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How to Raise Strong and Confident Daughters

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When your daughter recognizes that you believe in her, she begins to believe in herself, and has confidence to pursue her dreams.

When I graduated from college in the spring of 1979, I had a clear goal: Start medical school in the fall and begin the training to become a pediatrician. But by that September, I’d been rejected by several medical schools, and I was wondering what a Plan B might look like. Clearly, this dream of being a doctor wasn’t working out.

But one evening, I overheard my father talking with a friend. His words changed my life:

“I’m excited to tell you that our daughter, Meg, will be starting medical school next fall, although she’s still not sure where she’ll be going yet.”

At first, I got a little angry. How can he say that I’m going to medical school? Hasn’t he seen all those rejection letters?

But I soon recognized that my father believed something about me that I wasn’t yet able to believe myself. His confidence gave me hope, and in the fall of 1980, I started medical school, just as Dad had said would happen.

I often think of my father when I speak about how parents can raise strong, confident daughters. Because the first step toward that goal is believing in our daughters, raising them with the knowledge that they are capable and strong, and that whatever paths their lives take, trusting that they can be successful.

When your daughter recognizes that you believe in her, she begins to believe in herself, and has confidence to pursue her dreams. Here are some other ways that parents can raise strong daughters:

Encourage character, not performance or appearance

Praise is, of course, an essential part of parenting, but we have to be careful that we’re sending the right message, both in our words and in the timing of those words. If your compliments constantly highlight performance or appearance, you may be raising a daughter who will become overly focused on these things, rather than on the traits that will determine her true character.

Instead, commend your daughter when you observe moments of strong character. Perseverance. Courage. Honesty. Applaud her for these things. If she demonstrates God’s love and compassion to a hurting neighbor, tell her that this trait makes you proud. If she decides not to quit some activity or job that is too difficult, tell her that you are proud of her resilience.

Give her space to fail

If your goal as a mom or dad is to have a strong, emotionally healthy daughter, it won’t be helpful to protect her from every obstacle she faces. Confidence is nurtured by having our kids face adversity.

No parents want their little girl to get hurt, or to try hard at something and fail miserably. But when we honestly consider our own strengths — the character qualities we’ve forged over the years — we recognize that they’ve developed and strengthened because of a struggle we’ve endured. Overcoming failure teaches us and our kids resilience and perseverance, and it is through failure that God helps us mature and grow our trust in Him. Don’t prevent your daughter from growing by overprotecting her. Childhood is an excellent time for your daughter to practice the fine art of falling down — the most important lesson of which is developing the tenacity to pick herself back up.

Remember she needs a strong male figure in her life

This statement won’t win me any popularity contests in today’s culture. To raise a strong daughter, it’s crucial that she has a good father figure present in her life.

When a dad gives his daughter a hug, she receives the extremely important message that he sees her and approves of her. A daughter considers her father’s feelings about her as more important than anyone else’s. She wants to view her dad as a leader, to look to him as a protector and provider. And this isn’t just the way it’s supposed to be. This is the way it is. A father’s interactions with his daughter prepare her for how she’s going to relate to other men and to God.

That’s a heavy load, but it’s a wonderful truth. A good father has the potential to have the greatest positive impact on a girl’s life, whatever situations she is dealing with. A father’s presence and loving attention to his daughter help her grow up to be a strong woman with positive self-esteem.

Meg Meeker is a pediatrician, speaker and writer. She’s the author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters.

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Your Teen Needs You Most of All

No parent of teens is perfect and even the best can learn how to better connect with their son or daughter. Get practical action steps to better connect with your teenager in 8 Essential Tips for Parenting Your Teen in this FREE video series!

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.

There Is Still Hope for Your Marriage

You may feel that there is no hope for your marriage and the hurt is too deep to restore the relationship and love that you once had. The truth is, your life and marriage can be better and stronger than it was before. In fact, thousands of marriages, situations as complex and painful as yours, have been transformed with the help of professionals who understand where you are right now and care deeply about you and your spouse’s future. You can restore and rebuild your marriage through a personalized, faith-based, intimate program called, Hope Restored.
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Understand How to Respect and Love your Son Well

Why doesn’t my son listen to me? Have you ever asked that question? The truth is, how you see your son and talk to him has a significant effect on how he thinks and acts. That’s why we want to help you. In fact, we’ve created a free five-part video series called “Recognizing Your Son’s Need for Respect” that will help you understand how showing respect, rather than shaming and badgering, will serve to motivate and guide your son.

Reconnected: The Digital Experience

Is the love there, but not the spark? Reawaken fun in your marriage and move from roommates to soulmates again with the help of this 7-part online video experience. Learn how to connect emotionally and spiritually as husband and wife using techniques such as dreaming together and establishing deep, heartfelt communication. The Digital Experience includes 7 teaching videos, an online study guide and access to additional tools and resources to help spouses reconnect.

Next Steps: Marriage Assessment

We want your marriage to be thriving and healthy. Take the free Marriage Assessment from Focus on the Family to learn how to strengthen your bond with your spouse and get the tools to help you need to grow closer together. 

Next Steps: Fruit of the Spirit Devotionals for Couples

The Fruit of the Spirit Devotional is a free series of nine short videos to get you into God’s Word and inspire you to seek the Holy Spirit’s help in loving your spouse.

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