Children are meant to be seen and not heard.
Not now, honey, Mami’s talking.
Oh what do you, know? You’re just a kid.
We’re all familiar with these phrases. We may have even heard them from adults when we were children. Is it no wonder then, that many of us grow up with feelings of insecurity and a lack of confidence.
To know that we matter, that we have a voice, that we are seen and heard, is as basic a need as breathing. (Oprah worshippers may remember O making a similar point in her final show.)
Whether you’ve struggled with this issue as a woman, chances are that as a mom you want your daughter to grow up with a strong feeling of self-worth. And who better to teach her she matters than you, her mami?
These lessons of confidence and worth are learned early on in life. In a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology of 6-year-olds who performed a task and then were asked what they deserved as payment (in the form of Hershey’s Kisses), girls consistently “paid” themselves less than boys did. Girls took five Hershey’s kisses, while boys took as many as nine.
From a very young age, girls are socialized to be happy with what they have, not rock the boat, and not ask for something more; as a result, this invalidates girls’ voices.
As her mami, you can perform the all-important task of validating your daughters voice. Doing so sends her the message that her voice and experience matter, thereby reinforcing that she matters and is worthy.
No doubt, speaking her mind means taking a risk. Therefore, when teaching your daughter to speak up and speak out, make sure she understands that there are times she will not get the desired result—and that is okay. However, she needs to know that her opinion, viewpoint, perspective and experience are valuable; and that you value her for who she is. Compliment or note her differences and unique personality. She will come to believe that her voice is powerful; thus, she will feel validated and valued.
If you encourage her to take risks, build perseverance, and to look at mistakes as learning experiences, you have empowered her to move forward as a contributing adult, a woman who believes in her own strength, experience and worth. She will be heard.
Here are 3 things you can do to validate your daughter’s voice:
1. Be present. Make the act of listening to your daughter a conscious, significant act. Children know when you are present and when you are simply giving your partial attention while cooking dinner or working on a project. Give her your full attention. Put down the iPhone. Stop washing the dishes. Turn off the television.
2. Make full eye contact. Realize that how you listen and pay attention to your daughter will help shape a sense of her own significance, therefore her worth.
3. Make sure she understands her worth. Use your authority and skill to persuade your daughter that her feelings and understandings of life are valid and significant. Schedule or reschedule, but make time. When you cannot give her your full attention, tell her so. Be honest. Give your daughter options. “I can’t give you my full attention right now because I have work to finish. But if you would like, I will sit with you after dinner, from six to seven, in the living room.”