(Originally published in Guyana's Kaieteur News on 28 November 2010)
I once heard a woman say she allows her daughter to explore the not-so-nice aspects of her personality. With wisdom, the mother said it is important to have that stronger side of us – as well as the nice, well-mannered side – since the world can be cruel at times.
Although I never thought to teach my girls this lesson in an overt manner, I could not agree with this lady more. There are times in life when we need to have a thicker skin and be a little stronger, because if we were anything less, life would chew us up and spit us out.
As women, we have been told our entire lives that we are made of “sugar and spice and everything nice.” So we try to live up to that notion and in the process we can get walked all over. Some women even submit to abusive relationships because they have never been taught to stand up for themselves.
If we teach our daughters to always play nice, what happens when they are confronted with real life? Real life can be so tough sometimes and it takes a tough woman to handle tough times. As parents we go to great lengths to teach our daughters to be good little girls, but does that instruction alone give them what they need to function effectively in today’s world?
One of the reasons some women find it so hard to cope with life is because they have not been taught how to do it effectively. We are taught how to deal with a fantasy life of sugary situations and sheltered from what the world is really like.
Meanwhile, boys are taught to be well-mannered, but they are also encouraged to explore the other side of their personality too – the not-so-nice side. In a world where men still rule the roost in most business and political environments, it puts our daughters at a severe disadvantage to force them to be sweet when we all know business and politics can be cutthroat.
Parents go out of their way to “toughen up” their boys, but the girls are not supposed to get dirty or raise their voice. They are not taught to fight for what they want, which is what a person has to do in life sometimes. I allowed my daughters to explore the not-so-nice parts of their personalities, but I have always brought them back to a place of caring about others too.
Once when my oldest daughter was about 13 years old and still very sweet and innocent, she developed a friendship with another girl who was not so sweet and innocent. The girl would lie, spread rumours and even yell at other people. My daughter had no idea how to deal with someone like this.
She came home crying one day because she was so hurt and so mad over the situation. I told my daughter that she should not back down from a mean person. I told her to stand up to the girl and see what happens. The mean girl backed down and everyone was deeply grateful to my daughter for letting the girl know she would not get away with her nastiness.
Afterwards, I reminded my daughter that it was important to mend the rifts and to try and maintain a civil relationship since they attended school together and had to interact on a daily basis. Balance is key in teaching our daughters how to deal with real life, just as it is when bringing up boys.
Maybe it is time for us to teach our daughters to be both naughty and nice – after all that is what real life will be like when we are not there to protect them from it anymore. There are some scoundrels in every community who love to prey on weak women, which is exactly why we need to raise strong women.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported, “Unipolar depression, predicted to be the second leading cause of global disability burden by 2020, is twice as common in women.” If we gave our daughters all the available tools to effectively deal with life, perhaps this depression rate would decrease.
The more strong women there are in society, the fewer victims there will be for scoundrels. None of us want our daughters to be a scoundrel’s victim, a mean person’s doormat, or a submissive wife to an abuser.
So the next time your daughter fights for a toy that someone just took from her, let her explore that part of her personality. It just might teach her to fight for something more important later on in life.