Awhile back my mother-in-law lamented about my youngest, Khalen, being a “follower.” She said that she wished Khalen would be more independent instead of just following her big sister who often leads her into trouble. Now, while it is true that she sometimes copies her sister to her own detriment, I think that for the most part that is highly normal, and something that you encounter with siblings. My Khalen certainly has a mind of her own and will loudly protest doing anything she doesn’t actually want to do. Besides which, she is two years old and doesn’t understand what it means to be a follower, anyway!
I have said it before but I believe it bears repeating. I find it incredibly dangerous to stereotype children. When I was growing up I was the “fat” one of the family at one hundred and twenty pounds in my high school years. At five two I was definitely not fat. In fact, it is well within normal weight range. (I envy that girl today, let me tell you!) But compared to my sister, also five foot two and barely a hundred pounds I looked downright chubby. My mom and her shared clothes (and still do) so…yes, I guess it fell to me to fill our need for a “fat” one.
I can not express how much that stereotype hurt me. It made me not care about what I ate, either. After all, I was already “fat” so what was the worst that could happen? That’s the danger in stereotyping: children tend to fulfill our prophecies, whether we truly want them too or not. I tell my girls many things about themselves: I tell them they are silly, they are smart, they are beautiful, they are sweet. May the words fat, ugly, stupid, or bad never leave my lips. (My husband, in fact, once remarked that my youngest was being “bad” and now she constantly reports to us, “Sissy bad. Sissy bad!” We have to be so darn careful around these little parrots with big ears!)
All I want is for my girls to grow up confident in themselves. Confidence is the greatest gift you can give a child besides your love, and both are affected by the words you say.