Mothers and daughters – it’s a relationship as fierce as it is fraught, but what if it’s a girl’s relationship with her dad that really makes the difference to her confidence?
That’s the message from a bestselling new book that argues fathers have the power to boost their daughters’ self-confidence and save them from their quest for perfection.
With the average girl’s self-confidence dropping by nearly 30 per cent between the ages of eight and 14, the authors of The Confidence Code For Girls say dads are pivotal in ensuring girls retain their self-esteem.
Katty Kay and Claire Shipman say women need to stop being ‘helicopter mums’ trying to control everything they do, and dads need to treat their daughters as they would their sons.
Men, says Katty, are better at encouraging their daughters to break rules, take risks and make mistakes – the key to building confidence.
She says that as girls enter the tween years, they become ‘much more concerned with failing and preoccupied with perfectionism’.
Despite girls achieving so much, they’re racked with doubt on the inside.
Says Katty: ‘Girls worry constantly about how they look, what people think, whether to try out for a sports team or school play, why they aren’t getting “perfect” grades, how many likes and followers they have online.’
The book, which has been endorsed by Sheryl Sandberg and is on the New York Times bestseller list, encourages girls to be gutsy and brave so that they learn to ask for a pay rise, step outside their comfort zone and don’t endure sexual harassment.
As the book reveals, more than half of teenage girls feel pressure to be perfect and three-quarters worry about failing.
One in three believe boys will make more money.
So how can dads help? They can encourage their daughters to do something they haven’t tried, and be there when they make mistakes.
As Barack Obama said: ‘As fathers, we need to be involved in our children’s lives not just when it’s convenient or easy, and not just when they’re doing well – but when it’s difficult and thankless, and they’re struggling.’