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How dads play a critical role in building girls' confidence

Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough recently sat down with Katty Kay and Claire Shipman to talk about empowering girls to have self-confidence at an early age.
Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

Morning Joe’s Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough recently sat down with Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, co-authors of “The Confidence Code for Girls,” to talk about empowering young girls by teaching them to have self-confidence at an early age.

When it comes to young girls’ confidence, there’s a clear conundrum. “Girls are doing super well in school, but they don’t believe in themselves,” said Kay. “They stop taking risks, they think they need to be perfect, they have to please everybody.”

“You can tell that there is a need to have confidence to be more assertive,” agreed Scarborough. He mentioned the tendency for girls and women to apologize when an apology isn’t warranted.

The good news: there are simple ways for parents to spot a confidence issue and effective steps in addressing it.

Empower early

In a poll, the authors found that girls are losing their confidence as young as the age of eight, but interestingly, fathers are better at spotting this than mothers. In part, this is because mothers, too, tend to have a confidence gap, Kay explained.

“If we can’t catch girls as young as the age of eight, we’re not going to have confident women,” Kay said.

While mothers might think my daughter isn’t going for the soccer team, but she’s getting As, dads are seeing, “wow, my daughter is so talented, and she’s holding herself back,” Kay explained.

Bring dad into the conversation

Dads are not only great at spotting a confidence gap, but they also play a crucial role in teaching their daughters to believe in themselves.

When fathers engage with their daughters, they will push them more to take risks, to fail, to just try it. “They don’t understand, let’s think about it for 100 years before we do it,” Shipman said.

Help them understand the importance of emotional intelligence

Indeed, there are hormonal differences between boys and girls, especially during puberty, but girls have their advantages. “You’re on the winning side of that equation; you’ve got emotional intelligence,” Scarborough said.

“If girls can understand their brains, it’s a huge asset,” Shipman said. “If they can understand why we think so much, the fact that we do have this high EQ, if they can understand the positives, then they can see, now I’m overthinking and I ought to be able to put this aside.”

“Imagine if girls can get their confidence in line with their abilities,” Shipman said. “Imagine where we would be.”

Teach them that failure is normal

The more you can encourage your daughter to do things that are slightly uncomfortable, the more confidence they’ll have. Essentially, it’s about getting girls to be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

“Show them that failure is normal,” Kay said. “That everybody does it and you can get through it.”

“The great upside of taking a risk is that you grow your confidence, because you’re trying something new and hard and you can master it,” Kay added. “The downside is that at some time, we’re going to fail. Show them that failure is normal, and that everybody does it and you can get through it.”

“It’s all about putting yourself out there,” Brzezinski said.