Raising Confident Young Women

The young woman in your life may feel confident in English but not on the basketball court. She may feel confident talking to other girls but not to boys. According to Studio 5 Family & Relationship Contributor Dr. Liz, if your daughter is full of self-doubt in one arena, direct her attention to an area she’s more confident in to help improve her overall self-regard.

Self-confidence is like a muscle; it can be strengthened and built-up. There are two things that we as mothers, big sisters, aunts, and grandparents can do to help a young woman in our life increase their overall self-confidence:

Love “Irrationally” Every Day: Tell her every day that you love and value her, and create tangible expressions of it. (When adolescents have at least one adult in their lives caring unconditionally – “irrationally” – they do exponentially better.) Encourage a convoy of social support, as well, by including relatives and neighbors to join in.

Share to Cement Relationship: Share your own experience with self-confidence issues in order to strengthen your relationship and convey that there is “light at the end of the tunnel.” Teens have a hard time understanding that we were young once, too, and dealt with heart-break, failing grades, and poor self-confidence.

I’ve broken down today’s tips into 5 categories all beginning with the letter “C.” These 5 “C’s” come from a multi-million dollar grant from the National 4-H Council. In surveying thousands of teens nationwide is that the teens who had a healthy adolescence and smooth transition into adulthood had 5 characteristics in common. (This landmark study specifically involved over 4,000 teens from 25 states over an eight-year period.)

The 5 “C’s” for Raising Confident Young Women

1. Competence

The most important way in helping our young women develop confidence is to help them identify their competencies. Observe the activities your child naturally gravitates toward. How does she spend her free time? Remain as objective as possible ~ notice what she likes not what you wish she would like. Support her interest in collecting rocks, listening to music, painting, reading or even fashion! While you may be against her spending her allowance on magazines, join her in discussing the pictures and ads that you see. Talk about air brushing, the different shapes and sizes we all come in, role models versus fashion models……be careful not to appropriate or squelch a particular interest. This interest may be the introduction towards building valuable skill sets and career direction.

2. Connection `

The best way to connect with a young person is to LISTEN! What’s more important than sharing your thoughts and beliefs is to show your teen that you are listening intently. Some teens want your full attention ~if so, stop typing at the computer, turn off the television, and maintain eye contact. When you do talk, keep your comments personal and specific. Other teens find maintaining eye contact too intense. They may find it easier to speak freely in the car, while your eyes are on the road rather than each other.

Support your teen connecting to others, whether that is with other family members, coaches, teachers, or neighbors. Encourage and help them foster peer relationships and yet do not shrink from taking the heat when you disagree with a friendship that is hurtful or unhealthy.

Research indicates that boys and girls both tend to select friends whose values correspond to those maintained in their homes. So the best way to endure that the connections your teen is making with peers are wholesome and reflect your values is for you to closely connect to your teen about your values. Let her know what you believe and why you believe it.

Lastly, open connection opportunities up with their peer group. Invite them over ~ make them welcome with a space they can be comfortable in and have snacks available. When kids congregate at your home, you stay connected. Listen and look for the windows into your daughter’s life when others are around ~ there is a lot of information to be gleaned about her world from the conversations her peers are having.

3. Character

Confident young women are charitable – they will take your lead and often want you to work alongside them in a volunteer position through your church or community. The home is also a powerful place to instill character. Expect teens to do chores around the house. Few things build character and confidence like having a job to do! Working, whether in or outside the home, teaches a young woman the importance of being dependable, punctual, responsible, adaptable, and efficient. Chores that build character are those that teens understand are important and essential to the family’s functioning. Model for them that your feelings and actions are one! Let them see you be honorable at the cash register by giving back change if too much was given, or reminding the clerk to charge you for the detergent that’s on the bottom of the cart. Do not let yourself get away with something…any given moment can be a teaching moment.

Teens that grow up not understanding that they need to be true to themselves and others, or believe it’s acceptable to cut ethical corners, often end up with a cynical view of human nature. They care only about the results; and not the process. However, teens with character become adults who are capable of going beyond the self. They are committed to enhancing the world around them. Confidence comes from selflessness.

4. Caring

Caring about others builds confidence because it takes us out of our selves. There is no letter “I” in the word “peace.” Caring is contagious. Caring parents raise caring, confident young women. A child who comes from a compassionate home will be sensitive to others. Caring can casually be reinforced. Don’t hesitate to share your feelings with your teen. Let them know how they influence your feelings. When something they do makes you happy, sad, angry, frustrated, or inspired, tell them! At the dinner table or around the house, become as opinionated as a talk show host about those issues close to your heart. Explain why you care so much. Discuss the state of the world. Make it acceptable to have and share an emotional life with your teen. When teens care about others they will develop plans that take the feelings of others into account. With their compassion, they will stop to consider their impact upon others.

5. Contribution

Contributing to others and to society is the glue that creates healthy human development. By enhancing the lives of others, we simultaneously build better lives for ourselves. Encourage the young woman in your life to participate in causes that align with her interests. If your daughter in passionate about animals, perhaps she volunteers for the humane society. If she is more people-oriented she may be more interested in volunteering her time in a nursing home or hospital.

Real contributions, the ones that are most heroic and important, are often born amid adversity. We don’t always get the date that we want, or the part ion the play, or win the student body elections or debate challenge. Part of being a successful confident young woman is to learn to bounce back from disappointments and to set new goals.

Sir Winston Churchill said it best: “Success if not final; failure is not fatal. It’s the courage to continue that counts.”

Dr. Liz Hale is a licensed clinical psychologist and a regular Studio 5 Contributor. Your comments and questions are welcomed! Please visit www.drlizhale.com to add your thoughts to today’s discussion or learn more about her private practice.

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