Raising daughters in today’s society is extremely hard on so many levels. With social media, societal expectations regarding body image, earning potential, and much much more, it could seem as if parents are navigating landmines as they guide their daughters through the stages of growth towards adulthood.
Sometimes it is extremely hard to find the right words to help explain the world around them or boost their self-confidence. According to Dr. Laura Froyen, Ph.D., in an article written for fatherly.com, here are six phrases that parents should avoid saying to their daughters. In reality, these phrases may do more harm than good.
- “He’s bullying you because he likes you.”: According to Dr. Froyen, this saying is one of the most damaging messages that parents are sending to their girls. “Saying that a boy is mean because he likes you teaches kids what to expect in romantic relationships.” Parents should teach their girls, from the beginning, that if someone likes them, then they should treat them with respect. Aggressiveness and being mean does not positively equal a loving relationship.
- “Be nice.”: “We teach girls early on to put their feelings, their wants, and their needs last,” says Froyen. “That creates young adults and women who don’t want to rock the boat, stand up for themselves, and who don’t ask their partners for what they want or feel confident in setting boundaries with the people in their lives, because we’ve socialized them so early to be nice.” It does pay for everyone to have good manners, but forcing them to be “nice,” no one wins in that situation.
- “Boys will be boys.”: “That message tells girls that if they set boundaries with a boy — like if they don’t want to be chased on the playground— that boys don’t need to listen. Boys should have the same expectations for responsibility taking as girls. It’s really harmful to girls to consistently let boys off the hook for their behavior.” Parents need to teach their daughters that this old adage definitely does more harm than good.
- “Good job.”: Saying “good job” in and of itself isn’t a bad thing, but the problem comes into play with the phrases vague usage. “Unspecific praise simply isn’t helpful to kids most of the time. It also focuses on the outcome, rather than the process or effort involved.”
- “You look thin!” Making comments on your daughter’s body or any physical aspect of her appearance, in any context, could be harmful to her. “What the research is showing right now is that any comment on a child’s appearance has the potential to be destructive for a child’s body image, particularly for girls,” says Froyen in the article. “It draw your child’s awareness to their appearance as a thing that matters. They’re in a world where they are inundated with messages.”
- “You’re so pretty.” This one also goes hand-in-hand with number five. Parents need to help their daughters focus on their inner beauty in addition to their outer appearance. “Lots of well-meaning parents say this because they mean it, and they want to boost their child’s confidence,” says Froyen. “But research shows that it really backfires in a big way. It starts young girls down the pathway of thinking that appearance is an important thing, that it matters for their self-worth, and that they need to rely on external validation for their self-worth.”