If you're the parent of a tween girl, you've likely seen your once confident, don't-care-what-anyone-thinks, little girl change into a pre-adolescent or adolescent who's confidence has plummeted. There's so many changes for girls between the ages of 9-13. Their bodies are changing, friendships can be challenging and confusing, they start middle school, and their clothing and the statement it makes begins to feel more important. According to a survey done by Claire Shipman, Katty Kay and Jillellyn Riley for their book, "The Confidence Code for Girls: Taking Risks, Messing Up, and Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self", girls were asked to rate their confidence on a scale of 0 to 10, and from the ages of 8 to 14, the average of girls’ responses fell from approximately 8.5 to 6—a drop-off of 30 percent. A significant decrease and one likely to have long-term effects.
When confidence begins to take a hit, it can be a struggle to gain it back as an adult. And confidence is important to take risks, learn new skills, and push outside our comfort zone to accomplish goals. It's also a cycle; in order to build confidence, there's a need to take risks and then succeed. That gives you more confidence to take the next risk. But for tween girls afraid to do that, their confidence can continue to be low into adulthood. And this issue is much more prevalent in tween girls than boys, continuing to feed the gender gap issues faced in business.
Here are 5 things we can do to help our daughters with a much-needed confidence boost:
Encourage failure. Taking risks, failing, learning from it, and then trying again until you succeed. Pursuing perfectionism never works and will only make her feel more inadequate. The idea of failure being a positive thing, is commonly heard in business but we should be applying the same strategy with our daughters.
Participation in sports or other extracurriculars. This can be dance, music, art, etc. Anywhere she can learn something new, fail, take risks, and improve on the skill, can help her feel more confident.
Encourage her to speak her mind and stand up for what she believes in. Giving her the space to have a voice at home, even if it's different than your own. This will help her have the courage to do so around others and as she gets older.
Give her the right amount of freedom. As our daughters get older, they need the ability to do things for themselves. The feeling of doing things for herself can be empowering. And that will lead her to feel more confident in her abilities.
Help her find clothes she feels comfortable in. The clothing you wear can affect your mood, health, and overall confidence. Scientists call this phenomenon "enclothed cognition". When she likes what she's wearing, she is going to exude more confidence inside and out.
Of course, in addition to these points, the most important thing is to meet our daughters where they are and love and accept them for the amazing humans they are. If we do that, they will be well on their way to finding their own inner strength and the confidence to follow their dreams.
Shipman, Claire. Kay, Katty. Rilye, Jillellyn (2018, Dec 20). How Puberty Kills Girls' Confidence. Retrieved from www.theatlantic.com.
Ferguson, Jill L (2017, Feb 5). How Clothing Choices Affect and Reflect Your Self-Image. Retrieved from www.huffpost.com.