Remember that upsetting moment in your twenties, when you realized that everything does come down to Mom, Dad and Me? If you do, try not to forget it again, since it is a revelation that will someday soon come to your children as well. Being a parent, they say, is giving our kids two things – roots and wings. Keeping a balance between those is what makes the task so unbelievably hard. Misconceptions and unreasonable beliefs we endow our children with are rusty tools, and as all that’s covertly damaging, they tend to stay. It’s an inheritance they will pass on to their children, creating a vicious circle that never ends. If your little girl is off to womanhood, be cautious but determined, gentle but steady-handed, and never stop learning how to be better. In fact, start right away, and find out what never to say to your lady to be.
1. You’re a little young for that
“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.” – Golda Meir
Young girls never lack responsibility. It’s not a gender myth that they are more meditative and ruminative then boys. Every child dreams and fantasises, but girls actually plan their future from a very early age. If you ask a kid what it would like to be when they grow up, a boy will tell you “an astronaut” or “a magician”, but a girl’s answer will be different. Their aspirations towards becoming teachers, nurses and actresses (which are usually the answers), show not a shortage of imagination and ambition, but exactly the opposite – their instinct to be solid and level-headed. With that being sad, be mindful of the fact that most girls do get the wedding of their young dreams, marry a man that resembles their childhood prince and achieve professional success in a field within reach of their goals. Therefore, if your girl decides to confide her hopes and desires to you, never underestimate their potency. Instead of telling her not to rush, help her embark on her journey. Support her determination and nurture it. Doing anything less would break her confidence and make her unsure of her own judgement. As an alternative, tell her this: “You can achieve whatever you want if you work hard, consider obstacles and learn how to overcome them.”
2. Lower your expectations
“I hope the fathers and mothers of little girls will look at them and say Yes, women can.” – Dilma Rousseff
In the spirit of that, you should learn to recognize your girl’s potential early on, and never mistake greatness of talent for childish delusions. If by any chance, your sassy little lady comes forth with a wish of becoming something very specific and unusual for a child, like a painter, a horse rider or a psychologist, that only means that her interests are multifarious and her enthusiasm exceptional. Instead of advising her to lower her expectations and stick to being a child, enable her to explore her flair. Help her learn more about her wishes and find out for herself is she’s apt for realizing them. To cut her wings from the beginning would teach her to stay satisfied with what she already has, and never to reach for more. If a girl is not allowed to get to know her potentials and perceive a strength to outdo them, she will never reach fulfilment and self-realization. Let her find inspiration in powerful women, and support her to be ahead of her time. When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another, would be Helen Keller’s first lesson.
3. That’s a job for a man
“I may be wearing makeup, but I can throw a fastball by you at the same time.” – Jennie Finch
The most common barrier on the young girls’ road to professional and intimate development is simultaneously the biggest and most harmful gender misconception – there are jobs for men and jobs for women, and the line between them should not be crossed. Unfortunately, sexism is not yet surpassed, and is to be detected in fathers and mothers both. As a social illness, sexual discrimination has let its roots far and deep, and your efforts to rip them out will never be completely successful. The least you can do is teach your girl not to stumble upon them. Naturally, you will have to set an example and preach gender equality in your kitchen and garage both. For a father, that means introducing a girl to power tools, sports and stick driving. For a mother it means not keeping a girl over a sink and a washing machine. The more she learns about both worlds, the more she will be equipped for independence. With words as simple as Nobody can tell you what you’re suited for and for what you’re not, you’re preparing her to deal with this problem outside of the nest.
4. You’re wasting your time
“Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputations… can never effect a reform.” – Susan B. Anthony
Another frequent mistake we’re making as parents is not giving a chance to our children to waste time. What is meant by that is trying different things in life, even when we already know that they will be fruitless. A little angel or a high-strung teenager, your girl will most certainly come in the phase of her young life when she would want to take a year off to backpack through Europe, learn how to play bass guitar or try earning some extra money for herself by waitressing in a cafe. Even if her idea doesn’t look like a productive way of preparing for future adulthood, it’s an inevitable part of her road to maturation. To her gentle heart, You’re wasting your time means Do whatever you want, but I’m looking forward to saying “I’ve told you so”. Unfortunately for parents, young people are so busy growing up that they don’t have much time to think about what we actually meant to say. Therefore, try telling her this: If you’re certain that you’ve thought things through, have a go, and we will examine the process and figure out the next step together.
5. I’ll do that for you
“I’m not afraid of storms, for I’m learning how to sail my ship.” – Louisa May Alcott
When our kids are still so young that we can smell that sweet baby odour on them, we tend to be a little too overprotective. That burning desire to keep them as safe and unburdened as possible usually doesn’t lessen even when they grow up. However irresistible it may be to parents to solve all of their children’s problems for them, on the long road, it may do more harm than good. Now, telling your growing-up girl not to worry, and finishing her house chores or doing other difficult tasks instead of her will not raise many arguments. She would hardly complain at all, at least until she’s old enough to acknowledge all of the consequences of such pedagogical measures. Before that time comes, I’ll do that will make her highly dependent, given that she won’t be able to obtain many skills and practical knowledge for herself. On the verge of her self-reliance, she will feel lost, confused and incompetent for her fully-grown existence. So, be smart and think likely instead of allowing your instincts to take over. For that, Try for yourself, and I’ll help you if you can’t do it is entirely appropriate.
6. That’s not very ladylike of you
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.” – Charlotte Bronte
Having a girl is the most delightful experience a parent can have. Delightful, because of all of the ribbons, stuffed unicorns and doll dresses laying around the house – or at least that’s what parents expect. Gender differences are beautiful and exciting revelations every kid will discover on its journey through adolescence, but sometimes they are imposed and, therefore, exhausting. Painting your baby girl’s room all pink is one thing, but expecting her to fit into your image of a perfect little lady is another. Often, parents are prone to following gender codes and general beliefs created by society and leave little space for a child to develop its own gender identity. For that reason, what you may think is ladylike, your girl can experience as unnecessary preconception. If she likes wearing baggy clothes and enjoys punk, there’s no rule against it. Instead of forcing her to be something publicly considered as feminine, support her to be nothing more than herself. Her unusual choices have nothing to do with her intellect and humanness, and ultimately, that’s all that matters.
7. Don’t worry your pretty little head
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Adolescence is the most terrifying ride for both parents and the child. By experiencing the world of womanhood for the first time, and drinking her first cup of intolerance and injustice right after her first shot of tequila, a young girl can be utterly startled with what she feels. Puberty is confusing and messy, and constant mood swings and anxiousness are the least a parent can expect. That being the case, Don’t worry so much is the most potentially troublesome, triggering line a pubescent girl can hear. It creates the widest gap between a parent and a child, and is, for that reason, always followed with You don’t understand me. So try to! And if you can’t, at least let her know that you’re doing your best. In this blossoming age, a girl needs her safety-net the most, so be sure that she knows that she can find one in you. Otherwise, slamming the door will be just the beginning of ongoing misunderstanding between two sides. By telling her I understand, you’re showing her that you respect her emotions, and are willing to listen and give advice and help whenever she needs it.
8. Look up to her!
“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else.” – Judy Garland
While she is little, there’s barely a thing more exciting for a girl then trying to look like her older sister, cousin or a family friend. Even her mom’s closet seems like a world of infinite potentials. But those things change once your daughter starts acquiring her own identity. Being a teenager is an exhausting quest for uniqueness. For a young woman anxious to discover her place under the sun, any sort of comparison to another girl is a source of frustration. Imagine being in a state when you don’t fully grasp who you actually are and who you’re supposed to be, while someone persistently trying to compare you to a different person. Nerve-racking, isn’t it? By pushing her to look, behave or simply be like someone else, you’re tearing down what’s already a shaken image of her individuality. Therefore, whenever you think of establishing a good role-model for your little girl, start from yourself. As an alternative to Look up to her, say nothing at all, and actually give her an example to regard on a daily basis.
9. Try not to eat so much
“My smile is my favorite part of my body. I think a smile can make your whole body.” – Serena Williams
Talking of puberty, another thing a parent should never neglect is a girl’s growing sense of her body. Adolescence is a phase of familiarisation with a physical being, and for a girl, that means constant struggle with images imposed by popular culture. It’s a time of insecurities, self-doubt and lack of confidence. The last thing a woman to be needs is for her closest to meddle. Therefore, approach her body issues with the greatest caution and thoughtfulness. Never tempt her to eat more if you notice she’s on a diet, but take interest in the matter and advise her to talk to a nutritionist and eat healthier food. Such advice is proper in opposite case as well. If you notice she’s been neglecting her body and putting on weight, be subtle about it. Instead of Don’t eat that junk, get informed on other choices of nutrition, and gradually implement them in your family routine. Also, inspire her to exercise more, and do that by setting an example yourself.
10. You’re too good for him
“A woman has got to love a bad man once or twice in her life, to be thankful for a good one.” – Marjorie Kinnan
This tender age can be a bit more difficult for girls than it is for boys in one way. Rejections and heartbreaks are severe for both, but they can leave some serious, long-lasting marks on a girl’s heart. Besides that, it’s somewhat harder for a girl to introduce her chosen one to a family. Parents are usually more protective over girls once they start exploring their sexuality, and their love choices are traditionally unfitting to parent’s anticipations. Even if you notice how mismatched your girl and her sweetheart are, never voice your opinion directly. Instead of You’re too good for him or You’re not a good pair, show interest in him, and motivate your daughter to confess to you whenever she has a problem of intimate nature. If it does occur, encourage her to understand where it comes from. As an alternative for categorically rejecting her beloved, try explaining that every individual is unique, and sometimes differences between the two can’t be surpassed. Be absolutely careful that your attitude towards your girl’s boyfriend isn’t formed with prejudice about his social status, family or appearance.
“The way we talk to our children becomes their inner voice.” – Peggy O’Mara
However lovely it may seem, raising a daughter is an emotional roller-coaster. Girls pay attention to what you say and, mind you, how you say it. Regardless of how tired and frustrated you are, remember to take a deep breath and count to ten before making a statement she won’t forget. Words are a powerful tool, and the right choice of them will foster a girl with a mind, a woman with an attitude, and a lady with class.
Featured photo credit: Girl playing with a rabbit via bhmpics.com