“Just a ‘girl thing’ “



I don’t typically post personal things, unless I feel it can be of value for someone else. As a mother of two older boys and a baby girl, I’ve experienced the difference in raising both genders. And whether or not anyone wants to admit it, and even as much as I detest admitting it myself, there is a difference. Before I had a daughter, and I would see other young girls behaving badly—sassing their parents and being mean and bossy to their peers–I often heard the phrase, “Oh, it’s just a ‘girl thing’, ” as a means of excusing this deplorable behavior. “You’ll see when you have a daughter one day,” they said to me.

Anyone who knows me is aware that I’m not a coddling parent. Of course, I give my kids hugs and let them know how much I love them; but I don’t coddle them. I don’t treat them like invalids and do everything for them. I don’t massage their egos by telling them everything they do is great. I’m honest with my children. I teach them to respect authority, even if they don’t agree with it, while at the same time, ensuring they always know it’s okay to stand up for something they feel in their hearts is wrong.

 I also do not “baby” my daughter just because she is a girl or the baby of the family. She doesn’t get the latest girl toy, participate in an overload of extra-curricular activities, or get special treatment when it comes to family rules. My husband and I are unified in disciplining her. But for some reason, she has forever been under the assumption that the rules don’t apply to her. I call it “the princess syndrome”.

My boys are well-behaved, respectful of rules, and I have never received a call from school about misconduct. My daughter, on the other hand, is a completely different story. I received two calls from the principal’s office when she was in KINDERGARTEN! Yes, she had gotten into a couple of arguments that turned physical with other girls.

My husband and I are constantly reprimanding her for her tone of voice, eye-rolling, and screaming. It seems she’s grounded more than not, and even her older brothers are embarrassed by her behavior. This all began when she turned about six years old—about the time that her “family chores” began. She resisted them from day one. Even down to cleaning her room, or her own mess from the table—even though, that family rule has always been in effect.

But recently, we reached our breaking point. She had gone to a sleepover at her best friend’s house. We’d had a talk with her beforehand about being the oldest one there, and how she should demonstrate the proper way to interact and be respectful of someone else’s home. The next day, when we went to pick her up, we were mortified at what her friend’s mom, a very good friend of mine, told me. She had hit another child, was bossing everyone around, and had even stomped her foot and nearly screamed at the mom.

My husband and I were livid. That day, we made her stay in her room with no toys, unable to come out, other than to eat. We did spank her too, for the first time in a long time. We haven’t had to spank our boys since they were quite young, and figured there were better ways of handling things. We never spank out of anger, anyway. So she knew this was serious.

We struggled to decide what an appropriate consequence would be for her behavior. We confirmed pretty quickly that she was not allowed to have sleepovers for a month. (Just a side note, our daughter is home schooled, so being able to sleep over at a friend’s house is the ultimate reward for her.) In fact, one of the reasons we chose to home school our children was to allow us to be the primary influencers for her. We are, by no means, saying that public school is bad. Our boys did well in public school, but our particular school system offered little parental involvement. So, this was a personal choice for us.

As we sat and pondered where we’d been going wrong, and what was causing this undesirable behavior, we started thinking about her influences. After confirming that our family values and rules hadn’t changed, and apparently they’d been working for the boys all this time, we realized it must have been coming from another source. We started analyzing the television shows she’d been watching for the past couple of years. Sure, they were found on the Disney Channel; but what we discovered has changed the way we will parent our daughter forever.

Some of the television shows I grew up watching as a kid were those such as: Lassie, The Waltons, The Brady Bunch, Full House, and a few others. Sure, these shows had the occasional spoiled brat throwing a tantrum, but there were always parents around to reprimand that child and enforce consequences. These days, the children’s attitudes are out of control. The children on today’s shows pretty much rule the households and make the parents look like incompetent fools at the very least. When the TV parents try to discipline their child, the child ends up making the parents “disappear” or sends them to their own rooms, because it gets a laugh out of the audience. No one is around to hold this child accountable for his/her behavior. Half the time, the children “get away” with their behavior because the parents are nowhere to be found anyway. Although we are only dealing with this concerning our daughter, the content found on these programs can affect boys as well.

My husband and I realized that these shows, though seemingly harmless at first, were shaping the way our daughter views authority—from everyone, including us! Most of the time in the past, when we’d ask her, “What has gotten in to you?” or “What’s going on with you?” she’d simply cry and reply, “I don’t know. I don’t know why I say these things.”

Well, we now know where it started and how to stop it. Since she has been grounded from all television for the past few weeks, we’ve noticed a huge change in her behavior. She’s more compliant and less mouthy when we ask her to do something. She’s kinder to other people and respectful toward adults again.  Of course, we realize this is an ongoing process we will need to stay on top of until she becomes an adult. This didn’t happen overnight, so we know it can’t be changed overnight.

Last week, she was taken off of restriction from television, but we made it clear that, from this point forward, until she learns how to control her attitude and realizes that the children on television are actors, and they are not behaving this way toward their “real parents,” she is only allowed to watch shows we approve of. She is ten years old, so the little-kid shows aren’t going to work; but, we have found some suitable substitutes, thanks to the wonderful world of Comcast On Demand.  Shows like Little House on the Prairie, The Waltons, and other television programs that demonstrate appropriate behavior for a child are the only ones she’s allowed to watch. And she’s only allotted two hours per day total of television time.

I want my daughter to have role models of young girls who respect authority, and themselves as females—by dressing and speaking appropriately. Some may say I’m living in a dream world, and that’s just not plausible in the society in which we live. To that I say, as long as we are her parents, my husband and I will provide as many examples of the type of behavior we expect from her as part of our family, as we can. We will do everything in our power to ensure she becomes a mature, responsible, and accountable adult—even if it means removing all television privileges and only allowing pre-approved DVDs. It’s our job to teach her empathy, sympathy, accountability, and self-control. She may grow up and have a daughter of her own one day, so I want to arm her with the confidence to teach her daughter the way a young lady should behave and present herself. I can only image these shows will get worse as the years go by. Some may say I’m being old fashioned, but that’s okay. These are the values I want to pass on to my daughter.

Now, I’m not saying that television is the be-all and end-all of influences she may be drawing on concerning her behavior; but the fact that her entire demeanor has changed for the better in just a few weeks without those influences, speaks volumes to us.

I recommend, to all my readers who are parents of young children, pay attention to these shows. Watch and listen to how these “children” behave. Many are left to fend for themselves at home. Their parents are either absent, because of pursuing their own dreams of stardom; or when they are around, they are trying too hard to be their child’s best friend.

I love my daughter. She is the blessing I received from heaven after six years of praying. I love that she’s confident, smart, creative, and extremely musically talented. But with all of these qualities comes stubbornness, defiance, and disrespect, at times; and that is where I draw the line. While I can appreciate the difference of her being a girl, compared to my boys, I refuse to just sit back and allow her bad behavior to be  “just a girl thing” anymore.

© Traci Sanders
November 2015

 

Update: 2-25-17

It has been an ongoing struggle with our daughter’s attitude, but she is exhibiting more mature behavior and learning to control her mouth and her emotions. She is still not allowed to watch the shows she once did, especially when she starts getting attitude with us, but she is learning how to differentiate between television life and real life. 

We have added a few shows that’s she’s allowed to watch. After all, she’s eleven now, and we realize she’s growing up and beginning to make more mature decisions. 

Here are some we allow:

Lab Rats

Good Luck Charlie – only reruns as it’s not airing anymore

Full House – NO, not Fuller House!

Liv and Maddie

The Thundermans

Girl Meets World

Austin and Ally

Stuck in the Middle

These shows aren’t perfect, but they are ones we’ve compromised on for now. At least the parents are present, and some reprimand the children when they get out of line. 

Unfortunately, television producers simply don’t make many wholesome family shows anymore. So, our kids adopt the behaviors they see on the current shows, and assume this is simply the way things are supposed to be.

 

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About Traci Sanders 254 Articles
Traci Sanders has been composing poetry, songs, and children’s stories since the young age of ten. In 2003, she opened her home to young children in her community offering “beyond the basics” teachings. In 2008, she was recognized by the Child Care Resource and Referral Agency as Family Childcare Provider of the Year and was featured in two local newspapers.

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