Parents, we need to raise more cheerleaders. And no, I’m not talking about the tumbling, chanting, and acrobatic young ladies on the side of the football field (although this can apply to them as well).
I’m talking about raising girls that are genuinely happy for other girls.
The kind of girls that will congratulate each other with big hugs after only one of them wins the race for senior class president.
The kind of girls who will deliver meals to friends who’ve welcomed a new baby or experienced an illness.
The kind of girls who are energized by their friends’ successes.
The non-mean girls.
These are the kind of friends that people want throughout their lives. Maybe you had them, and maybe you didn’t, but in this society of 24/7 competition and showiness, it’s never been more important for parents to raise cheerleaders.
“Cheerleaders” are the kind of people you really want to be around — whether you’re in middle school or middle aged.
But instilling the value of “being a cheerleader” starts early. Earlier than you might think.
Last week, I was pushing my preschooler through the grocery store. She had earned a bubble wand from the checkout line for being so patient during this long shopping trip, and was quietly waving it back and forth like a band director, when we passed by another mom and her daughter. I overheard the little girl ask her mom if she, too, could have a bubble wand. The mom had said no. “That’s NOT fair … that girl has one, and I hate her!” she whined as she pointed to my daughter.
“Well, that’s too bad,” the mom replied, distracted.
And while I’m definitely throwing this mom a break (she was obviously so over her whining kid that day), I gotta say, she did miss an awesome opportunity to teach her daughter a thing or two about jealousy. About how being envious of someone else’s possessions or successes should inspire you, not spark jealousy or cause you to dislike them. About how to use their success as motivation. She missed an opportunity to help her daughter processes her jealousy.
I’m not saying that a little kid shouldn’t ever be jealous of a super cool bubble wand, but this was a good opportunity — even in a small, subtle way — for this mom to remind her daughter of why it’s important to be happy for someone else, while figuring out how to achieve her own goals.
If you want to raise a cheerleader, take your daughters to watch marathons.
If you want to raise a cheerleader, let her catch you praising your own friends for their accomplishments — big and small.
If you want to raise a cheerleader, bring your child to see her cousin play T-ball or sit in the stands at her friend’s gymnastics competition.
If you want to raise a cheerleader, teach her to be a safe place for the bullied, the shy, and the children who may be different in some way.
If you want to raise a cheerleader, have her write congratulatory letters or draw pictures for their friends’ little successes.
Let’s teach our girls to be proud of each other. Teach them that workplace success is to be celebrated. Teach them that success in your family life — including achieving balance — is also to be celebrated, and just as passionately.
Because when we raise cheerleaders, we are raising future friends, sisters, mothers, CEO’s, PTA presidents, confidants, wives, and team members. And who better to be in those roles than cheerleaders?