about-face.org This website is dedicated to tackling the subject of body image and especially how it relates to the media. There you will gain the knowledge to identify destructive advertising and how to put into your words when speaking with your daughter what is so wrong about it. They will also teach you how to write a good complaint letter to offending companies. The site also has tons of information and statistics about all sorts of body image issues, including eating disorders, women's health, cosmetic surgery, etc. You will also find an extensive list of reading material if you want even more information.
Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Confident and Courageous Daughters by Joann Deak
I prefer this book to Reviving Ophelia as it covers the same important topics but is a little less doom and gloom and gives more real-world solutions that you can apply in your own family. I also prefer this book because it doesn't portray the idea that women should feel ashamed of their desires to be a wife or mother. It also is up-front about the differences between boys and girls, with scientific evidence to back it up, and then discusses how to compensate for those differences (like as in spatial relationship skills with girls and reading, writing skills with boys).
Packaging Girlhood by Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown
This book makes you take a long, hard look at the messages being sent to your daughter through everything around her. From the music she listens to, the shows she watches, to the toys being sold to her. You dn't have to agree with everything they say, but they do give good advice about discussing with your daughter the contradictory messages being sent her way.
Check out this presentation on the subject matter for a quick 30 minute intro!
Killing Us Softly Part 1
Killing Us Softly Part 2
Killing Us Softly Part 3