Girls and Self-confidence

Updated on March 01, 2011
A.B. asks from Anoka, MN
16 answers

I have two girls ages 7 1/2 and 4. I am looking for reccomendations of books or articles concerning self confidence. my youngest thinks she only looks pretty when she wears a dress (i know this might be common at this age) and my oldest has said she hates herself when she is mad. she even said she was fat one time (red-flag!!) i know my self confidence is lacking and that may be rubbing off. so i'm just looking for any recommendations anyone might have on a book or something to help me be more aware of the issue and encourage the most confidence and self-esteem they can have. thanks in advance! :)

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Minneapolis on

I know you asked for books and articles, and have gotten a lot of good recommendations. What I'm doing with my 8 year-old daughter is training in Karate. We both started three years ago. Great for self-esteem, body issues, learning to speak up for herself, and all that without ever having (so far) to use the karate moves outside of class. I highly recommend any martial arts training for girls (and boys).



answers from Dallas on

I don't know if this book applies, but I heard an author talking about a book called "Cinderella ate my daughter". It's about marketing, girls, self esteem, etc. I'd hit the library as well and see what they can recommend. :)

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answers from Pittsburgh on

Well, one thing that I have noticed is moms who say things like they are not good in math or science so they don't expect their girls to be. Little girls hear that and automatically assume they can't do math/science. Or any other self-depracating behavior or talk on the moms part. As females we often will put ourselves down...we have to realize how this sounds to our children. Its not a habit we want THEM to get in.

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answers from Seattle on

Books that I love that have a strong female lead:

"The Paper bag Princess"
"Pippi Longstocking"
"Ms. Rumphius"

The enchanted forest chronicles (this was my FAVORITE as a kid)
The dark materials series - might not be age appropriate yet
The Harry Potter series (Hermione is a rockstar)

Here is a list of children's books that have a focus on self-esteem:

I also would love to recommend getting/making a feelings chart that lives in prominent place. I have made some with my little ones (2 and 3) and it's both fun and helpful. I also like games like: lets do angry faces, let's do sad faces, let's do excited face, let's do proud face, etc.

The best thing I think we can do, and that you pointed out (awesome, mom!), is to be what we want our children to see; be what we want our children to be. So, if you are noticing patterns in yourself (again, really awesome that you are looking, seeing and going to work on this!), take steps to work on self love, acceptance, confidence and esteem. You deserve it and your children will benefit from the work you do.

One very simple action is to write an affirmation above every mirror in your house. Cheesy, I know. But it actually works.

"I am beautiful, inside and out"
"I am love, I am loved, I love"
"I love myself"

Good luck! You are brave for broaching this and I commend you! Your girls are lucky to have a mama like you!

ETA: I just thought of one other thing. Most of Hayao Miyazaki's movies

(Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind,
Castle in the Sky,
My Neighbor Totoro,
Kiki's Delivery Service,
Porco Rosso,
Princess Mononoke,
Spirited Away,
Howl's Moving Castle,

have incredibly strong, courageous female leads. They are amazing films and I feel they have an incredibly positive message.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Youngstown on

A great book that I just read is "Bringing Up Girls" By James Dobson. Such an eye opener on the ways we can help our girls to be the best they can be on the inside and feel good about themselves.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from New York on

Jamie Lee Curtis wrote some fun children's books that focus on feelings and self-esteem. I believe one is called "I'm Gonna Love Me." They are good for 3-8 year olds. There is also a collection of fairy tales with strong female leads, I think the title is Tatterhood Tales but I didn't double check. Any stories you read that have a strong, active female lead are a step in the right direction.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

Good work acknowledging your self esteem is lacking. A mom is THE NUMBER ONE most important example for self esteem. You have to say nice things about yourself and be confident and accept compliments graciously. My mom was super modest and self effacing-even mean to herself, and it took me until my mid 30's to shake that disease and get over my low self esteem. I thought it was vain to be confident. I have some other family members finding fault with their appearances, and I see the signs in their daughters of insecurity. Looks don't matter, but you HAVE to be OK with your looks no matter what they are so your daughters dont' learn to pick out their own superficial flaws. I'm so happy I learned this before I had my kids. I always act confident (even if I feel ugly some days) and I always say nice things about them and others. So far, I have seen no trace in my daughter that she doesn't think she is splendid and lovely. Also, if your daughters hear you criticizing the appearances of others, they also feel it's ok for people to do that, and that leads to insecurity too down the road. Be thankful and happy and content with what you have, and show your daughters and others unconditional love. It's the best medicine!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

It is very common for young girls to feel pretty only in dresses and fancy shoes. At 4 it's very common, so I wouldn't worry about that. I know lots of 4-year old girls who will ONLY wear dresses and party shoes! I would worry if she doesn't grow out of it.

Was your 7.5 year old angry when she was saying she was fat? Angry kids say lots of things to get attention. Do you say you're fat? When you do, do others immediately give you attention and say "no you're not!" Kids are the brightest mirrors we will ever see.

My 9-year old stepdaughter said once she hated her booty. I though that was strange because there's nothing wrong with it! Well, her mom had been saying that a lot so my SD just picked it up. When I said to her "why do you say that?" she really looked puzzled and said "I don't know!" and then I said "where did you hear that?" and she said "well, my mom says it all the time and her boyfriend always says "no, it's beautiful!"

My SD is not lacking in confidence so she was just mimicking her mom. She's never said it since.

Better than any book or article will be the example you set. A confident mom will have confident children!



answers from Minneapolis on

Here's what I do when I start feeling fat (I'm not a 7-year old girl, but this totally helps):

Stop looking at ads of skinny models
Stop watching TV shows/movies that have skinny models, skinny "mean girl" teens, etc.
Stop going to clothing stores that use skinny mannequins

I know it's unrealistic to hide from "life," but just be aware that the more we women expose ourselves to the skinny ideal, the more rotten some of us feel!

Our media is so pervasive and you don't have much control about what happens when she's at school. All I know is that when I made a conscious decision to only read Newsweek (as opposed to People Magazine), suddenly, I didn't care so much about being perfect!

Barbie, Ariel, and Aurora don't do us any favors either--go American Girls (or Mulan)!



answers from Rochester on

Cinderella Ate My Daughter by Peggy Orrenstein is a great book about how popular culture (especially Disney) can impact our daughters. The author talks a lot about self-esteem.



answers from Appleton on

It's not just about find 'a' book but finding a book that speaks to you. I grew up in an emotionally abusive home so for many years I have fought self confidence issues. There are so many books out there, just go to a bookstore and look in the self-help section. If you talk to a sales person they will recommend a book that helped them and you get it home only to discover it doesn't speak to you. A book could be written from the perspective of Christian values but if you are not the type that hears that message, God loves you ect. You won't finish the book and will go seek out other books and soon you will have a home library of half read books and still not found the answers you seek.
Self confidence comes from accomlishment, praise and affection. When your daughters learn something new (accomplishment) tell them how proud you are of them (praise) and hug them (affection). Remind them that all women are beautiful, our hearts, souls, and minds are beautiful; our bodies don't really count. Marilyn Monroe was a beautiful women, who wore a size 14-16. Jackie Kennedy wore a size 10 shoe, big foot for a woman of her time. Yet until Princess Diana came onto the scene Jackie was the most photographed woman of the 20th century.
My point is no one is perfect. There are books out there that will help with your self confidence and self esteem issues but reading is not enough you have to internalize the message and begin to live it.
I have advised others to look into Martial Arts classes and I strongly urge you to do that also. Martial Arts, by it's very structure, build self confidence and self esteam. It would be good for you and your girls. Kids usually have to be 5 before they can start classes. If this isn't for you look into other sports or maybe music, when you are learning something new and accomplishing goals it helps to build confidence.



answers from Washington DC on

Great for you to be thinking about this now and building their confidence! Someone else mentioned American Girl. They have very good non-fiction books (many may be too "old" for your older daughter for another year or so) but try their AG Magazine. It talks about looks in entirely positive ways and celebrates things like glasses and braces (both of which my daughter has!). It promotes positive self-image and not letting peers define you. Check out their non-fiction books too for the future. The "Care and Keeping of You: Body Book for Girls" is an excellent resource.


answers from Dallas on

When my now 16 yr old was 4 she would not leave the house without her tights and skirt... even if it was 100 degrees outside.

I think part of it is a stage. I think part of it is how self confidence is modeled at home.

I am very open with communication, no topics are off limits.

All girls say "I'm fat" at some point. I think part of that is to get a rise out of mom.

My daughter is much like me. I am showered and put together in a fashionable way daily... That's how I am. It is how she is as well. We don't leave the house without looking nice. I'm not talking about loads of makeup, etc. I am talking about fresh, clean and general appearance.

Look within yourself to model a higher self esteem and your girls will pick up on it.

As far as books, I am not familiar with self help books.


answers from New York on

American girl has very good books and even a magazine.
Is so easy for boys and girls to fall in to false idea of beauty when out side beauty is so relative.
Is scary and sad when a kid says that they feel ugly/fat but I am glad they talk about it and let you know what they think.
What helps my daughter is to be good at somethings like drawing, writing, grades. On the outside, she is beautiful and I let her know that often, but I also let her know that even if beauty is relative to everyone, healthy and happy is always beautiful.



answers from Columbus on

I love New Moon Girls magazine. It is designed to bulid girls' self-esteem and positive body image. The subscription is a little pricey, so if you don't want to subscribe you should see if your library has it.



answers from Lincoln on

You are wise to make this a goal. I have two daughters and I have concluded that it is very important to build a good self-esteem in daughters especially before middle school. I watched my oldest and most of her peers go through a low self-esteem, low self-confidence period in middle school. Whether it stems from awkward puberty, hormones, or what, it was a worriesome and baffling time! Fortunately, she came through that now! I am trying to do better with my youngest to make sure she has high self-esteem and confidence to weather that puberty storm! I got her a subscription to the American Girl magazine which I think is helpful. Also, I would recommend the book "Raising Confident Girls" by Elizabeth Hartley-Brewer. It is full of practical advice to implement daily. To set an example, try to talk about something good about yourself each day to your girls, as in something you accomplished that day even if it's small like finally sorting through that pile of papers or whatever. I think girls can sometimes feel in competition with their mothers and feel they can't measure up. It doesn't hurt to say something to them like, "You are so much better at math than I was in school, I guess I liked English more." Statements like that make them feel good about their own identity and diffuse any notions of competition without putting yourself down. I think one of the most important things though is to make sure there is a man in their life that let's them know they light up the room just the way they are! If not their father, than another trusted male relative that you could explain this need to. It is imperative that they feel love and approval from a male relative, or they will go looking for that love and approval in all the wrong places!

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