I remember on one occasion as I was walking with my 11-year-old daughter to the park, I was holding her hand and chatting about her day at school, when I asked her a random question. “Girl, would you allow me to hold your hand like this in 5 years’ time?” She paused for a moment as though she was trying her very best to craft out a diplomatic answer. It was a moment of reckoning for me, wondering if the dreaded day had come where she had morphed into someone that I may not understand anymore. Suddenly, she looked straight into my eyes and said “Daddy, don’t worry, it’s not whether I will allow you to hold my hand, but I will be the one that will hold your hand and walk you to the park.” I really don’t know how things will pan out in the next few years, but it fills my heart with hope and confidence that every moment spent with her in her early years has helped shape her values and will be the bedrock that will keep her sailing through the volatile teenage waves ahead.
As I prepare myself to be a dad of a teenage girl, I have read and witnessed that one of the best defense for a girl moving into the teens is a healthy self-esteem. However, I am also well aware that I am competing daily with the world media that bombards her with many different confusing ideas of what a teen should feel and be. These images and messages will easily become somewhat a false standard for her to compare and strive towards if not guided properly.
From observation, most people’s self-esteem comes from their identity in what they are good at externally. For example, looks, latest fashion, latest gadgets, latest fad or even performance in their studies, music, sports and etc. Hence, from very young, teens interpret that if they want to be accepted and feel great about themselves; they need to work on their looks or performance to make them stand out. Many have failed miserably and ended up with low self-esteem when compared to the standards the world paints for them.
So, my goal as a father is to work on areas that will help my daughter to be self-aware. I need to prepare and develop a growth mindset within her that will provide her the foundation to be all that she can be and all God had intended for her to be.
Here’s some advice from some experts which I modified for my daughter:
1.‘So clever!’ vs ‘Great effort!’
I remember growing up hearing common comments from parents like, “So pretty, sure can find a good and rich husband!” or “Show me how clever you are by finishing your food.”
We need to be intentional in focusing and praising the effort rather than the result or performance. I would like to condition my child’s behavior to focus on the process rather than the end result of the performance.
For example, “You have taken the responsibility to focus and work hard on your revision for this past exam. The results show that your hard work has paid off. Daddy is very proud of your effort. Keep up the good work.”
2.Beauty from within!
It’s not an easy task to educate girls about real beauty in current times, as very often the world judges beauty by the external factors. We tend to over-glorify Hollywood beauty and use it as a benchmark. Sometimes, I subconsciously would say things like, “I feel so fat! I need to go on a diet!” Well, I am indirectly painting a picture that I am not perfect and can only be socially accepted if I look good! What I should say instead should be something like, “I’m going to look after this body of mine. I’m going to make some healthy food choices today.”
My role as a parent is to help burst the Media bubble. “Watch TV with her and talk about what you see,” says Dr. Steiner-Adair. “Help her develop a critical eye through which to decode and filter media messages.” It is important to take every opportunity for teachable moments. Helping her to filter the messages that she gets.
I need to help my daughter to accept her body and how uniquely she is created, and focus more importantly on having good virtues and being healthy. This essence of beauty will last forever and attract the right type of life partner : )
3.Expose her to sports and any creativity class that suits her preference
Research shows that kids who play sports have fewer emotional and behavioral problems, and are less likely to do drugs or have bad body image. I would also want my girl to develop her right brain from early years so that she is able to think creatively when solving problems. This provides her the environment to develop social skills and healthy friendship.
4.Don’t treat her like a princess or damsel in distress.
It is important to let my child know that there will be failures, and failures provide the lessons to build character. I want my child to know that life is not all a bed of roses, and daddy hero will not be there always to save her all the time. She needs to learn to have the tenacity and grit to fight for what she wants.
As she navigates through the teenage maze of finding her self-identity, my prayer is that she will embrace every experience and find the strength to be all that she wants to be, through hard work, determination and confidence that comes from knowing that she is loved not for what she achieves but for who she really is.
If you have a tween or teenage girl, here's a hot tip ... she will receive a lot of mix messages about what beauty is and what she should look like in order to be accepted. It's important to build a healthy self-image in your daughter so that she can be confident and sail through her teenage years and live life to the fullest. This coming holiday, Heroes Headquarters is organizing a specially designed program just for teenage girls. To check out the YOLO Girls Adventure Camp happening on 23-25 Aug 2018, click here.
Heroes Headquarters is on a mission to ignite heroes within families. We would like to invite YOU to join us on this journey to equip your family with hero tools to live fulfilled and abundant lives in a society like ours.