My ten-year old daughter, Blondie, is a people-pleaser. She comes by it naturally…I have only recently learned to do what will make me happy instead of doing whatever everyone else wants me to do. So I can’t exactly blame her. And I love that she has such a sweet heart. She doesn’t want to hurt others’ feelings. She doesn’t want to offend. She wants to make everyone happy, often at her own expense.
I see this especially with her best friend. The little 9-year-old girl who lives across the street from us is, well, a brat. She’s used to getting her own way constantly, even with her parents. It is common to hear her yelling at her mom or dad, talking back, and throwing fits when the world at large doesn’t give in to her every whim and desire. She sets her own bedtimes, watches rated R movies regularly, and manipulates her way into situations that no little girl should be in.
Last week, I sat in my room with the window open and listened to the way she talked to my Blondie. Every time Blondie made a suggestion, it was shot down, and Blondie backed off. Every time Blondie did something her friend didn’t like, she got yelled at. And Blondie took it. And it bothered me. It bothered me a lot.
Later, I talked to my sweet girl about it. I explained to her that while I was proud of her for putting others before herself, I also didn’t like to see her being yelled at and always giving up her own ideas to someone else’s. I told her that she can be sweet and strong all at the same time, and that she needs to stand up for herself sometimes. I explained that while it’s good to be giving and loving and unselfish, she also can’t let people walk all over her and push her aside to get their own way.
But she’s ten. The most important thing to her right now is that her friends want to play with her. She wants everyone to like her. She wants her friends to be her friends and her fear is that someone will be mad at her. And I, unfortunately, understand.
Much of my life has been lived trying to make others happy. I have given up my own desires, my own opinions, and my own strengths so as not to make anyone “mad” at me. I did what I thought I had to do to make people like me. And in the process, I lost myself. It has only been within the last three or four years that I’ve figured out how to be myself regardless of what others might think. I can have my own opinions and desires and still keep my friends…at least the ones who are really my friends. I finally…mostly…get it.
So now the next lesson…how to teach this to my daughter. How do I teach her to be kind and giving and unselfish while also teaching her to be strong and courageous and to stand up for herself? How do I help her learn to put others first and yet also to do what’s best for her? Those two concepts seem to be paradoxical, but I know that it’s possible. I’ve learned that it’s possible.
It’s really hard being a girl. I wish daughters came with owners’ manuals.