I Don’t Have to Teach My Daughter to Be Kind.


The internet is full of articles on parenting. Many of them written specifically on parenting girls. And commonly, the advice for parents of girls is “teach them kindness.”

I get it. Kindness is important. Everyone should be kind. But I don’t need to remind my daughter to be kind. She’s naturally already that way. Like a lot of girls, she cares about people’s feelings. She feels bad when anyone is excluded or upset or alone.

A recent article from a mom to her daughter suggested that daughters need to be taught to be inclusive and kind, and that they should be unafraid to eat cake, and also equipped with extra hair ties. These things are perhaps true, but my daughter does not need my guidance to do them.

Like other girls, my daughter is inclined to treat other people with consideration. And she plans ahead and has her own hair ties ready. She enjoys cake without my guidance. She is destined to be both kind and prepared, unless I let the world teach her not to be. I’m not worried about a lack of kindness.

This week, I talked to a teen girl who was also kind. She was so kind, in fact, that she didn’t break up with a possessive boy because he told her, “You’re all I’ve got.” I talked to another girl who had been enduring hateful jabs from a so-called best friend because she felt obligated to make the friendship work. Another girl tried to include a school loner and became the victim of stalking. Girls tell me they set their own needs aside to be considerate of the needs of others, and all too often, then end up finding themselves stuck in bad situations. So while kindness is important, boundaries are too.

My lessons to my daughter, the ones I really hope I can help her learn are tougher: Be kind, but hold others accountable. Stand up for yourself. Walk away from bad situations, even when you feel a little bit guilty.

It’s not my daughter’s job to cater to a mean girl best friend, as it won’t be her job to keep an angry spouse settled later on.

Be a good friend, but don’t hang around for mistreatment from someone who isn’t equally kind to you.

It’s not my daughter’s job to be kind to aggressive or scary classmates if her own sense of safety is on shaky ground.

Include everyone, but not if it starts to feel like something is over your head. In that case, ask for help.

It’s not my daughter’s job to make everything okay in relationships where others are selfish, abusive, or just plain mean.

Brighten people’s day, but not if they seem to always darken yours.

It’s not my daughter’s job to ignore her instincts and make everything okay for others, even when it doesn’t feel right.

Trust your intuition. If a situation doesn’t feel right, remove yourself.

I don’t have to tell my daughter to be kind. She’s naturally kind. I have to tell her to be strong enough to set a limit, tell someone to back off, walk away, to put her own well being first.

Posted on December 10, 2018 .