I bumped into a mum-acquaintance yesterday and she spent 20 minutes talking about her daughter. Apart from not even asking how I am (I’ve been in hospital with a really nasty ear infection but it’s slowly getting better, thanks for asking) or how the kids are, she spent her time talking about another child and telling me in detail the perceived slights against her daughter from this other girl. In other words, she was having a really good bitch about a child. Which is a disgrace. And it set me thinking: if a mum acts like this then what hope is there for the daughter? What should we be teaching our daughters to bring them up as well-rounded individuals? Whatever their childhood, they’ll mix with many different people in the adult world and it’s our role to equip them with the skills to navigate through life’s path, with ideally as few bumps as possible.
The most important thing I try to teach my children is kindness. I think this is so underrated and feels like an old fashioned trait in today’s world but a little kindness goes a long way. If mine have ever come home and said, I don’t like so-and-so, or so-and-so is weird (as children do!), the one thing I have always drilled into them is you don’t have to like everyone or be friends with them but you must be kind to them. And on the weird-front, we’ve discussed what makes them stand out from the other children and what might be going on in their lives to make them different. But always with kindness and compassion.
Linked to yesterday’s experience is discretion. Now I know we all like a good chat but as I’ve got older, I’ve become very aware of the impact of gossip. As someone with a handful of good friends, I would never tell others of the things we discuss – and I cherish the close friendships I have. Which brings me onto trust. If there is no trust, there is no real friendship. With teenagers, this is a minefield! I have said to my daughter that when you tell a friend something, remember that your secret isn’t their secret, but who knows if it has sunk in. Secondary school seems to be a hotbed of gossip, but all I can do is a) hope it’s never unkind and b) that they grow out of it!
With International Women’s Day recently, I spoke to my daughter about the importance of supporting friends and other women, especially as an adult. There’s enough people out there ready to knock you down at the first opportunity, especially when you start building a career when you’re not so sure of yourself, but I have been inspired by a number of amazing women throughout my career, who have supported me in return. The encouragement and loyalty of good friends is invaluable in life, whatever people are going through, from babies and work to illness and relationships and to be the best friend that you can be is a gift we can give our friends.
Self confidence is a tricky subject with teenage girls, but we need to teach them to be confident in themselves and to have self belief. Everyone makes mistakes but it’s important to get back on that metaphorical horse and try again. And to understand that everyone has doubts about themselves, which is completely normal. Self esteem and understanding their own inherent value, or self-worth are vital in building their identity. Easier said than done, I know.
The final thing (for today!) that I try to teach my daughters is that hard work and perseverance pays off. Often called generation snowflake, which feels a little unfair (time will tell how resilient they really are), they are very preoccupied by Snapchat, selfies and make up. But they also amaze themselves when they study hard for a test or practise hard at a sport at what they can achieve. The world is waiting and while very little in life is handed to you on a plate, the harder you work, the more you will see the rewards.
Of course, all these apply to our sons as well. I’m definitely not a parenting expert – or perfect (my kids will tell you this!), but these are just my thoughts with 14 years of parenting under my belt, and counting.