I feel a lot of pressure raising my girls today because while the equality battle has made great gains, we still have a way to go.
Women are still held back or sacked because they have dared to have a child and people identify too many careers as being jobs for the boys only.
Change starts in the home and it starts with our girls being given the right attitude. They need to know nothing is off limits to them.
And yet they’re still kids, so we’ve got a lot of nurturing to do.
Here are a few lessons that I believe our girls are never too young to learn:
1. You can do anything you want
No you can’t steal sweets from the shops or set fire to the house, but nothing is beyond our reach these days as long as we’re prepared to put the work in.
If my daughter turns round and says she wants to be an astronaut I’m going to be saying “good for you”, not reminding her that it’s a very competitive field and she’d be better hedging her bets with a career in teaching.
I want them to reach for the absolute top. Because even if they fall a little short of getting there, they will at least be higher than if they never tried at all.
2. No means no
I don’t know about you, but I sometimes throw this word around way too much. When you do that it loses all meaning and your child becomes deaf to it.
It’s good for children to have boundaries and you need to be the one who sets them. When you say no, you mean it.
I would hate for my girls to grow up to be divas or little princesses. Yes, indulging kids is brilliant but you can’t fulfil their every whim. You would drive yourself mad and set impossible expectations for them growing up.
But this works both ways, as I want my girls to have the confidence to say “no” when they see something happening they don’t like. To recognise when someone isn’t treating them fairly.
3. Your opinion is valuable
If you take the time to listen to your kids, they will learn the art of listening from you. Don’t just nod along and humour them.
Listen to their stories, their questions, their musings. And then respond to them and ask them more. Knowing that what they have to say is important to you will be one of the biggest confidence boosts you can give them.
4. Real friends should be treasured
One of my biggest worries for my two girls is that other children will be unkind to them. I realise this is inevitable and they may even be the ones dishing out the bullying at times.
I would love them to realise that true friendship is rare and something to be nurtured. When they find someone who just “gets” who they are and wants to spend with them, they should hold onto that.
My daughter is now at an age where her friendships are pretty simple. But it’s never too early to encourage them to keep reaching out to other children.
5. Family is everything
No matter what problems they have, children should always know they can come home to their family. For me nurturing the relationship with members of our wider family is important too.
I want my children to have a wide network of people who will help them, no matter what the problem is. The relationships with their cousins, aunts and uncles are connections they will carry with them through to adulthood. These are people who will celebrate with them on birthdays and want to listen when they’re having hard times.
For me, making sure my kids know their family well now is setting the foundations for brilliant relationships in the future.
6. Love is unconditional
Real love doesn’t have any strings attached. When I tell my kids I love them, it’s not just when they’ve done something well or we’ve had a brilliant day together. I tell them every night before they go to sleep because even when they have been driving me totally bonkers, they need to know I love them anyway.
And that piece of information is so important for adult relationships too. Your children learn about love from their parents first of all. If they see and feel what real love is now, they will hopefully spot a bad relationship from a mile away.
7. Mummy works too
Gone are the days that the mother automatically jacked in her pretend career as soon as she got up the duff.
We might still feel guilty for returning to work after a few months or a year of maternity leave, but these days its a totally normal thing for mum to be working.
And I think it’s great for little girls to see their mother working hard. We make the most of the weekends and evening time we have with them, but we also show them that it’s not just daddies who suit up and go to work every day. This is all part of smashing the stereotypes that girls have lived with for way too long.
The stereotype that tells them a job is just a little thing they’re doing until they get married and have a baby. I want my kids to know they can have a career and a family, just like men do.
8. There’s no such thing as jobs for the boys
Boys do not have their pick of career options. Firefighters, fighter pilots, police and whatever else children dream of being are not just ones for the boys.
It would be great if we could encourage girls to see that these jobs are not just done by men and show them they can pick whatever career they want. Gender does not matter.
9. Respect is important
This goes beyond respect for your elders. While I think this is a valuable lesson, I also think children need to know to respect themselves.
This means having self-confidence, looking after themselves and speaking out when they don’t like how they are being treated. I don’t mean encouraging bratty behaviour. Rather, I think a lot of great qualities begin with having self-respect.
10. Be kind
Above all things I think all children are never too young to hear this one. Being kind to others is pretty much the most important thing we can do.
When you’re kind to other people, you feel great about it. Plus if we can all treat each other with a little more kindness, the world would be such a nicer place.
So I’m encouraging my toddler to share with her sister, play nicely with her friends and give her family cuddles.