Confidence and Your Daughter: Three Ideas for Building Confidence in Girls

I’ve been reading a book off and on for the last couple of months called The Confidence Code by Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. The content of the book explores different areas of social research that have focused on the confidence of females contrasted with the confidence of males. I haven’t made it all the way through the book yet, but the theories of female confidence are fascinating and very relevant to both myself and my two daughters. Culturally, we see a difference in female confidence when pursuing promotions, asking for raises, and standing up for our beliefs, but how much of that is nature and how much is nurture?

I have no scientific evidence, but I have to believe that it, as with many other things, is both, and if it is both, then it is my role as a mom to influence the nature side as much as I can. There are a lot of different theories about building confidence out there. Some focus more on affirmation, some on modeling. Again, no scientific evidence, but I try to do both. Here are my top three.


There is nothing more affirming than being heard. I might disagree with the reason why they feel they need a piece of chocolate at 9 pm, but I will listen to their argument nonetheless. They have a right to be heard, and I hope they carry that expectation with them.

Expect justification

It’s enviable. Every time we are at the store or even talking about going to the store, they need a new toy. They long for it, they ache for it, they need it, but why? I make them tell me, and it needs to be a legitimate reason. Why did they earn that toy? If their argument is solid, then sure. If not, I explain what could be done for the toy next time. It’s all in kids’ terms, of course, but I want them to feel comfortable asking for something when they have striven for it and know there is a path to get there if they haven’t gotten to that level of effort yet.

Affirm more than beauty

I have read and seen a lot of articles about complimenting your daughter on things other than their beauty. The one I love the most is describing them as leaders. When brushing their teeth in the morning, I try to add, “You look like a leader today,” instead of “You look beautiful.” Though, I think it needs follow-up and usually ask, “What will you do as a leader?” I’ve gotten pretty great responses like “I will help my classmates,” which is wonderful for follow-up dinner table conversations. I have to say one of my proudest moments as a parent was telling Maddie she looked like a leader and having her look at herself in the mirror and confidently say, “I know.” It feels strange to make the switch at first, but it’s been worth it.

I don’t think I have the code to crack the mystery behind female confidence, but I do plan to put up a good fight.