Its not easy being a mother, none us were born knowing how to do it well. First thing is to learn to let go of the high expectations we may put on ourselves wanting to “do it right”. No matter how much effort we put on trying to raise our children well, we need to accept mistakes will be made; some will have something to do with us as parents and what we did or didn’t do, others will have nothing to do with us at all, it’s just simply their own path. It is important to learn not to blame oneself– guilt never gets you anywhere. More importantly as long as you are open to learning, open to listening to your daughter and open to letting go when the times comes, you will do better than you think.
A lot of the problems occur because as parents we are not willing to let go of our children, making them dependent on us, which in turn gives our daughters no room to make their own mistakes or to learn to listen to their own voice.
Our current society doesn’t help promote a healthy self esteem for young girls. As modern as we may like to consider ourselves, our society still revolves around old ignorant stigmas which only promote the stripping of self esteem and the subjugation of our future women. Things like: Make up, make up, make up…it seems our daughters are taught to paint their faces as if they were an object in order to be attractive. Talking to teenage girls, I can see the amount of pressure is put on them to fit in, to cover their face (fake nails, fake hair, fake lips, fake eyelashes and layer after layer of makeup) showing their real skin is almost a sin and can get them excluded.
Another thing is the huge amount of importance placed on brands yet they are not taught to work for what they want. Our daughters may feel they are being “liberal”, “modern”, not realizing that by giving in to peer pressure, pack mentality and false ideas on how to be a lady, they are actually putting their own chains. They don’t need to live in a patriarchal society to be subjugated; consumerism and rewards for not being real, are resulting in the same thing–their real self is being silenced. They may think they have an opinion but many teenage girls/young ladies fear to give their opinion and be real out of fear of not being considered appealing. The world seems to be teaching our daughters to be congenial; which is never a good thing; specially when congeniality means to be hypocritical. The world is teaching them to value only the physical, only the material and to see others not as people but as objects which can be used in order to get success.
It is our tasks as mothers to teach our daughters to be strong, independent, AUTHENTIC and happy. As mothers we can help them to grow into great women. Is not a matter of putting pressure on them or covering up their mistakes, it is a matter of doing our best and valuing our daughters when they do their best–it is a matter of letting them make their own mistakes. As they get older it is good to let them fall and get up on their own; there is a difference between guidance and support vs. a mother doing all the work.
Raising our daughters is not a matter of reputation, is not a matter of acting like everything is always right in order to protect our image as parents. Some of the most loving, strong, REAL, AUTHENTIC women out there came from broken homes, from parents who were not ashamed to admit their mistakes, parents who did not overprotect, allowing their daughters to develop dignity while maintaining a strong sense of self, developing character and strength.
Here are some things we should be teaching our daughters:
- To trust in oneself.- Since we are little girls many of us tend to find ourselves comparing who we are to other girls, women, magazines, etc. Society criticizes us for our appearance as well as criticizing us for what we do or do not do. As mothers it is our responsibility to instill in our daughters that THEY ARE beautiful in themselves….that there are various types of beauty and to try to chase an specific trend set, in the long run will cause them pain. In practice it would be great to congratulate them for their achievement and efforts, without downplaying them or making them bigger than they are. Encourage them to try new things, to have an opinion, to not say one thing and then talk behind their friends backs, to be themselves and to decide for themselves; this will build trust on themselves even when they fail at something. Our daughters have great value and when they trust themselves, then we as parents can be certain that no matter what they will be okay and they will achieve whatever is meaningful for them.
- To be herself.- It is linked to the above but it deserves its own section because it affects a lot of women and girls. Most little girls want to fit in, to be popular and be admired by others; this is natural given their age but this can also push them to lose their real self in order to be accepted or to feel appreciated. We must teach our daughters to listen to their inner voice. If there is something they really like or something they really want to do, they should express it and depending on their age, go ahead and do it. If they are true to themselves and they are sure of what they want to do, it will be others who will try to imitate them. Help them to trust on themselves, to be themselves and to make their own decisions without being influenced by others including ourselves at times. It is important to not try to force our beliefs on our children or our points of view; we are to guide not to manipulate our children and the love they have for us in order to get them to give us their support. Your daughter may or may not agree with some of the things you do or the things you believe in, and that is okay–your daughter is a soul and should be respected as such not violated by imposing our will through punishment or worst yet psychological mind games. The greatest gift we can give our daughters is to discover themselves, to be themselves even if they don’t agree with us.
- To be disciplined.- Teach your daughter to be disciplined, to do the things she needs to do (Please do not confuse discipline with psychological or corporal punishment) Teach your daughter to do home and household chores and after teaching them let them do it, do not take over unless your daughter really is trying and asks for your help, otherwise the message you send is that she can’t do anything right or you are teaching her to use others to get what she needs. Teach your daughter to work for her dreams and personal projects. Teaching them discipline is to give them that important ingredient they will need to achieve success in their life. Teach them that success is defined by a fulfilled life rather than by material things. The last thing you want is to have your child to grow up too focus on material things. Teach her the meaning of success varies according to each individual; we are all unique expressions and in different paths. Teach your daughter you will not always be there to help or to do things for her, so she needs to learn to do things on her own. Teach her to have responsibilities, this will help her to become an independent woman.
- Not to fear failure.- Nobody wants to fail but if we fear to fail we will not try to fulfill our dreams, hence we will not see them fulfilled. Therefore it is important to teach our daughters that it does not matter to be defeated from time to time; show them they can get right back up, becoming stronger, wiser and having learned a valuable life experience in the process. In this way they can become women capable of achieving things greater than their own dreams.
- Is not bad to rely on others.- Although we want our daughters to be strong and independent, it is also important they don’t feel less for asking for help. The important thing is to teach them the difference between asking for help when they need it vs asking for helping when they haven’t even tried to help themselves first. Never make your daughter feel bad for asking for help, that way she can become an adult who will ask for help when she needs it without feeling shame or feeling like she has to do it all alone. As long as we don’t go around using people to solve our every problem, there is no shame in needing others, we are human.
- To be understanding and compassionate without being fake or a doormat.- Teach your daughters not to look out only for themselves, to realize the needs of others, their shortcomings and also their virtues. Teaching our daughters that they are important and valuable is different than teaching them to be self involved. Our daughters can have a positive impact on other’s lives, they can be understanding and compassionate while taking care of themselves. This means learning when to say no and to whom. You don’t want to raise your daughter to become someone who puts other’s needs ahead of her own, that type of behavior will only facilitate the losing of her own self, either growing up confuse about her identity or learning to do everything for others in order to get recognition. It is important to teach them being kind doesn’t mean they don’t’ have the right to stand up for themselves or feel upset when the situation applies. It is a disastrous thing to teach them to hide their pain, anger, in order to please others rather than to teach them to process it…..teach them that is okay to walk from others when its detrimental to their health; that way we are raising real individuals vs individuals who need to hide their real emotions in order to be popular.
- To get along with other girls.- Teach your daughter to grow and flourish among other women. Teach her not to look only at the superficial and to value others not by what they appear to be but by what they really are. Teach them to accept girls who are different, and not to be cuddy to girls who may have a much easier time being friends with boys; for example: I grew up practicing sports mostly boys were into. I was a daredevil and usually boys are more into those type of things. Riding bulls, taming horses, racing, soccer, came to me as naturally as dancing, ballet, poetry. As I grew up I notice more and more girls my age would treat me differently. On the one hand they wanted to be around me because of the amount of male friends I had, on the other hand they disliked the fact most of my friends were boys. I grew up saddened to see most girls offered a superficial type of friendship or blamed me because of their lack of male friends instead of looking in as to why they didn’t feel comfortable to just be themselves vs trying to act perfect in front of guys. It would be nice to have more mothers teach their daughters to be friends to girls who may be different in personality than what is traditionally expected.
- To be a friend of a boy.- Your daughter is going to have to learn to get along with men because she will have many in her life (classmates, co-workers, neighbors, bosses, teachers, lovers and a life partner). Do not teach your daughter to only think of boys in a romantic sense and to give kisses, or to see them only as people meant to solve her problems. Any woman who has been attached for a while in a loving relationship knows that friendship; not just romanticism; is what gives strength to the relationship. In order to be a real friend, our daughters first need to learn to be real themselves. If we teach them to see boys as people then they won’t go around trying to get their approval in order to get validation. Having grown up surrounded by mostly male friends made it easier for me to learn more about how boys think. They are not that different, they also seek to be seen for whom they really are, and look to relax with someone who is not pretending to be someone they are not.
- To take care of her health.- As a mother it is important to teach your daughter to take care of her health so she can live a long and enjoyable life. It is important to teach her to take care of her emotional health as well as her physical health. Teach her to value her body and mind because of what it does for her not in order to impress anyone. Sadly many of our daughters grow up, get married and stop taking care of themselves; is as if they have a voice in their head which says “marriage, house, I am saved!”…how wrong is that. Our daughters should enter relationships knowing they don’t need one, they don’t need men to take care of them– they can take care of themselves and contribute just as much. Our daughters should value their bodies and not used them just to attract men, it should be a continuous thing. The body will change when one has children specially if she has more than one or two, however it is no reason to stop taking care of one’s body. It is natural for our daughters after having children of their own not to look the same as they did before children came along, so they need to accept their body changes while taking care of themselves. I am not promoting crazy procedures to make themselves look good or out of fear of getting older. I am simply promoting their own natural physical health. With that said, they should not stop learning and evolving simply because they found a mate. We need to teach them to do these things whether a man is in their life or not. Many women let go of their mind and body as soon as marriage comes into place, then if a break up happens they start working hard on their external image but this only will perpetuate the pattern, because when the motivation is to attain a mate, then its bound to revert to same old patterns once that goal has been achieved. Let’s raise daughters who are not afraid to be in a relationship or without one, whose care for themselves starts and ends with them.
- To laugh and be genuinely happy.- Being genuinely happy is very important; you will not teach your daughter to be genuinely happy if you cannot be genuine. It starts with you, otherwise her “happiness” will be a front. Teach her there will be tough moments in life and that is perfectly natural. She doesn’t have to pretend to be happy to impress others. Teach her to fully submerge herself when she does feel happy, this will generate more happiness Teach her to laugh when she is feeling joyous, to express all of her emotions. I did not choose the word smile when happy because sadly many people can smile and yet the emotions hidden behind is not one of joy or of a genuine good feeling. It is sad to see coaches teaching women how to pretend to be happy, how to work on their smile in order to attract approval. I say, anyone can stand in front of the mirror and practice a smile, a laughter is harder to fake. Generally laughter is a more accurate way to determine real joy in a person… laughter and their eyes. Plus it is laughter, not our smiles which boost our immune system. So teach your daughter to enjoy the moments of happiness, to laugh no matter what her laugh sounds like, so long as it is hers, because being herself is all she needs to be!
Let us teach our daughters to worry less about glass slippers and more about shattering glass ceilings. As J. Iron word said: Let our daughters stand firmly on their own two feet and let us stand behind them in case they do need us.
“So, as you think about how you raise your daughter to be a confident and courageous woman–sure of herself and resilient under pressure–begin to consider where you need to practice a little more bravery yourself. Anytime you tip toe around an awkward conversation, every time you victimize yourself, every time you avoid responsability, when you allow someone to treat you poorly, when you avoid taking risks for fear of failure or let other people’s opinion to matter more than your own in order to get their approval; you are missing an important opportunity to teach your daughter how to be brave”.