Editorial Note: As part of Haute Hijab Academy, we are running a series on “building confidence” at various stages of our lives, talking about what deters us or takes away our confidence, why being confident is an important life tool and how to nurture confidence within ourselves and the women in our lives.
It all begins when we are little girls. Some of us are born with innate confidence. Some of us, not so much. And so, how our parents support us, parent us and encourage us to be confident in these early years of our lives is very important.
So, when it comes to young girls – the daughters, nieces and little ones we interact with in our daily lives – how do we support their confidence and help them build it? How do we put measures in place to help them safeguard their worth as young girls and be confident in their beginning interactions with their family, friends and communities?
I spoke with Noor Suleiman, our HH Marketing Manager, and Mona Mostafa, our HH Influencer and Social Media Manager, about how they are nurturing confidence in their young daughters. Noor is mom to two kids, the younger of whom (who will be referred to as LK) is nearly five, and Mona is mom to one daughter, age three (who will be referred to as Lu), and is about to have her second baby (also a daughter, Masha’Allah!)!
One thing they both are keeping an eye out for? People who try to dim their daughters’ God-given light.
Some young girls are innately confident. Some are not. Do you think your girls were born confident?
Noor: LK [was born] with her confidence and her independence, Masha’Allah. My job is to help her foster it, maintain it and not kill it. It makes me go back to the nature vs nurture conversation, and LK proved to me that a lot of things were nature, not nurture. She was independent as a baby. I feel like it was a part of her, and I’m grateful for that. I’ve seen with other kids that it’s really hard to build confidence if they’re not born with it. And if they’re born with it, it’s hard to keep the world from tearing their confidence down.
Each comes with its own challenges. With LK, [confidence] came with her, and it’s great. But I have to really watch out in my parenting so that it doesn’t [negatively] impact her confidence.
For example, one of the things I've been reading a lot about is complimenting the child’s effort, and not the final result. This way she’s not attaching her love and worth to the final result of anything, but rather to her effort of what she put into whatever she made. I’m a people pleaser, and I know what that’s like, and I really don’t want it for her. I don’t want her to gain her happiness from a person being happy with her result. Results matter, but what matters more is the effort we put into the work we do.
Noor's daughter, LK, holding her hand.
Mona: I’m now seeing a lot of confidence and independence in Lu. She wants to do things on her own. I’m trying to really lean into it because of the baby on the way. I want her to believe in herself, that she CAN do it and doesn’t necessarily have to rely on us for everything.
When she does something, I try to praise her for it so she knows it’s a good thing, so she knows she is capable of doing things by herself. Especially since she started school, we were told that she is the class helper and the line leader, which was a pleasant surprise! Sometimes she gets overwhelmed in busier settings, so I was surprised (and proud) that she stepped up. She loves to tell everyone what the rules are, and I’m ok with that for now. 🙂
How would you define or describe confidence?
Mona: Believing in yourself. Knowing you can do it, trusting that you can do something.
Noor: Being comfortable with yourself as you are, so you’re not feeling like “lesser than.” No, I am. What you have to offer and what you have to say [is important], and you should stand firmly in it. But, not in an arrogant way.
What do you think are some of the deterrents to stripping a young girl’s confidence in her first decade of life?
Mona: The way other kids may respond to her as a person. I worry that sometimes Lu is really friendly at the playground and wants to talk to the older kids, and they don’t want to talk to her and walk away. And I worry that will make her go into a shell. You want to make sure the kids around her are also instilling confidence in her and not dimming the confidence. That way when she’s older, and if some kids don’t want to be around her, she will recognize that it’s not her, it’s a “them” problem.
Mona snuggling her daughter, Lu, in the wintertime.
Noor: I think over complimenting children’s physical attributes and over correcting children can hurt their confidence. Like give them a chance to figure it out. There is nothing that builds confidence by figuring out something for themselves – that “I did it “ feeling. For example, when your kids are trying to voice their opinion, forget about how they said it, because they’re learning how to say things. We all should have some more understanding and empathy with children.
We also do too much for our kids. We should be putting them into positions of leadership – like, “I’m going to go turn off the stove, please watch your sister.” And then coming back and telling them, “You did such a good job!” Too often we just say, “No, I’ll do that for you.”
LK often makes our salads. I bought her a knife set that is plastic and cuts but doesn't hurt her, and now when I cook, she makes salad next to me. It’s great. Putting them in positions where they thrive – that’s so important so they have moments of success in their efforts.
Mona: You also have to be mindful in how you react to their mistakes, because that can chip away at their confidence. I have to catch myself constantly, like if Lu spilled something on the floor that she shouldn’t have had in her hands in the first place. Instead of instantly yelling, I try to explain why I’m upset, why something was wrong.
Telling your kids something was wrong and not explaining why doesn’t help them. Lu is like a sponge, and if she understands why she shouldn’t have done something, chances are better that she won’t do it again.
Noor: One thing I started doing is saying, “I’m mad at you, but I still love you.” I think that makes a difference with some kids.
Noor's daughter on the swings.
Mona: Lu is very sensitive to other’s feelings. [If she has done something she shouldn’t do] she will say, “Mommy doesn't love me.” I’ll say, “No, mommy loves you, but this isn’t right because …” it’s dangerous or it can hurt you or whatever. I’m not perfect; I don’t always react how I should, but it’s something I’m trying to do.
On that note, you both are moms to young daughters, and being patient can be hard at times. What things do you prioritize to help your daughters be confident?
Noor: Listening and validating their point of view – this is so important. I used to think it was just to calm them down when they were upset, but truly it makes a difference in their confidence.
Mona: Also, letting them know that they’re allowed to feel ALL the feelings, that’s important for confidence building. I want Lu to know it’s ok to be sad, and it’s ok to talk through [sadness]. I want her to know she can express herself to me so that she can feel better about herself and move on.
Noor: Being able to control your own self is definitely confidence-building.
As your daughters continue to grow, what worries you in terms of their confidence diminishing?
Noor: I want her to be able to say no to me, voice her opinion, but ultimately I have to guide what's happening. It’s very situational. I’m trying – it’s SO HARD when you have a little girl and she’s so cute – not to overdo the complimenting of her physical appearance. I don’t want her confidence to be attached to how she looks, her hair, her dresses. Especially if she chooses to wear hijab, I want her confidence to be tied to her efforts, to her values, to how she treats people.
Mona and her daughter, Lu.
Also, and this is a big one for me, I worry about peers and educational systems. You only have your child for a certain amount of time, and then they’re at school. I don’t want anyone to dim their light. I don’t want anyone to kill their spirit, and I know I can’t control it.
My biggest wish is for them to be able to recognize the light dimmers who come into their life.
Mona: Yes, one thousand percent. I can say I fell for a few light dimmers growing up, and you realize it more when you get older. Obviously this is something you have to experience to learn from it and recognize it. And obviously we don’t want our kids to experience it. But we need to hope that our kids come and tell us about it, and they will learn to recognize who is trying to dim their light.
There’s continues to be this perpetuating stereotype of a Muslim woman hanging in the background, deferring to the men in her life. But at HH, we are a team of confident Muslim women. What do you want to teach your daughters about faith and confidence?
Noor: God created you as you are; He made no mistakes. He didn’t make you inferior. It's important to understand that. For example, when you get your period, you’re not being punished and you’re not lesser than. Allah (S) created you perfect. There's a lot of self hatred that diminishes our confidence in our communities. A lot of that stems from culture, not religion.
God created you perfectly. And He loves you completely. Focus on yourself and worship Him – and that’s where your confidence needs to come from.
Noor's daughter, LK, smelling flowers.
Mona: We need to teach our kids not to give into these societal ideas. If you look back to the Prophet Muhammad (saw), Khadija (ra) was a very independent woman. She had her own business. She was doing her own thing. She asked for the Prophet’s hand in marriage. Boss. Lady. That wouldn’t have been the case if women were somehow considered lesser than. That’s not what our faith teaches us. Our Prophet (saw) said before he passed, take care of women, take care of women, take care of women.
It’s so important to recognize that none of us would be here without women. Women literally carry communities. Without us, the world would be slacking. Alhamdullilah, in my family I’m surrounded by a lot of strong female cousins and the example of my fierce mom. You know what that taught me?
Be that example of a strong Muslim woman for your daughter.
If you have a young daughter or a young niece or family friend you are close with, how are you helping them to build confidence, especially ahead of the new school year? Share with us in the comments below!