Education · Family

“Be a Good Girl”

good-girlsI’ve been thinking recently about something that I say to Sausage almost every day. When I drop her off at school, I tend to say goodbye in the same way each time:

“Bye baby, have a nice day, be a good girl”

But, what does that mean; “Be a good girl“?

Husband and I are both really hot on manners; even as adults, we both go out of our way to ensure we’re as polite to people as we can be. We share the same “I’d rather be over-polite than under-polite” philosophy and will often end up thanking people or apologising needlessly, just for the sake of never appearing rude, so ensuring that Sausage is polite is obviously a big part of being a ‘good girl’.

However, I’ve started to really think about the implications of being ‘good’ and I’m wondering if we’re teaching our kids to be unquestioningly subservient for the sake of appearing to be virtuous. Respect is obviously something that should be shown to our elders, but does that mean never questioning anyone, even if we know they’re wrong?

Sausage’s current class teacher is a former R.E. teacher and is obviously very religious herself, which means that a LOT of her current class work revolves around religion (mostly Christianity) even when they’re learning about other topics. The other day, Sausage came home from school telling us all about how they’d watched a short video about dinosaurs and then been taught that the world was made by God and Jesus, because that’s what her teacher believes. They were then set a task to draw what they thought the Garden of Eden (or “The Garden of Ian”, as Sausage heard it) would look like.

When Sausage was relaying this to me (aside from feeling like I must’ve had steam coming out of my ears), I was concerned that she seemed confused by what she’d been taught. She said “Mummy, Xander said that the world was made when dust in the universe came together. That’s the more logical explanation, isn’t it?”. Husband and I have always gone to great lengths to give her a well-rounded education and exposure to science, but in one fell swoop her teacher had used her influence to undermine that and implant Christian dogma in our childs’ head.

But, is this my fault? Have I, in telling her to be a “good girl”, stopped her from outwardly questioning her teachers, even though she has an opinion of her own? Should I, instead of telling her to be good, be sending her off with a cheery cry of “Don’t forget to question authority and challenge perceptions”?. As much as I feel that respect and politeness are important, I think I’d rather be being called into the headmasters office because of my childs’ anarchic behaviour than have a child allow herself to be moulded because she’s too afraid to speak up for her OWN beliefs and values.

By the same token, I’m disgusted that her teacher appears to be using her position to insidiously force her views onto the children. Teachers, especially those who teach 5 and 6 year olds, are in a position of great power and are able to influence children in a really definitive way, so to abuse that power is massively wrong. Sausage comes from a family of agnostics, which means that although we have strong belief in science, we’re happy to say that we just don’t know when it comes to matters of spirituality and the Universe. But what about children of other faiths? I know that there’s at least one child in the class who is Hindu – why should his religious views be undermined in this way?

I’ve decided that being a ‘good girl’ isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and that, actually, I think I’d be far happier for Sausage to be a bad girl.The odious twerp Robin Thicke talks about ‘good girls’ in the ‘ode to rape’ Blurred Lines. I certainly don’t want my daughters to grow up to be a target for that sort of man. Bad girls lead, they don’t follow. Bad girls don’t believe things, just because you told them to. And most of all, bad girls aren’t afraid to challenge authority.

Shouldn’t we all want a bit more ‘bad’ in our kids?

17 thoughts on ““Be a Good Girl”

  1. The Garden of Ian has me giggling, but there’s so much food for thought in this that I’m going to have to go away and ponder it all before I reply properly. I’d love to hear Lucy from Lulastic’s take on it too.

  2. Maybe it is about finding another word, one that sums up all those lovely values you have as a family, you clearly respect and value and care – any of those be powerful words to send her off into the day with! You made me think a lot, although I encourage my kids to ‘behave’, I know I have a very rebellious streak which has definitely worn off on my kids. I’ve planted it there for similar reasons to the reasons you describe, I want them to question, challenge and to stand up for themselves as well as be kind and respectful. I also sympathise, as a non Christian I find it very tricky when people assume Christianity is the norm – I blame David Cameron.

  3. That teacher situation would have me hopping mad. On being good,, it’s hard isn’t it? We share the same politeness policy I think. The rules in our house are to be respectful and treat others how you would like to be treated. Something that’s not always fair according to my 9 year old! 😀

  4. At Sausage’s age she shouldn’t have to pull up teachers when she doesn’t agree with them – quite simply the teacher shouldn’t be allowed to have such a large religious influence on what she’s teaching. I’d bring it up with the head and if you have no luck there go to the board of governors.

  5. ooh this post has evoked mixed emotions. What is wrong with a teacher offering alternative views and why is she forcing them? Also age 5/6 is no different to other years in forming their mindsets. I know that I could change the opinion of many 14/15 yr olds who are still forming their own personal beliefs. My 14 yr old goes to a catholic school but she believes what she wants. Incidentially we are not catholic.

  6. Being polite and respectful doesn’t necessarily mean you also have to be a doormat and there are ways for standing up for your own beliefs without being rude or hurtful. I would speak to the Headteacher if you have concerns

  7. You have got us all thinking, Jane, which shows how well you have put this across.
    Are you going to talk to the Head or governors about the teacher?

  8. A lot to think about here. Although i am an orthodox i am against of children studying religion in school. Or at least not as something they need to believe in. Like you i want my girls to be in touch more with reality and science. I was born in an orthodox family and to be married to me my husband had to convert too. To tell you the truth the whole marriage in the church was more to satisfy my very religious grandmother.
    So when Kara came home already knowing a little prayer i was a bit like you. Why should her teacher teach her that? If i wanted to do so I would’ve done it long before her. But..i guess because she is the wife of a priest is understandable…or not..
    But then my husband heard her and he got furious! But how can I tell her is bad for her to know it and take her pleasure. She really loves saying it although at 5 she doesn’t really understand all about God and Jesus…
    I will probably have to tell her later that she can make her own choice…

  9. I was always told to be a “good girl” and I say the same to my daughters. When the little one does something really well, I find myself saying, “What a good girl” …. but then again I suppose it depends on your perception of a good girl?

    As for the teacher, this is inappropriate (and hear speaks a mum whose daughters go to Catholic school).

  10. Good is about being decent and fair not subservient and I know that is what you will have taught her. Your voice and influence are louder than her teachers. All kids get confused over God/scoence at some stage I think but if worried the teachetr is being dogmatic I’d have a chat with her. x

  11. It was so wrong for the teacher to do this, and I say this as a Christian myself. I am very similar in I always apologise, and I realise that I apologise if I feel awkward and don’t know what else to say. So I have worked very hard on stop saying sorry unless I mean it.
    I think you are right to want to teach her to stand up for herself and question authority (as an adult I wish I was better at doing that!) but why should been a ‘good girl’ make society assume you are weak and easily pliable? I’d be tempted to keep up the ‘good girl’ but maybe add in a more appropriate version of ‘but don’t take no shit!’

  12. I can’t believe she is teaching this crap! I would totally be reporting her for this! I’m totally the same telling the children to be polite and well behaved! But don’t worry, she’ll find her voice – and with your encouragement question things! That poor teacher is going to have to think fast when she finds her voice! Go for it Sausage! x x x

  13. I’m a questioner, so I like to feel comfortable asking any question that pops into my head. I want this for my children to, Roo is very much like me and questions everything (which I can now see first hand is annoying) but but without questions we cannot challenge what we are being learnt or what is being asked of us… if questioning/challenging an idea is bad then I am very bad

  14. Wow, there are a lot of elements here that have me thinking.

    I guess when you say ‘be a good girl’ to your daughter you’re really saying ‘be polite/have good manners/be nice’. You will know from your experiences that you can be all of those things AND be someone who questions authority or has a different point of view.

    My guess is that you will teach her things in life in stages, as she is able to cope with increasingly complex concepts. When she’s older, ‘be a good girl’ will mean all the above but also, ‘be respectful of others opinions’ which will also teach her that her opinions are equally valid.

    From what I know of you, being a ‘good girl’ means be someone who is honourable, kind, respectful, as well as polite. You can be the wildest card in the deck and still be all of those things!

    Now, on to teaching personal beliefs to very impressionable minds… If the teacher is saying ‘this is what many people believe but it’s not the only possibility’ then that seems fine, but I suspect from what you’ve written that she is teaching ‘this is how it is,’ which is not fine. She would not like her child to be taught by someone who says ‘there is no God’ so she should not do this herself. Having several wonderful, Christian friends I totally understand how important their beliefs are to them and as they believe there is only one possibility, it must be difficult to teach that there might be other possibilities. But what this teacher is forgetting is that others feel just as strongly about their beliefs and she is not teaching the curriculum correctly to say ‘this is the ONLY’ possibility (if this is even on the curriculum at this age??). It shows lack of respect for others’ beliefs and thus, it shows that Sausage’s teacher is a very bad girl! 😉

  15. Personally I don’t think that voicing her own opinion or questioning a teacher would count as being bad, or even as impolite, it’s interactive learning and how a classroom should be. We learn more when we ask questions. But I would be absolutely horrified if I found that my children had been taught religious beliefs as truth, particularly where the origin of life and the universe is concerned, and I would be launching a massive complaint if I found out that my child’s teacher had behaved so piously. It’s both ignorant and offensive and has no place outside of Sunday school.

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