Teach Me to Be Brave

June 28th, 2012

I think of myself as a strong, confident woman.  More than anything, I want my daughter to be confident in her own abilities.  I want her to lead rather than follow.  To be brave because she knows that she can overcome any obstacle.

But I am at a loss for how to teach her this.

The truth is, Miss Mouse is a weenie.  (And, sweetie, if you’re reading this ten years from now, know that I say that with nothing but love.)  She tends to be timid and a fearful.  She defaults into whine mode at the drop of a hat and can dissolve into tears at the slightest provocation.  Like when she spies a picnic bug at the end of the slide.  Or when her brother glares at her.

This overly-meek persona tends to come out most around me.  In fact, I suspect it ONLY comes out around me.

Case in point: a few weeks ago, we went camping.  There was a nice swimming pool at the campsite and Miss Mouse spent a blissful hour leaping off the side of the pool.  Josh was poised ready to catch her and she would admonish him each time — “No, Daddy!  Move farther back!” — before launching.

Flash forward to this Monday’s swim lesson where we practiced jumping into the pool.  Miss Mouse would not jump for me.  She fussed.  And cried.  And sat down on the edge of the pool.  And would not leave the edge until my hands were firmly under armpits.

What is that about?

When I drop Miss Mouse off at school, she inevitably has a meltdown.  There’s pouting.  And tears.  And this morning she actually ran out of the room three times as I tried to leave, wrapping herself around my legs and shrieking.

When Josh drops her off, she waves goodbye and goes off the play.

WHY??

It breaks my heart and frustrates me to the point of neurosis at the same time.  And I have no idea what to do about it.  Should I be supportive?  Stern?  Do I give her hugs and calm her imaginary fears or tell her to suck it up?  Do I offer rewards for bravery or remove privileges for sniveling?

I’ve started having Josh take over more Mouse duties.  He took her to her ‘interview’ at the Montessori school she’ll be attending this fall because I was terrified that she’d “do her thing” for them and they’d decide she wasn’t ready for school.  Next week, he’ll be dropping her off at school.  And I’ll probably have him take her to future swim lessons.

But I don’t like that plan because it means I’m missing out on experiences I want to have with my daughter.  So I need a new plan.  Any suggestions?

5 responses to “Teach Me to Be Brave”

  1. Jaclyn says:

    I experience this same problem with Chance and Brisco. When dropping them off at school, they cry and carry on. When Jesse drops them off, they high five and run to sit down in their places in the circle. Same thing in many situations involving ME…when they fall down around ME, they cry for an hour. When they fall down around Jesse, they may not even shed a tear!!! Jesse has two theories about this, and they make sense. First, I tend to break the routine that I have set for them. When the boys attempt to distract me, it works. I respond because it feels as though I am being a bad mom if I don’t. Jesse ignores the attempt at distraction, and continues to focus on the “prize” (i.e. dropping them off, or getting them dressed). Second, I enable their behavior. When they cry, I soothe them. When they are upset at being left at school, I assure them that I will return, and comfort them. They behave this way because I respond to the behavior. Sad to say, but the only way that I have seen this behavior stop at all is to completely cut off all emotional responses to their behavior. When they cry at school drop off, I calmly state, “I will pick you up as soon as school is over. I love you. Have fun!” And LEAVE. At first, they continued their attempt at getting an emotional from me, but after I continued the same behavior day in and day out, they stopped their crying and whining at drop off. Same with other fears….”Mommy, I’m scared of the dark!!! *sob*” I respond, “There is nothing to be afraid of in the dark. I love you. Goodnight.” And LEAVE. Again, at first, they cried and whined, but when I refused to respond to that behavior, they stopped.
    I know it is hard to walk away, and my instincts say to GO BACK AND HELP…COMFORT SMALL CHILD!!!! but it only makes it worse later. Good luck, Kater!!!!!!

    • Kate says:

      Fantastic insights, Jay. It’s so good to hear from other moms who have experienced this. Your feedback seems in line what I’ve heard — the fact that Miss Mouse only pulls these stunts for me clearly says she’s putting on a show, rather than being genuinely timid. I need to get tougher.

      One other thing someone told me really resonated (I may be posting on this some day!): when our kids act like that in public, it embarrasses us. Which causes us to go into negotiating mode to try to stem the tide. And that is totally MY problem, not hers. So what if the random swim instructor I’ll never really see again thinks my kid is crazy and wimpy?

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