Good Morning America hosted a panel of spirited girls between 7 and 10 years old this week to discuss gender equality and how they handle it when someone is being mean or invading their personal space. The Child Mind Institute’s Dr. David Anderson commented on the girls’ responses and offered parents tips for nurturing strong daughters.
One child said that she would stand up to someone who was being mean to her friend, saying, “I might say, ‘Can you please be nicer?'”
“I did it for my sister once,” another said. “It felt good.”
The girls also said confidently they know how to push back if someone touches or crowd them. “I just like put my hands here,” one said, “and I’m like, ‘Don’t cross the bubble space.’ ”
Dr. Anderson’s tips for building healthy self-esteem
- Get involved in after-school activities, from arts to music to sports to robotics. It’s important for any child to develop interests and passions for out-of-school activities, as this builds healthy self-esteem and social skills.
- Build relationships with female role models. Young kids look up to so many notable figures in entertainment or movies, and it’s important to have contact with real-life role models to whose vocations, talents or qualities our kids can aspire.
- Praise effort, kindness and perseverance, not appearance. Focus on who kids are, how they act toward others, and what they are doing, particularly in those formative years when kids are trying to figure out what is important in the adult world.
- Model and discuss how to set boundaries and be assertive. Girls are often shaped to think that it’s best to keep everyone happy and to go along with a group, and it’s important to know when you need to advocate for your own needs or let others know that you don’t think something is OK.
- Start discussing media messages with kids early. By the time any kid is ready to watch television shows by themselves or engage with friends on social media, we want to be sure that we’ve had lots of conversations about the kinds of messaging kids receive, the ways that interactions on TV or online are realistic or unrealistic, and strategies to help kids safely and healthily engage with media.