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Praise the Process

Well-intended efforts to boost your daughter’s self esteem can backfire, depending on what you say. Focusing praise on your daughter’s looks rather than her activities can reinforce the message that her appearance matters more than things she does.

Surprisingly, research shows that praising intelligence can also undermine a child’s confidence.  In one recent study, two groups of fifth graders received two different kinds of praise after taking an IQ test. Kids in one group were told, “Wow, that’s a good score. You must be really smart at this.” Kids in the other group were told, “Wow, that’s a good score. You must have worked really hard.”

Kids in both groups then had the opportunity to try a challenging task, with the promise they could learn from it. The kids in the “smart” group weren’t interested. The kids praised for their effort took it on. Not only that, the kids in the second group performed better over time, outpacing their “smart” peers on follow-up IQ tests. It appears that seeing intelligence as a fixed trait instills fear of failure that makes kids less able to handle setbacks.

Support Your Daughter Through the Tough Times

Your teen daughter may act like she doesn’t need you, but the opposite is true. Numerous studies show that parents’ structure, advice, and guidance play a pivotal role in teens’ sense of wellbeing and resilience.

Kathi Bacon watched her older daughter go through a surprisingly difficult time when she won the race for class president in her junior year. Rather than congratulate her, other kids stopped talking to her. “It was like her friends thought she didn’t need them anymore,” says Bacon. As a mother, Bacon supported her daughter as best she could. “It was hard on her. I saw her suffer deeply.”

Though the situation at school was unexpected and hurtful, Bacon’s daughter ran for class president again -- and won again -- the following year.

Foster Confidence-Building Communication

As your daughter gets older, she’ll likely encounter pressures she’s never faced before. “Parents usually want to step in when they see their daughter struggle,” says JoAnn Deak, PhD, a psychologist and author of Girls Will Be Girls: Raising Competent and Courageous Daughters.

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