Principal’s Perspective: Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters
Teaching Your Child Humility
The following is an excerpt from Dr. Meg Meeker’s book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. Dr. Meeker is a pediatrician practicing medicine in Traverse City. Her heart felt wisdom also applies to developing strong mothers and sons.
Many parents roll their eyes at the word humility. We associate it with weakness, and we don’t want our daughters (sons) to be weak or easily manipulated. We want them strong, self-sufficient and independent. But genuine humility is the starting point for every other virtue. Humility means having a proper perspective of ourselves and seeing ourselves as we really are. It also means knowing that every person has equal worth.
Teaching humility will demand more of you as a father (mother). Humility doesn’t make sense unless it is modeled. If you live it, she will get it. Humility can be hard for many men to embrace. But not embracing it is a dangerous game of self-deception. Many successful men embody humility. They are successful professionally, intellectually, and emotionally because they understand life is bigger than they are. A father’s humility is a gift to his daughter.
I know it sounds like an oxymoron to say humility will make your daughter feel more significant, but here is why it’s true. To fulfill her potential, your daughter needs to understand who she is and where she’s going. Her understanding of this must to be accurate. If all you do is bolster her self-esteem with praise, she’ll eventually see through that, and she’ll wind up feeling frustrated. She will wonder: “Is this the reason my parents love me so much? Am I worth more to my dad if I perform better?” If she doesn’t understand the virtue of humility, she’ll start looking in the wrong places to feel better about herself.
Humility brings with it a deep joy and satisfaction because it keeps us from becoming manically self-absorbed. Keep your daughter’s world larger than herself and her talents. Gently guide her to recognize her strengths and limitations. Let her fail. Let her know that you still love her when she fails. Let her know she is valuable for who she is, not for what she does. Here is one of life’s greatest lessons: people are valuable because they are human, God’s creation, not because of what they do.
Rather than speaking words of praise, which looks at superficial abilities and attributes, offer her words of encouragement. There is a big difference. Praise focuses on talents and beauty (example: you are so pretty, you are so smart, you are cool.). Encouragement notices inner qualities of effort, principles, and acts of virtues (example: You worked really hard on that assignment. You were patient with your brother. You were very helpful to your mom.). Research shows words of encouragement last a lifetime and enhance the child’s desire to continue to grow. Praise is hollow and does not provide a lasting impression on the child.
Girls who have the gift of humility are better placed to have deeper, longer-lasting friendships. Humility will prevent bullying and being bullied. With humility, your daughter is free to enjoy people for who they are; she’ll have no haughty desire to hurt people (social media). To escape the suffocation of self-centeredness, we must recognize that God is the source of all our power, intellect, and talents. God has filled your daughter with unimaginable gifts. Humility teaches her that these are in fact “gifts” for which she should be grateful, not proud. We can touch our child’s life for eternity by touching her heart during childhood.
(The wisdom above applies to raising sons, too.)