Raising Kids Who Speak Up: Why I Allow My Daughter to Answer Back

I’d like to think that I’ve done my job as a parent if my child grows up knowing what she wants, how to stand her ground, and when to speak her mind.

As a millennial parent, I come from a generation where children were often discouraged from speaking up. For example, when my mother gets mad at me, she would demand answers to her questions. When I give her one, she’d say, “Aba sasagot sagot ka pa?” Although this contradiction has become a running joke amongst friends nowadays, I admit that it made me keep things from my parents growing up out of fear of being scolded and reprimanded.

Now that I’m a parent myself, I make sure that our home is a safe space where my daughter can freely speak her mind, even if it’s against us. Here are my reasons.

Raising Kids Who Speak Up: Why I Allow My Daughter to Answer Back

It fosters confidence and assertiveness.

My daughter Monica just turned eight. As she grows older, I want her to learn to be confident and assertive, and to come to me with anything on her mind.

I remember one time when I didn’t allow her to play outside because I could not watch her. She was looking forward to continuing her play with her neighbor friends from the previous day, so she gave me assurance that she can be responsible even without my supervision.

“I won’t go far, Mom.”

“I will go home at 5:30 pm. You can lend me your smart watch and put an alarm if you want.”

With that, I gave her instructions and allowed her to go. She earned my trust and I know she knows safety is the number one priority. This taught her to be in control and taught me how to trust and let go.

It encourages independence and critical thinking.

Giving my daughter a chance to speak up is giving her space to process her own feelings and emotions.

Monica often tells me that whenever we argue, she prefers to stay in her room to fully let go of whatever feelings she has. Once she’s done, she understands things better and we can talk more openly afterwards.

Through this, she develops a sense of independence by learning how to control her own actions and emotions.

It promotes open communication.

Allowing Monica to freely express what’s on her mind is a reminder for me to be better. It’s not easy to be humble, especially as a parent, but this is the only way we can break the generational cycle. Many of us grew up not being comfortable with sharing everything with our parents, so I make sure that Monica feels relaxed with opening up to me.

I would never forget one instance when she was just six. She said, “It’s embarrassing whenever you tell me, ‘I told you so’ because it’s like I am always wrong, and you are right.”

This one hit the spot because for me, “I told you so ” was just a simple form of teasing all along. Little did I know that it stirred an emotion in her. This made me more mindful of my words.

There are also times when my stress or exhaustion gets the best of me, and I take it out on her. She lets me have my “tantrum” and later tells me how it made her feel and how I could have handled it better. This way, she knows she’s being heard.

At six years old, Monica gave me this note after she felt rejected when I raised my voice on her.

I also choose to share everything I feel with her, good or bad, so she understands where I’m coming from. I believe it’s important that parents and kids maintain a two-way communication, just like in any other relationship.

It develops mutual respect.

As a parent, I learned that I should honor and respect my child’s choices too. She may be too young to decide on her own but asking her what she truly wants shouldn’t be too hard for me to do. When she feels heard and acknowledged, she feels respected.

I’ve been wanting to enroll Monica in summer classes for a while, like most parents do. It bums me out that she just plays all summer without doing anything extra. I thought about swimming, piano, or voice lessons, but she really didn’t want to. I tried to push her, but she’s firm about wanting to relax, play, read, and stay up late during the summer.

We talked it through, and she made a good point—she can still learn with our help, not just through classes. So, I granted her wish, and she’s still doing great at swimming and piano without formal lessons. I realized that had I forced her to enroll, it could have resulted in her resenting me for disrespecting her choices, or maybe her not enjoying learning new skills at all.

It sets the tone for the future generation.

I admit, this is not always the easiest for me. I also struggle with the “I am the parent, I am always right” mentality. However, my intention for Monica to grow up knowing she can speak up  brings me back to reality. Whenever she tells me the things I do are wrong or offensive for her, it makes me realize I need to do better.

Apologizing to her becomes easy, and acknowledging my shortcomings brings us closer. For me, it’s important that our kids can correct us because this is the only way we can know that we need to step up and be better.

Being a parent is a tough job for sure. We want to make sure our kids grow up to be kind and good; to grow up knowing how to live this life not hurting others and not being hurt. It all starts on forming the foundation within the four corners of our home. It’s not too late for us to slowly change the direction and make sure our children experience a better now and pass on a better future.

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