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Mom Talk: How I’m Raising a Confident Daughter

Written by Tara Filteau 

Photography by Photo Courtesy Of Tara Filteau

In today’s Mom Talk, one mother shares her experience of running for local office and what it taught her about being a role model for her oldest daughter. After the campaign, Tara Filteau ended up leaving her full-time job and starting a company dedicated to building the confidence of young girls. Tara is a mother of three, community advocate, entrepreneur, and founder of Mother Daughter Empower with her eight-year-old daughter Sophia. Read her story below! 

A year ago, I decided to enter the race and run in my local municipal election. I wanted to make a difference in my community, and although I didn’t win a seat in the council chambers, I gained more than I could have ever imagined in terms of my relationship with my daughter.

Despite the results, I received countless emails and messages from people who said that I had inspired them. I had made connections with people I would have otherwise never met, but most importantly, I had achieved something I hadn’t even set out to do: I taught my oldest daughter that it’s okay for her to put herself out there and advocate for what she believes in. Through my experience, my daughter learned to embrace her courage and welcome the thrill, changes, and potential risks that come from trying something new. This was a huge wake-up call for me. My daughter needed more of this—of me! But at only 8 years of age, did it even matter? As I discovered, the answer was a resounding “yes”!

As moms in 2019, we parent our children more than ever. Having read a mountain of parenting books, we are more knowledgeable than the previous generations. We buy our kids more stuff, we strap them to their car seats until they’re 12 years old, and we cut their sandwiches into heart-shaped patterns. But when it comes to girls, we falter. Why? Why is there so much anxiety surrounding the way girls behave, what they wear, who they hang out with, and what they watch on their devices? Deep down, we know the answer. The modern world barely resembles the one we grew up in. Today’s environment exposes our children to a multitude of issues and distractions we ourselves didn’t have to deal with.

So, my search began. I asked myself the following question: In what ways could I continue to influence my daughter in a positive way? How could I put her in touch with healthy role models and programs that would reinforce the valuable lessons she’d learned from me? My research led me to the usual, girl-power workshops, BFF bonding, overnight camps, and weekend programs. And while these programs were all inherently good, I couldn’t help but wonder what the mother’s role was in the process. And most importantly, at what point, if any, do these programs allow for mothers—whether biological or not—to take part in their daughters’ own growth and change? Why were moms missing out?

Further investigating revealed some hard facts. Between ages 8 and 14, girls’ confidence levels drop by 30%. So, what can we do to reach our girls before this critical period? How can we arm them with the proper tools and give them a better experience? What can we do as moms to prepare them for the teens years, long before they have to deal with societal norms, outside pressure, and raging hormones? The answer lies in teaching young girls that failure is acceptable, and that sometimes, success isn’t possible without risk.

Here is my simple formula: I looked back at my time on the campaign trail, and it hit me: I was showing my daughter the ropes by simply spending time with her. Every lesson she learned—how to be a leader, how to take responsibility, and how to care—was displayed through my actions and reactions. She was eager to follow me everywhere. My daughter was fascinated by every single task, whether it was knocking on people’s doors, delivering flyers, conducting info sessions or cleaning up beaches. She was curious and fascinated. She was my biggest fan! Mentorship through being present, is priceless. A young girl who has a strong female mentor in her life—someone who is willing to grow and learn with her—will inevitably become more empowered and understand that the possibilities are limitless.

The next ingredient in my formula is vision. We can show young girls who they can be and what they can accomplish by showing them concrete examples and modeling the right behavior. Reading, journaling, and real-life experiences can all contribute to a girl’s healthy self-esteem. If girls have a clear visual of what “can be”, this can break down barriers and set up new belief systems that will allow them to thrive.

The final step is resilience. To me, this means establishing strength for future challenges. How can moms teach this to their daughters? There is only one way we can learn to be resilient, and that is by taking risks and experiencing failure. Girls can even learn this valuable trait by watching their own mothers experience failure or go through challenges. Here, it is important that mothers show their daughters how they overcame and/or adapted to each struggle.

You may be thinking: Yikes, that sounds like a lot of work! Well, it is! But aren’t our children our greatest mirrors? Are they not also instruments for our own growth and change? To me, the alternative—sitting back and doing nothing—is worse. None of us want our precious daughters to become one of those heartbreaking news stories.

Because of societal norms and pressure, which dictate how a woman should look and act, our daughters’ face constant fear, scrutiny, and insecurity. The anxiety is real, and it is up to us to raise girls who are comfortable and confident in their own skin, and who are empowered and brave enough to face their fears and challenge social “norms” head-on to truly reach for their dreams.

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