How not to raise a girl
I did everything you shouldn’t and she ended up fine.
I look at Bronte now, nearly 22, with her own business and brave enough to speak her opinions and talk about topics others don’t. I sometimes silently pat myself on the back for a job well done, although I know a lot of it is more to do with her than I can ever take credit for. But I did raise her, right? So I must be able to share in some of the credit.
While I was raising Bronte I was also actively working with teenagers, parents, schools and organisations, talking about the teen years. I knew a lot about young people, most of which went way against the grain and I think that had a huge impact on how I raised her and her sister. What I knew went against every single piece of parenting advice out there; it went against every single piece of advice about raising girls and often when I was asked about parenting or how I raised my own daughters, most told me that my style would raise a wayward rebel or tearaway.
I don’t know about you, but I quite like rebels and always have.
I don’t write this to toot my own horn or to tell all those who didn’t believe or listen to me for so long to get a chill pill. I write to say to all the other parents out there that the most important thing is that you listen to your own inner voice. Each child is different; the books and experts out there don’t know your child and your circumstances. Only you know what is right and wrong for your child.
So what was the first thing I did in my How Not to raise a Girl?
I think the first thing was more of an inner decision, so to speak. I have always been a questioner, always been an investigator. I never take anything at face value and yes, I am a rebel.
My starting point was to think, what if every piece of parental advice was wrong? It was a liberating place to start from, let me tell you. And I think what it did was to get rid of all expectations about what parenting was and what it meant. This allowed me to examine my beliefs about this thing called parenting and I came to a few conclusions.
1. I hated the word parenting and from now on I would see this game as me just raising an independent, responsible adult.
2. I had no right to control or tell another person what was right for them; that was for them to figure out.
3. We were in this together, we were all a team.
I can’t even tell you the freedom this allowed me and on a practical level it meant I didn’t have to have the answers at all, I just needed to ask the right questions.
Now I’m not saying I was a perfect parent, not by any means. I shouted, I nagged and I got it wrong more than I got it right but at the end of the day we all came out of it holding each other’s hands, which has to be a good thing.
On a practical level it meant things like:
1. From about 10 years old my children were responsible for their own bedtimes. If they got up late in the mornings they dealt with that I never stepped in to save them, in fact I even remember taking Bronte to school once in her pyjamas! ( see was about 5 at the time)
2. If something was going wrong in their lives I didn’t step in to save them, I asked them what they wanted to do. In Year 3 Bronte was bullied and I didn’t step in once. Each day she would use a different tactic, talk to me about it and then go and try something new.
3. I never let the school put pressure on me. Even now if I get contacted about Freya and lateness I politely let them know that Freya is 17 and responsible for herself and they are free to do whatever they think is necessary.
4. If I saw them being mean or jumping to conclusions I stepped in and asked them to think about the others persons point of view.
5. If they didn’t want to go to Grandma’s they didn’t have to. If they didn’t want Uncle Bill to give them a hug then they told him so.
6. If they didn’t go to school due to an illness I didn’t believe, I didn’t make them go, I just let them know that they would have to explain it to the school because I wouldn’t. Also, I would refer the school to them.
7. I never grounded my children or took away any privileges. I looked at the logical consequences, for example if they came in late trust was broken so next time they asked me to trust them, I would remind them why I didn’t.
Above all else I wanted my child to love herself.
I worried not one moment about what anyone else thought of me; when my mum, teachers, other parents or bystanders felt the need to criticize me. I just said thank you and walked away. I wanted to raise a child who above all knew and loved herself, and wasn’t worried about conforming. And not conforming takes guts; as an ex-police officer, I know. Maybe it’s easier for me, maybe it made it easier to not get emotionally involved and not step in at every moment. Maybe it was easier for me to ignore expectations and do what I wanted and thought was right. Most people thought I behaved the way I did because I didn’t care, but the opposite was true. I cared greatly, but what mattered more to me than anything was raising a child who was able to be an independent and responsible adult. That is what mattered most, not what others thought of me. It mattered even more than the feelings I had for my own and their protection.
My job wasn’t to parent; it was to guide and I didn’t let anything lead me off that path.
I wasn’t a walkover; in fact I would think that my children would say the opposite. I was always clear on my expectations and the consequences of not meeting them. They learned cause and effect, they learned to be responsible for themselves and most importantly they learned who they were and what they were capable of.
I don’t regret one thing I did as a parent. Raising them was a collaborative effort, a pact between them and me that sometimes went wrong and sometimes went very right, but in the end raised two young ladies that see the world in unique ways and each will make their own mark on it, I’m sure.
There is so much more I could say on this topic. So much more I want to say, so expect to see a series coming, but for now what I want to say is this.
Your children are more capable then you could ever imagine, they need you less than you think they do. You don’t need anyone telling you how to raise your children, other people’s beliefs and expectations mean nothing. Do it your way; you children were given to you for a reason, so trust that you have this.
The only test that really matters is how you child feels about themselves. Your job is to help them love themselves as much as you love them, to help them see themselves as you see them and not how the word wants them to be.
You’ve got this.