On Raising Girls

My oldest girl turned 13 this past weekend. Those of you following me on Twitter or Facebook probably heard about the big party she had, and how her old man struggled to deal with 15 teenage girls. Honestly though, the party was fine, the girls all behaved (for the most part), and Amanda made me proud. She and her sisters are good girls, and while the next 10 years will most likely be filled with stress and drama around the Powers house — I’m confident they’ll turn out to be the successful young ladies we’ve raised them to be. Mind you, by successful I mean oh so much more than financially successful. I certainly hope for that, but really it’s only a small part of success.

Why am I confident our girls will turn out OK? Quite honestly there are many reasons. One, we really won the lottery when it comes to progeny, and the 3 girls are fine examples of human beings. That means they are good little lumps of clay. That also means they need to be molded. While I don’t claim to be a great parent, I think we’ve done pretty good so far. The next decade will really tell the story, but I wanted to share some insight at this point. Perhaps I’ll look back at this and bitterly laugh at myself, but even if that’s the case, I doubt I’d change anything in the past.

Discipline and Punishment are Not the Same Thing

Donna and I are strict disciplinarians. We were even more strict when the kids were younger (seriously). Being strict when your kids are young means that you earn credibility early on. You earn respect. You earn trust. If there is one thing I wish I could convince young parents it is that discipline is not mean. Children crave discipline, whether they know it or not. Ask any decent sports coach. A team with discipline is a more effective, and happier team.

But here’s the rub: Discipline is hard. I’m no Dr. Spock, but if you think discipline is just punishing a child when they misbehave, Ur doin it rong. Discipline is an elaborate dance involving consistency, firmness, fairness, and most of all, communication. No, life isn’t fair — but as parents, you certainly ought to be!

Kids are Smart. They’re Immature Sometimes, but Smart.

There is a drastic difference between a child that is angry at you for punishing them, and a child that thinks you are incorrect for punishing them. No, you can’t always convince a child they need to be punished, but if you’re open with them, they’re more likely to respect your reasoning.

The funny thing about discipline and consistency is that if you explain to your child why you’re punishing them — even if they vehemently disagree, they’ll understand why you’re doing what you’re doing. Very often, if you don’t punish them, you lose all credibility. Again, even if they don’t admit or realize it, kids like discipline.

Put Away the Shotgun.

The strong father figure cleaning his shotgun is fine. Really. I have no problem with putting the fear of God into a young man as he’s given the responsibility of caring for the father’s daughter. For me, however, I’d look absurd cleaning a shotgun. Guns aren’t my thing. Oh, I’m intimidating, and any boy will tremble before he takes out my daughters — but my weapon of choice is psychology. Your mileage may differ.

Here’s the thing though, you can be as scary as you want, your daughter is the one that will ultimately make choices on how the evening goes. There is nothing more formidable than a confident young lady that trusts and respects her parents, knowing they trust and respect her in return. Let me repeat that, as it’s so vital, there is nothing more formidable than a confident young lady that trusts and respects her parents, knowing they trust and respect her in return. Sure, I can be the muscle, but it’s her life, she has to be the brains.

And with that, I’m going to go talk to my kids. You should do the same. (Not my kids, but you know what I mean…)

12 thoughts on “On Raising Girls”

  1. Hi Shawn 🙂 great post!

    Do you mind keeping it online for, like, 5-10 years? Currently I believe myself too young and not ready for kids, but when I am, I will surely read this again. Maybe print it and keep it on a wall in my bedroom 🙂

    you suck^-1 o/

  2. Well, we were (are) pretty good with discipline. So far I think we’ve done okay. My 9 year old has a bit of a struggle, but that’s more internal and hopefully something we’ll work out together. I think you guys being involved in their lives and as a family helps too. So many parents couldn’t even tell you what their kids like to do or games they like to play, they are so removed from their kids.

    I think we’ll both be wrong and the 4 of us will end up getting plastered on our kid’s really cheap liquor we find hiding under their bed – they can’t drink it anymore anyway since they’ll be knocked up. 😉 Kidding 🙂

  3. Raising girls is indeed a challenge. Having raised a boy and a girl (twins), I can definitively say the girl was much, much harder. Part of that was personality type rather than gender, but man – we did have a couple of rough years, there.

    Good post, and I sincerely hope that you and Donna’s experience end up being easier than ours.

    The only thing I’d say that is that there is nothing so formidable as a confident young lady who trusts and respects herself. In my experience, most bad choices in that arena are a direct result of a lack of self-respect on the part of the young woman.

  4. Janiece — I think you’re very correct. I guess I lumped self respect in with confidence, but yes you’re absolutely correct. I tried to be really careful with my post not to sound like some all knowing sage, because I’m certainly not. I know we have a rough decade ahead of us, but I’m going in with some semblance of hope. I see so many young parents with out of control young ones, and I fear for them.

    Candy — my luck, my drunken teens will prefer white wine and pale ale. Bleh. 😉

  5. Shawn, anyone with any sense approaches parenting with fear and trepidation. Seriously – is there any human endeavor where the consequences of failure are as horrifying?

  6. I don’t have kids, so I can’t speak to what good parenting is all about. (Although, just trying to parent this cat is enough, I can only imagine what being responsible for real kids…) I think you’re absolutely right about discipline and confidence/self-respect.

    I do have one bit of advice to offer, though: Don’t make them tremble too much. I knew a family that had four girls, all close in age – the youngest two were in high school at the same time I was. They had a “shotgun dad”, and the oldest got a reputation based on it – I’m not kidding in the least when I say that none of them ever had a date. Very, very miserable young ladies. I didn’t know the older two, but the younger two hated their parents with a passion.

  7. Oh hell yes to the confidence bit. Strength and confidence are essential in being willing to say *out loud* your “no” instead of keeping it in. Submission is the path to regrets.

  8. Spot on, Shawn. I’ve got a daughter, and another on the way, but more on point, my day job is teaching high school. My observations there are pretty much in line with your advice, so I think you are and will continue to see success 🙂

  9. My daughter is 7, going on 17. I’m fully planning on locking her in the basement from the age of, say, 12 to, oh, 22. I’m guessing I’m probably alone in that one. This guy is not ready for a teenage daughter.

  10. This is a wonderful wonderful post, and I wish more people would realize these things. Discipline and fear are not related, and a child should not fear their parent(s), but respect them. It’s hard to respect someone you fear, fear kind of takes the forefront of most emotions and thoughts. And, it breaks my heart to see parents letting their small children get away with murder because they “can’t stand to see them cry,” or whatnot, and just let them do/have whatever they want. As you said, they have lost all credibility, even at 2 yrs old the children are manipulating them and disrespecting them. Putting a firm foot down is not the same thing as smacking someone around (I heartily disagree with physical abuse), and people need to learn the difference, and implement the proper strategies. So many children would be so much happier and grow up so much better. *le sigh*


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