How To Raise a Daughter: Two Parallel Views

A lady I know, for whom I have the greatest respect though we often do not agree, sends this video with an approving comment. "My kind of girl!"

The lady in question did raise a daughter, actually, and I'm quite sure she wouldn't have accepted such an attitude from her own daughter. But she wants to indicate that she approves of female self-assertiveness, I suppose.

I have a hard time not viewing this as a kind of child abuse. The child is at an age when she is learning how to treat others, and whether she learns to treat her elders with respect or with a kind of royal disdain is really going to be a question of the sort of feedback she receives. The family has her in a kind of isolation, so that the feedback she gets will initially be contained to what they elect to give her. If they giggle and laugh approvingly at her imperious dictates, she won't be wrong in committing to those habits as demonstrably successful.

When she gets out in the world, however... well.

Naturally I thought of this article from the NYT's parenting section, which I'm sure we all read last week. That child did not learn to spew hate tinged with explicit sexual terminology at the age of ten on her own.

Fate has not given me a daughter, so I can't say how I would raise one with certainty. It's a very difficult problem. I honor those, like my late father-and-mother-in-law, who managed it with grace.


Cass said...

Grim, honestly I see something very different here. Small boys (and she is a very small girl) are imperious all the time and it's charming.

She says "No, thank you" to him for offering to help when she really wants to figure it out herself. He's pointing a camera at her when she's trying to figure something out - that's really pretty inconsiderate.

I love watching these kinds of videos, but they always seem more than a bit exploitative to me. She didn't say "worry about yourself" in a mean way - and seriously, she says "Worry about yourself" in response to his question, "What do you want me to do?" (which he ignored by the way)

And did she really say, "You can help when we're not on TV?" That's what it sounded like. She wasn't talking to another human being, but to a video camera. That's kind of messed up.

Grim said...

Perhaps I don't recall. It was a long time ago, but my son will probably tell you that imperious speech towards his father was unlikely to garner good results.

Daughters may be different. The old Boy Scout Handbook said,

"Chivalry requireth that youth should be trained to perform the most laborious and humble offences with cheerfulness and grace; and to do good unto others."

I'm pretty sure that 'requireth' is a false attempt at anachronism, but the sentiment is right enough. Children need to take out the garbage, not just because the garbage needs to be taken out, but because they need to learn to think of themselves as the kind of being who might reasonably serve others even in humble ways. If they learn to think of themselves as born to command, they won't learn to serve. Yet those who would command must first know how to serve.

Cass said...

She looked to be about 3 years old. A child that young has very little idea about living a life of service.

A child who knows enough to say, "No thank you" when offered assistance is clearly not rude. And small children are not known for their iron self control. They're still learning.

Daughters are no different than sons, and there aren't any toddlers in Boy (or Girl) Scouts because they're just too small. What I got from this video was a dad with no sense of boundaries (filming your small children and posting it on the internet). I'd need to see a lot more of this child, but why is a bit of spirit so unwelcome in girls (but very welcome in boys)?

Why is it laudable for a small boy to fight doctors so hard he has to be held down, but for a small girl to mildly resist help unbuckling her car seat (with a "no thank you", no less?)

Grim said...

You're setting up a conflict I don't posit. When she's screaming at him to "Drive!" rather than worry about whether her car seat is properly fastened, and he's giggling about it, I see a kind of failure to parent.

But maybe I'm wrong. It seems to me that a girl of two or three ought to accept that she needs to be buckled in right, and if mom or dad need to verify her work, well, her life depends on it. They have an interest in checking her work, and she (or he, were it a boy) ought to submit to it respectfully.

As for doctors, I made my son thank his doctors for the shots they gave him. However much it hurt, and however much he hated it, it was important to me that he overcame the pain and the fear and said, "Thank you."

Anonymous said...

Oh, this girl is small enough that we're seeing nearly unfiltered character. She probably came up with all of it on her own, except the "No thank you" part.

If she's like some little ladies I've known, she's independent-minded, curious, and intent on acquiring skills and managing her environment. She has absolutely no clue that her parents have a responsibility to keep her safe: all she knows is that they get in the way when she's doing to work of growing up.

I'll take one like that, any day.


Grim said...

Well, the better part may be against me. I haven't had a daughter, as I say. Perhaps it's good that I haven't: perhaps a daughter made to thank her doctor for her shots would be too broken to patriarchy's demands.

God has saved her from me. More's the pity, for me.

Cass said...

When toddlers scream (and they do, a LOT), it sounds a lot different from anything on that video. She didn't lose her temper, remembered to say thank you - twice! - and seemed quite reasonable about the whole thing. She wasn't being commanded to do anything. Her opinion was asked, and she gave it.

I don't think much of parents who act like this guy, but I didn't see anything even approaching "royal disdain" in the words of this small child. And I don't quite see the connection to feminism, being female, or "the patriarchy", either. She's just a kid. I wouldn't assume from one video that her parents aren't going to teach her how to get along with other people.

A 3 year old who has already internalized "No thank you" well enough not to require prompting is doing pretty darned well.

Grim said...

Well, so far at least 100% of the opinion of the hall is against me; and as I said, I have never raised a daughter.

But let me suggest that we move to discussing what I take as a parallel view. If it is wrong to criticize the parents of the toddler, is the other parallel, or am I wrong about that also do you think?

Cass said...

You seem determined to shoehorn this issue into a "separate standards for boys/girls" framework.

My take would be the same if a boy was in that car seat. I'm quite certain about this b/c I raised two sons to adulthood and have two grandsons of about the same age now. The smaller one still pitches fits when things don't go his way (or he wants to do something he's not big enough to do yet, or he just has it in his head that he wants his way, or he's tired or hungry).

That's normal behavior for toddlers of both sexes. I'm not saying it should be tolerated/encouraged; just that it's not a sign of anything except the child's age. Small children scream and throw tantrums all the time.

This little girl isn't screaming. Not even close.

She isn't refusing to do as she's told (never once does her father command her to do anything).

He repeatedly offers her a choice: "Do you want help?" and - since she really does not *want* help - she rightly says "No thank you", even stopping to explain (unintelligibly) that he could possibly help under some other condition.

If he didn't mean to offer her that choice or if he approaches every situation that way, that's bad parenting. But offering toddlers a choice is a time honored way of balancing their need for independence and self mastery with the dictates of the real world (none of us can go anywhere until your car seat is fastened). That's the key - you offer them a choice only when either choice would be acceptable to you: "Do you want to wear your orange shirt today, or the green one?", not "Do you want to wear clothes to the grocery store or go butt nekkid"?

That seems like a fair criticism of the tiny slice of parenting on offer here - he's making a requirement seem like a choice when it's actually not am acceptable choice. But I don't see "disdain" or "screaming" or even "imperious dictates" (in the sense that she seriously expects him to obey her) and I'm reluctant to interpret one amusing video as a metaphor for 18 years of parenting.

Male or female, small children need to obey their parents and shouldn't be allowed to talk back. But if you ask a toddler what she wants (and she tells you), I don't think it's quite fair to suggest that she's well on her way to running a small South American country :p

Cass said...

OK, I just read the NYT piece for the first time, and I agree it's bizarre.

There's a gem - a tiny gem - of a good point in it (girls are often rewarded for becoming docile, submissive people pleasers), but as a whole, the post seems a bit unhinged. *That* little girl sounds a bit rude and self absorbed. That's not uncommon in children, but it should not go uncorrected.

Grim said...

The only difference in standards I'm suggesting here is that people wouldn't think it was cute if it was a boy telling his dad to 'worry about yourself.' It would look like that scene from "The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" where the two rude little boys are telling off their grandpa.

So I'm not suggesting there ought to be a separate standard here; I'm thinking there is one, and wondering if it's really wise and appropriate.

But as I said, everyone who is commenting on this video is on your side, and I haven't raised a daughter (and thus haven't dealt with that germ of a good point issue you're raising, which might be a real issue). Maybe the strict standards I applied as a father of a son would be too harsh. So I could be wrong.

Cass said...

I actually *would* think it was cute, if it was said in childish innocence. Open defiance is different, as is rudeness. There's no logical comparison between a little girl who says no thank you twice (and moreover is too small to understand why adults are allowed to use imperatives to children, but the reverse is not true).

I thought that little boy who was angry about all those girls "ruining" his visit to the zoo was very funny, too. Clearly he's being a bit of a pip, but he's struggling to articulate why he's angry and that's a step beyond tantrums towards learning to negotiate compromises when dealing with people who want something different. He's not "there yet", but one assumes he's not going to think the world should revolve around him and what he wants when he's 25. Gradually, he'll learn that other people's wishes matter too.

Children - particularly small childen - don't completely understand the world yet. We shouldn't assume that their behavior at 3 or 4 is in any way representative of what their behavior will be at 20 or 30.

Cass said...

Maybe the strict standards I applied as a father of a son would be too harsh. So I could be wrong.

Obviously I have not been around to witness your parenting style, but various tales you've told here don't lead me to think you would have taken a toddler's inability to comprehend the adult world in all its social complexities as open defiance or disrespect.

If you did, then I'm tempted to say "Yes - that's too harsh for either a boy or a girl". Parents must suit the lesson and the discipline to the child's age and understanding.

What is expected at 3 is totally unacceptable at 8. Had this been an 8 year old boy or girl, my answer would be totally different. What's funny about this video is the child's earnestness and spunk, which are only funny because she's too little to comprehend things she will understand when she's older.

Grim said...

That could be. It's an important lesson, that other people's wishes matter too. Many's the adult I meet who still hasn't learned it.

Eric Blair said...

Now you're talking crazy talk!

raven said...

As an aside- There is a thread over at the "adventure rider" motorcycle forum, on fathers and daughters and their motorcycles-
It is a real treat to see so such love-! I found it inexpressibly heartening after the well of anti male sentiment so prevalent in the MSN these days.

Anonymous said...

I just read the NYT piece. Oh dear. I had no idea that trying to be marginally cheerful-looking and somewhat diplomatic were the effects of repression by the patriarchy. I'd love to introduce the author to my second cousin's mother-in-law. She is sweet, charming, gracious, and held off two assailants (with a shotgun) after the yahoos kicked in the back porch door and tried to rush her.


Ymar Sakar said...

A bit more politeness would be warranted. Though I doubt such a youth will be able to use keigo.

It's better for people to learn how to fish than learn how to beg parents and sugar daddies for food and money, though.

So long as they aren't crying and being hysterical, self control and self improvement is good for anyone: male or female.

The world is not such a sweetly naive place that a person, due to their gender, will receive better treatment than others. No matter what the Democrat sex gender lobby claims.

DdR said...

On the "you worry about yourself" comment. I've heard that before from adults (no doubt she has too). For example: "Mom, Sister is not picking up the toys!" To which Mom responds, "You worry about yourself, and put away the crayons. I will worry about your sister if need be."

Anyway, that is what came to my mind.