Raising girls is not always easy. There is so much to learn about, and so many choices for them to make. Insecurities and emotions can start early, and middle school can be tough once those years arrive. Of course, I want all my daughters to do well at school and to be involved in sports and activities and do well in those too. But in our house, there are three rules (or lessons) that I believe are way more important to being successful. Since the girls were small, Eric and I have always reminded the girls that it’s not just grades or certificates and awards that make us proud of them. There are other things that make us just as proud. Living these lessons are some of those things:
- Be helpful and kind to others. Always.
Community service, volunteer work, help a friend or a neighbor when you can…this is a common discussion and practice at home. It’s never too young for a child to learn how to help. My first graders have volunteered at a food bank since they were three. They love it, and we often discuss afterward who the food is for and how volunteering and finding a way to help is important. We often talk about asking a shy friend to play on the playground. We discuss inviting others that are lonely to join us at lunch. It’s important to our family to be kind to others and help or give to those in need.
The other day, my middle-schooler told me a story about her physical education class. She said the teacher wanted the class to run a trail outdoors. He asked if any of the boys or girls in class were involved in cross country because he would need their help getting the class through the trail. My daughter and a boy in class raised their hands, and the teacher asked my daughter if she wanted to be the leader on the trail or wanted to be the “sweeper” and stay in the back. She chose the back. Why? She told me that there was a boy in her class who doesn’t like to work out at all, and she knew he might struggle on the trail. She wanted to make sure he had someone with him to encourage him and walk or run with him to complete the trail. I was so proud of her choice to be a helper rather than offer to be in the lead to prove how fast she could run. It shows what kind of leader she chooses to be–one that encourages, supports and helps others.
- Stay away from gossip and drama. Always.
How difficult it can be sometimes to stay out of gossip or drama! Unfortunately, with girls it starts early. We discuss how harmful talking about others can be–once the words come out of your mouth about someone or something, you cannot put them back in.
Quite often, my younger girls come home upset to tell me about a child in their class who always puts others down. She makes fun of other girls in the classroom, and she discusses which girls are wearing the best clothes. This is in first grade! Many afternoons, I ask my daughters if that’s the way we should talk to or treat friends and other people. They agree it’s not. I ask them how they would feel if she said those things about them (and she has before). We talk about responses to gossip and drama….”Well, I like what Jane is wearing, her skirt is so pretty” or “Joe is my friend, and it’s not very nice to say mean things about him” or asking a teacher for help when the drama and gossip become something they cannot successfully put a stop to on their own.
Luckily, my oldest daughter has been good at making decisions when she hears gossip. She often chooses to remove herself from the conversation and not get involved in it at all. She mostly surrounds herself with girls that prefer to hang out and talk to each other rather than about others. I have overheard a few conversations when friends are over, and I hear her change the conversation when one of the girls starts complaining about other girls or making fun of them (and I give her a high-five in my head). Hopefully, she will stay on the no-drama path through high school and remember all the discussions we have about the problems that can arise from getting involved in drama and gossip.
- Be true to yourself. Always.
This is a big lesson in our house. Always be true to who you are. The easiest way to talk about this with my younger daughters so they understand: we are all gifts from God. Each of us is just like a gift under the tree at Christmas, and we all have different wrapping paper. That doesn’t make any one present better or more special. It just means that each package is unique. We all are important, and we all have different interests, likes, dislikes, beliefs, and values. I hope my girls remember to stand up for what they believe in, to go after what they are passionate about, and to take care of themselves and their needs.
One of my daughters refuses to wear a skirt or dress. She prefers to wear pants. Every day. She also wants the same hairdo–a ponytail–every day. This is who she is–I am not going to force her to wear dresses or bows in her hair because her twin sister does or because the other girls in school do. She is being true to who she is and what she chooses, and I respect her choices. As long as the choices they are making are not ones that are hurting them or others and are not ones that are disrespectful or dangerous, I support them and what they find are important to their selves.
I am thankful for children that practice what we preach at home. I hope my daughters continue to make good choices based on our family lessons, and that they grow up to be good, strong women who continue to serve, are kind, stay out of drama, and take pride in the paths they choose. What are some of your lessons that you live by at your house? What is important for you to teach your children?