Raising a Daughter: The Five Keys

For Mother's Day, my mom bought me several books. (Go figure, the woman knows me.) One of the books is this one. I just finished it, and it was hilarious. It's a quick read, and the author brings the funny as few authors I know can. Seriously, if you're a mother, especially a relatively new mother, get your hands on this book. You will see yourself in the author's words. Buy it. Borrow it from the library. Steal it from Barnes and Noble, I don't care. (Okay, don't steal it, because that would be wrong.)

But get it. Read it. And thank me later.

One of the other books my mom bought me was this one. The book, which is divided into sections, including The Bonding Years, Girls and Beauty, and Girls and Success, gives mothers advice on how to raise their daughters.

Here are some of my favorite bits of advice:

"Praise her for her abilities and accomplishments, not her looks."

This one is particularly difficult given her age, because of course, people are always saying to her, as they would to any baby girl, "Oh, you're so adorable!" or "How pretty you are!" And really, I think they're far less inclined to compliment her on her ability to stick all five toes in her mouth at once, or the dexterity of her pointer finger, don't you? But as she grows, and once she actually begins understanding what it is people are saying to her, I believe this is an important lesson to remember.

"Realize that one of your most important jobs is to give her a sense of self, to help her define who she is, so no one else will."

This one is very important to me. I know so many women whose identities are tied to their relationships with others-girlfriend, wife, mother, etc. They have no idea who they are or what they stand for outside of these roles. I don't want this for my daughter. I want her to grow up having a firm sense of self. I want her to have values and beliefs and interests and hobbies that aren't necessarily those shared by her friends. I want her to have an independant spirit. I want her identity firmly cemented by the time she gets married, so her sense of being isn't absorbed by her husband, as so many womens' are. And if I've done my job as a mother correctly, she'll choose someone who adores her for it.

"Share stories of your mother and grandmother with her. Remember, girls are keepers of the flame."

The women in my extended family far outnumber the men. I am one of 11 grandchildren, only four of whom are boys. I have two aunts. They are both divorced. My grandma is a widow. My parents divorced when I was very young, so I was raised predominantly by my mom, but also by my women-centric extended family. So most of what I know about my history, and that of my family members, I learned from women. I plan on continuing this tradition with Isabella. Luckily, both her grandma and her great-grandma are alive to tell her their own stories as well.

At the beginning of the book, though, the authors list the Five Keys to Raising a Daughter:

1. Be her mother, not her best friend.

2. Let her live her own dreams. Don't try to make her live yours.

3. Be a strong, confident woman.

4. Be a good wife. You're shaping her future relationships with men.

5. Be aware that your goal is not to be the center of her life forever, but to work yourself out of a job.

I think these are spot-on. However, it's putting a few of these into practice that worries me. I plan on delving into the more problematic "keys" in upcoming posts.

10 Responses to “Raising a Daughter: The Five Keys”

  1. # Blogger My Wombinations

    I read that Sippy Cup book while I was pregnant and reread it after the baby came. I LOVE it. Cannot say enough good things. I have been working on a post about those daughter issues as well. It does seem incredibly complicated to raise a daughter with good values, doesn't it? I look forward to reading your thoughts.  

  2. # Blogger kenju

    Those are good points. One I like to remember is that a girl really needs a father as a good role model in order to gain a sense of herself. The best thing a father can do for a child is to love the child's mother.  

  3. # Anonymous John Kaiser

    "Praise her for her abilities and accomplishments, not her looks."

    My wife and I are anticipating problems with this. Our daughter is so adorable that people come up (complete strangers) and give her things. We have ahd strangers give her books, dora dolls, clothes, etc.

    It is usually the same. They say how adorable she is. And ask if she would like XYZ.  

  4. # Blogger Damselfly

    Sounds like a great book. Maybe someday I will have a daughter too.... And you can give me advice!  

  5. # Blogger Marie

    ... heavy sigh on the working yourself out of a job thing. Of course it has to be that way. Sigh...  

  6. # Blogger sher

    Very good points! And she will find it harder and harder to fit all five of her toes in her mouth as she gets older--so people really should praise her for this!  

  7. # Blogger l

    This is a great post! I hope I remember it if/when I ever have a daughter. Heck - a lot of this is applicable to raising a boy, too. I could teach my future son to value a woman based on her abilities and accomplishments, not her looks. Oh - and you should check this out: http://www.laurengreenfield.com/index.php?p=VPGHSTCS

    She's an amazing photographer whose work delves into social issues, mostly around women.  

  8. # Blogger Shannon

    sounds like 2 awesome books... I hate it when parents want to be best friends... it never works out right...  

  9. # Anonymous Lisanne

    Just testing ...  

  10. # Blogger Kristi

    Sasha-Loved that book. And yes, raising a daughter with good values is quite difficult, I think, considering the age we live in. Looking forward to your post too.

    Kenju-Definitely. I couldn't agree more.

    John-Wow. That's a tough one. I'm interested to hear about how you might address it in the future.

    Damselfly-Sure thing. And if I have a boy, you'll hook me up too, right? ;)

    Marie-I know. I felt the same way about that one. :(

    Sher-I sure hope so. Or else I gave birth to a monkey and not a baby!

    L-Thanks so much for that link. I just watched the movie on the home page, and her work looks incredible, and touches on such an important issue.

    Shannon-Nope. It doesn't. I've seen it happen many times, and it never turns out well.  

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