My four-year-old is going through...I'd call it a phase, but it feels like for frickin' ever. It's a bit like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Or that nursery rhyme: When she was good, she was very very good/But when she was bad she was....You get the picture.
In a previous blog, I talked about Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, who wrote The Confidence Code, and its strong messages for women. One of the book's recommendations to raise confident girls is to take care how we phrase our praise and blame. If we keep saying, "Good girl!" when they do something right and tell them they've been a bad girl when they do something wrong, we perpetuate the stereotype that girls have to be "good." And being good all the time could limit them in the future: their desire to take risks, to challenge authority, to think independently and be different. Fair enough. But I have to admit, I find it hard not to reinforce "good" behaviour.
What, exactly, do I want my girls to be when they grow up? Therein lies the challenge.
I want them to be well-behaved...but not too well-behaved. I want them to be respectful of their elders and authority figures, but I also want them to speak up for themselves and express their opinions. I want them to be brave but not necessarily fearless. I want them to be confident and friendly, but I also want them to have the emotional intelligence to empathize with others. I want them to be tough but also kind.
No wonder it's confusing for my four-year-old. If I'm not even sure what I want her to be, how can she meet those expectations?
When I think about it, I realize I've struggled with that same problem my whole life: the desire to be a good girl but also a free-thinking, courageous, independent woman. Maybe it's an issue most women struggle with. I just hope when my girls have girls of their own, they'll have it all figured out.