If your childhood was anything like mine, you probably heard the phrase, "Now, be nice," on a regular basis. I know I certainly didn't think anything of it growing up, but now that I'm an adult I've realized just how twisted this sentiment really was (and is). Every time I was told to be "nice," I was really being told to be "silent" or "agreeable" or, you know, not my authentic self. I refuse to do that to my daughter and I've noticed when you don't raise your daughter to be "nice," things happen; good things; positive things; progressive things; necessary things that will only aid my daughter when she leaves our home and enters the world, on her own.
As a young girl, I was constantly being told to be quiet and know my "place" when I was in the presence of other adults. If I was being teased by a boy on the playground "because he like me," I was expected to "kind" and be the "bigger person" and consider what can only be described as harassment, to be a compliment. Even as an adult, not much has changed. Sure, instead of a playground there's a college classroom or a workspace, but much of the messaging is the same. "Don't make waves," and "be nice," and don't be too "loud" are all messages women hear on a daily basis, regardless of how old they are and regardless of where they are in their lives.
Thankfully, I didn't let that message me silence me as a child, as a young adult, as a woman or, it turns out, as a mother. As a result, I won't be raising my daughter to be "nice." Yes, I will ask that she be a kind human being who respects and cares for other people, but as a woman I will not ask that she silence herself for the sake of others, or so a certain situation can remain "copacetic." I know that she will benefit from not being "nice," and in the following ways:
She Learns To Be More Confident
When you raise you daughter to stand up for herself, you're essentially teaching her how to gain and maintain confidence. As a young woman (any woman, really) staying confident can be difficult, thanks to prevailing cultural messaging that profits off of women's diminished self confidence and increased self-hatred. After all, the thriving fashion, diet and cosmetic industries don't make money if every woman is body confident.
She Learns To Speak Up For Herself...
When you are "nice," it is often implied that you can't speak your mind because it is your "duty" to remain silent and agreeable. However, when you don't raise your daughters to be "nice," you teach them that they should speak their mind, regardless of whether or not it will cause a perceived "problem."
...And That Her Opinions Do Matter
Everyone has something to offer to create a better world and each individual's unique opinion and perspective on life is an important part of fostering long-lasting social progression. A woman is just as capable as a man; just as as intuitive as a man; just as creative as a man; just as much of a leader as a man (just ask the current Democratic presidential nominee); just as important as a man, and so are a woman's opinion.
When you teach your daughter not to worry about being perceived as "nice," you're telling her that she matters, and so do her opinions, regardless of someone else's perception. You don't have to be seen, to exist.
She Finds Her Voice...
Finding your voice, as an individual who constantly changes and evolves, can be difficult. I don't know about you, but I have lost mine from time to time and I'm sure I will again; even though it's always there.
One way to find it, of course, is to not worry about what someone else thinks about your voice when you speak your mind and assert yourself in conversations, in the space you occupy, and in the life you're living.
...And She Learns How To Use It
When your daughter isn't worried about how others will think of her, she will inevitably exercise her voice when she wants to or feels she needs to.
She Also Learns How To Listen
When you don't raise your daughter to be "nice," you allow her the opportunity to learn not only how to be outspoken, but how to listen. This is just as crucial as helping her discover she has an opinion and a voice and that she matters, because half of making your own decisions and opinions is first listening to all sides so you are well educated about the topic.
She'll Inevitably Make Mistakes...
Typically, when people expect a person to be nice, they also expect them to be "perfect." I don't want my daughter to feel like she has to be impeccable, especially for the benefit of others; I want her to feel like she can be a human being, with numerous flaws who is wonderfully imperfect and capable of making mistakes.
...And Learn How To Apologize For Them, When She Does
She will also learn that when she does make a mistake, the appropriate course of action is to apologize for it and own up to her wrongdoing. An apology is not a sign of weakness. Actually, it is a sign of strength and proof that someone has the willingness to not only own up tot heir shortcomings, but improve upon them so that they don't repeat the same mishaps.
I want my daughter to be confident enough to admit when she has messed up, yes, but I also want her to be confident enough to know that she can learn from that mistake, improve, and better herself. A mistake isn't the end of the world, it's just another chance to be better.
She Learns That Being "Liked" Isn't The Most Important Thing
Sure, it's wonderful to be liked, but it's not going to happen all the time and that's definitely not a bad thing. Honestly, there will be moments in anyone's life (and certainly in my daughter's) when she wont' want to be liked by a certain individual and group of individuals. I don't want my daughter to feel uncomfortable in those moments; I want her to feel sure about herself, with our without the approval of someone else.
She Learns That She Deserves To Take Up Space
Our sexist and patriarchal society is constantly telling women to shrink themselves and remain unseen and to never grow (in either size, voice, or success) if it is going to upset a man, make a man uncomfortable or threaten a man in any capacity.
Women deserve to take up space, to speak our opinions, to do what we have a desire and feel called to do. We deserve to be here.
She's Called Bossy...
When a man is assertive, he's a "leader." When a woman is assertive, she's "bossy." For one gender, it's a sign of strength and capability. For another gender, it's a sign of rudeness or weakness. The double standards are hard at play, my friends, even in the year 2016.
...But Really, She's Just Learning How To Be The Boss
Really, it's that she's learned to take control of her life and her situations and not let anyone else control them for her. She's learned to be confident and stand up for herself, others, and causes in which she believes. Essentially, she's learned how to be the boss of her life.