I recently listened to and loved the novel Girl Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis. She’s funny, enduring, poignant, and straight-up real.
One of the chapters in her book that really stuck with me was the one where she was perceived as “too loud” by her father and how that impacted her for much of her life. I’m paraphrasing here, but she talks painfully about how she was made to feel like her personality was too much and too loud and she needed to tone herself down to be accepted.
In doing this, she reflects on how, over time, she essentially turned her volume down so low that she stopped hearing herself. She lost her voice, stopped trusting her instincts, and felt she couldn’t truly be herself around others in fear people couldn’t handle her.
That really resonated with me. I am loud and outgoing and have strong opinions, and I remember being “too much” for many people in my life growing up. From the volume of my voice to the intensity of my ideas, people often couldn’t handle me. I’ve learned to deal with that in my own way and don’t try so hard anymore to tone myself down to be accepted by others, but it does leave me wondering how to handle my own daughter who is following in my footsteps.
My five-year-old is a spitfire, I’m sure in many the same ways I was. She’s outgoing, loud, creative, persistent, loving, and at times defiant. She knows what she wants. She is assertive and talkative and commands attention. She doesn’t like to compromise.
These are all great characteristics to have in most situations, but not so much as a tired parent who just wants her kids to bathe and get their PJs on already without 500 negotiations. Sometimes I DO find my daughter to be too much, too loud, and too demanding of my attention.
So how do I manage her natural tendencies and personality in a way that helps me stay sane without sending the message that she needs to change who she is?
It’s not easy, but after devouring Rachel’s book, I’ve made it a priority to pay more attention to how I respond to my daughter during her more trying times.
One phrase I’ve found success with is, “I really want to hear what you have to say, and it’s easier for me to hear it at a quieter volume.” This conveys that I care about what she’s saying while also setting an expectation for an acceptable noise level.
I find my daughter tends to be more boisterous when she feels she’s not getting enough (positive) attention from us. If I can give my daughter five to ten minutes of undivided attention without any negative or “constructive” feedback, she is able to regulate herself better.
My husband and I also make efforts to channel this energy into good, not evil. For instance, we try to seek out her opinions and feedback whenever we can, if it’s something we can follow through on. So, for instance, we do NOT ask her opinion about dinner time or dessert choice, but maybe her thoughts on wall décor or the order in which we prioritize tasks for the day are fair game. Feeling she has been heard allows her to back off in other situations where her opinion is not needed.
We also encourage her negotiation skills when it’s something we can be flexible with. If she’s able to present us with a reasonable argument for a specific craft activity (almost always Play-Doh!) or why we should go to the pool now instead of in three hours, I try to honor that and make it happen, even if it’s not the choice I would have made. Respecting her perspective reminds her that her opinion is important, and it encourages her to use critical thinking and practice how to present her thought process.
I also remind myself to admire my daughter’s tenacity and strong opinions. At the end of the day, I do want to foster these traits so she can grow up to be a strong, independent person who can think for herself, negotiate on her own behalf, and stay true to herself. Part of my job is helping her hone those skills so they can be seen as a strength by her and those around her.