Ever say something you wish you could take back?
Or, the opposite, say something you were so happy to say at the exact moment you said it?
I’ve had both, though with the volume of words I tend to speak my experience has been more of the former.
I don’t have children of my own. I had a cat (he’s been missing for 3 weeks), and I have a spirited husband, but I don’t have a child. But I work with almost 1,000 of them every day. If we go with national statistics we can count about 51% of them being girls. So even though I don’t put kids to bed every night or pack lunches every morning, I know enough to know that what we say to our children matters. We might think they’re young enough, they’ll bounce back. Or, we don’t want to coddle them, they need to toughen up. But let me tell you one thing for sure: those kids hear what we say, and they take it to heart.
Your words matter. More than you might think. If you say something often enough, it will be your voice your daughter hears when she looks in the mirror or is wondering if her boyfriend is good enough for her. It will be your voice that plays back when she wonders if she is loved, if she is lovable, if she’s smart enough to make it in whatever field she’s interested in. If you say it enough, it will be your voice, for better or worse.
I offer these as an educator and as a daughter.
The top 5 things to say to your daughter:
1. You are beautiful.
2. I love you.
3. You’re worth it.
4. That’s a good idea.
5. You’re beautiful.
My parents and grandparents (who were around as much as my mom and dad) told me these things all the time. My mom didn’t let me leave the house without her telling me I looked beautiful. If she wasn’t going to see me before she left for work she left notes, usually starting with, “Good morning, Beautiful!” My dad never skimped on telling me he loved me. If there was ever anything I felt my parents over-said (as a too-cool teenager), it was “I love you.”
As a result, I do not judge myself against the world’s beauty standard. I know I am loved and I know what I deserve. I have courage to try things like publishing a novel and living in Japan. And I feel beautiful when I look in the mirror most mornings (hey, I’m still a normal girl).
Our words matter. More than we think. If we say something often enough, it is our voices our children will hear. It is your voice your daughter will hear when she looks in the mirror or wonders if her boyfriend is good enough for her. It will be your voice that plays back when she wonders if she is loved, if she is lovable, if she’s smart enough to make it in whatever field she’s interested in. If we say it enough, it will be our voice, for better or worse. Make it better. Make it the good stuff. See how far it goes.
You tell me:
What is something your parents/grandparents/guardians/brothers/sisters told you while you were growing up that sticks with you today? What is the most important thing you were ever told?