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Tween Girls and Confidence

by Lori Sciame | December 13th, 2012 | Tweens

Tween girls have it rough. Not only do they experience the scary changes that come along with puberty, they experience mixed messages concerning their role in society. Some may argue that gender stereotypes have gone by the wayside; however, society still can dictate how a young woman should act and look — especially in areas of the United States that may cling to old ways of thinking.

A brilliant tween girl may cave to societal pressure to “dumb herself down” during these years. A girl who once excelled in school may pretend to be inept for one simple reason: boys don’t like smart girls. Thankfully, this does not happen as much as it used to, but it still happens. My own daughters admitted to doing this while they were in the sixth grade. Before that, they had enjoyed answering questions in class and beating the boys in academic contests. Yet, when they started middle school, old notions surfaced, and so they decided to pretend to be ignorant.

Because we had such close relationships, I educated my girls about the importance of being true to oneself instead of bending to pressures from peers. In essence, I did everything I could to keep their self-confidence intact. I used many tactics, from taking them to special science camps at the local college to visiting an vast array of historical sites around the country to boost their intellectual prowess. And I spent quite a bit of time discussing women who were smart, successful, and who had boyfriends or husbands (if they wanted one)!

Similarly, a negative body image can strip a young girl’s self-confidence quickly as well. Mass media continues to promote perfection — or their warped definition of perfection — to the masses. This act of promoting the unattainable can cause a tween girl to loathe her own body. Take for example the young woman who has made it her mission to be a “living Barbie doll.” Sadly, she has become known world-wide for a grotesque waist to hip ratio, and for eyes capable only of a blank stare.

If a tween girl does not receive messages from adults that one’s own skin is good enough, she may end up suffering needlessly. Worst case scenario continues to be that some tweens end up with eating disorders because of the immense pressure to be thin. In addition to rejoicing in the real physicality of a tween, adults need to limit a child’s exposure to those negative media images, while talking to a girl about what real people should look like — not living Barbie dolls!

Raising a confident tween remains a challenge, especially due to societal pressures. Girls this age need to be able to be themselves, whether they are super smart, average, or somewhere in between. They also need to be taught the value of the unique person that they are, including the things that make them special. If a tween loves herself, has confidence in her physical and mental capabilities, then nothing will stop her from succeeding in life!

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