So when are we giving our kids the wrong kind of encouragement? Many of today’s Millennial’s grew up in the “youth soccer world,” where participation was rewarded with a trophy and there weren’t any winners and losers. That’s fine when you’re six, but not when you’re 14. As much as we can promote win-win and pursue it whenever possible we also know that competition allows us to honestly evaluate our abilities. Nobody wants to watch the Bronco game be played to a tie, and certainly nobody wants to get to the end of the game and have someone declare that everybody won. You will have a revolt on your hands (and Las Vegas will go broke).
According to Margaret Meeker, author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know, humility is the starting point for every other virtue (77), and humility is about being honest with yourself and others. If you tell your daughter how awesome she is at everything and all the time, just to bolster her self-esteem, she will eventually see through that and wind up feeling frustrated (Meeker 79). She will likely start looking in the wrong places to feel better about herself as she realizes your comments are just empty platitudes (Meeker 79). Teaching your daughter, or your son for that matter, humility, is about letting them fail and still letting them know that you love them (Meeker 80).
I can honestly say this is one of the hardest things I’ve had to do as a parent. But, trying and failing is how we learn. And if we as parents fail to let our children learn, there will come a time when we are no longer around and we will have not equipped them with the tools they need to survive. There have been times where I have watched one of my kids struggle with something and stepped in to help and they have actually gotten mad. They want to do it on their own, and get their own victories, and they cannot get them if you’re not both honest with their abilities, and are allowed to try and fail.
- If you do not teach your daughter humility, that we are created equal and equally valuable and worthy of love regardless of how well or poorly we do something, then advertisers, magazines and celebrities are willing to step in and teach them what they think is important.
- Humility also means understanding that we do live in a symbiotic world. This is where win-win comes back. We are not made for isolation, we are social creatures and humility is the foundation of all healthy relationships (Meeker 82). We rely on each other and in nearly every human endeavor, there was a team in place making it happen. We didn’t go to the moon by ourselves and we don’t have to do everything by ourselves to prove that we are worthy of love. As George Clooney said in the movie, Up in the Air, “life’s better with company.”
- One of the most important lessons I think we can teach our daughters is that they are here in a place and for a purpose and that purpose is unique to them, and this place was chosen for them (Meeker 83). I know that I have spent a lot of time in my life trying to be other people. I still see this in my students and in my world. One of the greatest epiphanies I’ve ever had is to realize that I have a unique set of talents and I’ve been placed in this time, in this age, to fulfill certain missions, and that these missions are mine and no others. I would have loved to have been the prom king (the prom queen was smoking hot!). Or the football star, or in college, the top pilot. But there is an incredible freedom in discovering your own unique self – you get to stop being everyone else (which is exhausting) Help your daughter discover her own unique self. You do this by DEMONSTRATING it. You do this by LIVING IT. You do this by DOING IT YOURSELF.
One of the greatest hypocrisies for parents is the “do as I say not as I do model.” If you want your children to become good readers you must be a good reader yourself. If you want them to have a life of humility and community you need to live a life of humility and community. If you want them to lead a life of self-restraint, then you must lead a life of self-restraint. Humility does not make sense, nor does anything else make sense to your kid, unless it is modeled (Meeker 77).
A very destructive lesson that the 21st-century has been promoting is that we all deserve more – that what we have isn’t good enough (Meeker 89). I believe that we do deserve abundance in our lives in many areas, but there is something to be said for wanting what you have rather than having what you want. Selfishness is a horrible habit and the irony is the more kids (and adults) acquire, the more they want (Meeker 89). Selfishness is a thirst that cannot be quenched and our popular culture promotes selfishness as a virtue (Meeker 89). It’s your job to help your daughter understand this (by demonstrating it in your own life).
I am a big believer in the happiness research and movement, but if you teach your daughter that happiness is the end-goal, she will grow up to be selfish, and may suffer consequences (Meeker 89). If eating makes her happy eventually there is a consequence to eating too much. If sex with anyone anywhere makes her happy, there will eventually be a consequence such as a sexually transmitted disease, pregnancy, or at the least, the erosion of her fragile psyche. If buying things makes her happy that eventually both you and she will go broke.
I have heard some people say “well everything is okay in moderation.” I disagree. So a little cyanide in moderation is okay? Let us amend that worn out phrase, how about, “every good thing in moderation.” Meeker says if you teach her to be good, then she will be happy (Meeker 92).
We never did our kids favors by giving out trophies to everyone. We did learn however that that was fine in the early ages, because the participation was the goal (so I’ll admit that), but as they got older they started to see how competition allowed them to get honest feedback on their abilities. And only with honest feedback, can we grow and get better.
Meeker, Margaret J. Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: 10 Secrets Every Father Should Know. Washington, DC: Regnery Pub., 2006. Print.