Negotiating for anything—whether it’s an ice cream cone or a job promotion—requires an inherent sense of valuing oneself. In order to ask for what you want, you have to believe you deserve it. Self worth is a building block towards net worth later in life. And unfortunately, kids—especially girls—struggle with self-worth and self-confidence.
According to one 2017 study by the Dove Self Esteem Project, girls with low self-esteem opt out of activities they love, avoid social situations, and fail to be assertive. This trend continues into adulthood, where women with low self-esteem don’t apply for jobs or promotions they fear they’re not qualified for; a famous Hewlett Packard report showed that men apply for jobs when they meet only 60% of the listed qualifications, while women won’t apply unless they are 100% qualified.
In order to prepare your little girl to walk into a salary negotiation, car dealership, or any other situation where advocating for herself will either save or earn her money, you must first foster in her a healthy sense of self-worth, starting from a young age. Before focusing on practical tips for teaching negotiation skills as part of a well-rounded financial education, we need to raise kids to believe in their own deservingness of success, and ultimately, wealth. Here are some ideas for raising girls that value themselves:
Give her the autonomy to prioritize her needs. This means both during and outside of negotiating—though always with compassion. Nobody is going to prioritize her needs for her. Encourage her to say what she wants, whether that’s to stay up late to finish a movie, or play before starting homework, then search for a reasonable compromise or response with her perspective in mind.
Listen to her about her goals and the challenges she’s facing. Treat what she says, asks for, or tries to do as worthwhile, and she’ll start to as well. Give her your full attention while she’s talking so that she gets into the habit of being listened to and taken seriously.
Celebrate risk-taking itself. Negotiating requires going out on a limb, which is scary—so it’s important to teach her that it’s always worth asking for what she wants and putting herself out there, no matter the outcome. Let her struggle when she takes risks or tries something hard, to help her build confidence in her ability to overcome obstacles and handle tricky situations.
Teach “healthy bragging.” Reinforce the positive impact of successes (confidence!) by encouraging her to be proud of her accomplishments. In negotiations later in life, she’ll probably need to point out her own successes to prove herself, so practicing this is essential.
Compliment her on traits besides her looks. Being “pretty” is a compliment little girls get frequently, but it plays into our culture’s gendered values. Is she patient? Ambitious? Kind? Articulate? A quick learner? Point out her strengths so she can have a sense of self worth outside of her physical appearance, beyond society’s stereotypes.
Self-worth allows kids—especially girls—to start developing the skills they need for healthy, successful professional and financial lives. Next week we’ll be covering tangible strategies for teaching negotiation skills to kids, so stay tuned.