raising "the good one" - nurturing the spirit of quiet/easygoing kids, esp girls? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 16 Old 01-31-2011, 10:01 PM - Thread Starter
 
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From day one, relatives, friends, and strangers have always commented on how "good" DD is.  I've heard she is unusually quiet, calm, content, cooperative, etc.  (Um yes, she does the usual toddler things!   Screeching, nooooo!, mine!  LOL. But she is a toddler!  And she tends to be quieter in public than at home alone with me.)  I do think she's a lovely little person and always becoming lovelier every day.  She's not even 2 yet, so I expect that she will grow and change and so will her personality.  But she does seem to be a pretty mellow person.  Her dad is really mellow too so this isn't that surprising.

 

But I have two concerns. 

 

One is rather distant.  Is there any chance what appears to be "good behavior" is actually a lack of energy?  We've had some concerns with her weight in the past, but they seem to be resolving, and her verbal development seems to be on track, so I'm not worried too much.

 

The other is the reason I posted in Parenting rather than Toddlers.  I sometimes suspect that labels like "the good one" are just as oppressive (is that too strong of a word?  well, at least unhelpful) to kids as being told "you're the bad one."  I occasionally worry because girls, more than boys, are socialized to be cooperative, docile, and quiet, sometimes to their detriment.

 

I do try not to tell DD about herself too much or put too much emphasis on her "goodness."  Is that enough?  Perhaps other parents of easy-going, "good" kids can weigh in?

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#2 of 16 Old 01-31-2011, 10:54 PM
 
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I have one of these `good` girls. She is eight now.

 

Much like your dd, she was well behaved when out the house, calm, cooperative, helpful. Now she is eight, she is the same quiet, helpful, eager to please, calm girl. She does not start or continue any kind of drama in the house, she is the peacemaker. She is the one who tries to see the good in the situations. Basically a positive little girl.

 

Her dad and I talk about how on earth we got this sweet, kind, nice girl.

 

To compare, her 4 year old brother is a joker, runs around loudly out the house, cant be taken anywhere, drama-making, touches things and they break....you know the kind of spirited kid.

 

She is who she is. I dont know about how I feel about her being so placid. I do worry she will be taken advantage of. She is, however, very bright. Her main motivation seems to be to want to please those she loves.

 

I do tell her she has done well, or is doing good things, or well done for trying hard, rather than praise any inherant `goodness`. `Wow it was nice of you to help me tidy up, I appreciate it`, rather than `good girl`. Just as I tell ds `I do not like the way you hit that tree`...rather than `bad boy`.

 

I am, however slightly thankful I got such an `easy` child to balance out more difficult younger ds!

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#3 of 16 Old 02-01-2011, 03:10 AM
 
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Thank you for posting this. This has been on my mind recently too. I get a lot of "she's so good/well behaved/easy going!" type comments about my daughter, and while I'm happy to hear it in many ways, it also makes me a little uneasy. It also amuses me somewhat, as she tends to be really easy going in public because she enjoys going out, but she can be a real handful at home when she's bored.

 

I was also labeled the "good" child in my family (while my brother was your typical ADHD, spirited, always-in-trouble child), and I think hearing that so many times growing up had a detrimental effect in the long run. I had a lot of troubles as a teenager (self-esteem issues, anorexia, severe depression, and eventually substance abuse) but kept them very well hidden, largely because I was afraid to shatter the "good girl" illusion that had been built up for me. I'm in my late 20s now and I'm still working my way out of the doormat, people-pleaser role.

 

I'm absolutely NOT saying that our daughters will have problems like I did, but I think it's something we need to be aware of. I don't think the good/bad dichotomy is healthy for anyone.

 

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The other is the reason I posted in Parenting rather than Toddlers.  I sometimes suspect that labels like "the good one" are just as oppressive (is that too strong of a word?  well, at least unhelpful) to kids as being told "you're the bad one."  I occasionally worry because girls, more than boys, are socialized to be cooperative, docile, and quiet, sometimes to their detriment.


I agree, and wonder about this too. DD is just getting to the age where she's starting to become aware of what adults are saying about her, and I'm not sure how to go about counteracting this attitude. I think it's wonderful that DD behaves considerately and don't want to downplay or discourage it, but I also don't want her to think that obedience and putting others' needs before her own are always the best option.

 

I look forward to reading other people's take on this.

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#4 of 16 Old 02-01-2011, 01:32 PM
 
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This is such a great question. Cant post now, but just wanted to comment....

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#5 of 16 Old 02-01-2011, 04:29 PM
 
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Interested to hear what people say.  Your post describes my almost-2 son to the letter.  Not the same gender issue, but a very similar personality, maybe.  And he's also small and light for his age and doesn't seem to do as much crazy running around as other toddlers.

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#6 of 16 Old 02-01-2011, 05:30 PM
 
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But I have two concerns. 

 

One is rather distant.  Is there any chance what appears to be "good behavior" is actually a lack of energy?  We've had some concerns with her weight in the past, but they seem to be resolving, and her verbal development seems to be on track, so I'm not worried too much.

 

 

Oddly, I was just thinking about this today.  My daughter is 18 now.  She's always been "The good one" easy, content,  she could roll with whatever was happening.  She played quietly, slept through the night from the day I brought her home.  

 

And, yes... at 18, she has low motivation.  She's not overweight at all, she's not depressed, but, she has no self motivation to do much of anything.  She can lay in bed reading or looking at a computer for LITERALLY an entire day.   It's bothered me for a long time.  What I enjoyed so much about her as a child, has turned into her biggest enemy.  

 

Her cousin was her complete opposite.  E was hard to have around for very long because she was so active and busy, didn't sleep well... but, she has so much energy and happiness now as an adult, that I envy her.  

 

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#7 of 16 Old 02-01-2011, 05:55 PM
 
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This is my oldest.  I fear she may become overlooked :(  Easy peasy! 

 

What can we do to make them counted?  Hmm...

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#8 of 16 Old 02-01-2011, 07:07 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by mckittre View Post

Interested to hear what people say.  Your post describes my almost-2 son to the letter.  Not the same gender issue, but a very similar personality, maybe.  And he's also small and light for his age and doesn't seem to do as much crazy running around as other toddlers.

 

Yes, I hope we won't limit the discussion to just girls, as this is clearly an issue that affects boys as well, although perhaps not in the same way, since people tend to react to boys differently than girls.  DD is also small and light for her age, and I do wonder if this is related.  Perhaps her perceived smallness influences how people interpret her behavior.  I think she might seem precocious or "better behaved" at times because she is so small, even though she's acting in an age appropriate manner.
 

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#9 of 16 Old 02-02-2011, 01:49 PM
 
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I wanted to comment from kind of a different perspective.

 

My dd is about to turn 9 and she was a VERY high needs baby and toddler, so I have a kid that was not that pleasant as a younger child, but has grown to become "the good child".  She never had tantrums, wasn't a "wild" child and was always very happy, but quietly pushed every limit that existed and was insistent on her preferences.  We were committed to GD, but I remember sometimes I would talk myself nearly stupid going over things again and again and disciplining (and by that I truly mean TEACHING, not punishing) her.  I often felt that the effort was worthless and we'd have a child that, while not being the "bad" kid, would always be the "reluctant" kid.

 

Then around 4 year old, she really started listening and over the last 5 years has turned into that kind of kid that *everyone* enjoys being around.  She gets comments from her teachers such as "if I could have a roomful of a single student, I would want every kid to be your dd".  She is always the "good girl" and just a joy to be around.  She has really grown into a wonderful girl, but it came with some effort on everyone's part.  In large crowds, she pretty much melts into the background and gets overlooked.  It happens when there isn't a reason to be "outstanding".  In small groups, though, she gets the credit for being the child to keep things together.  I think calm, collected children will get their recognition, but it will never happen in large groups.

 

So, I don't have an answer to to your first question, as dd was very high energy at that age, but mellowed.  She still has high energy, but channels it well and appropriately (often still with suggestions from us).  On your child's part, it could be something medical, but she could just be a very calm person from birth.  I don't mean to sound creepy, but she could be an old soul.  That is, someone wise beyond her years.  Some kids really are this way and their serenity is mistaken for a lack of energy/extreme calmness.

 

For the second question... I would just (at any age) keep up with conversations about the fact that there are no "good" kids or "bad" kids and that everyone has a different personality.  Some kids approach things differently and sometimes that rubs people the wrong way, but it doesn't make it "bad", nor does doing things the exact way adults want you to is "good".  They say talk is cheap, but for parenting, I think it's gold.  Your dd is likely to hear that she's "good" often, and that is okay, but talking about it is key... even at this age.

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#10 of 16 Old 02-02-2011, 02:25 PM
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My 8 yr. old son is a great kid. He has never gotten in trouble at school, is polite and well-behaved in public, etc. The only thing we have issues with is some sibling squabbles between him and his (admittedly challenging) little brother, and lately, some attitude directed at his parental units ("whatever" and stomping off). At 2 he was an absolute pleasure to be around. 

I don't think he has any psychological issues over being good. The problem we have run into, though, is that he is often overlooked in school by teachers busy dealing with needier classmates. I went to a conference 6 weeks into kindergarten where it turned out the teacher hadn't yet assessed him at all!

I think you should just be thankful to have an easygoing kid and not worry about it. 

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#11 of 16 Old 02-03-2011, 03:14 AM
 
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labels from anyone dont matter - if the parents are counteracting those labels.

 

i was that good child. not my dd. even today she is far more aggressive than i am and wont stand for what is wrong in her books. 

 

i am the 'nice' one. 

 

yeah i heard a multitude of labels all the time. but i will say even at 8 years old i could easily discern a 'true, appreciating label' like 'so innocent' said by my granduncle who really meant it. what mattered mostly was what my parents thought. there was no good or bad in my parents books. they ignored things like that. and so we followed in their footsteps too. 

 

imho the world is made up of two kinds of people. one like my dd - kinda type A - go go go do do do protest protest protest. 

 

then there are people like me - who are just the opposite. we are calm, composed and need a LOT of downtime. i cant just get out of bed running. i need to wake up and stare into space for a period of time. i need to go into solitude to recoup. dd needs people to recoup. i dont need a lot of things or people. my mom used to say i could so easily be overlooked.just give me some pencils and a colouring book and i'd be quiet for hours. and you know what i was ignored. but it didnt really matter. becasue i sat and watched and took in so much. and when i needed to shine i did. perhaps not as early as my parents would have liked me to do. 


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#12 of 16 Old 02-03-2011, 03:51 AM
 
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My preteen dd is "the good girl", and has almost always been this way.  It's personality.  But, she is appropriately doing the work of early adolescence-meaning she has her own strong views, challenges us at times, and is generally, clearly, moving into a much more independent phase.  She's very motivated, and has become increasingly outgoing as she's gotten older.  I would only have been concerned if I felt that the "good girl" piece prevented any of this growth.

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#13 of 16 Old 02-03-2011, 07:55 AM
 
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I think this is such a wonderful question!  I have a lot of views, working with social workers and child psychologists as much as I do.

 

For the "good child" - especially girls - who, while quiet and calm and mellow are still able to say when they don't like something, don't want something, or aren't comfortable with something... I'd say in general you don't have much to worry about.  Just keep nurturing their *judgement* - their ability to decide what works for them and work to achieve that.  Keep an eye on how they deal with adversity - if they seem to prioritize pleasing others/not causing a commotion over looking out for their own needs and wants (within reason), then encourage them to speak up.

 

For the "good children" - again, especially girls - who are quiet, calm, mellow but also avoid confrontation, do NOT state clearly when they don't want, don't like, or aren't comfortable with something... then you should pay more careful attention and take more purposeful steps to nurture their "independent voice" or ability to establish and hold their own boundaries.

 

PPs noted that being labeled "the good girl" does instill this belief in a child that the thing about them the world most values is their ability to NOT make waves, not cause a stir, not even cause dissent.  Sure, that is a great attribute, but the world is way too harsh a place for a child to believe that they need to present that more than presenting what is important and comfortable to them.  You don't want your good child to later be a pushover, victim of bullying, or someone who can't advocate for themself when they know they are being taken advantage of.  Sure, these things usually happen to everyone at some point - I'm not saying you can completely prevent it ever happening.  But as a parent you CAN prepare your child as best you can to try to avoid those situations or to succeed and be safe in them if they're not avoidable.

 

A few things you can do:

1. Absolutely encourage your "good child" to speak up about their preferences.  Once in awhile (if not regularly), ask what they want for lunch/dinner and make just what they want.  That may seem small but especially in larger families, the quiet/good child's preferences are skipped over in favor of pleasing the loud noisy cranky kids (and adults) who - if you don't give them what they want - you'll hear about it all day.  Make sure you are seeking and listening to your good child's voice on preferences for food, clothes, t.v. (if you watch), activities, etc.

 

2. Now and then encourage your child to talk about things that make them uncomfortable and ask them how they deal with it, and how they feel about how they deal with it.  Ask them for situations or people they don't really like, ask why, and engage them on that.  They need to learn it's ok to not like everyone and everything, and that it's even ok to talk about it.  Good kids often feel like they can't say anything negative, even when it's really bugging them, and you don't want that.  This can also help you learn more about how your child problem-solves and whether they feel satisfied with the results they get. 

 

I know I'm using adult language to describe this, like "are you happy with the results you get", but I obviously wouldn't say that to a 2 yr old.  With my 2 yr old I simply ask, after a visit with an aggressive playdate friend or a loud sound that scares her "are you ok?  did you like visiting susie?  Do you want to go back again?" and I listen to her (she almost always says yes anyway, and I think she truly enjoys it, but she has said no once in awhile and I listen to that).

 

3. And with older kids who can definitely express themselves, this is going to sound totally opposite of the advice we usually get, but encourage SENSIBLE risk-taking in your good kids.  Ask them if there's something they'd really like to do but that they think they never could do, or you'd never let them do, or they're afraid to do.  Engage both the crazy stuff (like ask them why they'd like to drive to California alone at age 12) in terms of maybe there's a story you could encourage them to write about it, or you could go see a road trip movie, something to say "Ok, you driving is completely out of the question, but let's have fun with this and do this instead"...  And for the stuff that isn't so crazy (like "I want to go rock climbing" or "I want to tell Susie that she should give me my doll back" or "I want to be on American Idol") find ways to nurture/encourage your child to take little steps, either for fun or in all seriousness.

 

What's important about doing this is you are encouraging your good child, who maybe usually doesn't want to make waves and is fine with just accepting what comes to them, you're encouraging them to dream, to experience uncertainty and then hopefully success in something they didn't even dare talk about doing, you're showing them it's ok to try something really new and then fail, and you're also encouraging in them to think about themselves and what they like and teaching them it's ok (and even a positive thing) to step up with their own individual personality and dreams and preferences.

 

4. And in any situations where someone is mean or rude or tries to guilt your good kid, in my opinion it's best to both model for them how to handle it by addressing it on the spot (in whatever way you do that), or if you're the type of person who has trouble dealing with uncomfortable things at the moment they're happening, please (and do this with ALL kids!!) at least engage your child soon after (within 24 hrs) about how they felt, what they think would be the best way to handle the same situation if it happened again, and applaud your child for them thinking the situation through and verbalizing what they didn't like about it.  It's so important, especially with "good kids" and especially especially with good girls, to try to normalize and nurture them taking care of their own needs - emotional, physical, psychological, intellectual - which includes helping them develop mechanisms for dealing with discomfort or bad stuff.  It's never too young to start talking to them about it, even if they are 4 months old and have no idea exactly what you're saying, if they bump their head or get knocked over by a bigger kid, comforting them and acknowledging what they're feeling "Oooh, that hurt didn't it!  I understand, you aren't happy about that!  But you'll be ok." or whatever you say, but mainly that you are communicating 1) acknowlegement of their discomfort/pain, 2) that it's ok that they're reacting and crying/screaming/sad, 3) that you're there to comfort them and you love them even though they're saying "OWW I'M REALLY UNHAPPY RIGHT NOW!"; AND 4) if they're older, you're giving them a chance to express how they feel and when it's right, to problem solve the next time it happens again (how to avoid it or deal if they can't avoid it).  That includes what they may want to say to a bully or who they want to go to for help or how they want to handle a situation.

 

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#14 of 16 Old 02-03-2011, 08:08 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyclamen View Post

 

 

But I have two concerns. 

 

One is rather distant.  Is there any chance what appears to be "good behavior" is actually a lack of energy?  We've had some concerns with her weight in the past, but they seem to be resolving, and her verbal development seems to be on track, so I'm not worried too much.

 

 

Oddly, I was just thinking about this today.  My daughter is 18 now.  She's always been "The good one" easy, content,  she could roll with whatever was happening.  She played quietly, slept through the night from the day I brought her home.  

 

And, yes... at 18, she has low motivation.  She's not overweight at all, she's not depressed, but, she has no self motivation to do much of anything.  She can lay in bed reading or looking at a computer for LITERALLY an entire day.   It's bothered me for a long time.  What I enjoyed so much about her as a child, has turned into her biggest enemy.  

 

Her cousin was her complete opposite.  E was hard to have around for very long because she was so active and busy, didn't sleep well... but, she has so much energy and happiness now as an adult, that I envy her.  

 

I think this happens so so often to "good kids".  They get so used to being valued/applauded for just going with the flow... that they don't learn or prioritize being proactive, setting their own goals, and then working to achieve them.  The world has told them "you're great, you're not demanding or self-focused!" and then as older teens/adults, it often turns into "I'm just gonna sit here and see what happens, go where my friends invite me, do what they tell me at school [if you're lucky!], and not set out to do my own thing".

 

That's why I say above that encouraging kids a) to dream/think about the near and distant future and b) to act on their dreams in whatever ways are safe/realistic/fun/ambitious, that can really help a good kid to be a bit more self-focused and self-motivated.

 

The personalities kids are born with also affects this of course, but I have yet to see the young kids who didn't benefit from being ENCOURAGED and basically trained to say what they're preferences are, to dream, to think through the steps to achieving that dream (whether it's "I want to go to the movies Saturnday" "Ok, so how will you organize your homework schedule and cleaning your room so you've got it all done in time?"  (I.e. don't just tell them "You can't go unless you do your homework and clean your room", but ask them how they're going to prioritize.  Listen to their thought process.  Encourage them to set other goals and think through achieving them, no matter how big or small.)

 

Teaching kids to PROCESS their goals and achieving them is a big deal for all kids, especially "good kids".  It can really help curb this lack of motivation later on.
 

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#15 of 16 Old 02-03-2011, 12:24 PM
 
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I only have a 2 month old so I don't know how well this would work but I believe talking with me and helping me learn skills would have worked when I was a child.

 

Why not just talk to them at a developmentally appropiate level? Like if your child gets bossed around by another kid and the kid takes all the toys during play time or something, sit down with your child and ask them how it made them feel. Help them to get in touch with their feelings about things. Help them to see that while they want to maintain harmony, there are ways to be assertive about one's own needs that are positive. And teach them ways to compromise so that both parties are happy. Nurture those skills in them so that they grow up and know how to be assertive about their own rights and needs, but still can create the harmony they desire in relationships. My DH is an ENFP (myers briggs) and he wants harmony more than anything else. He is sweet, kind, affectionate, loving, etc. He is a wonderful man but I have to work hard to get him to let me know when he is feeling like he isn't getting what he wants and needs. He keeps those feelings inside sometimes and periodically blows up and lets it all out, shocking me because I didn't have a clue what he was unhappy about) in the interest of harmony and if I were a different sort of woman I might walk all over him and not treat him well. I know my dad is the same way and my mom treated him like crap. I think that parents can really help develop assertiveness in their children if they talk about it a lot and teach their children positive ways of dealing with different situations as they happen.

 

 

I like LROMS advice!

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#16 of 16 Old 02-10-2011, 05:30 PM
 
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I have a quiet/easy going girl, so I am enjoying everyone thoughts.  I do think it is important to recognize your child's strengths and weaknesses, and to nurture the unique individual they are.  But, I do not believe we can change their essence.

 

And, I think that it is way off the mark to assume easy going kids necessarily lack something their so-called "spirited" brethren have.

 

But, I will take it further and say that I would think it wise not to fall into the trap that a child is either 'good' or 'bad' (or that new platitude, "spirited".)  I think that bothers me the most.  If a two year old throws a tantrum, she is not being spirited, she is merely exhibiting age-appropriate disappointment.  If a two year old sits quietly in a waiting room and says 'please' and 'thank you,' she is not being good, she is being quiet and polite.  Perhaps, being specific with description is key, especially when it comes to praise.

 

I know I never wanted to make a fuss as a child, and I am pretty sure this was ingrained in every cell of my body.  It is an interesting theory, but I do not think I was conditioned to be this way.  And, despite being nowhere close to ever having a "spirited" label slapped on me, I have tons of spirit.  I am one of the most intrinsically motivated people I have ever known.  I am exactly who I want to be when it comes to my laid-backedness.

 

Your DD sounds like a delight! 

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