Friday, May 20, 2011

How to raise girls to have a healthy self image

If you read here much you'll already know I have three beautiful young girls from age 'almost seven' down to age 'just turned three'.  As a mother to girls (and being one myself not so long ago) I want to know the best ways to raise little girls to become strong confident women - with self worth, self respect and healthy self-image.  If it's at all possible I want to give my girls the basic building blocks they are going to needn to be all they can be in life.   And as I think you might agree there are plenty of 'things' (for lack of a better word) working against young girls reaching their full potenial these days.

So lately I've started asking people to tell me what they think girls need to grow up with a healthy self-image. I've started sending emails and asking people for their thoughts,  because frankly,  I really want to know what people think.   Yesterday I asked this questions on my facebook page and got some very thoughtful responses.  And today I'm asking you.   Over coming weeks I'll  be sharing more with you about the responses I'm getting - because its becoming rather fascinating. I'm finding that while I'm building up some wonderful parenting tools for my magic mummy toolbox I'm also going on my own little journey of self-discovery - because really I'm just an oversized little girl.

I've paraphrased some of the comments from my facebook conversation yesterday below - but what do you think is important when raising girls to have a healthy self-image?
  • Girls need a good example to follow. A female role model who projects a healthy self-image to base themselves on.  (Eg, don't put yourself down in front of your kids.)
  • Girls need honest open parents who they can talk openly with about stuff in their life. 
  • Girls need a chance to reflect on themselves in a safe and non judgemental environment.
  • Girls need to be taught it's internal beauty that's important. (But I do wonder just how you do this?)
  • Girls need to have their own identity from their siblings.
  • Girls need to learn not to look for love externally but to find it from within.
  • Girls need to be continuously shown support, encouragement and to hear positive comments from their parents.
Over to you guys - love to hear what you think.
PS - blogger has taken to publishing my posts all by itself of late.   I wasn't actually ready to post this today -  being my first draft.  But as it's 'out there' now I think I'll just go with it - but appologise if it sounds  a bit rough


  1. Great post Caz. I am working on a post about how I hope to help my girls in this area after my previous post questioning just how to do so.
    I think it's great that you're embracing this journey.

  2. I've been wondering the same thing lately as I have a 2.5 year old girl who I want to grow into a woman who feels valued and respected as a person as well as having confidence in herself.
    I think that girls (and boys too), need to grow up knowing that it is okay to have their own opinions and feelings, and these will be respected, listened too, and that they have a safe place in which to discuss and explore them, without being shot down.
    I also beleive that beauty comes from within, but unfortunately in today's society, women are judged for how they look and how they present themself. However, I think if you wear what you choose with confidence, then other people will be less likely to judge you harshly. So I want my daughter to have the confidence to dress how she wants, and in what makes her feel comfortable, and to be confident enough that the critism of others does not hurt her. That she values herself and likes the way she looks, and that she knows that the people that matter, feel the same way.
    And my final thought, is that girls need to be taught that they don't need to change themselves in order to be liked, internally or externally. If someone says they would like you if you did xyz, then they are not worth it.

  3. OMG - the blogger published my first draft - so sorry guys!!!!!!!! Oh dear me - it's no where near ready. *massive blush*

  4. Most of the points above I believe also apply to boys, but also:
    I think it's important for girls to have a good male role model in their life. So they know about good relationships and how to be treated when they get older and into a relationship of their own.

  5. I like your 'unpolished' words Caz! An interesting read and the advice about not putting yourself down in front of your girls..I wish I had taken that on board twenty something years ago.

  6. First draft or not, this is a fantastic post.
    I want my little girl to grow up with a great sense of self worth. I tell her every day that I love her and that she is beautiful and clever and funny and amazing, and I hope those words will stick. God knows she'll need them in her teenage years!
    I agree with Andie, a good male role model is very important. My girl has some fantastic blokes in her life, my partner (who is not her biological father but no less her daddy), and my brother. They love and adore her and will always be there for her.

    I just hope that when she's older she feels confident coming to me with any problems, and that she isn't afraid to speak her mind. Women find it difficult at times getting their voices heard and I dont want her to have that issue.

    Can't wait to read some more, I think this is a wonderful topic!

  7. This is a great post Caz... ready or not... I understood it and get what you're trying to achieve.
    My parents did a great job with me, if I do say so myself. Respect was a massive thing in my upbringing. Respect of others and myself, primarily.
    I grew up with 6 brothers, but that it no means prepared me for a male dominated world. Sounds strange doesn't it? My Dad was a little on the strict side, but Mama just balanced it out perfectly.
    I don't think you can tell girls enough that they're beautiful, as shallow as this sounds, I REALLY think it helps... whether they're princesses or tomboys, they all like to hear it. Then as I said, respect. Teach them that they are in fact the best and therefore deserve the very best from everyone and everything.
    It's a tough one to teach, but if they know about respect early on, they will more than likely identify when it is being practiced... or NOT practiced, which is probably the more important to recognise.
    Hope that all makes sense, I don't pretend to have the answers and I imagine it to be a very complex formula, that will take many different approaches to get right. Good luck Caz, with the research AND implementation :o)

  8. I have three girls too so this is constantly on my mind. (I've even written the outline for a book on the subject!). Girls need involvement. They love to feel a part of something, to be given choices, and responsibilities, and be taken seriously. I agree with one of the comments above - they need to be told every day how beautiful they are (and smart, and funny, and generous, and mad). I think they should be allowed to develop the various aspects of their personalities - without being stiffled by prissy parents or parents scared of girlie-ness. I love that my girls adore dresses (won't wear trousers), and hair bands and bloody nail varnish, but love climbing trees, dirt, getting dirty, getting wet, making a mess, playing with slugs. It's the thing that keeps me awake at night - hoping I do the right job that allows them to be who they want to be - confident, courageous, happy people. (PS, there is a book i read called Raising Confident Girls by Ian and Mary Grant - it's got somenice ideas.) Looking forward to reading your next installment!

  9. Hi - this is my first visit!

    I have a little boy and I have similar thoughts about raising him to be a good man. I'm still fumbling my way through it but I would say that trust is important. It has to work both ways. Respect - again, both ways. Showing lots of love and affection. But, really engaging with your child, in my opinion, and being interested in them and what they are doing has to be key, I think.

  10. Oh my Caz, this is a beautiful post (first draft and all) with three little pinks as you know I am constantly aware of this. I hope to raise girls that have a strong sense of self, that they each have their own identity (in particular my id twinnie cherubs). Your point on a female role model who presents a healthy belief about her self is fundamental.

    Some wonderful comments that have really made me question this tonight. Well done on an awesome post Caz. Your little pinks are blessed to have such a wonderful, thoughtful mumma.



  11. I'm over from FYBF and now following.

    Great post and so very true xx

  12. I wrote about this last year too, Caz. Not to flog it but it's here if you want a read.

    I look forward to the follow up to this. I do agree with the above posters that say respect, being told they are beautiful and definitely not having to change to be liked.

    Also having a male role model to show them how they should be treated. I must say my husband is so lovely with the girls always telling them they are gorgeous, smart, funny. Buying them flowers on Valentine's Day. And the way he treats me I think is just as important for them.

  13. i think most of that applies to boys too. children in general need good role models who have a positive body image. how do you develop the inner beauty though?

  14. Great post and yes relevant to boys as well. The inner beauty I believe comes from all the other stuff we do to raise our chidren in the best way we know how...the giving of unconditional love, the believing in and encouragement of our childrens abilities, the providing of boundaries and rules to invoke respect for themselves and others, the instilling of values and work ethics to ensure they remain grateful and not take things for granted...and of course the nurturing of all their individual personality traits that help create their own unique inner beauty. Couple this with good role modelling and all of the other great measures mentioned in your post and you will be well on your way to raising confident, healthy and proud young men and women.

  15. It sounds perfect, Caz. :)
    I won't repeat myself, except to say our little people do mirror everything we do and say! Love some of the other answers too. Great advice, all of which I'll be taking on board as my two li'l princesses continue to grow!

  16. I love your post. My oldest girl is extremely self concious especially about food and clothes and she's only 5!
    I'm loving everyone's ideas. I'll definately be using alot of them.
    One thing we do when we talk about food we call we call junk food 'sometimes food' and healthy food (like fruit and veg) 'anytime food'. I try not to get my little girls associating any food as bad and the cycle it takes when they eat junk food then feel guilty etc. We really try to teach there is a balance instead.
    Anyhow thats my 2 cents :) Can't wait to read more.

  17. In my opinion, little girls need to know that they can do anything that they want in life. They need to know that it is okay to lean on others but being able to stand alone is the key. Little girls need to know that the things that make them lovely and strong (softness, sensitivity, perceptiveness and altruism) are the same things that make them vulnerable. x

  18. Big issue, and first draft or not it's great.
    I think we put a lot of emphasis on appearance with all the "you look so pretty!" talk - and it'd be hard to minimize that talk because they DO look so pretty. The points you've got are great

  19. This raises the issue of why it was that I so much wanted to have a boy... Raising girls today is just so tough. Oh, and I can't stand pink!

    How do you encourage exploration, passion and confidence, when the world presents images of girls as perfect princesses?

    How do you let them know that beauty is internal, when there are images and stories splashed about every day of beautiful women, who are having a bad hair day?

    How do you recognise them as intelligent, creative beings capable of ANYTHING, when the barbies and bimbos get all the breaks?

    The fact that you are aware of these issues means you must be on the right track. And at least you have the experience of having BEEN a girl to fall back on.

    I am very glad that I have a boy, but sometimes it's hard to understand their NEED to play rough, be a hero, prove their independence and get totally, completely filthy! Tapping into that girl within may just be the answer.


I love comments on my posts - they really are like sunshine on a cloudy day! If you're a new follower to The Truth About Mummy please leave me a link to your blog so I can follow you back. Thanks ..... Caz