How do you raise a daughter who will grow up to be the kind of adult you would love to have as a boss, loyal friend, colleague, or mentor? Raising children without spoiling them is a tough task. In her book The Mother Dance, Harriet Lerner says, “Being a mother comes about as naturally as being an astronaut.” In our society if a job is both difficult and important, it comes with some sort of training. Yet parenting, the most difficult job in the world, does not. Mike Holmes, the builder of television fame says, “Do it right”. As a mother, is there such a thing as ‘doing it right’? I don’t know. There are no perfect answers. There are no perfect moms. What I do know after raising three daughters and a son, and having been in private practice as a parenting coach for many years, is that the when parents have knowledge to help support them on this journey they become better mentors, pillars and role models.
Let’s begin with the end in mind. Fast forward twenty years. What kind of woman do you see your daughter as being? How can you inspire, motivate and help her prepare for the future? How can you help her be all that she can be?
Over the next year I will support you in building your skills to raise daughters who have, to use an old fashioned term, character—girls that have strong values, are self-reliant, and know how to build on their strengths; girls who are motivated to follow their dreams without fear; girls who can embrace their mistakes as learning experiences.
Start by looking at your values. When you are clear about your own values you have a starting point for helping your daughter prepare for life. Paul Swets, in his book The Art of Talking With Your Teenager, suggests that in order to teach a child to make her own decisions, including what kind of education she wants, what kind of career or vocation she wants, what she’ll look for in her relationships, and what she will believe in (religion and faith), we need to give her a framework of values. “Without values, our (child) will be left adrift, rudderless, without a destination in (her) adult (life).” (p. 136)
Take an inventory of your values. Here are some from clients (in no particular order):
- Risk Taking
- Freedom to choose
This list is far from complete and your values will be your own. As you continue to reflect, record yours in a journal and know that this process of discovery may take several weeks.
At the same time, choose one value per day. Focus on it and reinforce it through a course of action. Make it visible to your daughter so that it’s not just caught but taught. For example, let’s say you want to focus on the value Kindness. With your daughter in the car at a Tim Hortons drive-thru, offer to pay for the car behind you as well as for your own order. Say something like, “I like being kind to people, especially when it’s a surprise they weren’t expecting.” Your little one not only observes a random act of kindness but hears the word kind attached to the act. Once again, I make the point that values need to be taught, not just caught.
I invite you to share your values stories with us. Perhaps you recently dropped off a lasagne to a friend recovering from surgery, or sent some flowers to a grieving family. Since we are on this journey together, let’s support one another by sharing.
Photo by maureendidde