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          How to Raise Your Daughter’s Self-Esteem

          August 29, 2005

          If you have a negative body image, you may be damaging your daughter’s self-worth. Dr. Phil has the following advice for raising the self-esteem of pre-teens and teens who say they hate the way they look.

          Be careful what you’re modeling for your daughter.
          Chances are, if you’re not happy with your body or the way you look, your daughter will copy your actions. You are the most powerful role model in your child’s life, and you are writing on the slate of who she is. Dr. Phil explains, “If she watches you looking in the mirror saying, ‘I look terrible. I look fat. I hate the way I look in this,’ and she watches how you cower from life and don’t carry yourself with dignity and pride and your head up, then she is going to learn and mimic those very things.” Make sure you are modeling self-acceptance and self-confidence in your own life.

          Encourage your daughter’s gifts and talents.
          Even if you don’t think your daughter will be the next Hillary Duff or Venus Williams, don’t discourage her from discovering her unique talents and abilities. If you tend to be an overprotective parent, you may tell your child, “You’re not going to make the basketball team,” “You’re not a singer” because you’ve seen her get rejected in the past. “You do those things,” Dr. Phil explains, “because you don’t want her to get her hopes up and get hurt if that’s not where she is gifted in life.” Realize that she may have to explore several activities and she may fail a few times before truly finding her niche.

          Have a clear definition of success as a parent.
          “If, as parents, we don’t have a clear definition of what we want, we haven’t worked out what success is, how do we know whether a given step gets us closer to that or not?” Dr. Phil asks. Maybe your definition of success for your daughter is raising her to be a confident and happy individual. Another goal that Dr. Phil considers important is helping your daughter discover her authentic self — the part of her not defined by her job, function or role. Dr. Phil says that parents need to do whatever they can to help their children discover that.  

          Kids tend to confuse body image with self-image.
          Most fifth grade girls say their idea of a perfect body comes from models in magazines. If these girls don't think that they resemble their idols and they have a poor body image, their self-image may suffer. If this is the case with your daughter, she may need to develop her personal truth. This is something we believe about ourselves when nobody else is watching. Once she decides what her personal truth is -- whether it's "I'm smart and beautiful" or "I am confident and have lots of friends" -- then she'll be less vulnerable to what others say. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.  

          Help your daughter change her internal dialogue.
          Your internal dialogue is the continuous conversation that you have with yourself about everything that happens to you. Your daughter may be saying to herself: "I'm fat," "I hate my stomach," "My legs are too big," and this will help shape her self-concept. Conversely, if your daughter was overweight, and she dropped the pounds, her negative self-talk could convince her that she's still an unattractive person. To combat this, she could adopt an internal dialogue that says, "I'm going to accept myself. I'm going to raise the bar of what I expect from myself high enough that lifestyle-wise, I'll never go back to where I was." Changing her internal dialogue can help your child behave her way to success.

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