If you want to bring up a capable, strong and confident daughter, make sure not to commit these no-nos.

Raising a little girl brings many joys. As a mother, you can share your own experiences growing up and teach her to become a strong, independent and kind woman.

However, bringing up a daughter has its challenges, such as making sure she doesn’t fall into the gender trap. After all, you yourself might have been told that as a girl, there are certain things you can’t do ― like being too loud, sporty or opinionated.

Girls are often sexualised by the media as well, so it’s your job to teach your daughter she is so much more than just looks. 

Here are the parenting pitfalls to sidestep if you are parenting a daughter, plus, get expert tips on how to boost her confidence and empower her.

Girls are often sexualised by the media… so it’s our job to teach your daughter she is so much more than just looks. 

1. You focus too much on her looks

It’s natural for women to struggle with their body image. After all, the media often tells us that we have to look a certain way in order to be regarded as attractive, so it isn’t easy to ignore stereotyped images of the “ideal” woman.

To build your daughter’s self-esteem, don’t focus on her physical appearance and what she wears. While it’s important to ensure that she’s of a healthy weight and gets proper nutrition, constantly telling her she’s “fat” or needs to go on a diet can be really damaging.

When you do this, you’re suggesting that her worth is basically tied to looks, which sets her up for possible eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia.

And do also refrain from making comments like “Why is your dressing so tomboyish?” ― your daughter isn’t defined by what she chooses to wear.

2. You’re overprotective

From young, girls are often taught that they are more delicate than boys, especially in a physical sense.  Many parents are overprotective of their daughters, which prevents them from engaging in active physical play.

As a result, your daughter may think that she is indeed less “hardy” than her male counterpart.

“In the toddler years, girls may be less physical and naturally feel that boys are ‘too rough’,” observes Katy Harris, a child behavioural therapist who runs Family SOS.

She points out that young girls can benefit from a little rough play, without which they may feel cautious in the company of boys and avoid the healthy interaction it provides.

“Parents need to imagine their daughters as strong and equally physically capable as boys,” she adds.


3. You don’t encourage her to have a voice

Girls are quite likely usually not as outspoken and argumentative than boys. In their primary years, lots of girls make an effort to be “good” by trying to keep to the way things are, Harris notes.

She points out, “They may use whining or drama when situations become too challenging, rather than asking for their needs to be met.”

Rather than simply reassuring or helping her to sort out her problems, get her to articulate her needs. “This enables girls to grow into healthy young women, who have clear boundaries about what they feel is acceptable in the world,” Harris explains.

For instance, instead of advising your daughter to just “be nicer” to difficult friends, suggest that she voices how she feels, enabling her to better manage social conflicts.

4. You’re not attuned to her struggles

“In contrast to boys whose anger and anxiety are more visible, teenage girls are really good at hiding their stresses beneath a veneer of coping,” Harris notes.

Instead of assuming that everything is well all the time, ask your daughter how is managing her schedule and coping with peer pressure or other difficulties, she suggests. Ensure that you are always there to provide a listening ear, and give advice in a non -judgmental way.

“Reassure them that they are not ‘bad’ if they get emotional and stomp off,” Harris advises. “Emotions are simply guides to our inner life and to listen to them well, girls need to be encouraged to have feelings and think about them. They shouldn't repress emotions and let them build up to crisis proportions.”

Quote <Headline 2 + Button Quote Mark“> Being able to be your own self without needing to be as good, clever, beautiful or sporty as others is something parents should support. Sending the message that your daughter is valuable and worthy ‘as she is’ is important.”

5. You attribute her sense of worth to achievements

In secondary school, girls seem to feel the academic pressure more keenly than boys, Harris states.

So, don’t add fuel to the fire by obsessing over your daughter’s academic or extracurricular achievements. Nor should you compare her achievements to that of her peers.

Emphasise your daughter’s strengths, character and values, and less about her talents. Talk about the positive aspects of her personality and appearance, so that she’ll focus on what she values in herself, instead of comparing herself to others. Even when there are changes in the future, this will encourage her to maintain her strengths and good values.

“Being able to be your own self without needing to be as good, clever, beautiful or sporty as others is something parents should support,” Harris notes. “Sending the message that your daughter is valuable and worthy ‘as she is’ is important.”

Best practices to raise a daughter

Pointers to parent a confident and empowered young girl:

* If you’re a dad, don't neglect your relationship with your daughter. “A girl’s relationship with her father is very important,” notes Harris. “Dads model how men treat women, and need engagement with their daughter so she knows what it is to be heard, respected and challenged.”

* Encourage her to follow her interests, even if they are not conventionally “girly” ones. If she’s into sports, science or coding, support her and enrol her in suitable classes.

* Teach her to know when to actively make a rational argument. The status quo may not always be right, and women need to know how to stand up for themselves and be heard.

* Spend time with her to build a strong bond. Even as a working parent, find time on weekends or after work to take her on parent-daughter dates.

* Teach her to articulate her feelings, even if the issues are uncomfortable to talk about. Remember that she may be whining or acting out may simply because no one is asking her what she needs.

Photos: iStock

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