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How to Raise Young Girls with Grit – Mentally, Emotionally Strong

After age 9, a girl's feelings of self-worth and confidence crash. Help your daughter realize her full potential, become her best – and mature with moxy – by building these six qualities.

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Curiosity

Why is curiosity important for a girl with grit? She needs to ask questions about the world around her – and about herself.

Guiding girls toward developing their sense of curiosity isn't difficult, explains Lapidos. It's simply a matter of encouraging girls to ask questions, which can in turn help them to develop new skills. Take a walk outside with your preschooler. When she asks "Why is the sky blue?" or "What kind of bug is that?" research the answer online or in the library together. As she gets older, step back and let her research the answer on her own and then teach you what she's learned.

Figuring out her interests and abilities are also a part of curiosity. Lapidos advises parents to look beyond the easily named interests like sports and music performance. While developing skills in these areas can help a girl develop her sense of self, what about abilities that are more difficult to pinpoint, but that are part of your daughter's makeup? Maybe she's good at finding out how things work. Or perhaps she has an innate ability to tell when someone is feeling sad.

Positivity

No, your daughters shouldn't be looking at the world through rose-colored glasses. But they also shouldn't get in the habit of constantly putting themselves down. And this is where a girl's age comes in to play.

Davis-Kean notes that researchers believe "there's a developmental shift at 8 years of age related to the adolescent brain." Prior to that age, children don't seem to be concerned with what other people think; they don't tend to compare themselves with peers. But with the developmental shift, "kids pay more attention to their environment and start placing themselves in a hierarchy across their environment."

That can mean that they compare themselves based on their achievements, their looks, their friends. Davis-Kean says this development in research circles is often called a "loss of innocence" as children start dropping out of various activities because they don't think they're good at them. The shift doesn't seem to be gender specific, explains Davis-Kean, "but there is some evidence that girls seem to be shifting earlier than boys."

Comparing yourself to others isn't all bad. In fact, honestly evaluating your abilities and talents is an important quality. Yet it's the honest evaluation where some girls can go wrong. They can either be too hard on themselves and "be overtaken with shame" at their lack of abilities, says Simmons. Or, they can "have a false sense of superiority." Parents can guide girls to understand their own flaws and learn from them and to do regular "self checks."

These informal self-checks can take place during regular conversations you have with your daughter – at dinner or during a car ride. After a test, a big assignment or a performance, ask her to evaluate what she did. "Keep the conversation light," says Simmons. You might ask what she thought she did well, what she might have done better, how she might do things differently the next time.

By teaching girls to evaluate themselves realistically on a regular basis, when those times do come when they have big mistakes – and they will – they won't be devastating. Instead, she'll understand that mistakes are a part of life, and how she deals with them is what really matters.

Sep 24, 2012 11:25 am
 Posted by  Amy Kuras

Terrific article--I will be sharing this with my friends and the mothers of my daughter's friends. My daughter and her friends are in their last year or so before this big shift comes, so this especially helpful to read right now. Thank you!

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