Though I’m not claiming to be an expert in child development, I think having and raising 6 children (3 of which are grown, successful women) puts me in the ball park to at least give a little advice. Raising 5 girls has been a life-changing experience for me. I’ve seen my strengths and, of course, my weaknesses as they’ve impacted my girls. Over the years I’ve realized there are certain things that girls need to know in order to be strong, happy women. Here are my top 5 lessons to teach your daughter (preferably before she gets to college).
1. To think for herself: One of the most imperative things every girl needs to learn is to believe that her thoughts and choices are valid and have power. Not saying she will always make the right choices based on those thoughts, but she will have more power to become independent and happy with who she is as a woman. That said, she also needs to learn when to seek the thoughts and advice of another. Doing so teaches her problem solving skills and enables her to still make choices based on the end product she derived from all resources. The more she does this, the more she will trust her opinions and thoughts in the future.
2. To not make decisions while emotionally compromised: Children can be impulsive, hell, grown women can be impulsive. This sudden need to DO something based on feelings begins early in life and stays unless a boundary is set. The ability to calm down and think through a situation is definitely learned. Self control for the woman is so necessary for stability in career, relationships, and health…all areas of life really. The best way to teach this is to model it. Can’t say I’ve always done that. My mom showed me introspection, but she also had a different personality type than me. That’s why I’m telling you all now. Consider your daughter’s personality and yours to further understand how to proceed. High energy, action oriented girls will be tougher to teach this concept to than ones who are more melancholy and passive.
3. To consider small victories valid and exceptional: If we only praise our daughters when they get “A”s or hit home runs, then we are doing them a great disservice. Large event praise causes unhealthy drive to succeed at everything, to always be the best, no matter what it costs. They love hearing how great they are when they are successful. Don’t you? What if we made a big deal out of finishing her homework, not just when she gets an A? Or when she gets to first base, not just when she hits a home run? Girls need to know the “small” things they do daily are as noteworthy as the big events that get attention.
4. To know her body: Teaching your daughter to understand and know her body is one of the most precious gifts you can give her. She needs to be aware of changes when they occur and know what is normal and what is not. In other words, don’t wait to tell your daughter about her period and sex when she is a teenager. Tell her about all the stuff that’s embarrassing. Talk about what she can expect at different stages of development. Talk about breast cancer and the importance of self-checks. Be open about your state of health and things that have bothered you.
5. To never lose her childlike heart: This is something that I was never taught. I lost it early in life and it took me years to realize it was missing. If you ever catch yourself saying, “grow up,” or “I wish you would act more like your older sister,” bite your tongue! There is a difference between acting childish and acting from a childlike heart. Know the difference. Show her it’s OK to be silly, to dance, to sing, to play in the puddles, to see wonder in the little things. Again, modeling this is the best way to teach it. If she never sees you (as an adult female) letting go and playing, she will believe that she won’t be able to when she grows up, thus the childlike heart gets lost.
I recently asked this on the Facebook page, but what was the most significant lesson you learned from your mother or primary female caregiver?