How I teach my daughter bravery, not perfection.
I got inspired with the topic for this post while scrolling through the TED Talks playlist on YT. Reshma Saujani was talking about teaching girls bravery instead of perfection and surprise, surprise…I didn’t watch it. I didn’t want to be biased with Reshma’s opinions, so I treated this talk title as an invitation to brainstorm.
What am I trying to teach my daughter? Well, we follow Montessori approach, which in a huge shortcut implies that you allow your child for independence by creating safe environment for them.
Your kiddo wants to climb? Set up a set of cushions, bars (yes, they make special Montessori pull up bars), and whatever you can think of so that your child can safely scoop and fall when they learn how to pull up. Learning how to eat normal food (aka not puree)? Give them soft foods like avocado or banana cut into slices and place it in front of them. Let them explore and respect their need for learning.
R – E – S – P – E – C - T
Analogically, my main focus while raising our daughter is to respect her independence. Of course, there are boundaries, and as an adult I am here to watch for her safety, but when it comes to exploring, I stay out of the picture. In the playground I let her explore different textures (digging in dirt and jumping in the puddles included) and various heights on monkey bars. When I see that things are getting a bit out of control (e.g. getting on a very tall monkey bar), I simply ask whether she feels comfortable at that height. Although she is 2 years old, trust me: she is able to assess whether she feels ok during a particular activity. 90% of the time when I ask her if she wants to stay on top of a tall slide, she looks down and will slowly come down. 10% is when she looks at me waiting for guidance on what to do next. I simply give her tips on what to do with her body: “hold that bar with your hands”, “put your leg on the lower bar”. You will not believe how proud she is when she manages to climb through a super high (for her age) monkey bar or slide.
And when it comes to things like introducing new toys/activities, we never tell her what to do with the toy. We help her open the box, but the rest is left to her. She is the one to explore and discover what can be done with a particular item. And you know what’s the best part of it? That she is not afraid to ask questions. How brave for a 2 year old, right?
I hate it. I literally hate hearing parents bickering behind their kids with “watch out!”. “Watch out” what? Be more specific Mom/Dad! You as an adult can obviously see that the road in front of your kiddo is not even, but you are not communicating it to your child. You must calmly explain them that they should walk a bit slower because the road in front of them is not even and they may fall. Yes, I know it’s a lot of words and “watch out!” or “be careful” are shorter. How will it help to raise a brave child? For starters, your child will become more self-aware of their surroundings, so you better start practicing communicating with your kid. I also avoid saying things like “good job!” or “good girl”. According to Montessori philosophy, these are empty fillers without any valuable information. What I focus on is I explain to my daughter how well she balanced her body or how focused she seems while looking for white rocks in the ground. This seems to be more informative for her and helps her learn about her body.
When it comes to body, I can proudly say that I taught her how to say “no”. I despise those situations when the whole family gathers and asks the child to “give grandma/grandpa/uncle/auntie kiss” or to sit on somebody’s lap. I hate it. Whenever I see someone doing this to my daughter, I ask her whether she wants to give somebody a hug. If not, I ask if she wants to do a high five. Most of the time, she chooses the latter, which helps her learn that she can make her own choices regarding her body. Not everybody likes to be hugged at a particular moment so why would you force a child to do so? Your kid is not a crowd pleaser. Your kid is brave enough to say no.
And this is how I teach my daughter bravery. She is 2 years old, so we can’t really talk about teaching her how to be the next President of the United States (maybe in a few years), but I believe together with my husband we give her solid foundations to be able to speak her mind. To think for herself. Not to think how to please the others. Naturally, we teach her how to speak politely to the elders, but she also knows that her opinion matters. Even if it’s a matter of choosing which pj’s she is wearing for the night. And maybe you’ll think that my kiddo is not perfect, but to me this is perfection.
Till next time!