Thursday, August 23, 2012
7 Lessons Your Daughter Needs You to Teach Her
My daughter came home from school one day and I did my usual. I just tried to make conversation with her and I absent-mindedly asked, "Who did you sit by at lunch?"
She replied, "Grace wanted to sit by me, but Julia and I didn't want her to."
As you can imagine, this really got my attention. I spent many years in high school and beyond dealing with girls excluding me for reasons I never understood and it never occurred to me that my daughter would be the one doing the excluding. Granted, she's only four, but that's no excuse.
The next day, she wanted to stay up past her bedtime. I said no. She kicked at me and said, "No!" in a very snotty voice. I realize that kids aren't going to be well-behaved all the time, but I have a very low tolerance for bratty behavior and I wanted to nip this in the bud before it became a habit.
This sent me on an interesting journey. Over the next several days and weeks, I interviewed my Mom, my Mom's friends, and my good friend and co-author, Susan Case. Susan is a former Kindergarten teacher and child expert. My goal was simple. To find out the answer to this question: What are the most important lessons I can teach my daughter so she doesn't grow up to be a back-talking, sassy teen-ager? My end-goal is to raise a daughter who is considerate of other people, fun to be around, and I want her to respect (and adore) me!
Here is what I found out, from some very wise mothers and grandmothers:
1. Your happiness doesn't depend on me buying things for you. The way to teach this lesson is simple: Don't buy them anything. This sounds drastic, but what it really means is don't buy them something from a store when they are with you, unless she knows going in that you are searching for something. Otherwise, they'll start thinking they get something every time you shop and pretty soon you've got a spoiled girl who begs and whines and pitches a fit when she doesn't get what she wants. Of course, if they need shoes or a necessity, this does not apply, but still make sure you do not just buy them everything in the store.
2. Looks aren't the most important thing. It's important to boost your daughter's self-esteem, but don't make every compliment about her looks. Don't put a mirror in her room. This goes double for a "vanity" that you can buy from the toy store. Sure, it's tempting. They look adorable sitting in front of the mirror brushing their hair, but what are you really teaching them?
3. Friends are important. If you ever see them being mean to anyone, or they tell you they don't like someone, explain why it's important to include everyone. Praise her when you see her being nice to one of her friends. Talk about your own friends often and explain why they are so important to you.
4. No one likes a bossy-pants or a tattle-tale. For this, it's important to lead by example. Don't be sassy and mean to your husband. Even if he's sitting in the couch scrolling through his iPad while you run around like a headless chicken making dinner, do not snap at him! If she hears you being snippy and mean, she will follow your example. She wants to be like her Mom. And don't encourage her to tell on other people. That won't help her in school at all! (Trust me, my Mom is a P.E. Teacher and this is one of her biggest pet peeves.
5. The world doesn't revolve around shopping. Try bonding through exploring a flower garden or a park. Or try to find a hobby that is outdoors and active, such as horseback-riding or bike-riding. The closer you are, the more likely your daughter will be open to discussing difficult times with you.
6. You catch more bees with honey than vinegar. Never let a snotty tone slide. This doesn't mean you have to yell at them every time they're rude, but if they demand something in a snippy way, always correct them by saying something like, "Now, you don't need to talk in that mean tone. Let's try again in a nice voice." Eventually these gentle reminders will sink it, and sometimes a firmer reminder might be warranted.
7. It's good to help people. Open the door for the elderly lady at the grocery store and then talk afterward about how it's nice to help people. Do nice things for your husband and/or friends and make sure your daughter knows about it. Have her help you pick out toys to give the needy at Christmastime. It doesn't matter what it is, but show them how fun it is to give back to the people who need it.
After I gathered all this advice from all the wise Moms I know, the kids were playing outside a few weeks later and I saw a neighborhood girl approach my daughter and her little friend. The third girl asked if she could play too. I stood back and held my breath to see whether all my hard work had paid off.
My daughter said, "Sure! We're playing school. You can be a student!"
I breathed a sigh of relief. No one is perfect all the time, and I'm certain that the battle is not over. I will have to reinforce this behavior on a daily basis, but for now, I am happy to see my daughter including others. There is hope for her yet.
If you enjoyed this post, you will love our book! I teamed up with former Kindergarten Teacher Susan Case to release The Happy Mommy Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide on Keeping Your Toddlers and Preschoolers Busy, Out of Trouble, and Motivated to Learn in July, 2012. If you have ever tried to cook dinner while your kid clings to your leg and cries, this is the book for you!
Kids behave better when they are given challenging projects to work on, which will in turn give you more free time to do the things you really need to do, like washing dishes, paying bills, and relaxing so that you can be a better Mom! You can hear us talk about this theory in this interview about the book: