My daughter on a few occasions, has told me how “lucky” her dad and I are that she is “sensible” and “responsible”. The way she’s turned out has nothing to do with us. She’s turned out like that all by herself. It’s all her own doing…..
How do you talk to a 16yr old teeneage girl?
She knows it all.
She has attitude.
She can be rude.
She rolls her eyes at you.
Girls are bitchy.
Girls are hard work.
Girls have a lot of issues.
These are some of the statements I heard at the school gate after I had Abi.
I must say, with African roots, it surprised me that as well as new baby felicitations, people in this part of the world took it upon themselves to say things like that.
I would look at our little angel in her car seat. Bitchy? Issues? How can that be? I only had visions of her in cute little dresses and shoes with plaited hair.
It didn’t take long for us to realise that we had been on a long holiday with our son who spent most of his childhood years on another planet. When he was awake (he was often asleep), he blocked most of what was happening around him out and existed on his own happy planet with friends, no enemies, no issues, no quarrels, no squabbles etc. It was clear that we wouldn’t be having peer pressure challenges with him.
Bliss for a parent.
His sister was the exact opposite – she was very present on this earth, didn’t sleep much, she saw and heard everything. EVERYTHING. It still amazes me today, how she is able to, with a quick 2 sec sweep of a room with her eyes, take in all that’s going on.
Anyways, I was a bit worried about the comments that was made about little girls. Could it be true? And if so, how could I help my daughter? To be honest, my thoughts were very selfish. We had no ‘wahala’ (trouble) with her brother and I kind of wanted the bliss to continue. I wanted to continue to reside in La-La Land.
How could I continue my vacation?
And that’s how our daily school run ‘talks’ started.
Abi calls them “Life Lessons” because I would always start the discussion with something like, “In Life….”.
There was always a story or stories, a moral lesson, an adult perspective to situations she found herself in.
At first, she was mostly silent, I didn’t know what was going on in her mind, then I started asking for feedback, whether she understood what I was saying, if she agreed with it, what her opinion was. The decision making was always up to her, if a decision had to be made. The truth is, it was quite clear from the start that she had a maturity way beyond her years – she understood topics that were advanced for her age.
Now that she’s 16yrs old with a lot of attitude, our talks are not as frequent as they were when she was younger. For two reasons, 1) I stopped the school run in year 8 and 2) to be honest, they don’t need to be because all the work was front loaded. I feel as if I covered EVERYTHING with her. So much so, I could write a book about our discussions.
Here are snippets of the some of things we discussed over the years.
Someone once mentioned at the start of primary school that I was lucky because Abi was so tall, she wouldn’t be a victim of bullying. Little did the lady know that my daughter had been a victim of bullying in her reception year by a girl whom she had befriended in nursery. The little girl at that time in nursery, didn’t understand english and my daughter took it upon herself to look out for the child.
At the start of the reception year in another school, they met up again. I witnessed one morning as we arrived at the school, while Abi was being welcomed by the other little girls, this child shoved her with such force she fell over. My daughter was shocked and confused. In her mind she was probably thinking, “but why? I know you”. I later learnt that a few of the girls had issues with this child and Abi was just her next target. Later that afternoon I told her mother, who apologised profusely. I made it clear to Abi that next time, she was to shove back harder.
Yep, look at my face, that’s the type of mum I am (wink).
Afterwards, we talked about bullying. I explained that,
1) She must always bear in mind that though the behaviour is unacceptable, bully’s are troubled souls. There is something going on inside them that’s at the root of such behaviour.
2) She must never show fear to a bully, they feed off it, it gives them satisfaction and spurs them on.
3) Take the bully on (if it’s just one child). Next time the girl pushes you, push her back twice as hard and if the teacher has an issue with it, tell her you were just obeying your mothers orders and she should speak to me. Yes, yes yes, I am that type of parent. My daughter’s wellbeing is more important than the ineffective way bullying is being handled in this country. Teachers can’t protect a child in the playground. Self defence is the reason why she took martial arts lessons at age 5.
4) Your body language can determine whether you’re a victim or not. Look tough, even if you’re not.
We later learned that the little girl’s parents were separating. She didn’t come back after the reception year. It confirmed what I had told my daughter that something was obviously going on in the child’s life.
Bullying is something I’ve talked to Abi about a few times as the years have rolled, because quite frankly, she could meet a bully anywhere at any stage in life. Even in the workplace.
She’s to the best of my knowledge, not been bullied since.
Self confidence and Physical Appearance
That same reception year, a mum asked he if Abi felt bad and self conscious being the tallest in the class. I was amused. I replied, “are you kidding? She loooooooves it, she loves being able to help the other girls get things on and off the shelves they can’t reach”.
As a little girl, all she’s ever heard from her family were the benefits of being tall. How could she possibly not like it? She thought it was great then and still does today. She was encouraged to do sports that her height puts her at an advantage. How could she not like it? Even when she decided to do gymnastics, we told her that it would be great for her flexibility. She was never going to be a gymnast but she could use it to help develop a skill that would come in handy elsewhere. As a result, It didn’t matter to her that all the other smaller, shorter girls were better- getting to the various levels way ahead of her. Nah! Because in her mind, gymnastics was helping her become a better tennis player.
Another mum once complained to me that her child’s teacher was doing nothing to help his self confidence.
My child’s self confidence is my responsibility, if I do my job, the teacher won’t have to.
This is another topic we talk about a lot.
I’ve often told her to think carefully about things, if it doesn’t make sense, then it probably shouldn’t be done.
Don’t do things because they are hip, faddy, cool etc, do them because they make sense and you want to. Don’t let anyone make you do anything you don’t want to. We often discuss different stories of how children got sucked into doing stupid and dangerous things because they wanted to fit in. You don’t need to fit in, never aim to fit in, aim to stand out. You were uniquely created, you are smart and beautiful. It’s okay not to blend in.
The truth is, being the tallest in her class? She was always going to “stand out”.
Success and Attitude to learning
On the way to her first day at grammar school, we talked about how she wanted to “experience” school life.
Grammar school is very competitive and Abi likes to do well. She is a diligent student who has always done well in school. I was a bit concerned about how she would cope with the work load and everyday tennis training. Grammar schools are different from private schools. A child who was once the top of her class in private school could end up being in the middle set in a selective school. This could cause anxiety, stress, depression etc. Best to be aware and prepared from the start.
I explained to her that she had a choice. She could
- Aim for the top, focus on that to the exclusion of everything else. or
- Aim for the grades she desires (irrespective of where it places her in the class) and enjoy all the other things that school life and outside school life has to offer to have a richer, more balanced secondary school experience.
Stand Up, Speak Up
“I reject It!”
Yep, reject every negative thing that’s said over you. Don’t let people call you names.
Stand up for yourself.
Speak up and don’t be accepting of everything that’s thrown your way.
Work hard for the things you want. Push for them. Fight for them. Nothing good ever came easy.
One day in primary school, she came home and said her teacher called her names for something she didn’t do. She said the teacher called her and some other girls “pathetic”, “careless” and “irresponsible” over missing art overalls. She didn’t like it or accept it because she doesn’t lose things and wasn’t responsible for the missing overall. The next day I had a word with the teacher. I asked her if she called my daughter names. To my surprise she said she did. I looked her straight in the eye and told her to NEVER EVER call my daughter names again. Name calling is not something we do in our home. I think the teacher was shocked.
Yes my daughter, reject all negative name calling.
Don’t cry to manipulate.
Don’t cry over something that was your fault like not doing well in an exam because you didn’t study.
Do cry if it’ll make you feel better but always bear in mind that it won’t solve the problem you’re crying over.
Stories change when it travels from mouth to mouth. Don’t be caught up in all that. Everyone gossips, but not everyone is known as a gossip. There is a difference.
If you have a disagreement with a friend, don’t gossip about it all over the place.
Be straight up with friends, deal with honesty and integrity.
Which regards disagreements, try and cross over to the other side and take a look from there.
Boyfriends, Your Body and Sex.
(In year 7)
“So so and so in my class has a boyfriend mum”
“Really, what do you do with a boyfriend at 11yrs?” I ask.
“That’s what I’m wondering.” She replies.
“Good! It doesn’t make sense.” I said.
“When is the right age to have a boyfriend mum?”
“I’ll tell you what my dad told me in my time, when you’ve made it past the first year of university”.
“When I was in university, I remember my mum would say in Yoruba whenever we went out on a date, “don’t let them use burger to buy you”.
Your body is yours, your body is a temple, don’t give it away cheap. Don’t give it away at ANY price. Your body is priceless. Don’t let anyone touch your body inappropriately. What’s inappropriate touching? When there is no need to touch.
No sex outside of marriage – we are Christians. The sex discussion line is open, she knows she can talk about it freely with me with no fear.
It was very clear that if Abi wasn’t taught about weight, eating, expending energy she was on the road to growing up overweight.
It was a relief to have a baby who ate everything after struggling to get our first child to eat most foods. By the age of 2yrs my daughter was finishing her meals AND polishing off her brother’s leftovers. At 2yrs she could only wear trousers and skirts with elasticated waists. Her dad insisted we put a stop to her eating her brother’s leftovers and that was done straightaway. Her father was very clear about the fact that he didn’t want his daughter battling with her weight. He rightly stated that as her parents, her weight was our responsibility – she was not old enough to know better.
I registered her for tennis and swimming lessons. The former for an energy expending run around and the latter to learn how to swim. In the early years, we didn’t talk about weight on the school run simply because we didn’t need to. The physical activity she did took care of the potential excess weight issue. It’s a relief to see that she can now self regulate. She knows how to back off when she has overdone it.
With regards fitness, it is inevitable. If you live in a house with people who are consistent, you will naturally gravitate towards that direction. As a child, she started out hating working out, now she likes it and can’t NOT do it.
Her brother once told her not to bother too much with GCSE’s. “What do we do with them? They’re useless!” he said.
Let’s just say I’m happy she knows which advice to take from him and which to ignore.
Don’t believe all you see on there. Yes, there are authentic and honest people on there but many are not. People have social media lives that’s far from their reality.
Don’t accept requests from people you don’t know.
Paedophiles and perverts pretend to be children online.
Hope you won’t ignore all we tell you. However if you do, and get deceived, let us know, we won’t kill you. Better to be safe.
Turn off location services.
She once told me, “I discovered that the students who are popular on Instagram are boring in real life”.
The truth is, no matter how much you try and prepare your children, they will sometimes ignore good advice because they want to do things their way. Sometimes they will get it right and sometimes they won’t. As a parent, you hope they don’t make costly mistakes and if they do, may they have the strength to get up, learn from it and keep going.
The journey has not been without friction. The discussions have not all gone smoothly. I’m not the perfect parent and to be frank, I don’t always practice what I preach. There are some things you come clean about only after your child is married. 😉
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