Yesterday I ventured out to the grocery store with both my daughters. By myself. I know I am such a thrill seeker. Thankfully they were both on their best behavior. While we were there something happened that always happens whenever I go anywhere with my daughters. I was told by four or five complete strangers how “cute” “beautiful” and “adorable” my daughters are. Don’t get me wrong, I always graciously say thank you and smile. I don’t mind hearing how cute they are. They are my children, of course I think they are cute. But it got me thinking about how the statement “awe how cute” is a person’s automatic response to a little girl in a bow or dress. But don’t you think that maybe commenting on how cute our daughters are all the time may put the idea in their heads that how cute they are is all that really matters?
I recently read a study about gender bias. In this study young girls and boys around the age 6 or 7 were given vague descriptions about a “really really smart person” then shown two separate pictures of people that were almost identical in appearance except their genders were different. When asked who the “really really smart” person was more boys stuck with their own genders while more girls chose the man. You can read more about the study here.
Now whether this study proves that young girls believe that their male peers are smarter than them is really open to interpretation in my opinion. But this study does hint at it. If I had to choose between my daughters believing in their looks or believing in the intelligence, I choose intelligence every time.
I desire for my girls and every girl to know they are so much more than how they look. But they are bombarded with comments on their looks or other girl’s looks on a daily basis by society. Whether it is from their peers, television, magazines, movies, or even their own families etc. It is hard for them to avoid it the older they grow. It is up to us as their parents and moms to encourage them in their other talents and traits.
But how do we encourage our daughters to know that they are in fact so much more than “so cute”? My daughters are still young so I am still learning but I have found a few ways that I use to encourage my daughters and remind them that they have so many wonderful characteristics that don’t involve how they look.
- I don’t comment on my own physical appearance or any other person’s physical appearance in front of them.
There are things about myself that I don’t like. But something that I may see as a flaw isn’t necessarily one. My body has carried three amazing children. As women we really should cut ourselves some slack. Our bodies do amazing things. God knew what he was doing when he created us. It took me a while to realize this but when I speak negatively about myself in front of my children it affects them. They may start seeing extra weight as a bad thing, a crooked nose as a bad thing, or start noticing differences in other people when otherwise they never would have. I also don’t speak negatively about another person’s appearance ever let alone to my children. Because I want my children to know that a person is so much more than how they look and if I can’t get past it how do I expect a child to? What we say about ourselves and other people, especially our own children, has a huge impact on shaping the way our children see people and the world. I want my children to love other people and themselves.
- I encourage them to continue working out something they can’t figure out.
My daughter B is very creative and confident. But recently there have been a few times where she has been unable to figure something out or she gets frustrated because she can’t quite do something and tries to “give up.” She has said before mommy I can’t do it I’m too little. I always encourage her and say “B you can too do it, you are smart just think about it alittle more” sometimes she has said “no I’m not mommy” but I gently remind her that yes she is and she can do anything she puts her mind too and every time she has been able to work out the “problem” herself. Now I know there may come a time when she isn’t able to figure out a problem and that’s when her dad and I will step in along side her and help her. But when I know she can do something but just needs a little encouragement that’s my cue to give it to her not step in and do it for her. Too often I feel like children are stunted because parents or caregivers step in and do things for them when they become frustrated. It is amazing what a little bit of encouragement will do. When my children fall down and get hurt I always wait to see the injury before I react. I can always tell if they are hurt badly and truly need me. But if I react before knowing how badly they are hurt or even if they are hurt at all they will feed into that reaction and eat it up by putting on a show of tears. To some that may seem harsh but seriously who doesn’t like to be coddled? I always encourage them to get up when they fall down and most of the time they don’t even cry when they fall. Because they are resilient and I have taught them that sometimes we fall and that’s okay, but most of the time we are okay.
- I tell them who they are.
Okay so I don’t mean I actually tell them who they are but I do remind them who they are in Christ. My mom started doing something with my youngest sister who is just now entering the teenage years. She tells her every morning “who she is” by having her repeat after her a list of attributes that she sees in my sister or she knows is there but needs to be cultivated. I really liked this idea and recently started doing it with my four year old. For example, ever night I have her repeat the below after me “I am smart. I am brave. I am kind. I am important. I am loved. I am a leader not a follower. I am helpful.” Etc. The descriptions vary sometimes but I have already seen how much it has helped her. She is constantly telling me now how brave she is and how smart she is. I want her to always know it. The way to help her know it is to constantly tell her! This isn’t the only time I tell my girls these things. I do it often everyday throughout the day especially when the need arises. But having this time set aside everyday to remind my children who they are is so important to me.
- I praise their kindness and helpfulness.
Today when we came back from church I was hanging up mine and B’s coats on the coat rack. My one year old S came running towards me holding her jacket out for me. She was bringing me her jacket to hang up! I was so surprised and so ecstatic about it. I said “S that is so amazing! Thank you so much! You are so helpful!” She had the biggest grin on her face. Either because she liked the praise or because she thought mommy was crazy. Either way I took the opportunity to praise her. When we take the time to praise our children when we see an act of kindness or helpfulness I believe it helps them realize who they are. Now I don’t mean you have to constantly tell them how helpful they are. Especially when it is expected. However praise goes a long way when it comes to anyone, especially children. They start to see how important their presence is in the family and in society. They start to see how they can contribute. They start to see that they can make a huge difference in someone’s life or day. Children need to know that their presence is important. Teaching them it at a young age helps make it concrete in their minds.
- I cultivate their interests.
When I notice that my daughter wants to know more about something, then I take note of it and try to cultivate that interest by teaching her. For example, lately she has been asking a lot about time and what time it is specifically. Like, asking me what time it is every minute that her clock changes. I could become frustrated because I grow weary of repeating the time over and over for fifteen minutes straight or I can choose to take this opportunity to teach her something she is enthusiastic about right now. Why not teach her? When our daughters see that their interests are important and that the adults in their life are taking the time to teach them, then they start to realize what kind of intelligence they possess. They see they can learn and start to love it. When their curiosity and interests are not treated like a nuisance their confidence grows.
These are just a few things I do on a day to day basis to encourage my daughters. I want them to realize just how special, smart, brave, etc. they are. They learn that from the adults in their lives. Specifically me. What do you do to encourage your daughters? Share with us in the comments below!
Until next time!