My daughter has always been proud of her strength.
When she was little she’d perform tiny pull-ups from inside her pack & play.
As a toddler she’d greet friends new and old by bear-hugging, hoisting ’em off the ground and walkcarrying them across the playground.
(This definitely made for more than a few awkward moments with said friends’ parents/caregivers)
Strong and nurturing have always been her words.
Not so much even the fact we strive to stay healthy together or internal/external strength is valued in our family–she simply knows her power.
She’s aware she’s capable.
She’s aware she’s strong.
She’s proud of these traits.
Turning double digits hasn’t shaken her confidence in the slightest.
Instead of starting to worry or obsess about her transitioning body she’s excited for the changes ahead.
And, more even more thrilling to her, is the fact she’s officially allowed to lift weights with the “big people.”
(Gold’s Gym rules. I have my own about body-weight versus iron at age 10)
The past month or so has been a constant stream of flexing or performing feats of strength with her saying:
Mama I’m so strong!
The thing is, in addition to my counseling background, I was once a girl.
I’m all too aware with regards to self-esteem we are entering the treacherous time.
The period (no pun intended) where she may lose her voice and no longer value being powerful and taking up space in the world.
Where she may, for lack of a better phrase, start to feel stoppable not strong.
Right now I cannot even imagine that version of my Child.
Right now, I realize, is a crucial time with regards to laying (more) foundation so she remains confident in who she is.
Here’s how I’m endeavoring to do that:
1. I tell her I believe in her. And I work to show her that faith through my actions no matter her goals. Whether I think her aspirations are realistic or lofty –I support, encourage and let her know I believe in her at every opportunity.
I believe you can train a Bow Wow Reader dog
2. I love what she loves…even if I hate it. So far I’ve been fortunate. She loves skating. I love skating. She loves gymnastics. I used to kick ass at gymnastics. If she fell in love with Minecraft, horror movies or skiing (none of which I’m drawn to) I’d fall in love with those, too. It’s all about creating and maintaining connection. I will do what I have to in order to facilitate that.
WHEW she loves the Austin Roller Derby!
3. I love how I look. Quite frankly I don’t spend much time thinking about my appearance. It’s neither good nor bad–it’s just who I am. Research indicates, however, mothers who are vocal about dislike for their bodies foster those same feelings in daughters. Even though I don’t do that vocalizing–this all still feels like a crapshoot to me. I wonder about the power of peers and media? I wonder if being adopted will play a role? I’m doing my part and praying. A lot.
I love my body for what it can do.
4. I compliment her honestly. She may be only 11, but she’s definitely aware if someone is being authentic. You’re amazing at math!! wouldn’t ring true to her because she’s not. We all have different strengths and weaknesses. I’ve watched her become aware how others compliment her. That drawing is absolutely fantastic!!! (when she knows she’s not an artist) is shrugged off, but You are a super fast skater! is held close and treasured. Adults can forget not only do kids see through compliments not anchored in reality, these transparent words spark them to mistrust us in other arenas. Grit, resilience, tenacity are the focus of my kind words.
all of this is about connection.
My post really is blogging as we did it in the golden days.
Sure I’m offering tips, but they’re only things which have worked around here (so far).
More than anything I crave a return to the comment’versation.
For your insights from the trenches or the wisdom you’ve gained as you’ve emerged the other side.
- Parent or non: what do you believe is one thing adults can do to help preserve girls’ self-esteem?
Angela @ Happy Fit Mama saysDecember 21, 2015 at 4:35 am
I pray my daughter remains strong. i hope she always knows she can do anything she wants to. No matter her size or gender.
Michele @ paleorunningmomma saysDecember 21, 2015 at 4:58 am
All of this is spot on and we definitely think alike – maybe it’s the counseling background! I’ve noticed how they noticed everything I do, if and when I look in the mirror, if I comment on my own appearance, etc, so for me THAT is the area I focus on the most – not caring. You can do everything else but if they see looks matter to YOU, it’s all diluted. And then there’s Dad’s role, but another blog post entirely!
allie saysDecember 21, 2015 at 5:02 am
Obviously, I have boys but I can say this – they learn most from what I say about myself, how I carry myself and what I do with my body. They are always watching and listening!! The best thing you can do for your kids (IMHO) is be positive (and hopefully it’s authentic) about who you are. Embrace YOU and they will embrace themselves. So far, so good!!
Bea saysDecember 21, 2015 at 5:28 am
Keep doing what you are doing, Mama.
The tough years are coming, but you will be fine. And she will be fine.
Coco saysDecember 21, 2015 at 5:50 am
Great question. I think treating them like you expect they can/will succeed at whatever is at hand is important and not assuming they aren’t interested in/capable at “boy” things.
Brianne saysDecember 21, 2015 at 5:59 am
This is unbelievable advice thank you so much for sharing!
Susie @ Suzlyfe saysDecember 21, 2015 at 6:04 am
So important. I was lucky that my mom actually did love the big thing in my childhood (horses) and I loved make up and such (like she did), but my mom never once made me feel lesser or incapable. If there was something that I truly wanted to do, she found a way to help me do it. I think simply believing in and supporting each other goes way farther than we can ever believe.
Wendy@Taking the Long Way Home saysDecember 21, 2015 at 6:22 am
That is the million dollar question. I’d love to understand what happens to girls when they hit puberty. I see this all the time in my practice as a PNP. Girls who were kick ass when they were little develop into young women who doubt themselves constantly. Is it the hormones? Or something else? Damn you puberty!
Just keep empowering that girlie of yours!
Annmarie saysDecember 21, 2015 at 6:22 am
My daughters are both very strong little girls (both emotionally and physically) and I hope they remain that way into their adult years!
Melissa@ the Staten Island family saysDecember 21, 2015 at 6:34 am
You are doing everything possible to keep your girl strong and confident and FYI I am stealing all of these ideas for my daughter! I would say the one thing I consistently try to do to keep my daughter mentally strong is remind her every day how much I believe in her.
cheryl saysDecember 21, 2015 at 6:36 am
hummmm….I remember throwing away the scale as her love of ballet focused on thinness + strength (thank goodness some dance companies focus on muscles now!) and the only advice I would give her about her body was telling her to remember the feeling of being fit and strong and accomplished after a performance (there were rich girls in her company who were snorting coke and even experimenting with heroine). Peer pressure IS stronger for a time- it’s real. For mine it lasted from about 14 until early 20s. Just keep telling her you love her for who she is, and that you will be there for her no matter what and they eventually come back around….and genetics plays a big part. She is so much like her dad and reminds me when I give advice…”Mom, I am not you!”
Linz @ Itz Linz saysDecember 21, 2015 at 6:39 am
i LOVE this! and think it holds true for boys, as well!
pia saysDecember 21, 2015 at 6:42 am
Thanks for the “non.”
Encourage! It shouldn’t matter if you can or can’t do something. it’ s the belief that you will be able to do it that’s important. And working to…
Susan saysDecember 21, 2015 at 6:43 am
I think kids learn a lot by what you
do and how you handle yourself.
More is caught than taught.
As for your question will be adopted
play a role. At some point it will I would
guess. The who do I look like? Where do
I get the color of my eyes etc. The biggie
will probably be why was I placed for adoption?
Also nature is very strong whatever skills,
talents she inherited but you will influence
what skills talents she actually develops.
I am adopted in a closed adoption state (Florida)
I do have my non-id information, and I paid for
a search to find my bio-mom about 8 years a go.
At that point in time she wasn’t open to contact.
I keep hoping and praying that she will change her
mind. My next step in the process is to go after
the DNA side of things and see if I have siblings
which I long to know. If you ever have questions
shoot me a line at yahoo or on Facebook. I’ll
be glad to help in any way I can.
Pam@over50feeling40 saysDecember 21, 2015 at 7:01 am
I think we all need to be doing what you are doing as a parent…encouraging and esteeming them in healthy directions. I taught high school girls for 18 years and it was a battle to get them to not listen to peers and focus on the positive. It takes teachers and parents working together.
Ellen @ My Uncommon Everyday saysDecember 21, 2015 at 7:05 am
I love this conversation. So, technically… I’m “grown”. I’m off at college for 9 months out of the year and I cook my own food and deal with my own doctors. But I still feel like a kid, so I might respond from a mixed point of view.
I think that the most important thing my parents did to maintain my confidence was compliment me honestly. I’m not an artist, but I’m a pretty good writer. I’m not a singer, but I can do math. I’m not endlessly outgoing, but I am perceptive. Compliment me on the things I know I’m good at, and I’ll continue to trust that I’m good at those things.
Parental reinforcement, combined with my own sense of self, meant that I was pretty confident all throughout my teenage years. That said, even now, that sometimes comes crashing down. It’s bound to. In times like that, I think what helps most to restore confidence is encouragement and understanding. If I perceive some failure on my part, I appreciate it if others acknowledge that, but also value the reminder that one mistake is not definitive of who I am. Knowing that people I admire (my parents) believe that helps me to believe that.
Pamela Hernandez saysDecember 21, 2015 at 7:14 am
Compliment their efforts not their results. Encourage them to try no matter the outcome.
Leanne@crestingthehill saysDecember 21, 2015 at 7:21 am
I love that she is strong and happy and loving and healthy – all great things for a daughter to be – you’re doing fabulously as a mum Carla – she’s lucky to have you (and did I mention I do love your leg tattoos!) Hopefully she’ll wait til she’s 18 before she gets hers 🙂
Carol Cassara saysDecember 21, 2015 at 7:48 am
I wish more moms had more of your views about their bodies and that more kids grew up confident.
KCLAnderson (Karen) saysDecember 21, 2015 at 8:04 am
Model it. Model it. Model it. And emotional resilience. And emotional adulthood. And making space for ALL emotions by not judging some as good and some as bad.
Brittany saysDecember 21, 2015 at 8:29 am
As a new mom. I needed this! Thank you!
misszippy saysDecember 21, 2015 at 8:36 am
This is such a great conversation to have and we can all learn from each other. My approach has always been focusing on what she can DO rather than how she looks. It just seems to me that the trouble for many girls (and women) begins when the focus goes to appearance. I have no idea if what I am doing is right, but it’s what feels right. You have a fabulous approach and it will no doubt pay off with a confidant daughter who can hold her own when she needs to do so.
Haralee saysDecember 21, 2015 at 8:49 am
Tween age is filled with angst for all involved! Just your comment about her strengths and your worrying is great, means your Mom goggles aren’t firmly fastened and you can see this beautiful girl as herself.
You 2 are really dynamic!
Sharon Greenthal saysDecember 21, 2015 at 9:03 am
Having grown up with a father who was obsessed with my weight, I made it a point to NOT do that to my daughter who, like me, has always struggled with her weight. She is, at 25, so much more confident than I ever was!
The messages our parents send us are crucial to our self-esteem. You are doing a great, great thing for your daughter.
Laura @ Mommy Run Fast saysDecember 21, 2015 at 9:06 am
I think about this often too! We’re about 5 years behind you but I already see the peer influence having more of an affect than it used to. I love that you said you fall in love with whatever she loves to maintain that connection- that’s something I could get better at. Right now we share a love for music. She also loves all things ballet which was never a passion of mine but I agree that they sense authenticity- and really making an effort to be genuine about compliments and connecting around activities goes such a long way.
Myra saysDecember 21, 2015 at 10:05 am
Now that my daughter is commuting to college she is a lot more out in the world. Thankfully, she knows I am her safe person. She shares so much of her new experiences. Being adopted and Chinese and Jewish and the daughter of a perpetually dieting single mother has not made her feel less than so far. In fact, she is teaching me everyday how to be myself again as she grows into herself.
Heather Montgomery saysDecember 21, 2015 at 10:07 am
I think so many girls are torn down by other girls. I hope to teach Emma Kate to not take things others say too personally, and that being confident despite what others say is true strength!
Debbie saysDecember 21, 2015 at 10:17 am
Such a beautiful post, Carla. I don’t have children my own, but it made me think of my childhood.
It’s a blessing to have such a relationship with your child. Enjoy it!
Sagan saysDecember 21, 2015 at 10:36 am
Ooh I really like #4. We live in such a weird world now where so many kids are kept in bubble wrap and kept on these pedestals where they can do no wrong… but it’s important for kids to understand and accept when they aren’t the best at something. They NEED that to help them prepare for the adult world.
Chris saysDecember 21, 2015 at 11:56 am
I Love ALL your tips! In response to your question… I answer as a semi-parent to a boy, and as someone who was once, for a VERY short time, an actual girl.
Sonofabitch, this comment turned into a blog post.
Chris saysDecember 21, 2015 at 1:47 pm
Link to my post inspired by YOUR post…
Jessica @eatsleepbe saysDecember 21, 2015 at 12:24 pm
I was just like your daughter in having the ability to see authenticity (or not) quite clearly from a very young age. As a parent (thought not of a girl), I think it is our job to empower our children while continuing to let them learn from experience. Once they have an experience for themselves, your words will only ring more true to them.
Jennifer saysDecember 21, 2015 at 12:53 pm
Way to go Mom! Every girl and person, needs this kind of affirming support and love. I love to see this! Happy Holidays.
Michelle @ Running with Attitude saysDecember 21, 2015 at 1:57 pm
All good stuff Carla – and as a mom to two boys, I think it applies to boys as well.
Natalie @ A Fit Philosophy saysDecember 21, 2015 at 2:26 pm
I love this! You’re such a great mama!
Yum Yucky saysDecember 21, 2015 at 2:26 pm
My daughter is a pretty little girl but I do my best to NOT give her too many “you’re so pretty” compliments. She needs to understand that her true worth is about what’s on the inside. I’m not about puffing somebody up….except for myself? hehehehe. ((winks))
Farrah saysDecember 21, 2015 at 4:42 pm
That’s so awesome! :] I really wish I’d known about lifting weights when I was younger, but I like to tell myself that it’s better late than never! Props to you for being so supportive and being such a great role model! <3
Jody - Fit at 58 saysDecember 21, 2015 at 5:42 pm
Love this Carla! I think they need to know they are enough no matter what else goes on around them & learn to love themselves early for all the imperfections that make us who we are as a person! If you don’t learn early, it is tough to rebound later.. it is done but it is a lot tougher!
messymimi saysDecember 21, 2015 at 7:39 pm
Encourage her to see and discuss when anyone else seems to be putting her down because she’s a girl, or if she sees it in the media (e.g., a show with a classroom scene where the they are doing math and the teacher only calls on the boys). Sometimes people do it without even thinking or noticing that’s what they are doing. If she can catch them in it, she will be able to deal with it better when it comes her way.
Liz saysDecember 21, 2015 at 8:59 pm
You seem to have it all under control – great tips. The one thing I’ll add is I point out the forces that attempt to quiet my daughter’s voice. Perhaps if she is aware of them, and knows she doesn’t need to listen to them, they won’t affect her.
Carolann saysDecember 22, 2015 at 8:31 am
It’s really a tough topic for sure. My daughter struggles with her body image at times even though she is perfectly perfect! Love the pics and the message. Thanks much for sharing this. It’s such an important conversation indeed!
Catherine @ foodiecology saysDecember 22, 2015 at 1:40 pm
I think one of the greatest ways to positively influence a girl’s self esteem is to avoid (or limit) mostly appearance-based compliments. That’s not to say you shouldn’t tell your daughter that she’s beautiful or looks like a princess when dressed up as a junior bridesmaid in a wedding (or whatever), but a girl needs to know she’s MORE than her looks. That she’s witty, caring, good at science, great at telling jokes, and, yes, strong.
It seems to me like you’re doing a great job being an example and reinforcing her strengths.
I do think, from personal experience, that it’s possible to be given too much encouragement. As an only child who excelled in school and was well-behaved and good at gymnastics, I feel like my parents were constantly tooting my horn. Of course they were proud and of course they were right to believe I had potential and certain talents (we all do), but like many millennials (or those technically on the cusp of being a millennial since I’m 31), I struggled when I entered “the real world” and thought I was a ” special snowflake” but then felt like all my praise had been a lie. Luckily I am confident now (& aware of my weaknesses) and know my parents had no intention of coddling me. It just hit me hard for a period to realize that maybe I was just ordinary.
Thanks for a thoughtful post.
cheryl saysDecember 22, 2015 at 5:04 pm
I see this SO much at my workplace….and I am working with 3 and 4 yr. olds! The girls get told all the time how “cute” they look, or “who did your pretty hair”, etc. It makes me cringe. There is one little beauty who is already being groomed to be a cheerleader. I told her since she is tall already, that she would probably be a good runner, volleyball player, basketball player etc. and told her to do a sport where others would cheer for HER. Of course she is not going to process or remember this..but as long as we still have Miss Universe contests we are pretty much doomed.
Abby @ BackAtSquareZero saysDecember 22, 2015 at 5:09 pm
I absolutely love this. I think one of the biggest things I will need to do when I have kids is not bash my own looks so much. I don’t want that to rub off on them. I know that is something I really need to work on.
None of that complaining that I gained 25 pounds, or feel fat, or…
Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table saysDecember 23, 2015 at 4:45 pm
You are raising the coolest kid ever. She’s one lucky girl to have a mamma like you!
Jess @hellotofit saysDecember 25, 2015 at 8:53 am
When I see certain children these days, or my friends who have gone through their childhood days, I sometimes get nervous about parenting – it seems “not so bad”, yet so HARD at the same time. I feel like so many things one does or doesn’t do can impact their children in so many different ways. Loving this advice.
Chris saysDecember 26, 2015 at 7:07 pm
Looks like she is developing a strong foundation for life … hope she navigates her teen years with grace. I think she’ll be fine when all is said and done!
Nina saysDecember 26, 2015 at 8:12 pm
I just had a conversation with my 11 year old about acceptance. It is so important to let your child know how special they are, as themselves. Loved this article!
Integratore.biz saysDecember 30, 2015 at 5:09 am
This is what I say to my daughter:
Every day we wake up with the desire to achieve a goal or do something that will help us have a better life, but when we fail to achieve or accomplish something that we end up trying in frustration and disappointment and then we end up maybe even to get sick because we do not reach it we want.
I hope this post will help my daughte to find her way