A child’s self-esteem may naturally waver as they begin to hit puberty and adolescence. For girls, this time frame seems to be a particularly hard and confusing time. With the focus of media, fashion, and other areas of the world focused on looks and weight, it’s understandable that your daughter might begin to question her self-worth. Here are 3 important "don'ts" you should be aware of to avoid feeding these misconceptions or otherwise harming your daughter’s self-esteem.
Don’t place specific expectations on your daughter
While it is important to establish family standards and expectations, focus on getting a good education, and on encouraging extracurricular activities. You must be cautious you don’t make all of these seem like a requirement your daughter is expected to achieve. A girl who believes she must have all A’s or must reach a specific goal in sports or activities will be hard on herself if she doesn’t achieve the desired result. As a consequence of not getting the best grade, the highest score, or meeting your expectations your daughter will internalize these shortcomings as failures and her esteem and self-value will suffer. Instead, it’s important to focus on the small successes. Point out her efforts in a particular game, or how much time she has invested in studying for a specific class. These smaller accomplishments, when noticed by parents, mean a great deal.
Don’t control all of her life decisions
Of course, you have goals and dreams for your daughter. It’s only natural to want to see her achieve her dreams and fulfill your desires for her. However, it is important to be cautious of how she might interpret you making these decisions for her. Instead, you can open a dialogue and listen to her ideas and goals. Letting her voice her own dreams and then helping her create a path to achieve them will help her esteem. If she simply follows a path you have chosen she will forever feel like she couldn’t do it on her own and not value it.
Don’t point out challenges or negative attributes
It seems as if everything in the media and the world is focused on looks equaling value. When at home, your daughter should know this is not true. It is important to be aware that when pointing out negative attributes or challenges your daughter is facing she will begin to focus on those and only those. Instead of telling your daughter she is overweight, for instance, you should simply encourage a better diet and lifestyle by changing your own example. Of course, there are situations where you will need to talk to your child about negatives; the important thing is to be cautious and sensitive to your approach. By pointing out positives and minimizing the negatives you will encourage her self-esteem instead of crippling it.
Making the transition from a child to an adolescent, then to an adult is one of the biggest challenges that faces your daughter. If you, as the parent, are supportive and encouraging you can make this transition much smoother for her.
A. Lynn Scoresby, founder and president of My Family Track , First Answers , and Achievement Synchrony , and has been a marriage and family psychologist for more than 35 years. He has published more than 20 books and training programs.