Voiceless: adj. Lacking the power or right to express an opinion or exert control over affairs.
It’s opposite day!
Sarcasm usually comes easy to me but this post was incredibly hard to write. So much that I’ll start with a disclaimer:
Parents are doing the best they can, and I swear I’m not judging.
Raising kids is ridiculously hard – I know! And I know you have good intentions.
Lastly, remember each of these points isn’t terrible on their own, and we all do them sometimes – that’s fine. It’s when we practice them consistently that we rob our daughters of their voice.
I want to raise a girl who knows that she has the power to change the world. But, (sigh) if you don’t want your daughter to speak up with strength and power in her voice, then I guess you could do the following:
1) Make sure she is always totally safe
It’s your job as a parent to keep your daughter safe, and you take this responsibility seriously. At the playground, you remind her, “be careful,” even when she is not listening. She wants to go on that tall climbing thing but you remind her that she could get hurt. You ask her to choose something else – and she does.
You say things like, “I’m not sure about that, honey,” and “That makes me really nervous,” to communicate that you preferred she played “safely.”
Life is already stressful enough. Why take risks that only make you more anxious?
2) Make sure she doesn’t make mistakes
You are incredibly adept at predicting when something is about to go south. Even when you are busy yourself, you can see that she is putting her shirt on backward – and you immediately let her know. When you can prevent her from messing up, you jump in.
She crafts a birthday card for grandma, and you stay next to her to make sure the spelling is correct. While you are building a tower, you get into an argument because she wants to build it in a certain way, but you already know it won’t hold that way. And every day before she starts with her few household chores, you give her the same instructions.
You understand that making mistakes means you failed. So you make sure she always gets everything right.
3) Do for her what you can do faster
She is still working on something that’s taking her FOREVER. You tried to help by pointing out what she was doing wrong, but then she tried something else that made absolutely no sense.
“Just let me do it” comes quite easy to you. It’s simply more practical to do it yourself. That way it doesn’t only go faster, but it’s also done the right way. Even though she should be cleaning her room, you notice that she puts her toys in the wrong drawers. So you sneak in and clean some of it yourself.
You get things done! Cross it off the list… Feels good, doesn’t it?
4) Interrupt her if she takes too long
You get her. You have decades of experience communicating, and you already know what she means to say – even while she struggles to find the words!
It frustrates you that she doesn’t recognize your talent. You already responded to the point she hadn’t yet fully formulated, but she either continues going on and on, or she rolls her eyes at you. And you respond with “I know, that’s what I’m saying!” only to hear her say, “No, but that’s not what I mean.”
You don’t believe in interrupting others but, in this case, you are only helping!
5) Speak for her
You are in control. Not by choice, of course. Just by default – as a parent!
Your daughter is “slow to warm up,” and struggles relating to strangers. So when you are at a restaurant, she asks you for ketchup, and you ask the waiter. At other times, when people greet her, you help her by telling them what you think she would say (if she weren’t so shy). “We had a lot of fun at the fair, didn’t we? Yes, we did.”
When you see that she is treated unfairly, you go and address it right away. You advocate for her! Your daughter knows that you will always “have her back” and speak for her when she feels inadequate. Actually, you speak for her a lot, even when she feels just fine.
6) Minimize her concerns
You understand that kids make a big deal out of little things. And, you have a talent for giving perspective, and helping them deal with their exaggerated feelings.
She confides in you that someone hurt her feelings, and you explain it away as a misunderstanding. She tells you that she is scared or nervous, and you respond with, “no, you are not,” or “you are fine.” Sometimes you just explain to her why she shouldn’t feel a certain way… and it works like magic! Uncomfortable feelings avoided – problem solved.
You are also quick at finding something else to focus on or changing the topic. Crisis averted!
7) Always give extra feedback
Your child is always learning, right? Even when she does a great job, there is always one or two things she can improve upon. You make sure to give praise first, then follow up with a but. Or, because you already know that the but invalidates your praise, you allow a little pause… and then you go. “So here are some things to consider next time.”
Is your daughter already great? Of course… But she can always be better! It’s a competitive world out there. And you are making sure you are raising a winner.
8) Tell her to ignore bullies
You know not to pay mind to negative people. When your daughter tells you that someone is bothering her, you give her your magic formula: Just ignore them. When she ignores them, and acts like they don’t exist, or they didn’t say what they said, she makes them go away!
No need to speak up or make a big deal out of it. And don’t pay attention to the feelings this brings up because then the bully wins. Adjust your crown and keep walking!
Or… Maybe not
Let’s do this instead: Let’s raise daughters who speak up when something is wrong.
Let’s be mindful of how safe we need to keep our children, really. Aren’t they in many ways safer than we ever were, as kids? Let’s allow them to take risks, and show them that we believe in them.
Let’s trust that their mistakes will teach them more than we ever could. We give guidance – they learn from their mistakes.
Let’s allow them to talk about uncomfortable feelings without immediately solving the problem.
Let’s recognize that when our daughters speak to us, they are creating a blueprint for using their voice to address the world. Our response will determine if they feel heard, validated, and valued.
Girls have so much to teach us. Let’s listen.