The Four Rs and their essential role in raising strong and successful daughters.
I already had two daughters when... “Blimey! It looks as though we are going to be raising an army of little boss ladies!” This was my husband’s reaction when the sonographer revealed the gender of our THIRD daughter and those words have remained at the forefront of my mind ever since.
For me, the notion of having three daughters was a game changer. The ‘Protective brother’ I had imagined for Bella and Connie, would stay as just that, a figment.
Three young women. Three little boss ladies to raise. We would indeed be building an army – an army that would be sent to fight an ever evolving and unpredictable war with soldiers seen to be at a disadvantage before they even start to fight.
It’s a pretty daunting thought let me tell you, but it is the driving force behind every example I set, and everything that I do with my children.
As a teacher I was taught something similar – that I was preparing my class for a world that would change before they were ready to become a working part of it. Training them for jobs that didn’t yet exist.
I learnt very quickly that it is the attributes that children learn early on, and the values that they adopt that will enable them to embrace an ever-changing world.
The teachings of Guy Claxton and his work surrounding the four Rs that build learning power, guided not only my teaching, but how I conduct myself in daily life – quite simply they are the reason for every success I have ever celebrated – they are a well-used recipe that I constantly draw upon when I want to achieve or succeed and because of this, they provide the back bone to the way I raise my girls.
And my own additions – Responsibility and Respect
The ability to stick at things and see them through – to find the silver lining and keep on going no matter what. Life is always going to be difficult, at times it is unfair. This is I’m afraid most true for young girls – example – how do I explain how it’s fair that my daughter must sit a four-hour exam while enduring the agony of a period pain, while her male friends sit blissfully unaware on the next table? I don’t. It isn’t fair, but it is what it is – the importance is to keep going and find the silver lining in each situation, hers will be the promise of large quantities of chocolate and a hot water bottle when she gets home!
Children need to learn this young, it needs to be embedded – keep going, find the silver lining and enjoy that incredible feeling when you get to the other side of the mountain. Giving up will always seem like the most attractive option, but if they learn resilience young, then giving up won’t ever even be an option.
Taking stock of what they have done, what they still need to do what worked, what didn’t and why. The ability to honestly reflect is so massively important in any individual’s progression. It is how we learn from our actions and plan ahead. Through learning to reflect, our children learn to set goals, they celebrate their progress and achievements and learn not to take themselves too seriously.
I show my daughters how I do this in action, reflecting while I work not just afterword’s. I think out load when solving problems, I ask for their opinions. It’s not just about reflecting on our work based actions though. I show them how I reflect on my own behaviour apologising for instance if ever I yell and admitting when I make mistakes or don’t know the answer.
Harnessing our children with the language of reflection early on, means that it becomes in-built, and it can be practised in so many ways. A friend of mine reflects with her children every single day during dinner, they talk about their best and worst bits – it’s dialogue like this that becomes internal, a balanced critique that urges them to question everything and keep moving forward, this in turn becomes intrinsic motivation.
The ability to learn and do in a variety of different ways. Learning to be truly resourceful is like being provided with a magic key capable of unlocking the potential in any object or idea. If a child can learn to be truly resourceful, they begin to stop taking no for an answer, thus aiding their resilience. Finding new ways of doing things leads to an intrinsic ingenuity that becomes something of a game, opens their minds and leads to an unstoppable creativity.
In an age where screens are taking over, I find this to be the toughest skill to harness. Resourcefulness is an attribute gained when our children are pushed to their limits. Given problems to solve with their minds, hands and very little guidance. In our house, when a problem pops up or something seems impossible we play detective and follow a mantra, “there must be another way, let’s find it!”. It may seem mean, but when my girls hit a snag, I rarely help them – choosing instead to encourage them to find their own way and get resourceful, after all, I will not always be around, but they will always have their resourcefulness to rely on.
Working confidently with others and alone. As an only child, I was always more comfortable with the latter and find it difficult even now to be surrounded by so many people all of the time. For my daughters, I find the opposite to be true, they thrive when they are together or in a group, but when they are alone they seem lost. Learning the ability to gain strength in both instances early on in life is vital and really relies on that resourcefulness and the ability to see the potential in any situation and unlock it. In learning reciprocity, children gain what I call the ‘extra rs’ Respect and Responsibility.
Our children need to learn through experience that they can lead a group of individuals, but that they don’t always need to be the leader. They need to learn to respect others and understand that every individual (including themselves) has their own potential and something to offer. Learning reciprocity in this way helps them to become enablers.
Fundamentally though, our daughters need to learn to be ok with aloneness. Aloneness is an unavoidable part of life, and self-reliance is one of the most crucial attributes we can teach our daughters as well as ourselves. WE need to teach independence to our daughters now more than ever, because every day they are still exposed to the notion that women need men to survive. Learning to be ok with being alone will enable them to take RESPONSIBILITY for themselves and help them to have healthier relationships born out of love and respect rather than need.
Right now, I am raising an army of women, my job is to train them, learn from them, give them the strength, tools and weapons they will need to succeed – and then fundamentally to trust them to fight their own battles.
I was naïve to think that my daughters would need a brother to protect them, or anyone for that matter! My little Boss ladies will grow to be just that – Bosses. Bosses in charge of their bodies, their minds, their choices and their futures.