Updated: Mar 30
In a revolutionary world full of #metoo movements to overturn abusive patriarchal positions, it’s an exciting time to raise strong daughters and teach them the value of self-worth. Being a mother of two beautiful little girls, I find it a little confrontational reflecting upon this topic. How do I value and respect myself? How do I want my girls to view themselves and consequently invite others to view them? They are 3 years old and 9 weeks old, and my belief is that with a bit of grace and patience with oneself it is never too young to instill good values in my children.
As a proud Mummy of two beautiful daughters, I want to instill good ground roots for self respect. There are so many ways to do this, both directly and indirectly but for the age of my girls I try and adopt these practices:
Autonomy - My husband and I offer 2-3 meals that are favourites to our toddler (and we know are in the house to make). We offer multiple ways of getting into the bath and choosing her outfit for the day. I also like to encourage independent play time, where my daughter chooses her our own adventure and her imagination runs wild. I believe this empowers our daughter’s sense of free will and self confidence.
Body Respect – I talk through bath time and cleaning sensitive parts. This is so important to me to show respect for my daughters’ bodies, have them accustomed to owning their bodies and knowing that permission is required for someone else to touch them.
Listening – I’ve discovered this is surprisingly more important for me as a parent than for my children. Children will listen regardless because the centre of their universe is their parental figures. In my opinion the expectation that children will listen and do exactly what parents say is a fallible notion because their developing brains want to learn and explore more than what they are told to do. As a parent, I do my best to listen to my daughter’s imaginary games - requests for “things I need” from the kitchen cupboards, her many stories and most importantly her feelings when she is upset. My choice between empathy and frustration when the height of emotions is soaring is sometimes a precipitous one, but the reward from my soothed child is truly beautiful in the aftermath of an outburst. I hope by giving my daughters my ears and empathy, it will deepen their sense of self-worth and know that their voice is heard and valued.
Often as parents we are just battling through our own emotional dysfunction whilst trying to teach our children healthy emotional behaviour. Empathy is one of the greatest attributes I can use with my daughters. I try to put myself in her shoes whilst measuring guidance, firm boundaries and not getting played by a toddler. Remaining grounded whilst witnessing a complete little person meltdown is a master class in meditation and requires a lot of objective thinking and deep breathing. We support our three year old to recognise her feelings for what they are (once she is calm and has surpassed the emotional outburst).
Debriefing tantrums or arguments has been a great way for our three year old to understand what consequences are and how the emotions have transpired. I will ask my daughter why she was upset and offer her ways of identifying her emotions instead of screaming, like “you are making me upset,” or “I feel sad and angry,” or saying what it is that is making her cry.
Very often, she will describe the reason she was upset and there will be a mutual understanding of what occurred, creating a great learning experience for the whole family. I also debrief my own frustrations with my toddler and talk to her about my feelings, when I get overwhelmed or stressed. To my delight she recently gave me a lesson in how to be calm, saying “you just have to put the things in the car quickly mummy, get us in our seats…and then CALM DOWN”. We are all accountable for our feelings and emotions in our family.
Strengths & Weaknesses
I refer back to my corporate days and draw upon my knowledge of SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis and how to own each quadrant of the chart. I certainly wouldn’t draw up a chart for my toddler and point out her current positioning but the skill is useful in motherhood.
Without outright stating my 3-year old daughter is not good at certain things, I get excited with her to learn a new skill and show her how to do the task. Having the insight to step back and see an opportunity to learn with my daughter can be difficult amidst sleep deprivation from getting up in the night to feed my 9-week old. When she wants to play things like “teachers” outside in the yard, or I can teach her the concept of what an obstacle course is and she repeats it back to me the next day, I’m blown away by her little person intelligence and willingness to learn.
Her strengths are very easy to encourage – she’s an excellent climber and would climb to the top of the couch and slid down from the window sill at 7 months old (before she could walk) and she’s continue to develop this skill. As her mother I am so proud of this and constantly praise and encourage her to do more. Fostering confidence in my daughters to own their strengths, quench a healthy thirst for learning and find an inner calm to work on new skills feeds their sense of self-worth.
Fostering confidence in my daughters to own their strengths, quench a healthy thirst for learning and find an inner calm to work on new skills feeds their sense of self-worth.
We all have our days as mothers where we feel we are climbing uphill only to fall down every second step, but these values of self-worth are what I draw upon on those days. My end goal is to see my girls grow up with a fierce independence and strength that is drawn upon from a close and trusting relationship with their family. I can’t wait to see the ripples they make in their futures.
Sarah is a passionate Mummy of two beautiful little girls who resides in the inner South Brisbane.
She parents with the goal of raising independent, loyal and emotionally intelligent girls. An introspective writer, she draws from her life experiences of travel, work, hardships, athleticism and being the daughter of mental health workers. But it’s not all serious - backyard sing-offs, dance parties and a lot of humble pie makes Sarah a relatable Mummy and a warm-hearted writer.