(Disclaimer: I am NOT a psychologist, nor have I ever played one on t.v. I could probably USE one though.)
Okay, so I’ve been thinking about this stuff…you know, the effect that media has on the mindscapes of our daughters and I’ve determined two things: 1) It’s pretty doggone bad. (Signed, Captain Obvious) and 2) It ain’t going nowhere. (Co-signed, Sergeant Overly Simplified.) Those things said, I believe that there is no one stop answer for it. On the opposite end, though, I do think there are some steps that we can take. Here’s my take.
We could always wait for all of the executives in radio, print, television and music to suddenly have an epiphany and decide that it’s more important to protect the ideals, morals and self esteem of our daughters than it is to make an extra dollar so they can afford the latest model Bentley that hits the showrooms. (Talk about run on sentences…..whew!) Yeah…YOU hold your breath on THAT one…I’m gonna go get a smoothie.
So, what are we left with? The old saying of the best offense is a good defense jumps into my head. (Well, that and who would win a fight between Superman and Gumby, but I digress…) We have to develop the methods of instilling self reliance and strong self esteem into them to help them defend against the unreachable and unsavory images that they are getting bombarded with.. It’s not like the arrows are ever going to stop coming their way, so the best thing to do is to give them thick armor to deflect them. The trick is that an individual can’t GIVE anybody self esteem or self reliance. The best that we can do is to help them to REALIZE it for themselves, about themselves because, like most things, just telling somebody something doesn’t have the same effect on them as their experiencing it. So we, as Daddys, have to motivate them to build their own sense of self esteem. And sometimes, that requires a little finesse, and as Bernie Mac said, “trickeration”. Let me explain.
I like to use a term called meaningful motivation. Okay, so what’s meaningful motivation? Meaningful motivation is a term that that I use to indicate TRUE, GOOD motivation,. Trust me, there is fake, bad motivation. ( You like how I just did that? I did a comparison between true and good versus fake and bad….pretty slick, huh? Look at the big brain on Ty!) Anyway, I digress…yet again. To show you what I mean, and to appease my ADHD, we’ll give a quick example of bad motivation.
When I was in basic training for the Air Force, I had a Training Instructor (T.I.) named Sgt. Blah, Blah, Blah. (Did you REALLY expect me to give his name?) Now, Sgt Blah, Blah, Blah was pure, unadulterated, unfiltered, concentrated evil. He was almost comically evil. I mean like arch nemesis evil. His superpower was intimidating people…and leaking obnoxiously nasty gas when he walked through the barracks.
We bumped heads. We bumped heads a LOT. He would always win, of course. (One would think that I would’ve been smart enough to realize that he was in charge, and the deck was stacked against me winning, but nope.)
Whenever the head bumping would happen, he’d be right in my face, screaming, at the top of his lungs, all the while his funny looking T.I., smokey the bear hat would karate chop me across the forehead as he leaned in to make his points. And….as embarrassing as this is to say…as disturbing as it is to admit…sometimes…his tongue lashings….would be accented with….with…..with……. hot,…. wet…..SPITTLE slowly running down my cheeks as I stood there at attention., THAT, dear readers was, in scientific terms…DA WORST.
Anyway, on the occasions when he wasn’t trying to impose his will on just me, he would wander around the barracks screaming at other people, and leaving behind the previously mentioned cloud of Gastric FUNK. This was always fine with me…(the screaming at other’s part….not the funk part….THAT was ALWAYS disgusting.) Now, I would LIKE to say that when he was going on his rampages, that we would stand up to him. You know; put him in his place. Knuckle up….Show some MACHISMO!…However, 99.997% of the time, we’d do exactly what he said. This phenomena can be broken down by the following (edited) words of a great modern day philosopher:
“Man, I got mind control over Debo. He says “shut up “, I be quiet…. but when he leaves, I be talking again”
Smokey- “Friday, circa, 1995
My mother once told me, “You can learn from a fool…you just have to know how to pick the knowledge from the foolishness.” That said, how in the WORLD could Smoky’s line relate to what I’ve been talking about? Well, in essence, it’s a brief commentary about bad motivation. Sgt. Blah Blah Blah would tell us to do something. We’d do it, but as soon as he left the room, we did whatever we felt like. His motivation only lasted as long as he was there in front of us. Our motivation to DO the job, even if it was something that would improve ourselves, or that we would eventually LEARN from, left the room when he did. Fear is actually a bad long term tool for motivation. It’s like the short term memory of motivation. So, what we have to do, is find motivation for our daughters that is meaningful to THEM. I have a term that I use called H.A.R.P. It stands for the four tenants for motivation that I used in working with my daughters. (If I missed anything, feel free to let me know…….Add it to the list. Just make sure you come up with a cool new acronym…it took me WEEKS to come up with H.A.R.P.)
1) Heroes that look like her– Find examples of women that have achieved successes in life that your daughter want to achieve. If she wants to be a CEO one day, search the business journals for articles on female business women. Make sure they have lots of pictures. Print them out and give them to your daughter. Talk about the path that the woman took to get to where she is. Point out how your daughter can do it too. Then, reach out to the people in the articles. You may be surprised because they may just respond with a personal note to your daughter. Once, I was looking for a mentor for a lady that wanted to start a give her info on starting a day spa. I actually found her in a magazine. I contracted her office, and told her about what the young lady was doing. Long story short; she became her mentor.
2) Attainable Goals- It’s got to be a goal that they can actually achieve. Anything else can be a recipe for failure. Now, I’m not saying to give them something that is EASY, but rather, something that they can actually DO.
3) Rewardable – What good is an accomplishment, if there is no reward at the end? The funny thing about this is, it doesn’t have to, in fact, it probably SHOULDN’T be a physical reward. It shouldn’t be things. What you want to do here, is to create a memory of a feeling; a memory of how the success felt, a memory of how it felt to put a smile on Dad’s face. Our daughters take great pride in making us happy. We need to take great pride in showing them that they have.
4) Personal Pride– The motivation has to be something that is meaningful to your daughter. It can’t be a goal that she reaches for someone else; not even you. It has to be something that she would take pride in doing. They also have to feel as if this is something that they are better at than anyone in the whole world.
I have a seven year old niece. Right now, I’m doing this thing with her in which whatever she does, I tell her that she’s the best at it EVER. Last week, she was the best “shoe tie-er upper” in the whole world. Before that, she was the best “arm twirl in a circler” ever. Before THAT, she was the best “peanut butter and jelly spreader-er” the world has ever seen! Yeah, I know that it sounds silly, but she’ll actually come to me now with new things that she can do because she’s developing a belief in her ability to DO things that she can be proud to show. AND, she’s PROUD of herself. It’s not a belief in what “Unka Ky” can do, but a belief that what she’s doing is special and important.
The end result, the most important aspect of our actions, and the big payoff of our efforts as Daddies in this regard, however, will be to regain our voice as the one who helps shape our daughters’ sense of self worth. We have to stop allowing the media to tell them where their value begins and ends and stop letting it define who or what they are for them. The power truly is in their hands but we have to help them to develop the strength to believe it for themselves.