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Raising a Nice Girl

2012 May 22

I want a lot for my kids in life. Health, clearly. Success, of course. Happiness, obviously. But what I really hope to accomplish on this journey they call parenting is to raise nice people.

Especially when it comes to Little D.

I was a nice girl. Ok, maybe not every single person I have ever encountered may say the same, but for the most part, in school and beyond, I haven’t been the smartest or the prettiest or the coolest…but I was always pretty nice to people. And it mattered.

My jaw almost dropped when D started pre-school last year. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing on a playground full of three and four-year-olds. Cliques. Tears. Mean girls. It became my mission then and there to try my best to make her different. To make her friendly. To make her tolerant. To make her patient. To make her…nice.

And so far, we have succeeded. Here is how:

We recognize our own feelings but we pay a lot of attention to others’ as well. We are not those parents who over-analyze and dissect every single emotion, but if Little D comes home with a tale of one kid who wouldn’t play with another, we don’t just talk about how “that’s not nice,” we talk about how it must have felt.

We are nice, by example. We are big on the please and thank yous around here, as is everyone, but we try to really mean it, not just have it on auto-pilot. We look people in the eye when we say hello or thank you. We encourage D to do the same. To everyone. Friends, teachers, the barista, the waitress. And lately, she doesn’t even need a nudge. She wants to be gracious and thankful, all on her own.

We call out rudeness. D was feeling a little blue before her gymnastics class last week so when I saw a girl from her group standing there waiting to enter, I walked her over and said “hey, this little girl is in your class, maybe you guys can hang together.” Her response? Little Mary Lou Retton in training turned around and pranced away, without a word or a smile. My response? “Well, that was super mean.” I wanted D to know that her reaction wasn’t right and that it wouldn’t be acceptable had she done the same. I wasn’t going to sugar-coat it by saying “that’s ok, maybe she’s having a tough day,” the girl was plain rude. And she wasn’t having a tough day, trust me, she was in tip top shape on the beam moments later…

We talk about bullying. It felt a little premature at first, but today’s preschool playground ain’t what it used to be. We talk about different forms of bullying, why we wouldn’t want to be friends with a bully, how if we are bullies no one will want to be friends with us.

We talk about differences. It can be everything from skin color to choice of lunch bags or sneakers. We look at things and people and places and talk about how cool they are, even if they aren’t our norm.

And finally, we show how important kindness is to us. I usually take a minute at bedtime to tell Little D how we are proud of certain highlights from her day…and call out the not-so-great moments, too. We’re proud of you for working so hard on writing your name. We’re proud of you for not killing your brother, etc. But we always find an act of true kindness to reward, in particular. We’re proud of you for going and playing with so-and-so when he was sad that his mom left at school. We thought that was cool (“cool” resonates most with her, can you tell?), and we want you to know that.

And you know what? She does know. And it shows.

She may not be perfect and I am sure she has had her own Mary Lou Retton moments when I am not watching, but for now, I would say that Lindsay Lohan has nothing to worry about. She can keep the Mean Girl title.


*Photo via here


4 Responses leave one →
  1. May 22, 2012

    I hope for the same thing from my girls. I think niceness is underrated. I wish someone had taught me to be nicer earlier on. I think your talks and modeling are the perfect approach. I try to suspend judgment in front of mine. I’ve had a lot of issues with other people being very negative by gossiping or just commenting on things they don’t like for no good reason. I’m trying my very best to let my girls form their own opinions on people and things while guiding them to the more positive side…no matter how unnatural it is for me. Hey, I might even learn a thing or two!

  2. May 22, 2012

    Amen, mama! Let’s hear it for the nice girls! I try to teach Sutton that all that matters is what is in your heart, that is it, nothing else, not how creative you are, not how funny you are, not how many toys you have, not how smart you are. No one likes a meanie. I hope it resonates with her because I sure try.

  3. May 23, 2012

    This is so very, very important. Thank you for sharing how you do it with little D. We try some of the same things with The Bean and Bean No. 2. It’s very different for the 2, and is sometimes hard. It was difficult this week, when a dear friend of The Bean’s literally bonked her on the head and then drew on her. I don’t think she was being mean, but it’s hard to find the right words to explain that without going to far in any direction.

  4. May 24, 2012

    Thank you so much for writing this post! I am trying my very hardest to do the same with both my daughter and son. My 4.5 y/o son said to me the other day, “I’m nice because I think of how other people feel.” YES! Like you said, they’re not always perfect. The super hero gene in my son isn’t helping matters either, but we just keep working on it.
    Speaking of bullying…Last month, we went to a birthday party and my son decided to get into the bounce house with a bunch of 7 year olds. One thing lead to another and he found himself in the middle being pushed down by all the older kids every time he tried to get up. We’re not sure how long this was going on when my husband finally noticed and made the kids stop. It was a heartbreaking moment, for sure. To see his helpless face. Anyway, we had a long talk on the ride home about bullying and how it feels/made him feel.
    Happy to know there are other parents who are also keeping these things top of mind.

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