Teaching Your Children To Stand Up For Themselves


One of my biggest challenges as a single Mother since 2002 has been teaching my two daughters to be strong, confident and proud of themselves. I feel I have been encouraging, supportive, and positive and yet both my 10 year old Grace and 14 year old Sydney have experienced poor self esteem. I believe we should teach our children to take care of themselves first so they will have the emotional and physical strength to help make a difference for others. Doing everything for everyone else and nothing for yourself is a recipe for burnout and stress.

I love volunteering at school events as it feels good to lend a hand, you can observe your children interacting with their peers and gain valuable insight from their teachers. A learning experience that no classroom can teach.

At a recent track and field day, a teacher asked me whether one of my daughters had ever mentioned a certain classmate. I hesitatingly said, “Yes, why?” Apparently the behaviour of this classmate towards my daughter had not only been irritating her. The teacher told me it drove him crazy that my daughter seemed to allow inappropriate treatment to continue and that whenever he observed it, he would intervene. It’s an issue that has repeatedly come up and has gnawed away at my daughter’s sanity to the point that she is begging to change schools. We’ve been discussing these issues for months and I have explained that running from a problem does not eliminate it. If she does not learn to stand up for herself with this classmate, she’ll attract more people who will treat her the same until she changes her perceptions, behaviours and reactions. This is her learning ground. Better now with support at home. My daughter does not need to pin blame on the other child. There is a personality conflict and she is not enjoying her company. I also encourage my daughters to be mindful of the company they keep as we often become like the people we spend the most time with.

Further, carefully placed prodding helped my daughter reveal why she is reluctant to stand up for herself. She is terrified of being called a bully. Wow. She is so worried about the consequences of standing up for herself, so she isn’t. Anxiety and depression are constant challenges in our family. One thing I’ve come to understand is avoiding a problem, does not make it go away and it actually increases anxiety. In my limited knowledge of how to approach my daughter’s dilemma, we’ve done some role playing so she can practice the scenario. Above all else, she knows I love her and want her to learn to love herself enough to take this step. I’ve got her back.

It is frustrating as a parent to watch your child in anguish, mentally or physically. My girls have told me that they don’t want my intervention with issues at school because they feel it will bring worse backlash from their peers. They want to learn to hurdle their own obstacles. Yay, but I am still their Mother. I am a guide. I have discovered some treasured books geared towards kids and teens that have assisted in creating key dialogue about living your best life.

For the wee ones I recommend ‘The 7 Habits of Happy Kids’ by Sean Covey. For tweens and teens ‘The Six Most Important Decisions You’ll Ever Make’ and ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens’ also by Sean Covey. We read them together and discuss as we go. It gives them an opportunity to share similar experiences as outlined by real people in the book and to ask questions about things I never would have thought they were curious about. It gives them a safe place to explore their feelings about various topics weighing heaving on tweens and teens.

Another of my favourite Authors who has created a dynamic, interactive, easy to navigate series of books for tweens and teens is Annie Fox. She has an excellent website full of resources for parents and children and I just noticed she has an article dealing with exactly what I’ve just written about so off I go. www.anniefox.com I hope this has been helpful. I would love your feedback and comments.

Photo Credit: Chapters

How do you rebuild your life after family trauma and during mental health challenges when you feel your grip on hope is slipping? Katherine Dines is on the infinite journey of happiness and learning to thrive with forgiveness & gratitude.Katherine Dines is a Mother and voice actor, based in Canada's Capital, with international credits on projects including Hasbro's Tropical Tycoon Monopoly & Warner Brothers' Friends DVD Trivia Game. Juggling the demands of single parenting since 2002, Katherine is currently sharing her passions on the airwaves of Majic 100.3 FM Radio while navigating opportunities to express through film, tv & internet projects. Love, laughter & inspiring music rank at the top with love for her daughters motivating her enthusiasm for self discovery and healing.

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  1. …but they mean a lot to teens. Teach your daughter that beauty is not about looking like a model or movie star, but rather taking care of herself. If your daughter has a poor body image, help her realize that there are things she can change and things she can’t. If she’s overweight or out of shape, start exercising together and promote healthy habits . If she’s not happy with her makeup routine, take her for a mini-makeover at a department store. A makeup artist can show her how to use cosmetics to highlight her assets while still looking natural. Even when primping, continue to put the emphasis back on your daughter’s talents. Makeup, hair and clothes might make you look good from the outside, but as cliche as it sounds, it’s what’s on the inside that counts.

  2. We will definitely be checking out the 7 Habits for Happy Kids! Thanks for the recommendation.

    It really is interesting to participate in school activities to get a better idea of who your children’s friends are. I have done so, and noticed that both my kids are attracted to the kids who tend to misbehave and join in in that behaviour. Many talks around the dinner table ensued.

  3. Great post! Always important topics you broach…

    May I just say, I am so glad to read about a teacher’s positive actions in alerting a parent to a situation. Too often, we hear of teachers turning a blind eye, even though I know many who would never do such a thing. Good for you for engaging in a dialogue. That conversation helps everyone.

    I love the books you mentioned. They are great! I would also recommend “7 Habits of Highly Effective Families”. It’s terrific and reinforces many of the concepts you (Me, too!) are trying to get across.


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