“How was your day, honey?”
My teen daughter and I have heart-to-heart conversations on a regular basis and they almost always start with me asking her that question, usually at pick-up time from junior high. From listening to my daughter’s worries about her grades to consoling her when she’s distraught over the complexities of female friendships, I prioritize being there for my teen.
I know the fact that my daughter confides in me is a blessing. I’d also like to think that it’s partly due to the atmosphere of trust and acceptance that I’ve taken such care to raise her in.
When my husband and I first found out that we’d be the proud parents of a baby girl, I envisioned the type of home I wanted to create for my daughter. Hand on my soon-to-be-baby bump, I whispered promises to my girl that revolved around one of the most important things I wanted to give her: confidence. I hoped that my daughter would grow up to be confident in herself and her abilities, confident that her words matter, and confident that home would always be a source of love and comfort.
Here are the promises I whispered to my daughter then and do my best to live by today.
Dear daughter, I promise that:
I will tell you that you’re a good kid even when you make a bad choice. Life and experience have convinced me that there are no bad kids, just varying degrees of bad choices. My teen isn’t perfect. She loses her temper and she once told a (persistently provoking) classmate to “shut up” in the middle of class. My daughter’s choice in that instance (and some others) wasn’t ideal, and I make sure she apologizes when I think she’s overstepped.
However, I also remind her that she’s a good person and that even good people do the wrong thing sometimes. I stress for her that I don’t expect her to be the best, but I do expect her to do her best, even if her best means ‘fessing up to making a mistake and apologizing. By teaching my daughter that she has the strength to take responsibility for her actions—the good and the bad—I’ve noticed that she increasingly displays more confidence in standing behind her good choices and in owning up to and correcting her bad choices.
I will love you whether you’re glad, sad, snippy, or mad. Being a teenager isn’t easy for the kids going through that stage of life or for the parents who live with them! The teenage years are a rollercoaster ride of unpredictable mood swings, gripping insecurities, and nerve-wracking peer pressure. While we can’t stop our kids from going through the highs and lows of this challenging time, we can offer them the support they need to feel secure during the ride.
In offering my teen that support, I tell her that I may not always love her attitude, but I always love her. I’ve found that in offering her that solid foundation to stand on, the mood swings that arrive to sway my daughter left and right often leave as quickly as they came.
I will listen to your words even if I don’t honor your every request. Thank goodness we no longer live in a time when parents treat their children like they should be seen and not heard. Children are more likely to thrive when they feel listened to and encouraged. In fact, the longest-running study on human development found that even for a child who had a difficult start to life, having parents who routinely showed their child interest and warmth was the greatest factor in improving that child’s chances of living a successful life.
As soon as my daughter uttered her first word, I told her that her words matter. There are times now when I listen to my teen and marvel at her maturity and intelligence. Then there are other times when her words cause me to prod her to reconsider the way she’s going about this or that. And yet other times, I listen to my teen’s requests and tell her that, despite what she may think she really, really needs in her life right now, she’s not going to get it because it’s not a good fit for her or for our household. My teen is accustomed to “no” meaning “no” in our home and, as a result, is not one to kick and scream when she doesn’t get what she wants. In teaching her this vital life-lesson that the word “no” is to be respected, I’m hoping that she’ll have the confidence to stick to her “no” now and in the future.
I will remind you of how beautiful you are, inside and out. There are people who insist that we shouldn’t tell girls that they’re beautiful. While I understand the point that these well-intentioned people are making, I believe that we can empower girls to embrace their full potential and also let them know that mom thinks they’re beautiful, inside and out.
Society’s standard of beauty can be tough if not impossible for most women to reach. I want my teen to have a healthy relationship with herself and the concept of beauty. To foster this, I tell my daughter routinely that real beauty comes from the inside, but I also assure her that she is physically beautiful because my girl needs to hear that truth too. I do things like remind my teen that she has a beautiful smile and the loveliest eyes whenever she laments over a new pimple on her face. I also remind her of how thoughtful and compassionate she is whenever she regrets a momentary lapse of judgment in saying or doing something hurtful.
Life can be unwelcoming and harsh, and our children will meet people who’ll say things that hurt them. I reassure my teen that she’s good, loved, smart, and beautiful not only because I believe all of those things to be true, but also to arm her with a strong sense of confidence if anyone ever tells her otherwise. There will be times, however, when the slings and arrows of life will pierce even the strongest of confident demeanors. In those times, I want my daughter to rest easy that no matter how rough things get out there, she can always count on home to be a soft place to land.