My Secret to Raising a Confident Daughter

My Secret to Raising a Confident Daughter

My Secret to Raising a Confident Daughter

By: Nicole Fabian-Weber

My toddler daughter is good at sharing. Weirdly good. In the 2 1/2 years of her life, I am yet to see her rip a toy out of another child’s hand, and she’s always quick to hand over whatever doll or stuffed animal she’s playing with if another kid seems interested. As her mother, this makes me happy. She’s a kind and generous soul, who (sort of) understands what it’s like to put other people first — and I almost always encourage this behavior. But the other day when a little girl snatched a rubber mermaid away from her at the pool, and I said, “It’s okay, honey. We’ll find a new toy,” I realized something: I could be raising a pushover.

Since she was old enough to understand, my husband and I have tried to instill the value of being kind and sharing with our daughter. “Doesn’t it feel good to share your toys with others?” we’ll say when she surrenders something she was enjoying to someone else. And to be honest, it really took little effort with her. We seemed to have been blessed with a child who genuinely is cool with sharing (for now). But the other day at the pool, it dawned on me that sometimes it’s okay — important, actually — to stand up for yourself and have a little conviction.

When the girl first took the mermaid right out of my daughter’s hands, my daughter frowned. Then she started crying. We had been having a blissful time playing with this mermaid, and to be frank, what the older child did wasn’t very nice.

After my knee-jerk reaction -- telling my toddler to take what this girl did lying down -- I changed my tune. “Actually,” I said to my daughter. “You were playing with that. We should ask for it back.”


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We walked over a few feet to where the girl and the mermaid were, and I said, “Honey, ask for the toy back.” My daughter, who, like most toddlers, tends to freeze in front of strangers, didn’t say anything, instead opting to stand there wide-eyed and dripping wet — but I persisted. “Let’s ask for it back. She can have this boat instead.” After a few seconds, the girl’s mother intervened and happily swapped the boat for the mermaid. We thanked the girl for returning what was rightfully ours (as much as public pool toys can be) and went back to “washing the mermaid’s hair” in the shallow end.

On the way home, I thought about what had happened. Was I rude? Pushy? One of those obnoxious mothers who everyone’s now going to whisper about at the pool? I don’t think so. (And I hope not!) I was simply standing up for something and teaching my daughter that it’s okay to be assertive when the situation calls for it. Of course, I’m still going to continue with our value-of-sharing message, but while I want her to grow up to be a kind person, I also don’t want her to be a pushover, which, truth be told, I can (quite often resentfully) be.

Few things in life are all or nothing, and I realized that even something polite, like sharing, is among them. The tricky thing will be showing my daughter when and how to choose her battles. Because, I’ll be completely honest, although I certainly don't want my girl to inherit my tendency toward being a pushover, I want the bratty, bossy kid at the playground even less.

Nicole Fabian-Weber is the mama to a sweet toddler girl (with a boy on the way!). She lives outside of NYC and writes for The Stir and numerous other online publications.

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