Boys and girls develop in different ways and at different stages. Generally, fine motor skills improve quickly in girls, while boys tend to develop faster with gross motor skills. Additionally, it’s usually the girls who are the earlier talkers, the readers, the socialites and the grade-getters. Of course biology alone doesn’t determine how your child will grow up. Every parent wants a well-rounded, healthy and happy kid – regardless of gender. For girls, who usually start life out as eager go-getters, life becomes tricky as they go through school. Social pressures, expectations with regards to beauty and femininity, and mixed messages can cause girl to lose their resilience. Here are 12 tips on how to raise a confident and caring little girl.

12. Assertiveness

Girls need to learn how to express themselves clearly and confidently. Teach your daughter to advocate for herself, to stand her ground and to let people know if she doesn’t like how they speak or behave. Remind her not to cower behind preconceived notions, or allow others to exclude her. Speaking up is her best defense against being pigeonholed or bullied. Show her how to respectfully let people know what she needs or how she feels.

11. Be active

Research shows that sporty girls are happy and well-rounded girls. Gone are the days when girls weren’t encouraged to be athletic. Help your daughter channel her inner athlete by letting her figure out what she enjoys and what she excels at. If she isn’t sure, let her try a range of activities, from skating to riding, dance to football. Whether on a team sport or as a solo competitor, your daughter will learn to be more confident on – and off – the playing field.

10. Discover her passions

When it comes to activities, present a range of options for your daughter. Some kids may have obvious interests, while others may need to be drawn out. Your child may not like what you like, but be the bridge to help her connect to the people who can help nurture her passions. Give her the chance to explore different ideas and encourage her to pursue what she likes. Allow her to flourish in the realms of her choice.

9. Help her feel unique

Girls’ self-esteem is so much more precarious than boys’, especially as they grow older. Encourage your daughter to explore her identity, separate from yours, and to become her own woman. Having her own sense of self will help see your daughter through those challenging teen years, and serve her well as an adult. Let her know you appreciate what she can do and what she enjoys. Help her to embrace her individuality, reminding her what your love about her is exactly who she is.

8. Allow imperfections

We’re all human. Letting your daughter make mistakes, and subsequently learn from them, is a great way to build up her confidence. So many girls are groomed to be “good”. Their fear of failure is so great that they refuse to try. Teach your daughter that mistakes are a part of life. Learning through doing, and through trial and error, will help kids gain confidence. Tell your daughter about your own screw-ups to ensure she knows she’s not alone!

7. Socialization

Kids start to socialize early on in childhood, especially girls. Teach your daughter how to handle conflict by validating her feelings. Help her to normalize anger and to express herself. Girls don’t need to be happy all the time, nor should they be expected to put other peoples’ feelings first. Encourage her to explain her feelings and to name her emotions from a young age. Brainstorm on the best way to deal with feelings without invalidating them.

6. Groups

Unlikely as it may sound, girls are more likely to be more independent and confident when they are part of a group. Working as part of a group towards a common goal can instill pride and promote teamwork. Sports teams, weekly classes, or programs such as Girl Scouts are centered around enhancing confidence and building life skills. Help your daughter find a group activity she enjoys to help her discover who she is as an individual.

5. Role models

Whether watching a movie, playing sports or reading a book, be sure to point out all the positive female role models. Strong female characters reinforce the notion that girls and women can do anything and be anyone. Take advantage of media or even your local library to find examples of strong women. Point our strong characters and values to inspire your daughter. Now more than ever, there is an abundance of them!

4. Don’t Assume

Don’t make assumptions based on gender or heritage. Some girls are sporty, others are musical. Some love math, some dig the arts. Don’t presume to know what your daughter likes, and remember that none of the activities or interests need to be mutually exclusive. The girl who loves fishing can still appreciate ballet. What you love may not translate to your daughter, so lay off the pressure for her to be just like you in her passions or interests. Follow your daughter’s cues to nurture her passions and build on her strengths.

3. Healthy body image

Girls receive mixed signals when it comes to beauty standards. Try your best to compliment actions as well as looks. Remind your daughter that what she may see in the media is not representative of real life, and that many images are photo-shopped or altered. Whether she seeks praise for her face, or body, remember to be specific and emphasize how she behaves, rather than just how she looks. Beauty comes from within, and physical beauty does fade, so be certain to stress the importance of her mind and her spirit.

2. Have faith

Having faith in your child and believing in her sets her down a path to self-confidence. Repeatedly tell your daughter that you trust her, and are proud of her, and she will believe it. Be specific and honest in positive ways. Praise her achievements and encourage her to try new things. Believe in her so she can believe in herself. Nothing builds confidence quite like a parent’s faith in their child.

1. Be a role model

Kids learn what they live. If you are uncomfortable in your skin, your daughter will be too. If you engage in negative or self-loathing behavior, so will she. Teach your daughter to love her own body by embracing the skin you’re in. Show her to empathetic by being compassionate. Moms and dads should model the behavior and teach the values they want to see in all of their children. Parents offer up the earliest and most crucial lessons in how to be resilient and confident. They are their children’s most important role models.