Why I’m Not Raising A Good Girl

How to instill the most important character traits for kids and raise great adults because this parenting topic answers what do I need to know about my tween.

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My daughter cut her finger on a “shatterproof” water bottle at school. I got the call late mid-afternoon. There’s something about the school’s phone number popping up onto my screen that makes me move and talk and be just a little bit faster, a little more hurried, a little less me. She had eaten lunch in the nurses’s office, her bandage had bled through three times, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to go home or stay at school. I decided to take her into the doctor to make sure her finger was okay and it was there that she blew me away with her assertion.

We fell in love with our pediatrician when my oldest, as a baby, had to go in for an appointment on Halloween, and our doctor was dressed up as a cat. She’s warm and knowledgable and we all love talking to her. So when she moved clinics, we followed her. And when, recently, she announced that she’s moving clinics again, we planned on following her one more time. But when I got the phone call about the (shatterproof) water bottle and the (hurt) finger, I hadn’t yet figured out exactly where our doctor would be, and that’s how we ended up at our old clinic which is close to home, could get her in for an appointment right away, and that I hadn’t been to since my girl was really (really) little.

We walked into the instantly familiar office. A mobile hung above the exam table, magazines were fanned on the desk. I remember reading books to her in the chair, coloring on the exam paper, wincing at her shots. All of these baby-toddler-preschooler memories flooded me as she sat on the table on her own looking big and small all at once. I realized the number of appointments I’d get to be in the exam room with her were limited.

When the new-to-us doctor came in, she shook my hand, then turned straight to my girl. The way the room was set up and I was sitting and she was standing, her back was to me. The conversation was their’s.

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I listened (eavesdropped?), ready to step in as needed. “I think you’re fine,” the doctor said, patting Kayli’s arm. “There’s not much of a cut there at all.” One heartbeat later, Kayli spoke up, showing her where the cut was, how deep it went, how much it had bled. The appointment continued just like that with Kayli asking about wrapping her finger, whether or not she could play volleyball with it, what she could take or do if it hurt. I didn’t say a word.

I’m not 100% sure how much time has passed since I began to choose focusing as much on my own kids’ needs as I did others’ convenience — clerks in a hurry, friends still figuring things out, teachers with a lot of homework to assign, doctors with limited time and (possible) assumptions — but I’ll admit that it hasn’t been all that long.

Somewhere along my parenting line I realized that I can’t always place possibly holding up the burrito line over giving my kids a chance to learn how to order; or how someone else feels about a young friendship not going well over what my own kids can learn about themselves, their hearts, and how to treat others’ hearts; or disappointing others over my kids’ ability to know their limits and to speak up for them.

In the midst of young motherhood I believed that having well behaved kids, ones who didn’t make waves, meant that I was being a good mom. And while I think that polite words and gentle hearts make the world go round, what changes the world, what also matters, is confidence, assertiveness, and the belief that you matter enough to take up space, to make a difference. These traits aren’t inconveniences, they’re gifts. Kindness and assertiveness can go hand in hand.

It was my daughter’s teacher who gave me nine of those words. She said them at what will be our last elementary school conference for Kayli. We were sitting in the middle of the classroom, beneath fluorescent lights, beside a pile of books and notebooks and binders. Kayli and her teacher were sitting across from each other; this, too, was a conversation I was listening in on. Looking directly into my girl’s eyes, this (fabulous) teacher said, “I love how easy going you are, but I want you to remember that it’s okay to ask for what you need and know that you matter enough to take up space.”

I think it can be hard for people, women, kids, girls to speak up for what they need to adults, professionals, their peers. This is a skill, and it should be coveted.

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So I’m not telling my kids to be good anymore. Kind, thoughtful, sensitive to others, yes. But just as equally kind, sensitive, and thoughtful of themselves. Maybe we can swap Be good with …

Be smart.

Take up space.

Ask for what you need.

Use your voice.

Louder and more than once if you need to.

Ask questions.

Be smart.

Trust yourself.

You matter.

These are the messages I’m choosing to send.

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tween

 

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Comments

  1. Oh how I love this. I too struggle with being perhaps overly obsessed with manners and letting them be kids, figure out their way in the world. The words the teacher said to Kayli made me cry- not just for our kids, but for us too. I still (at 40) have a hard time speaking up sometimes, or making waves.

  2. This is one of those posts that, as a mom, has made me stop & think about the messages I’m sending my kids–intentionally or not. Being “good” at the sacrifice of using your voice & being assertive? Not the message I want to give my children, especially my daughter. Thank you for this beautiful, thought-provoking post.

  3. Interesting way to weave in the sponsored content! I love what your daughter’s teacher said, she must be a great person to pick up on those things!

  4. This is the same way we need to have our children speak up for others … and put bullies, and wrongdoers out in the open .. because it is ok to use our words for all of these things.
    great post.

  5. I had a similar experience with my daughter just two days ago. I was the moment I realized, I changed my parenting philosophy. Like you I want polite, kind girls but I realized I also want one who has a voice, a say, power in her moment and now seeing your words here I am inspired to create and share her story too. I love this piece so much and I could not agree more!!!

  6. I loved the way you respected your daughter enough to allow her to explain the event, express her thoughts and ask intelligent questions. You have obviously taught her very well.

  7. Great job

  8. “know that you matter enough to take up space.” – I needed to hear that and I’m taking that one with me. So very true but I struggle to do it myself, let alone impart it on my daughter.

  9. This is beautiful Galit!

  10. “Take up space.” I just love that.

  11. Endlessly grateful that I have a chance to hear your message, because this is soul and spirit sustain stuff. xo

  12. A friend recently shared her concern about her daughter’s over confidence-the impression it gave that she wasn’t a rule follower and that she was always asking for what she wanted. It’s a challenge and your words remind us of the importance of fostering these characteristics that will help our children grow into the people we deep down inside, want them to be. Yes to taking up space, dancing in it and being kind. Your words speak to the heart. Thank you.

  13. This is just perfect. I’ve been through a couple of things with my own daughter like you mention here. It blows me away just how capable she is of speaking for herself. I like to think it’s because we’ve taught her to do so. Perhaps more than anything the gift we can give our girls – all of our children – is to know that they matter and to teach them to speak up when they need to be heard. Too many people out there don’t.

  14. “I love how easy going you are, but I want you to remember that it’s okay to ask for what you need and know that you matter enough to take up space.”

    I wish someone had said these words to me when I was young! I started to hear this from our marriage counselor about 3 years ago, but it is only in the last year or so that it is really starting to sink in.

    I’m now raising a daughter, and know I will have to be vigilant in not falling into the “good girl” model that I grew up with.

    Thank you for making the world a kinder, more loving place!

Trackbacks

  1. […] was inspired to share this moment with my daughters by Galit Breen’s Why I’m Not Raising a Good Girl and Pernille Ripp’s All Hail the Kids.  Thank you both of you for your words and for inspiring […]

  2. […] Why I’m Not Raising A Good Girl […]

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