I remember the first time my daughter came home from school and told me some boys made fun of her. I wanted to come out of my skin. My daughter was this innocent kid who trusted everyone, and they’d utterly embarrassed her. My immediate reaction was to tell her that if anyone ever did that to her again, she should punch them in the face.
In case you’re wondering, this is really bad advice. Retributive violence is like that cupcake sitting in the break room at work. It’s great initially, but it doesn’t satisfy you in the long run. What my daughter needed me to teach her was both how to navigate a world in which people will hurt you and how to deal with uncomfortable feelings. That’s what your daughter needs too. Here are 5 tools your daughter can use that are better than a punch to the face when a boy makes her uncomfortable.
1. A Safe Place
If your daughter has an uncomfortable encounter with a boy or a man, she needs to know it’s safe to talk to you about it. That means you won’t brush it aside or dismiss it as nothing. You also won’t fly off the handle in some way that makes her feel out of control. You need to communicate to her that she isn’t alone, that she is loved, and that you believe her. This creates a safe place for her to deal with uncomfortable feelings.
2. A Positive Self Image
Your daughter needs to have a strong sense of who she is and that she is loved. This is critical in helping her make good choices about who to spend her time with. If she thinks highly of herself, she’s more likely to stand up for herself. If a boy says or does something she’s uncomfortable with, she’s far more likely to walk away or tell him off. Either is preferable to believing it (or punching him).
3. Good Friends
You can’t control your daughter’s choice of friends at school. However, you can work to surround her with positive relationships. These can be extended family relationships, church friends, sports teams—people you know are working to build your daughter up. You can’t completely insulate her from boys who will make her uncomfortable. But you can encourage her to spend time with people who will respect and encourage her.
When someone makes fun of us or treats us badly, we feel disempowered. You can empower your daughter to respond in these difficult situations by practicing with her. Running through potential scenarios can prep her so she feels like she has tools when she finds herself in a difficult situation and wonders how to deal with uncomfortable feelings. For example, you could ask your daughter to share a time a boy made her uncomfortable. Then ask, “What could you have done or said in that moment to create safety?” It’s important not to make her feel guilty, as though this was her fault. Rather, by talking through the scenario, you can help her imagine effective ways to respond.
Now, I should say—forgiveness isn’t the first place to go. If you jump to “forgive him” right away, it disregards the very real hurt that happened in your daughter’s life. But once you’ve done the work to acknowledge the action as wrong, listened well to her, and helped her sort through how to respond, it’s really helpful to teach our children to forgive. It’s been attributed to many different people from St. Augustine to Nelson Mandela, but no matter who said it first, the saying “resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die” is true. We need to help our daughters learn to offer forgiveness so they can be free to move on to more important things than resentment.
Earn some points: Are you married? If so, share this iMOM article with your wife.: 5 Things You Didn’t Know Your Daughter Needs.
Sound off: What other tools can you offer your daughter as she responds to difficult situations?
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