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7 Skills to Teach Your Daughter by Age 13

Girls' self-confidence often takes a big hit at puberty but these skills can help keep her confidence strong during the teen years.

“A pre-teen girl is at a unique moment in her life, The spark that is her potential grows more intense, yet she'll have to fight against gender norms that threaten to diminish it," observes writer Rebecca Ruiz. "There are countless ways she'll feel pressured to hide or change her authentic self.” Rachel Simmons, an expert on girls' development and author of the new book, Enough As She Is, agrees: "Girls are at their fiercest and most authentic prior to puberty." While research has confirmed that girls' self-confidence often drops after puberty, Simmons asserts that there are many ways parents can help girls keep their confidence strong during the teen years. To that end, she recommends "seven skills to consider teaching your daughter by the time she turns 13" that will help your Mighty Girl feel prepared for the challenges ahead.

Teaching girls how to respect and express their feelings from an early age is an important skill to cultivate since girls and women often have a tendency to deny their own emotions to make others' happy or avoid conflict. "We so frequently assume that girls and emotions are a natural pairing, for better or worse, that we neglect to actually teach girls emotional intelligence," Ruiz points out. "When girls are taught to value being happy and liked, they often suppress or can't acknowledge their more difficult experiences." Parents can help by ensuring that girls can safely express a full range of emotion without feeling judged or diminished: "when your girls express authentic emotions — even if they’re difficult, you take them seriously; you don’t deny them or challenge them."

Simmons also stresses the need to teach girls to be compassionate with themselves. Girls, she says, are sent a lot of messages that it’s important to please others, which means often they feel like their failures or mistakes are letting other people down. Parents need to teach girls how to fail well — recognizing the disappointment and learning for the next time -— and make sure that they know that everyone goes through this experience. “What we want is for girls to have is the capacity to move through a setback without beating themselves up,” she says.

Issues surrounding body image and sexuality can be particularly difficult for parents to navigate. Simmons encourages parents to help their daughters find a sport they love, so girls recognize their bodies as being capable of strength rather than being defined only by appearance. She adds, "When girls feel uncomfortable with their bodies they can also disconnect from how they are really feeling, and worry more about how someone else is feeling, or what they want, instead."

Parents can also help their daughter build a positive relationship her body from as early as the toddler years by using anatomically correct terms for genitalia and teaching her that she has control over her own body. Discussions about sexuality and gender, moreover, provide an opportunity to let girls know that there is no one "right" way to be a girl. Parents should stay attuned to avoiding gender-limiting language. For example, Ruiz observes, it's "important to describe human characteristics and emotions not just in gender-based terms (see: girls are always emotional)."

While many people think communication and relationships come naturally to girls, Simmons says those are still important areas where girls benefit from guidance. She explains that parents “have to set the tone early on for what’s OK in relationships and not” — and reminds them that girls who “don’t have the tools to deal with their feelings” are more likely to engage in bullying behavior. So girls need to learn to “flex the muscle of expressing their strongest feelings” in all their relationships. She also advises that parents consider friendships as “an opportunity to show girls what healthy relationships look like and how they can relate to others and themselves,” which provides tools for the future on everything from romantic life to negotiating for a raise at work.

Parents can also help to cultivate girls' leadership skills, especially as many girls struggle to balance assertiveness with their concerns about being considered aggressive or bossy, which often carry social stigma for girls and women. Introducing girls to female leaders, both famous figures and those in their community and family, can provide them with powerful role models. Simmons asserts that sports also provide an important vehicle for girls to develop their leadership skills, observing: "There's a very powerful and painful unwritten communication code among girls that you’re not supposed to say what you really think to someone’s face and you're not supposed to promote yourself. Sports perverts all of that; they can do that and be rewarded for it."

Teaching these skills isn't a matter of sitting down and giving her a lecture, and as Ruiz points out, along the way you can learn "about your daughter's interests and who inspires her." Everything from pop songs to YouTube videos can help prompt a conversation about these topics, and letting your daughter tell you more about what she loves is "your best way to get an education and win some love and respect from your kid in the process," Simmons says.  "These important skills aren't easy to master," adds Ruiz, "but the more chances a girl has to practice them under the guidance of a trusted adult, the more likely she'll feel confident and self-assured as a teenager." Ultimately, by incorporating these lessons into your Mighty Girl's life from their earliest years, girls can enter their teens — and beyond — ready to take on the world!

To read more, visit Mashable, and browse our resource recommendations below.  

resources To Raise Confident Girls

I Like Myself!

I Like Myself!

Written by: Karen Beaumont
Illustrated by: David Catrow
Recommended Age: 3 - 8

In this hilarious and high energy ode to self esteem, a little girl knows that, no matter what she does, where she goes, or what other people think, she is special because “I’m ME!” That means that, even when she's not at her best — like when she wakes up with spectacular bedhead — she's still the same person underneath. Kids will laugh at the silliness of beaver breath and stinky toes, while adults will enjoy its celebration of individuality. David Catrow's vibrant and hilarious illustrations provide a confident girl of color as a role model, while Karen Beaumont's rhyming text makes for a great read-aloud.

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon

Written by: Patty Lovell
Illustrated by: David Catrow
Recommended Age: 4 - 8

Little Molly Lou has always been proud of who she is... even if she is tiny, buck-toothed, and clumsy. Even her singing voice is like nothing anyone's heard before! When Molly Lou moves to a new school and has to face a bully's jeers, she remembers her grandmother's advice and turns every "disadvantage" to good use. Soon, everyone at school has learned that you should never underestimate Molly Lou Melon! Kids will love feisty, funny, and completely confident Molly Lou and will enjoy figuring out their own ways that they can "sing out clear and strong." Fans of Molly Lou can also check out the sequel, Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon.

Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends

Dealing with Bullies and Bossiness and Finding a Better Way

Stand Up for Yourself and Your Friends

Dealing with Bullies and Bossiness and Finding a Better Way

Written by: Patti Kelley Criswell
Illustrated by: Angela Martini
Recommended Age: 7 - 12

This book from the American Girl Library is a great starting point for tweens looking for advice on dealing with bullies. Rather than telling girls that there is a “right” way to handle a bully, this book gives a variety of different options, from ignoring taunts to comebacks to involving adults, as well as advice as to how to decide which strategy to use. The book acknowledges that not all mean behavior is necessarily malicious, though, and also provides a guide to knowing how to stand up to a friend who is behaving badly without being mean yourself.

Strong Is The New Pretty: A Guided Journal For Girls

Strong Is The New Pretty: A Guided Journal For Girls

Written by: Kate T. Parker
Illustrated by: Kate T. Parker
Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Inspired by Kate Parker's bestselling photo book Strong Is The New Pretty, this guided journal is designed to help tween girls discover and celebrate their independent, wild, silly, and mighty selves! Illustrated with photographs from the book, as well as 20 new ones, each page features an inspiring, interactive prompt that encourages girls to learn more about themselves through writing, doodling, and creative self-expression. As girls complete the fun prompts such as "Draw a picture of yourself as a superhero — what is your superpower?" and "Whom do you admire? Draw them here, and write your reasons why", the journal becomes a source of inspiration and motivation to be their most powerful selves.

The Confidence Code for Girls

Taking Risks, Messing Up, and Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self

The Confidence Code for Girls

Taking Risks, Messing Up, and Becoming Your Amazingly Imperfect, Totally Powerful Self

Recommended Age: 8 - 12

Many girls are consumed by self-doubt on the inside, especially during the tween and teen years — but if they can crack the confidence code, they can learn how to set worries aside and focus their energy on what's really important: confidently pursuing their dreams and embracing their authentic selves! In this book, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, the authors of the best-selling The Confidence Code for adult women, draw on the latest research to help tweens understand how to short-circuit the thoughts that drain your confidence and hold you back. Illustrations throughout help draw girls into the book, while lists, quizzes, and stories from real-life girls help readers understand how to embrace risk (and failure), overcome anxieties, and be happy in their own skins.

Just Between Us: Mother and Daughter

A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal

Just Between Us: Mother and Daughter

A No-Stress, No-Rules Journal

Manufacturer: Chronicle Books
Recommended Age: 8 and up

This bestselling guided journal helps moms and daughters establish fun, thought-provoking ways of communicating with each other! Meredith and Sophie Jacobs started sharing a journal when Sophie was nine, and they have applied their experiences to create this fun resource to help other mother-daughter pairs. With its thoughtful writing prompts and intergenerational advice woven throughout, this journal helps promote discussions about friends, school, crushes, and many of the other joys and difficulties faced growing up. The same authors have also created two follow-up volumes, Just Between Us: Sisters and Just Between Us: Grandmother and Granddaughter.

A Smart Girl's Guide: Knowing What to Say

A Smart Girl's Guide: Knowing What to Say

Written by: Patti Kelley Criswell
Illustrated by: Angela Martini
Recommended Age: 9 - 12

A tween's complicated life is full of difficult conversations, from what to say to a friend who talks behind your back to how to ask your parents for a new privilege. Fortunately, with a little guidance from the American Girl Library, she'll feel ready to take on any situation! In this updated edition, scripts and suggestions for over 200 situations, from consoling a grieving friend to standing up to a bully, give you tips and techniques to speak up appropriately and assertively. With a little help knowing what to say, she'll be ready to take on the challenges ahead of her with confidence!

The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens

Activities to Help You Build Confidence and Achieve Your Goals

The Self-Esteem Workbook for Teens

Activities to Help You Build Confidence and Achieve Your Goals

Written by: Lisa M. Schab LCSW
Recommended Age: 13 and up

Self-esteem is more than just feeling good about yourself: it also means having a realistic view of your strengths and weaknesses that allows to to thrive and respect yourself, faults and all. In this workbook, teens learn practical exercises to help them handle self-doubt and criticism, foster self-awareness, and avoid the traps of becoming self-absorbed or selfish. Along the way, teens will also discover their likes and dislikes, explore their dreams for the future, and create an authentic picture of the life they'd like to lead. By building a healthy level of self-confidence, girls will find it easier to muster the emotional resources it takes to take on the challenges ahead of them.

Express Yourself

A Teen Girl's Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are

Express Yourself

A Teen Girl's Guide to Speaking Up and Being Who You Are

Written by: Emily Roberts MA LPC
Recommended Age: 13 and up

In an effort to be “likeable” and “nice”, many teen girls feel pressured to avoid speaking their mind or asserting their opinion — they may even fear being labeled “bossy” or “pushy” if they’re too outspoken. This book is designed to help teens remember they have a right to be heard — and find the confidence to speak up! Written in an accessible and friendly tone, with individual chapters tackling common situations like family conflict, digital drama, and romantic relationships, this guide by psychotherapist Emily Roberts draws on techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy to teach your teen how to express her opinion, stand up for herself in any situation, and boost her self-esteem and confidence.

The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens

Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are

The Self-Compassion Workbook for Teens

Mindfulness and Compassion Skills to Overcome Self-Criticism and Embrace Who You Are

Written by: Karen Bluth PhD
Recommended Age: 13 and up

With all of the changes that happen during the teen years, it's easy to become too critical of yourself — but the stress and insecurity of that self-criticism can interfere with your dreams and goals. Fortunately, it's possible to learn to be compassionate to yourself and practice effective self-care! This book uses techniques inspired by Kristin Neff and Christopher Germer’s Mindful Self-Compassion program to help teens manage the emotional ups and downs of life... and reminds themselves that they are enough, just as they are.

Enough As She Is

How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives

Enough As She Is

How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives

Written by: Rachel Simmons

Although girls seem to be more "successful" than ever today, outpacing boys in GPA, college enrollment, and more, they're also reporting feeling overwhelmed by the need to be exceptional at everything. This book takes a look below the put-together surface that girls project to the world, and provides practical tips for parents to help them reduce negative thoughts, embrace risk and authenticity, and prioritize feeling confident and happy as the ultimate sign of success. Best-selling parenting author Rachel Simmons relies on in-depth case studies and careful research to create both a portrait of the challenges facing girls today and a road map to help girls create their own paths to happy, healthy lives.

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood

Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood

Written by: Lisa Damour

If the job of an adolescent is to become an adult, how do you know when they're there? Lisa Damour, director of the Laurel School's Center for Research on Girls, draws on the latest research to reveal the seven key transitions — including Parting with Childhood, Contending with Adult Authority, Entering the Romantic World, and Caring for Herself — that an adolescent girl needs to make before she reaches adulthood. Equally importantly, she shows how uneven progress through these transitions explains the sometimes erratic behavior of teenage girls, and how parents' responses can help strengthen their relationship so she can complete her journey healthy and happy.

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