What did I do? Everything wrong.
When my oldest was facing some friendship challenges, I told her what she should say. When she talked about feeling left out, I told her how to get over it. When she thought she explained her idea for a project, I told her how to improve it. Argh!! I sucked.
Lucky for me, around that same time, I was chatting with a friend and psychologist about my concerns that my daughter wasn't speaking up for herself. My friend politely pointed out that trying to give my daughter MY voice was not going to work. Instead, she offered some great guidance on how I could help my girl find her own voice.
I was the problem (are you hearing the Taylor Swift song?). I was so worried about her, I was trying to fix everything for her.
Society sends us such mixed signals. We are bombarded with news that our world is increasingly dangerous, yet we have been labeled as a generation of overprotective “helicopter” parents.
So, how do we confidently encourage our daughters to become more independent while keeping them safe? How do we help our girls find their voices and advocate for themselves, their needs, what they believe in?
How do we Fear Less and Know More? (see what I did there? That’s our tagline 😉)
According to one of our favorite Psychologists, Dr. Alison Conner, the most important step is … learn to LISTEN!
Becoming independent is a crucial task of adolescence, and it requires self-advocacy skills. But sometimes we can become so obsessed with our daughters’ success and happiness that we may end up stepping in to prevent her failures and eliminate her disappointments. After a couple decades of “you’re-the-best-” and “don’t-let-them-see-you-struggle-” mentality, we are thankfully returning to the more realistic and accurate idea that failure can be fruitful.
Helicopter Less. Allow Failure More.
As your daughter navigates her way through the pre-teen and teen years, know it’s a lengthy process where sometimes she’ll amaze you with maturity, and other times, she’s acting five again. She will succeed. And she will have some missteps.
Despite what she may request, it’s definitely not the time to “let go” and give her unsupervised free rein. However, it is a perfect time to start trusting her ability to learn how to solve her own problems. It’s a perfect time to encourage her to find her voice.
You can support her most by building trust and communication, which ultimately requires more LISTENING and less talking (two ears, one mouth, right?). The more we show her that her voice matters, the more she will believe it. It starts with us.
Here are some tips Dr. Conner offers to help those of us with adolescents become better listeners, and therefore, better communicators and better parents:
- Listen even when you disagree.
- Resist temptations to always investigate, judge, or fix.
- Don’t always assume the worst.
- Choose your battles.
- Let her help establish her own boundaries and rules (and even consequences)
- Give guidance when needed.
- Be her ally.
- Trust in her ability to begin to solve her own problems.
The most important step in teaching your daughter that her voice matters is to show her how empowering it feels when someone LISTENS.
The best way to teach her to find her voice is to listen to her when she's using it.
Did you know Girlology has grade-by-grade video on demand playlists to support her and you through all things puberty and adolescence. Our doctor-moms cover topics like this and lots others! Learn More HERE.