Suzy Cato discusses how encouragement and support will help your daughters flourish. Here are ten tips to help your children grow.
“When I was just a little girl
I asked my mother, what will I be?
Will I be pretty? Will I be rich?
Here’s what she said to me…”
All together now! But instead of “Que sera, sera, whatever will be, will be”, we’re gonna sing “kia kaha e taku kōtiro, whatever you want to be”. This translates as “Be strong my girl, whatever you want to be!”
Unfortunately, the generations before us didn’t always get to be whatever they wanted to be. My nana desperately wanted to pursue a career in nursing. That decision wasn’t hers to make, it seems, so instead she devoted her nurturing skills to her own whānau, and she and my grandad encouraged their son and daughters to grow into strong independent people – who would, in turn, encourage their own children to grow.
“Strong female lead” could be emblazed on the shirts of both my mother and my mother-in-law. They not only showered their children with love, they also expected the very best for them and of them. Both ensured their children would not only survive, but thrive in the world, armed with inquisitive minds, open hearts and the desire to achieve.
Now, as parents ourselves, my husband and I have chosen to leave the “cotton wool” in the cupboard and allow our children to fall, knowing we’ll be there to help them back up. And 2020 started big for my daughter – at 14, she joined a school group on a trip to Nepal. Each child raised the funds and, once there, effectively looked after themselves – creating their own itinerary, managing their own money, passport and belongings, and making sure they found their way to transport on time. She left an excited young girl and arrived home a more confident young woman. The growth was amazing, not only for her, but for us as parents.
Confidence, creativity, caring, compassion and a sense of community are all wonderful traits to foster, which, along with a strong sense of self-worth, belonging and equality, set our tamariki up for a wonderful, fulfilling and rewarding life.
1 Teach your child to own their feelings from a young age: “I am feeling happy/sad/angry/confused, because…” Owning how they feel and knowing what contributes to that gives them control of what happens to them and how they react.
2 Offer a selection of toys and dress-ups which includes everything from dolls and tutus to tools and firefighters’ helmets, and introduce role play across all the career paths and genres. Your inclusive role modelling will help encourage open, creative play.
3 Encourage equality in play, taking turns and showing kindness. There’s nothing wrong with competitiveness, but encourage good sportsmanship from the get-go, supporting abilities of all levels and acknowledging improvement.
4 Lead by example when it comes to celebrating successes or acknowledging the failings of others. Highlight good behaviour but discourage putdowns and name calling. We’ll all experience failure along the way, but how we pick ourselves up and learn from those experiences can help us succeed.
5 Continue to offer opportunities for growth. Cook and garden together, create shopping lists and bucket lists, and explore new parts of your community. Visit art galleries, museums, fabric stores and hardware stores; even check the oil and the water in your car together.
6 Get your girls to be more aware of the world around them, the diversity of their community and the stunning uniqueness of the individuals in our country.
7 Support them in learning new things beyond the classroom. Most hardware stores offer kids’ craft opportunities on the weekends, where they can wield a hammer or a screwdriver and create practical things. The more they try, the wider their world becomes.
8 Always keep the lines of communication open. The dinner table is a great place for conversations and discussions. Share your views, but be sure to listen to the views of everyone, knowing there’s a chance your children will have differing opinions.
9 Ask your girls to share why they think the way they do. This can give you an appreciation of their views, highlight where they’re gleaning their information from and help them assess and reassess their own thoughts.
10 Involve them in making decisions. When they’re very small, offer only a couple of choices, but give them the chance to share their voice and make a decision. “Which story shall we read first?” becomes, “What do we want to achieve these holidays?” which then becomes, “Which of these insurance policies works best for you now you’re driving?”
11 Ensure your daughter is responsible for her own actions. We all make bad decisions sometimes, and knowing these mistakes sit with us helps us learn how to move forward without repeating those actions.
12 Encourage your girls to follow their dreams. And allow yourself to reach your dreams, too. Your positive drive will inspire them to reach their goals.