8 lessons I won’t be teaching my daughter

Mothers of daughters have a tough job, and a much tougher responsibility. As a feminist myself, I will of course raise my daughter the same way, meaning I will not subscribe to some of the more traditional parenting ideologies and styles.

I want my daughter to be fearless and strong, and emotional and kind, all at the same time. I want her to grow up knowing she deserves the world and more, especially now where we have a number of people (particularly in the political spotlight… AHEM… no names…) who think it is still acceptable to treat women like they are a lesser species. My daughter will NEVER be made to feel like this.

So, here are 8 lessons I won’t be teaching my daughter, in the hope that she grows up to be that fearless princess dinosaur that I already know she is on the inside.

1. Children should be seen and not heard

This is outdated and completely limits children’s imagination. I want Olivia to be comfortable in her own home, and everywhere else, to speak her mind and to be sociable. I will obviously still be teaching her respect for others and patience (waiting her turn when someone else is talking), but that doesn’t need to go hand in hand with mandatory silence.

2. Don’t get your clothes dirty

How else do you measure a child’s enjoyment if not by the amount of muck they manage to get on themselves in a day? My daughter WILL play outside and she absolutely WILL NOT be afraid of mud.

3. That’s a boy’s toy/not for girls to play with

Ugh, gender stereotyping. If she wants to play with a football, she can. If she wants to wear a princess dress while playing football, she can. If she wants to dress up as a dinosaur and do ballet, she can. The point is, again this is another silly social construct that limits our children’s imaginations. I don’t ever want her to feel that she can’t do something because she’s a girl, and that starts even at the youngest age with telling them they can’t have certain toys, games or clothes!

4. Don’t be bossy

Firstly, it’s not “being bossy”, it’s leadership skills. I am HATE the word bossy and I will never use it to describe my daughter. She is strong-minded, strong-willed and incredibly confident and independent. She is a handful at times. She likes being in charge and having people follow her lead. She is not bossy. A boy is never described as bossy, because it’s somehow a demeaning word, and I don’t want to suppress all of those amazing qualities Olivia has into that one word.

5. Be more lady-like

My daughter is funny and gross at times, but I don’t care. She’s a kid. I’ll teach her to be polite, kind and courteous, but not to be more lady-like. Plus, boys should be showing those qualities too!

6. Ladies first

I hate this. It makes me cringe. I’m all for holding doors open for people, but I have a particular disdain for someone holding it open and saying “ladies first” as I walk through. JUST WHY? Why and how did that even become a thing?

7. Respect your elders

Nope. Respect is earned. Not everyone deserves your respect purely because they were born before you. As above, I’ll teach my daughter to be polite, and respectful, but not that a certain class of people can demand respect from her. It’s hers to give!

8. You have to hug/kiss [insert relative here] hello/goodbye

Her body, her rules. I respect her autonomy. I never force her to give hugs or kisses if she doesn’t want to. She is an affectionate little soul and if she wants to show affection she will. If not, I don’t really care who it upsets. Everyone needs to respect that SHE decides whether she wants to hug/kiss them.

What other parenting rules are you breaking? What will/won’t you teach your children and why?

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Mummy I want something else!

“I want something else”

Please say I’m not the only parent who hears these words mere minutes after her toddler has ‘finished’ her dinner!

Imogen has always been so good at eating. She’s usually liked trying new things, just sometimes has needed a little encouragement. I know there’s of course going to be those things she will not like for a while, (maybe even ever)… such as peppers, but on the whole, if it’s sliced up small enough, in another meal she’s wolfed it up. So over the last couple of months this new refusal to eat pretty much anything I’ve put in front of her has been a bit of a shock. I’ve been so smug and naïve!

At 2 and a half Imogen has become such a fiercely independent young lady. She’s putting on most of her clothes herself, she’s choosing what she wants to wear, what she likes and dislikes, so I guess it’s only natural that she would be trying to choose what she wants to eat. Of course anyone who didn’t know the repercussions would want to eat nothing but chocolate and biscuits, but trying to get it through to a toddler that this isn’t possible is not easy is it!?

I tried different techniques: gentle persuasion, cartoons on the TV, no TV at all, music, sitting next to Imogen for emotional support, eating all together at set meal times, eating out in public, negotiation, and the more desperate approach of bribery with dessert/cake. Nothing was working!! This toddler had me wrapped around her little finger and she knew it. All those meals she used to love… spaghetti Bolognese, moussaka, sausages, chicken nuggets… Imogen was now telling me “I DON’T LIKE IT! I WANT SOMETHING ELSE!”

WHY????!! You liked it a couple of months ago!

I was even considering putting my daughter in nursery for the entire 5 days a week because every time I’ve gone to pick her up, the darling has eaten double portions of all the meals they’ve been serving. At least, I thought, she would be eating! But no, in all honesty I enjoy my time with her and that wouldn’t be what I wanted really. I also can’t imagine having the finances to do that.

So I’ve tried something new.

I bought the Fred Dinner Winner Kids’ Dinner Tray, with dinosaurs on, for my little dinosaur lover. If you’ve not seen these dinner trays they look like board games, with a little windy path to the hidden prize at the end.

I also printed out a little sticker rewards chart which has gone on to the wall next to where she eats.

The dinner tray has gone down well. My only comments on it really are that Imogen hasn’t got her head around eating from the slots in order, but on the plus side, she has been eating it all. When she’s older, I’m sure she’ll get the idea around it being like a board game, but right now I think it’s appealing because of the dinosaurs and the surprise at the end. The prize slot is a little small, so what I thought I might do is maybe draw a small picture of a yoghurt pot etc on a folded piece of paper, so she knows what her surprise is when she opens it up. It’s just too small for anything really other than a couple pieces of chocolate. When Imogen has eaten her dinner we have the exciting job of adding a star to the reward chart, and it shows a reminder that she has been eating all week. So far, it has been working, but I don’t know how long it will work for. I’m hoping that if we make it our new routine hopefully Imogen will start eating better. We also need everyone else to be on board, i.e. the grandparents who have a tendency to give children what they ask for!

If you have any dinner time tips for getting a fussy or bossy little one to eat, please share them here for everyone to see, we’d love to hear them! 🙂

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Is it okay to dress my daughter up as a princess?

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I am a Feminist.

Pure and simple. Always have been and always will be. From as long as I had the ability to understand what the hell that was, I knew I was one.

For those of you who are still unsure on what being a feminist actually is, it is nothing more complex than this:

I BELIEVE MEN AND WOMEN ARE EQUAL.

Yes, there are numerous variations of feminism – there are different sub-categories of feminism which have been adapted to suit the different sub-categories of women that exist (i.e. black feminism for black women as an even further marginalised group who have their own specific cultural needs). BUT the basic principle across all feminism is that women are no less than men, and should not be treated as less than men.

I have obviously adapted MY version of feminism for me – there are certain ideas that I subscribe to, such as being against gender stereotyping, and there are ideas that I don’t subscribe to, such as the radical feminists’ view that men are scum (though there are many men, and probably as many women, who are scum, but it’s not a gender thing).

Gender stereotyping, for those of you that don’t know or think I’m a bit “PC gone mad”, is basically that boys and girls from BIRTH should not be told or encouraged to act a certain way, dress a certain way or play with certain toys because of the genitals that are between their legs. Why is that important to me? Because somehow, even as a child, being a girl is still seen as being less.

Think about it… I bet you’ve all heard these phrases tons of times that normalise certain behaviours depending on whether it’s a boy or a girl that is the one behaving that way:

  • “Boys will be boys” – often used as an excuse for them being little shits, reinforcing the idea that boys and men are, characteristically because of their genitals, little shits.
  • “Man up”/”Grow some balls” etc. – implying that men are stronger emotionally. On a side note, this one is actually quite damaging for men’s mental health – no wonder suicide is the biggest killer of young men when from SUCH A YOUNG AGE we tell them that because they are men, they are not allowed to display feelings.
  • “She’s bossy” – when have you ever called a man bossy? Trick question, you don’t – a man is assertive, not bossy. Same behaviour, completely different word association, tone and meaning based on what bits are between their legs.
  • “She’s a bit of a tomboy” – god forbid a girl “acts like a boy”… Getting messy, being boisterous, loud, active, loving the outdoors – these are all qualities we associate with boys, and if a girl exhibits them, she’s not a girl anymore, she’s gained this new “tomboy” identity, whatever the hell that is.

So why does this bother me so much?

Well, it always has – I hated being called a tomboy when I was little. I was a girl, who liked playing football. When I found out I was having a girl, I didn’t immediately go and start buying tons and tons of pink stuff. Yes, I bought some, if I liked it, but ultimately I tried to find bright or neutral coloured clothes, and I found one particular range of unisex clothing I absolutely adore. Little Bird by Jools, stocked by Mothercare, if you’re interested.

I point blank refused to buy Olivia a baby and a pram, until one day at baby group she toddled over to find one on her own and enjoyed playing with them, so we got her one for home. I did not want to have that as an option for her to play with at home before she’d even shown an interest with it simply because she’s a girl. Similarly, I refuse to buy her toy hoovers, irons, kitchens etc., because these are ALL targeted at girls! Come on people, we are a progressive society, why should my daughter be restricted to playing with these toys which basically just reinforce the idea that only girls can do the cooking or the cleaning? IT’S 2019 FOR CHRIST’S SAKE, PUT SOME BOYS ON THE BOXES AND USE LESS PINK. Also I want her to have higher aspirations in life than spending all day doing the bleeding ironing.

Equally, if I’d had a boy, I wouldn’t have stocked my house full of action men. If he’d wanted a toy baby and pram, I’d have got him one the same as I did for Olivia. If he’d wanted a football for the garden, I’d have got him one the same as I did for Olivia.

So why oh why have I bought my daughter so many princess dresses, you ask? (SERIOUSLY she has like 20 of them!)

Well, because she wants them. At the age of 2 going on 12, she has decided that she LOVES dressing up, in particular, dressing up as a princess from any and all of her favourite Disney movies. She can be Snow White, Rapunzel, Belle, Elsa, Anna, Cinderella, Merida… Whoever she wants to be!

You may have seen Kiera Knightley talking about how she doesn’t want her daughter watching certain princess movies, and I’m minded to agree. I hate her watching Snow White (mostly because it’s boring, not gonna lie), but also, she watches Mulan and Brave and Tangled as much as she watches the others, and those are hella FEMINIST (way to go, Disney!)

The point is – I will never teach her to aspire to marry a prince, but by dressing up as whoever she wants to be, whoever her idols are at this phase in her life, I’m teaching her that she can be whatever she wants to be.

She loves dinosaurs equally as much as she loves princesses. Her favourite book is about a penguin who learns to swim by taking a brave leap of faith into a huge, scary ocean. Her second favourite book is about a witch and wizard becoming a dragon and a dinosaur and having a battle of who can have the best costume to a fancy dress party. Why would I stifle that imagination?

So, yes, I’m a feminist, and my daughter will grow up a feminist, knowing she can be whatever she wants to be, whether that’s a princess, a dinosaur, the Prime Minister, or a nurse.

What are your views on gender stereotyping? Do you try to actively avoid it in your home as well?

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