When a newly-minted parent beholds the bundle of joy in his arms with the softest hair, brightest eyes and sweetest smile, he is awed by the future that he’s been given the privilege to mould - a baby girl to grow into a lady of her time (maybe, even ahead). That was exactly how my husband and I felt when each of our four lovely girls were born.
Right from the beginning, we knew that raising a child meant initiating a relationship that will last a lifetime. Beyond teaching our daughters to appreciate life through the essentials of health and presentation (that’s the ‘sugar’ in their lives) which makes the outlook of life delectably bright and beautiful, we had to show them how to relate to life with each connection (and that’s the ‘spice’) which gives them the tenacity to weather real life and all that it brings.
Healthy life habits start from the crib, and the easy part is keeping to the feeding schedule. Once the baby is ready for solid food, the challenge begins – introducing a five-month-old infant to sample soft solids may result in porridge or spinach puree smeared all over her face and clothes, or inviting pre-schoolers to crunch on celery may bring about pouty faces. So we input fun into the whole process of learning about life, one cheese cube, one celery dice and one carrot slice at a time.
Lessons on grace can be taught to a toddler in ballet class, but up-keeping the habits of gracious living is in the consistency of parental guidance. Encouragement is given to our little girls to remind them of table manners as well as kind hospitality to visitors big and small. More than words, our children learn to live from our personal examples in behaviour and actions, whether it is bedtime discipline or boundaries in friendship.
“More than words, our children learn to live from our personal examples in behaviour and actions, whether it is bedtime discipline or boundaries in friendship.”
The foundations of life are built from tender childhood, strengthened in the growing years, and demonstrated in maturity to withstand the trials that come their way. And so our focus in bringing up our daughters is to create an environment for them to develop into individuals who can apply themselves to the opportunities of their time (and beyond) to contribute to their community.
We wanted to know what our young ladies see in themselves that has prepared them to face the challenges of their world, and how the way we raised them has contributed to that. What we found out from our daughters can be summarised into five main themes:
Curiosity to explore and continue to learn in this fast-paced world. Our girls felt that exposure to new environments, cultures and ideas, and conversations about these yielded a desire for discovery. Whether we were visiting a park or a different country, watching the news or a drama presentation, we found time to talk about the new things that we saw or learnt.
Independence in thought and the ability to make decisions. From young, our girls were encouraged to express their ideas respectfully in the light of choices and consequences. They were given free rein to discuss their views and how their decisions affected others.
Resilience in the face of trials. Their self-confidence developed from support for exploration with safety nets, and opportunity to recover from failure without loss of self-worth. We valued situations where the children were stretched to attempt new things (without full assurance of success) and cheered them on. In fact, we learnt that the younger in age, the better the chance of succeeding at rock climbing!
Empathy is an asset in our inter-connected world so it’s always important in our family that we understand the feelings of others and work towards being a positive factor in another person’s life. When making decisions like sharing toys or household chores, we urged our daughters to consider the situation from other members’ perspectives.
Sense and sensibility. Common sense is not just based on everyday wisdom, but on the values – both faith and morally-based – that parents transmit to their children through everyday interaction. It was in being a part of their lives through quality and quantity time that we could be privy to their world, both external and inner. This allowed us to be a constructive influence on the developing awareness of their identity and role in life.
“Common sense is not just based on everyday wisdom, but on the values – both faith and morally-based – that parents transmit to their children through everyday interaction.”
Looking at the way our girls have grown brings us much pride, and as we continue to parent them during their young adult years, we take heart knowing that they are making their world a better place with the qualities they have developed.
Photo credit: Cheryl Ng
©2017 Focus on the Family Singapore. All rights reserved.
Cheryl is our Principal Trainer and speaks on family life in the areas of parenting, marriage, work-life and relationships. Having been a full-time career woman and also a full-time stay-home mum, Cheryl is determined that what the future holds is founded on what we build today. She is married to Andy and enjoys raising their four beautiful daughters ranging from teens to a recently married young adult.
If you are a dad with a teenage daughter, come join us at Date with Dad (Sat, 4 Mar 2017) – a special opportunity to connect through interactive activities, meaningful conversations and impart values that will anchor her through life's transitions.