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For girls growing up in today's world, life can be confusing. They are exposed daily to mixed messages. Think about it; just by watching TV, they might learn that women can hold the highest political and corporate positions in the nation. But change the channel and they'll learn that a couple dozen "hot girls" should compete with each other for a rose from an eligible bachelor.
Your daughters are constantly influenced by their surroundings - from the media's mixed messages to peer pressure at school and extracurricular activities. If you want to raise daughters who are confident, self-assured and happy, it starts at home. Here are a few ways to help them.
Kill polite talk
Believe it or not, many women are held back in their careers simply because of their "feminine" speech. According to a Harvard Business Review article, women in the workplace are often not taken as seriously as their male counterparts - and not because of a lack of talent. Rather, these women have grown up being taught (consciously or subconsciously) a certain method of speech - one that is much less assertive and confident than males tend to learn. These "linguistic norms" are often mistaken for a lack of confidence. Encourage your daughter not only to speak freely, but to speak her mind in a way that is both unapologetic and assertive. The Business Review article specifically says women tend to buffer strong statements, and they wait longer to interject into a conversation. Your daughter needs to know that when she speaks, others should listen.
Be wary of princesses
It's not just for Halloween anymore. Today, you can't walk down the aisle of a grocery store without seeing a 3-foot-tall Ariel, Cinderella, Belle or Elsa. While it's natural for little girls to be attracted to the beautiful dresses worn by their most beloved cartoon characters, the princess obsession could actually be hurting your daughter's self-esteem and undermining her confidence. According to Time, obsessing over fantasy princess characters could "make (her) more susceptible to have a bad body esteem and less confidence."
For parents of young children, the idea of "risk" is a scary one. That's because no parent wants to see his or her child hurt, disappointed, rejected or disheartened. That said, when you allow your daughter to take some risks - whether it's trying out for the basketball team or climbing to the top of the playground toy - you're telling her you believe she's capable of accomplishing what she puts her mind to. This in itself will boost her confidence - whether she succeeds or not.
Take the focus off her appearance
The idea of never telling your daughter she's beautiful likely sounds absurd to you - and perhaps it should. There's nothing wrong with telling your child she's pretty, but focusing too much on physical characteristics rather than abilities can actually undermine her self-confidence. When your daughter learns to place her worth in her appearance, she may feel added pressure throughout her life to always fit into the "beautiful" mold, while losing her true self in the process. Sure, you can tell your daughter she looks cute today, but focus more on those attributes that will bring her lasting confidence - kindness, determination and creativity.
Encourage her talents
If you've ever watched an episode of "Little Big Shots," you know: There's a lot of talent out there. The show focuses on children with great talent and even greater ambitions. Encourage your daughter to develop skills in which she's interested. Whether it's writing poetry, playing the fiddle or running the 100-meter dash, using and building on talent breeds confidence- which will help her achieve success and, more importantly, happiness.
Kristen has a journalism degree and has experience writing in a variety of fields, including art and culture, health and fitness and financial and real estate services. Kristen has written for USA Today, SFGate and the Knot.