Sunday, September 7, 2014

10 Things Our Daughters Should Know Before They Turn 10

I recently read an article on Baby Center titled 10 Things Your Daughter Should Know Before She Turns 10. As a mother to 2 daughters, who happen to be under 10, the title was appealing, and provided it made some good points, would leave me plenty of time to accomplish anything deemed worthwhile.  

When I read the article however I was disappointed to see things in there like knowing how to cook and the importance of a good appearance for young ladies. What nonsense! A girl’s changing body was also thrown in to further aggravate me. Was the point of this article to prepare leaders, or create future Stepford housewives? Is this how parents are meant to prioritize learning for our young daughters? My next thought was, I could write a better list than this; so I did, and here it is below: (*Disclaimer: This is a fluid list and subject to change at any notice)

  1. By age 10 our daughters should be able to speak up, voice their opinions, and display their thoughts with confidence.
This is the ultimate tool she needs to have in life, the workforce, and as she faces the world head on. Sheryl Sandberg, CEO of Facebook, wrote a wonderfully inspiring book called “Lean In”. In it, she highlights the importance of woman needing to speak up in the workforce and in their marriages. The significance of this is vast because women, like men, have professional dreams which they have every right to aspire to and accomplish. In order to achieve our professional goals, we need committed partners who are willing to share in the household duties, and respect and listen to us in the conference rooms. There is no fairy godparent that will sweep down and help us get ahead, so we need to stop spreading false Disney propaganda to our daughters and let them know if they want something, they have to work for it. Being assertive and speaking up can have the repercussion of little girls being labeled as “bossy” or “smarty pants” which has obvious negative connotations. When little boys speak up and are assertive, they are admiringly labeled future CEOs. Along the way, girls lose their leadership potential; society conditions them to be meeker and speak out less thus losing out on many opportunities in life, from getting the right job, to demanding an equal salary and ultimately not reaching their true potential. As parents, we might not be able to change society overnight, but we can ingrain our daughters with so much confidence and power that these sexist comments won’t affect her true potential. If she can learn to be self-assured and outspoken by 10, imagine what she can accomplish by 30!

  1. By age 10 our daughters should know the wonders of a good book and read plenty of them.
Fact is, readers know a lot; not because they are naturally smart but because they read, read, and then read some more. It is hard to remain gullible, be connived, or abide authority unquestioningly when you have a wealth of information in your head. Your daughter should read a variety of books, from fact to fiction, and she should anticipate the wonderful adventures waiting for her in between those pages. My belief is we’re all a good book away from being passionate bookworms, so if your daughter is not entirely there, fret not, you just haven’t’ found the perfect book for her yet. If she only reads comic books or fairy novels, that is fine too; what you are cultivating is a reader, a seeker of knowledge, it will all come together eventually. Judy Blume famously said: “Let children read whatever they want and then talk about it with them. If parents and kids can talk together, we won't have as much censorship because we won't have as much fear.” I know this can be intimidating, particularly if your kid has advanced reading skills, and the material they have access to might be racier, darker, more than what you are comfortable with, but trust me what you are developing is a deep trust where they can tell you anything without ever feeling judged or scolded. An added benefit to that is you’ve just helped her become a thriving seeker of truth, and an intellectual.

  1. By 10, our daughters should know how to handle their money, and have some type of allowance where they can apply basic financial skills.
I don’t know about you, but I got my first financial life lesson when I moved out on my own at 18. For some reason, I could not comprehend why my $10 an hour coffee shop salary was not covering my NY midtown apartment, school books, party money, and the million miscellaneous items that kept coming up. As parents, it is our responsibility to teach this basic life necessity. Much grief could be saved if all parents had the necessary financial aptitude and taught their children accordingly. Our daughters should begin to have a clear, albeit basic idea, of how income is generated and how income is spent. Ideally, she should have a weekly or monthly allowance where she can utilize those basic financial principles autonomously. At home we have instilled a policy of saving 75%, spending 15% and donating (whether to charity or elsewhere) 10%. Ultimately, she has final say in how spends her money, but it does not take too many applied mistakes for a child to learn that it sucks having spent every last dime on a crappy toy. It’s also nice for her to learn this lesson early on, at home, rather than later on in life when she has to find ways to scramble to make the rent.  

  1. By age 10, our daughters should participate in some type of physical activity.
A girl’s self-esteem plummets tremendously in the middle school years for various reasons. Key links to self-esteem, among others, are active physical fitness and good nutrition. It is crucial to instill healthy habits early on, so girls can carry on feeling as good as they did in kindergarten when their energy and enthusiasm for life is top of the world. One important caveat is to stress the value of working out for health and feeling good, rather than being thin. The same applies for nutrition; if she eats healthy she will get sick less, have more energy and be generally happier. Don’t we all want happy kids? When we fill our bodies with toxic materials we feel toxic, and lash out emotionally. Luckily, there is a plethora of sport activities to choose from, even for the least athletic among us, such as soccer, running, dance, swimming, walking, yoga, and even zumba for kids. Participating in an organized sport has many added benefits; it makes the child feel part of something bigger, raises her morale, and has a positive effect on academic grades. Recent research has revealed that regular exercise can increase brain function; the brain is a muscle after all. Personally, I work out almost every day and my girls regularly ask me why I choose to wake up so early to run for so long; my answer to them is: “It’s my therapy, my much needed alone time, where I can process my thoughts so I am healthier, have more energy to play with you, and I feel fantastic afterwards.” Those words alone have made them eager to follow in my footsteps.

  1. By age 10, our daughters should know the importance of a good education, discipline and practicable time management.
By now, we’ve all heard of the famous marshmallow experiment. It took place in the 1960s when a group of psychologists carried out a research project at Stanford University to study the effects of delayed gratification on 4 year olds. The children a.k.a. research participants were given a choice to have 1 marshmallow now, or if they were able to wait (sometimes for up to 15 minutes!), they would get a bigger treat, such as double the amount of marshmallows or a big cookie. The child would be left alone to make their decision. What do you think your child would do? The fascinating results were revealed years later in the follow up, where it was shown that children who were able to hold out for the bigger prize tended to do much better in broader aspects of life. These measures were studied via standard tests, overall education, and general life competency. This was a mind blowing project for many reasons, mainly because delayed gratification as a skill set can be easily taught. As humans, we are instinctively self-serving, gluttonous, and slothful; the 7 deadly sins were deemed so for a reason. But, with a little motivation and some practice we can all learn to delay our indulgences. In terms of an education and a higher purpose, your daughter should be striving to learn, appreciate the process, and put forth the discipline because she understands that this hard work is well worth the effort.

  1. By age 10, your daughter should know basic street directions and her way around a building.
One of the primordial reasons we learn to read and write is to understand how to get from point A to point B. And knowing where we are at all times is vital for our survival. Kids nowadays are typically not raised how their parents were; they are not given as much freedom and independence. By age 7, I was walking to school with my younger brother and older (by 10 months) sister. We lived in the South Bronx, where school was about a 30 minute walk, sometimes we’d take the train, and sometimes we’d pass drug dealers, both requiring a different set of street smarts. My daughters live a more sheltered existence, with luxuries I could only dream about at their age, but that doesn’t mean they have to live in a bubble. We should expect our children to be conscious of their environment at all times, to read street signs, and to discern landmarks in their neighborhood so they would know how to get around alone if they ever needed to. Not to mention they should know how to cross a street on their own. With equal confidence, by age 10, she should also be able to enter a building and figure out her location by either locating a map or observing the layout. These essentials will serve her well as she grows up and one day starts traveling the world on her own.

  1. By age 10, our daughters should appreciate that everyone is different, and the greatness in everyone’s unique abilities.  
My daughter attends an inclusive public school with some pretty amazing kids. There is a whole realm of differences among the kids, gifted, English language learners, children with cerebral palsy, and others. My daughter’s best friend is a gifted artist with ADHD, she shares honor roll status with a highly motivated young girl who has Down syndrome, and last year was placed in a classroom with a sensitive boy who has profound Autism. This experience has taught her a lot about our “intellectual differences” and ways to define success. Not all schools are inclusive but the world is, and it’s always good to be a proponent for positive social change and acceptance. Empathy is developed first and foremost in the home; when we nurture our children we teach them that their feelings are not only valid but treasured, the way it should be for all people alike. The golden rule as originally stated reads: “One should treat others as one would like others to treat oneself.” We’re all born with different traits; it’s what you do with them, and how you treat others that counts.

  1. Related to #7, by age 10 our daughters should be open to other cultures, other languages, and the global world.
The U.S. started off as melting pot, not an ideally forming one, but one nonetheless. Now the world is moving towards that too. Countries formerly considered ethnically and culturally singular are now experiencing migration and diversity. One can travel to many European countries and meet a multitude of people from Africa, Asia and Latin America. At this point in her life, your daughter would have met many people from different cultures; they might even be the majority of her friends if she lives in a city. By now, she should also have an understanding of geography and global context, particularly in regards to people’s cultural, linguistic and political differences. She should not necessary spew out her parent’s political views word for word, but understand there is a wide spectrum of different ways of thinking in our world. I happen to believe that it’s a good idea for her to oppose her parent’s political views if she feels differently. We should applaud her for her courageousness in speaking out, and having an interest in other points of views. In terms of world travel, not all kids have an inclination to visit other countries, but all should be sensitive to cultural differences and open to understanding the different human makeup and realities.

  1.  By age 10, our daughters should know sexism exists and plainly call it out when they see or experience it.  
This is a reality that is never too early to bring up. Why are the girl toys in all toy stores pink? Why do the male characters use feminine derogatory terms to insult or make fun of each other? Why are boys on TV portrayed as smart, creative, and problem solvers while girls are labeled as materialistic, vain, and catty? These are the discussions we should be having with our daughters. Let them watch that TV show, then pause it and ask the pointed questions, make the observations, get them thinking. You’d be surprised by how much she’ll notice on a day-to-day basis once that seed is planted. For those toys exclusively marketed at girls i.e. American Girl Dolls, notice with them how girls are frequently pigeonholed into one category and defined in a one-dimensional way, then ask them if they view themselves like that. How many of us can only use one adjective to describe ourselves? They majority of us are complex, multifaceted individuals, difficult to describe with just one word; we are not solely “kind”, “loyal”, “fair”, or “proud”. Why can’t we be all that plus some i.e. “determined”, “inquisitive”, “creative” and “analytical”? I know many little girls that are all this and a million things more so let’s not allow society to limit their descriptors.   

  1. By age 10, our daughters should feel loved, unconditionally accepted, and showered with affection.
At 10, she is not an adult, and she is not a teen; but please, resist the urge to label her a tween. That is a marketing term first used in the 1930s and developed in the 1990s to sell items to a specific demographic age. It is nothing more than a ploy to get more shoppers to buy items that are too adult, too provocative, and too sexual for a 10 year old girl to be having. It also seems as parents we stop showering our kids with affection around the age they start attending school. It shouldn’t be like this! Our young ladies still need affection, they need hugs and love but most important they need to feel accepted no matter who they are or how they feel. They need to feel that not all their thoughts will be sugar and spice, or anything nice, and that is OKAY. We are all human and allowed to feel the full spectrum of our emotions, we are all allowed to feel any way we want, and we all deserve our parent’s unconditional love.

Honestly, I think this list could be applied to both boys and girls. What do  you think? Would you add anything else to this list for your young son or daughter?

I don't remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don't even know exist until you love a child.
― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son's First Year


  1. This is so fantastic that it brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart. To see it written and published for the world to see makes my mama of a daughter heart happy!!! 😍

    1. I am so honored you read and commented! Thank you so much.

  2. Great list! If I may, here's something I would add, though 10 might be a little early: To make them aware of the greater world, beyond the safety and relative peace of Western life. I think it's important to know how lucky we are, and we have a duty to know about those without the stability and relative comfort of Western life. Keeping both feet grounded to the surface is important. Then again, I'm far from being a mother, or a parent for that matter, so this proposition might be complete foolishness and I wouldn't know... XD

    1. This is a great addition and I don't think 10 is too early at all. My 9 year old and I were just discussing Malala, and she had an endless stream of questions; what I hope she got out of that conversation was exactly your point, how lucky she is, we are, and how we take many things for granted - like access to an education. Thank you for your thoughtful comment!

  3. Patricia, I love your rewrite of the 10 Things Our Daughters Should Know... !!! These are the very values and beliefs I want to bestow and instill in my daughter. You have hit the bull's eye. It's never too soon... their girlhood years shouldn't just be about looking beautiful and wearing pretty dresses. Again, it's not too early to teach them about the facts of life, how the world still views woman. Now is the time to train them to become woman warriors! Thank you for this list!

    1. I am sure you are doing a fabulous job with both of your lovelies!! xoxo

  4. I laughed to myself when you mentioned the other list said girls should know how to cook by the time they're 10. I think that's something both sexes should know, as well as everything on your list.

    1. I agree! Men and women alike should know how to feed themselves. :-) Thank you for reading.