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Things I Want to Teach My Daughters; Lessons for My Little Girls
What I Think My Daughters Should Learn From Their Mother
I am the mom of three girls. Current ages are 6 years old, almost 5 years old, and 2 1/2 years old. I also am mom to a son, age 6. That makes 4 kids for my husband and me. No doubt, there are invaluable lessons that I should be teaching all my kids. I have goals. But as a woman, I have very specific things I want to teach and pass on to my daughters. Some are simple, like passing on my love for colors and art. Craft times, visits to museums, and participation in painting projects around the house can help develop these. But some things I want my girls to learn are hard lessons and may even be some I'm still working on as an adult. Like how to tell someone "no" even when it's hard and how to stand firm on the answer I/we give, unwavering even amidst pressure or guilt induced by another. And how to figure out priorities, built around passions and talents and ideas and people who align with our values.
Some may think that trying to instill life lessons in young daughters or even toddler aged girls is too young. Not me. I strongly believe that the more I model and strategically discuss certain topics with my children, the better equipped my girls will be when faced with the circumstances that will most surely come their way. Most agree that kids are growing up faster than ever. My intentionality as a parent will hopefully bring encouragement and hope to my girls as they face a changing, fast paced world. A complex one, even for young girls.
Lesson One: Choosing the Right Friends
Friendships are important. Who you choose to be friends with makes a difference.
Sound cliche? Sound like a "duh" topic? My guess is that the topic of friendships is rarely addressed with kids until it is at the point of, "Why do you hang out with him/her?" or "I don't want you hanging out with him or her anymore". These conversations probably hit every household in every culture by at least 6th grade. And most of the time, these conversations are done in the midst of conflict or the aftermath of some unfortunate event (bullying, abuse, negative peer pressure, etc.).
My husband and I want our girls to have positive relationships. To accomplish this, they are going to have to learn some lessons. While not all negative relationships can be avoided, there are often warning signs of bad relationships. Let me list some of those: negative language, verbal put downs, exclusivity (i.e. you can't hang out with anyone but me), controlling behaviors.
How can I start the process of teaching my little girls about relationships now?
Model good relationships. I will choose to be around friends that are respectful and responsible people. I will be in relationships with other women who are encouraging and are in support of my husband and my children. I will talk to my friends in ways that build them up. I will allow my daughters the opportunity to be around my friends and me while we are having fun.
I will not be friends with people who compromise values my husband and I hold dear. I will not engage in verbal fights or put downs with friends or my husband in front of my children. I will recognize that conflict is unavoidable, but be careful in how I treat others in the midst of the conflict.
I will talk to my girls about friends and ask questions like, "Do you think that Hannah is someone that is nice and kind to you?" and "How are you and your friend Sara alike and how are you different?" and "When you and Lilly disagree, how do you talk about it?"
If I notice a friend or neighbor affecting my child negatively, I will talk to my daughter(s) about the situation later. I will role play ways to deal with the situation.
I will not force friendships on my daughters, but I will be open and honest in talking through the choices of the people they hang out with.
When my daughters are older, I know that their relationships will be more complex in nature. I'm hoping the conversations I have with them now will keep the lines open between us when the bigger issues hit: like boyfriends and who to hang out with when I'm not around. Nothing I can do now can insure that negative relationships won't be experienced, but hopefully the dialogue between mother and daughter can stay close enough that I have the freedom to speak truth into their lives when the time comes.
Lesson Two: Telling People "No" and Sticking to it
Telling people "No".
As a people pleaser myself, I still battle this. I say "yes" too quickly sometimes. Sometimes my yes goes against what is best for my family or myself. I want to love people authentically and deeply and of course this is going to require sacrifice on my part. I'm not talking about the normal give and take of relationships. I'm talking about saying "Yes" when I know I need to say "No".
How can I start teaching this lesson to my daughters now?
I will model saying "No" when I know it is the answer I need to give. I will give explanation of my answer if it is appropriate, but also understand that "No" is a complete sentence and can be my entire answer. Sometimes the more I talk aloud about something, the harder it is for me to say "No", so I am practicing saying "No" and moving on. I am a person capable of making decisions for myself and I should be able to confidently make a choice and stick to it.
I will talk through decisions my children make (when guidance is appropriate) and help them learn to process the consequences of saying "Yes" vs. saying "No". I will encourage them to think through a decision, make their choice, and then stick to their answer.
My girls may be young, but they make decisions all the time.... what to wear, who to play with at preschool, whether to talk mean to someone or treat them kindly, how to respond when they are disappointed, etc. I hope they learn to be confident in their choices and not waver when struck with pressure.
Later down the road, they are going to have to learn to say no to all sorts of things. They are going to have to provide boundaries for physical relationships with boys. They are going to have to pass up some opportunities in order for others to take shape. They are going to have to communicate in relationships in honest ways and this means they are going to have to say "no". Teaching my girls to say no with confidence now will hopefully provide a backdrop for saying no later in life.
Lesson Three: Asking For Help
Ask for help when you need it.
We all want to believe we can handle it all on our own. Is it pride? Is it that everyone else seems to have it all together?
Everyday this week, my three year old has tried to take her boots off of her feet while standing up. Everyday it doesn't work (of course). And everyday she is frustrated. Instead of just telling her what to do or fixing the problem for her, I have been saying, "Eliza, do you need help? It sounds like you are having trouble." She then usually stops screaming, crying, throwing things, etc. and asks for help. With a little help from me and a different perspective on the problem, her woes are reduced to miniscule issues. Her boots are off and her day continues. Without help, she could literally be stuck in the same spot for hours.
How often as an adult do I get stuck for periods of time, when help is readily available but I just don't ask for it. Can I really juggle all of my responsibilities and relationships by myself? Sometimes, yes. Other times, no. Yet, I try to do it all anyway only to be met with frustration, disappointment, and the feelings of failure.
Amazing what asking for help can accomplish. Asking for help reduces stress, offers a fresh insight on the problem, allows me to practice humility, and often teaches me something that I can use in the future. What benefits are to be held by those who ask for help!
Lesson Four: Be Teachable
Friendships, workplace, marriage (especially marriage), and parenting are all areas where it is especially important to be teachable. Prideful behaviors in any or all of these faucets of life can be destroyers. We all have something to learn. All of us.
I will choose to admit to mistakes I've made. I will be honest about areas of weakness and be proactive about learning new skills to improve. I will recognize that my way isn't always the best or only way to do something. I will let others have the chance to lead, even when I know I am capable of leading instead. I will listen. I will observe. I will put others first.
How You Can Help Me Be a Better Mom
Here's your part:
I am open to your feedback.
What do you plan to teach your daughters?
How are you taking steps now to help them become the women you want them to be in the future?