Once upon a time there were two princesses born less than three years apart.
The older one was very bossy. The younger one was very obedient. The older one was looking for a follower. The younger one wanted a leader. It was a match both were happy with…or so it seemed. One day, however, the younger one got tired of following the older one’s commands. After the millionth time of being told to go upstairs and fetch a toy, she sat on the steps and cried. The benevolent and wise queen asked the younger one why she was upset. The younger one said she didn’t want to do her sister’s bidding. And the queen spoke words that rocked the younger one to the core.
“You know what?” she said. “You don’t have to do everything your big sister tells you to do.”
Her eyes widened as she took in this bit of information. The kingdom waited to see what would happen next. In time, the older one told the younger one to do something. The younger one answered with one word.
And that was the day my younger daughter found her voice. It was no fairy tale ending, but the beginning of what I hoped was a strong, confident attitude of knowing her mind and speaking it to all.
Let them be heard
As parents we want all our children to have opinions and not be afraid to voice them. It is especially important that we give our daughters permission to say no. It is the single most powerful word in the English language. It is a complete sentence on its own that needs no qualifiers.
As toddlers, that word can drive parents nuts. Do you want to eat? No. Will you put your jacket on? No. Let’s go see Grandma. No. Will you stop saying no? No.
As teens, however, that word becomes magical. It is the one word we want to arm our daughters with as they leave the safety of our homes and encounter people who may not want the best for them. Nancy Reagan was ridiculed for it, but she had the right idea. Drugs, staying out late, premature sex – can all be answered with “no.”
I am not so naïve that I believe one word is enough. As parents we have to explain why the answer should be no and hope we can explain that saying no now leaves room for yes to better things later. We launch them into the world with all the armor we can, and one of the most important shields we can offer is their voice and lessons in how to use it.
What happened to that young princess? She found and kept her voice. She knows exactly what she wants in life and how she should be treated. She has lost some friends over her belief in right and wrong, but she has gained more friends because of it.
And the queen is very, very pleased.