I have a 9-year old daughter. We feel that she lacks self-confidence and courage. She always denies doing anything wrong. Her behavior with her 6-year-ol brother is very tough and unfriendly. Despite all of that, she is doing excellent at school, which means she does not lack comprehension or thinking skills. What might be the reason(s) for that? How can we help her get rid of these bad attitudes, knowing that we might continue living in our country of residence for a while? We are afraid this might lead her to develop other bad qualities.
As-salamu `Alaikum dear brother,
It is difficult to say what the underlying reasons for your daughter’s behavior might be without a complete family history. However, there are several strategies you might try to correct the behavior.
First, you and your wife should make an extra effort to “catch” your daughter behaving in a way that reflects the self-confidence and courage that you feel she lacks. For example, if she happens to be truthful when confronted, make sure you notice this exception and make a big deal of it by praising her, telling her how much Allah (swt) will reward her, and telling her that if she can do this again for x number of times, then she can earn a reward from you.
Decide together on a reward that she will appreciate and that you feel is appropriate. At first, it may seem that she never tells the truth, but if you look hard enough, you will find exceptions, even if they are small. As you give these exceptions a great deal of attention, insha`Allah, you will find the exceptions becoming the norm slowly over time.
Second, sometimes older siblings feel a normal “jealousy” after being displaced by a younger child. It can be helpful to make sure she gets special time alone with you and/or your wife on a regular basis. It does not have to be a long period of time, even 15 minutes a day can be enough. The important point is that she should know that this is her special time with mom or dad.
Of course, the younger sibling will also benefit from a similar arrangement. If one child wakes up earlier or goes to bed a little later, this can be an easy way to spend that quality time enjoying an activity together (reading, playing, or just being).
Third, find some activities to involve her in that will make her feel competent and successful. Many children enjoy sports (gymnastics, swimming, soccer) or art. Girl scouts are also a good opportunity. Group activities with peers can be a positive experience and help build self-esteem.
In sha`allah, these suggestions will be helpful. Change takes time, and you will need some patience to notice positive changes. May Allah reward you for your efforts and protect your children from all harm.