I’m laying here thinking of my kids.
Isn’t that normal for a mom of seven? I used to think it would get easier as my children became older, but now I know that just isn’t the case. Little girls become teenage girls, and teenage girls are complicated. They have strong feelings and opinions. They dream of their future and have high hopes for their “fairy tale” life. They want to be loved and accepted by anyone and everyone – including the immature boys they surround themselves with. It’s not the boys’ fault, it’s just that they aren’t thinking as deeply as the girls are – yet – and it’s probably a good thing.
I wish the boys had an idea how much their opinion and comments meant to girls. I wish they understood the extreme pressure to look perfect, because those “hot” girls compare themselves to photoshopped magazine covers. I wish I always knew the right things to say to my daughters to build self esteem, when they are questioning their self worth and value in the world around them. I’ve tried since my kids were young, to encourage, compliment, praise, and cheer. Really, I’ve done my best – but still, somehow, it’s not always enough.
We all have to believe we are valuable, and it has to come from within. This can be an elusive thing, but once found, it’s a gift nobody can take away. This can be frustrating for parents to understand – because it feels somewhat out of our control. My girls are all very beautiful, talented, funny and giving – but every single one of them has struggled with their self worth at one time or another – and dealt with it in different ways, and so have I. Sometimes, I feel like I have found the right things to say, and other times I realize, over time, that I said or did the wrong thing. How do I know? Because they tell me.
I want to share with you some things I’ve learned about encouraging self confidence in my daughters. Some I know because I’ve failed miserably, and other things have worked out alright. When a child is struggling, it’s pretty easy to feel like it’s your fault as a parent, and to wonder how in the world you have failed. All I can do, is share what I know.
1. When you tell your daughter that they are beautiful, make it count. Remember to also share the other attributes that make them unique and important, as well. Smart, funny, helpful, caring – whatever it is. This way, they don’t feel like the only thing they have to offer – is their physical beauty.
2. Help them find a special talent. For some, it’s piano or dance – but for lots of other kids, it may be drawing, service, writing, helping with jobs around the house, or anything that brings them joy and peace. Even kids that don’t seem to be building a talent- are, it just looks different than you may have originally imagined. One of my daughters has found extreme happiness in caring for special needs children. Every talent helps them to find self worth, and they don’t have to be sitting at the piano to share it.
3. Don’t make them feel like something is wrong. I have to admit that this is something I’ve struggled with. I didn’t realize I had done this, until one of them recently pointed it out for me. In trying to offer counseling or in desperation, I came across as fault finding, instead of supportive. Of course, this wasn’t my intention. I should have expressed the truth that we all have down and depressing times in our life – and eventually, it does get better.
4. Create activities where they are surrounded by supportive people. Plan play dates with family members, or friends that add happiness to their life. Let them play. Serve with them. Service is the safest drug for anyone needing to feel better. It doesn’t change our personal situation, but it helps us get out of our own head and realize that everyone around us is struggling with something.
5. Work with them. Sometimes, I find myself scuttling around my house getting things picked up, wiped off, taken out etc. because it’s easier than getting the kids to help me. They fight back, and always have something better to do – or make a bigger mess than help. Or, I bark orders and reminders of jobs they were supposed to accomplish and go about doing my tasks. It hasn’t been until recently, that I’ve decided – if I work WITH them – we actually enjoy our time together. Usually – but not always. But at least it opens up opportunities to talk as you’re folding socks.
6. Know what is going on in their life. Okay, this one can be so frustrating – stalking teenagers. I have three teenage daughters right now, and it is nearly impossible to track what’s going on in each of their lives – but it is worth the effort. Through monitoring their texts, calls, activities and more – I try and see patterns and the different groups of friends that play an important part in their life. I can’t control it, but I can try to identify things that may be concerning – which leads me to my next point.
7. Be their friend. I believe I am a parent first, and a friend, TOO. If my kids are used to having conversations about their everyday life – the good, funny, exciting…. my theory is, at least, when the hard things happen, we can more easily discuss them. You have to build up the trust bank account before the withdrawals can be taken – or you have a deficit. Watch the youtube videos they want to share, try to be engage in seemingly meaningless social media things with them, go to the park, eat popcorn together, invite their friends over – it is their love language.
8. Tell them you don’t know what you are doing. Be real with your kids and express frustration when you are trying to say and do the best things for them. Remember, it’s your first time being a parent – too. It makes you more relatable to them and opens doors for honest communication. They still may not like what you are saying, but at least they can tell that you are really thinking about how you are dealing with things, instead of assuming you have rules – just to have them.
9. Be present. Hug them. Sit on their bed when they cry. Leave notes. Believe me, when my teenage girls and in a bad place, it is easier to run far away – because your intent is not always taken well. Actually A LOT of the time it isn’t. It’s still worth being beat up a little. They are testing our determination to help. Don’t give up. Of course, they still need their space – but in the end – they are pushing you away because they want your love and acceptance. I’d rather be a little annoying when they want me to GO AWAY then just do it.
10. Pray together and pray alone. I do not have all of this figured out. In fact, I’m writing about it – because I need to work on it! If you have a darling toddler girl – and you are beginning to see her drama and crazy days and think “Someday it will be better!” Just remember that it probably won’t happen until after that same darling beauty goes through her teens! Add hormones, other friends with their hormones, YOUR hormones – and you start to get it. It’s a long road and at times, all you can do is pray. You have to time it right, but try to ask Heavenly Father for help together, when all else seems lost. Pray.
There is nothing more beautiful than raising a daughter and it’s so rewarding seeing them come out on the other side of teenage years. The pay off is huge – and you begin to see that although you did a lot of things wrong, you did something right, too. I realized recently that even through my failures, my older kids have turned out pretty great. They are on the exact path they should be, because it’s their path. I often feel like my job as a parent, is a tour guide. I teach, warn, explore and experience things with my children – and in the end – it’s their trip. I love being a mother, but I would never call it easy – but. always. worth. it.
How do you try and build self worth in your children? I’d love to hear your ideas!