I don’t call my girls princesses.
Nothing wrong with a princess, but society tend to think more in the lines of Princess Grace as opposed to Merida. As in Brave. If my girls are like a Disney princess, then by all means call them princess! Because that would mean that they are funny and smart and tough and nice (and pretty) and although they love prince charming, they are not dependent on him for their safety, well-being or happiness. But since we cannot explain that distinction quickly when in public, they are not called princess. Some people might say I am raising them tough, but I think it is just the right mix of love and encouragement, and if it results in me sending out into the world two strong, independent yet relatable, women, then so be it!
In my house, the girls are:
- warriors, not princesses; taught to fight for the underdog, and to never back down if they are right
- leaders, not followers; taught to follow their own hearts and make up their own minds
- kind-hearted, not gentle; to be determined enough to speak up when needed
- intuitive, not sensitive; to be guided by their surroundings but not influenced by it
- creative, not obedient; to forge their own path, and to walk it together with someone they choose
- strong, not submissive; to stand up for themselves, but never be a bully
- forgiving, not conforming; setting people free who wronged them, but never allowing that to change them
- generous, not easy; giving as much (or as little) as they choose
- willful and determined, not meek; determining what they believe in and stand for
- questioning, not assuming; always looking for answers, and changing the narrative if they don’t like what they see
Although both are still very young, my goal is to teach them that great minds discuss ideas. To always question everything, but to never get defensive and aggressive if they do not like the answers. And that there is a right way and a wrong way to question authority. You can stand up for yourself without being a rebel, and you can question without being destructive. Being strong and independent doesn’t mean being alone, but they must first know who they are before they can commit to another person. Yes, those who fly solo have the strongest wings, but those who know exactly who they are always have a clear destination. I teach them that fear is a wonderful thing – it encourages you to practice, to learn, and to improve, as long as you focus on where you want to go, not on the fear itself.
I try to remember to never say:
- Be careful: Allowing room for failure and hurt also allows enough space for adventure and growth. Of course, I don’t want them to break their necks, but a stumped toe or scraped knee is part of being a child.
- Great job. Find another affirmation, and be specific. Try “you worked hard, you deserve it” or “well thought out”. Kids must learn that the work you put in is not always equivalent to the results you get out and that you see the effort that their achievement took. Harsh but true – life is not fair.
- I’m on a diet. Positive body image! Yes, health is important, but being a skinny size 8 is not always healthy. If there is something that they would like to change, and it is within their power, then I will encourage it. But not because of body shaming or self-consciousness.
- I cannot afford that. This phrase automatically labels you as a victim. Rather educate your kids on financial health, how to budget, and how to align the money you earn with the lifestyle you would like to have.
- Hurry up. Sometimes it is not your child who needs to move more quickly, but rather you as the parent who needs to move slower. We live in such a fastpaced world that we forget that not everyone feels the need to run. And sometimes slowing down to meet your child wherever they are can improve both of your lives.
- Practice makes perfect. Some people are just not good at certain things, and to make your child feel as if they didn’t put in enough effort is counterproductive. Of course, if they are slacking and not committing to something that they have a natural ability for you must encourage them to put in more. But to force a child, even subconsciously, to keep on practising while never seeing improvement will just make them negative.
- You are ok. This is a tough one, one that I struggle with every single day. When kids get hurt or are feeling down, our first instinct is usually to reassure them that it is not as bad as they might think. Partly to try and make them feel better and partly because we want to minimise the crying. But telling her she’s fine may only make her feel worse. Rather try to help her understand the emotion, and to deal with it constructively, and not discount it.
- Let me help. It is natural to want to jump in and help your child when you can see them struggling. Try and resist the urge for as long as possible, allowing them enough time to try and figure out a solution themselves. Guide your children, from the sidelines, and only when necessary.
Although not always possible, I try and live by the “rules” above. Being a single parent is not only a full-time job but also a highly criticised one. Just doing your best, with the right motivations and reasons, and always from a place of love, will guide and protect you. As long your child knows your heart, you should be ok 😉
As for my girls, I’ll raise them to think they breathe fire
— Jessica Kirkland