There are a lot of mixed signals girls receive. They are told to be leaders, but then, they are called “bossy.” They are told that they’re powerful and resilient, but then people step in and resolve their issues for them. We empower them to be optimistic, but then we bombard them with tips on being polite.

Parents’ words affect their daughters deeply. They take their cues from their parents. Parents may inadvertently reinforce gender stereotypes and undermine self-confidence with their words and actions. At the same time, parents can also strengthen the self-confidence of their daughters and inspire them with their words and actions.

To nurture self-confidence in your daughter, follow these steps:

  • Encourage character not appearance: Praise is an important part of parenting, of course, but we have to make sure that we send the right message. If your compliments excessively emphasize performance or appearance, you might be raising a daughter who may concentrate too much on these things, rather than on the qualities that will define her true character. Instead, commend your daughter when you witness moments of good character, perseverance, courage, honesty, appreciate her for these things. Tell her that this quality makes you proud if she shows a suffering neighbor the love and compassion of God. Tell her that you are proud of her courage if she chooses not to leave any activity or work that is too hard.
  • Talk about your body in a positive way: Your daughter can hear the words you use when you talk about who you are, what you do, and how you feel about your body. Girls pick up body language and note whether you’re secure in your own skin, or if you’re not. In a culture of appearances and pressure, we are consumed to look a certain way, to behave a certain way, and to be a specific way. Of course, we’re weighing our looks against what we think we should look and feel like, but then, do we want our daughters to feel the same pressure?
  • Let her take her own decisions: They fail to make important choices outside the home when girls have no say in their own lives. Give your daughter the chance to learn decision-making skills by including her in daily decisions. Let her pick the activities she wants to do, what she wears at school, and how she wears her hair for the week. When parents trust girls to make choices, the message that they are capable is internalized by girls.
  • Engage in meaningful conversations: In the loop of talking about homework, testing to see how girls do on their tests and quizzes, and reflecting on grades, all too often we get caught. But this tells girls that the most significant aspect of school is results. We should be sending the message that what matters most is the learning process. Avoid the urge to go through the normal list of questions and ask your daughter to tell you about something she found that was exciting. Take an interest in the stuff that inspires her by engaging in meaningful conversation about it while she’s at school.
  • Show her that you believe in her: The fact that you know that you believe in her is not enough, you need to tell her that. On repetition. As they grow, girls will face ups and downs. They’re going to experience victories and defeats. Whether or not they think that they will continue to excel and recover from their setbacks is largely dictated by the amount of unconditional love and support that they receive every day at home. Let your daughter pursue dreams of her own. Encourage her to speak out in defense of her ideals. Commend her for her strength and grit. Tell her, above all, that you believe in her. The more she hears about this from you, the more she believes in herself.

Kritika is a freelance content writer with