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6 Important Values to Teach Your Daughter

(2.5 minute to read) Like most working moms, my to do list is pages long. And that means I’m constantly juggling things. If you’re anything like me, you might find that while you’re doing one thing, you’re thinking, planning, and reflecting on other things. At some point, conducting ourselves in this manner becomes somewhat second nature. (C’mon tell me…is there really any other way to operate if you want to get things done?) Even though I’m somewhat proud of my ability to multi-task and accomplish a lot, being on autopilot isn’t necessarily sustainable or beneficial. This is especially true when it comes to parenting.

How we respond, tend to, and deal with our girls on a daily basis sets the scene for how they will grow up to view the world. I know it may sound like a gross exaggeration, but I really don’t think it is. Rather than only focusing on what will make the present moment easiest, I’ve come to realize that it’s important to take time to think about the key values we want to instill in our children long-term. And then act accordingly.

When I reflected on my personal experiences as a mother, I was able to recognize that oftentimes my words, actions and reactions didn’t reflect the values I wanted to instill in my daughters. So together with my husband, we determined our core family values and then wrote them down. Going through this exercise made it easier to ensure that our words and behaviors accurately embodied the values that would most powerfully impact our daughters.  

6 Top Values to Teach Our Daughters:

1) Nurture self-esteem and confidence.  

As parents, we often try to build up our daughters by constantly telling them how (insert adjective here: smart, pretty, athletic) they are. But, in order for them to truly believe these things about themselves, it needs to come from internal, not external, sources. Our goal as parents is to help our daughters draw their own conclusion that they are valuable.

Example: After months of struggling to climb the rock wall, your daughter finally gets to the top. My gut reaction was always to say some iteration of, “I’m so proud of you.” However, the goal is for your daughter to be proud of her accomplishments and all of the skills it took to make it happen, like persistence. So a better response is, “You must be so proud of yourself. You’ve been trying to do this for so long and now you’ve done it!”

Another example: Your daughter lifts something heavy. Rather than telling her strong she is, try saying something like, “It’s not easy to lift something that’s so heavy. But you worked hard to make it happen.” This way, your daughter will say to herself, “I must be strong if I can lift this.”

 

2) Validate thoughts and feelings.  

It’s challenging to identify, accept, and cope with our emotions. And oftentimes, as women and girls, we feel compelled to ignore or minimize them. However, it is important for your daughter to know it is okay to feel her emotions and to express herself. This is critical to social-emotional development and wellbeing.  The way that she will grow comfortable with that is through your understanding and support – through you validating her feelings.

Example: Your daughter is crying about something insignificant, like her sibling knocking over her wooden block tower. As grown women who understand crying will not solve the problem, it is tempting to respond by saying “It’s no big deal. It’s just blocks. There’s no need to cry.” But as you may realize, this sends that message that what she is feeling is wrong. A more helpful approach may sound like this, “I know how upsetting this must seem to you since you worked so hard building this tower. Why don’t we try building it again.” This shows her that you understand she’s upset but also helps her put the situation in perspective.

 

3) Foster responsibility and independence.

As your daughter matures it’s important to help her develop an understanding that she is in control of her own life, and that you won’t always be there to do things for her. Instilling a sense of responsibility and independence means allowing her to do things on her own and make decisions. This will inevitably lead to mistakes, which as we know is a critical part of learning and growing. At the same time, it’s important to make sure that the responsibilities and independence you give her are age appropriate. That does not mean you should wait until your daughter is older to start. It’s never too early, especially since it can take lots of practice and many years to instill these values.

Example: Your elementary school aged daughter says, “Mom, I’m hungry. Can you make me a snack?”  Why not encourage her to do it herself by saying, “The pantry has a ton of snacks. Open it up and choose what you’d like.” Your daughter will feel pride in her accomplishments and take more and more ownership of her life. For more on How to Raise A Responsible & Independent Child, click to read this blog

 

4) Cultivate the belief that nearly anything is possible if you keep trying.

As cliché as it may sound, teach your daughter that if she can dream it and believe it, she can achieve it (as long as she puts in the effort). Expose her to different things to help her find her passions. Engage in dialogue about her personal experience working on specific things in school or at extracurricular activities. Or try watching programs or reading about someone’s journey to success. Then discuss what it took to get there, being sure to touch upon the obstacles and what it takes to overcome them.  Persistence and practice are key.

Example: Your daughter comes home saying that her friend said she is not going to pass the test that enables her to get into an accelerated program. You can follow-up by saying, “There are going to be times in your life when others tell you that you won’t be able to achieve something. But you are the only person who is in control of your capabilities and what you do.” Then you can bring to her attention a person who has achieved something even when the odds were against them. Or better yet, ask her to come up with a person who demonstrates this. Be sure to share the end result and how it relates back to your daughter. “Just like this person, you can prove people wrong if you believe in yourself and work hard.”

 

5) Practice problem-solving.

Whether your daughter isn’t cooperating or finds herself facing a challenge while in the process of doing something, empower her to come up with solutions. This does not mean that you can’t assist her in the process, but try your best to let her be in the driver’s seat. First have her come up with a few ideas. You can provide feedback and/or share your ideas in return. It may take time (and practice) to arrive at a practical and agreed upon solution, but this approach allows your daughter to feel like her thoughts and opinions are heard (and valued). Trust me, the sense of autonomy/choice that this provides is life changing.

Example: Your daughter wants to continue playing with her dolls but it’s time for dinner. State the problem “I know you are enjoying playing with your dolls right now and would like to continue, but the family is sitting down to eat together.”  You can let her come up with a solution (perhaps she asks for two more minutes to finish up – what’s the harm in that?). Or you can tell her what you propose, “You can come right back after dinner and continue playing.” Working together to solve problems certainly beats the time, stress, and energy of the alternative, likely some sort of temper tantrum or sassy attitude.

 

6) Help her build resilience.

Being resilient means being able to pick yourself up when things don’t go your way, instead of falling to pieces. Mistakes are inevitable. As-is failure. They not only build resilience, as we mention above, they help us learn and grow. As parents, it’s natural not to want our daughters to struggle or be in pain.  But as tempting as it may be, it’s critical to let your daughter decide how to manage and cope with challenges. I am by no means saying that you should not comfort and guide her through tough times. In fact, in order for her to learn how to pick herself up, try again, and eventually succeed, she needs your emotional support. Because when your daughter repeatedly fails without nurturing her, it’s likely that she will internalize that she herself is a failure. Striking the balance between too much and too little support is a delicate dance. I find that helping my daughters shift their focus from bad to good is the best approach. You can ask her what qualities she has that can help her handle the situation. Or how has she successfully dealt with similar situations in the past.

Example: Your daughter turns in a hand written report and gets her first ever C+. You look at it and notice careless mistakes and that her handwriting is messy. Your first reaction might be to say things like, “This is what happens when you rush through things.” Or “This is sloppy, try being neater.” But the last thing you want is for your daughter to feel like you are critiquing her. Instead try validating her feelings followed by a pep talk.  “Getting a C+ when you’ve always had A’s and B’s can be upsetting. Some things can be more of a challenge than realize. Perhaps you want to think about if there is anything you can do differently next time.”  Your words and actions need to be deemed as supportive.

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