Pay Attention to Me The Need for Admiration

How warm, though, things like admiration and appreciation made one feel, how capable of really deserving them, how different, how glowing. They seemed to quicken unsuspected faculties into life____No wonder people liked admirers. They seemed, in some strange way, to make one come alive.

Elizabeth Von Arnim, The Enchanted April

We have a friend named Leanne who has gone on several girls' trips with us. On those trips we all read a lot — quite a lot. Leanne, after about an hour, gets bored. She then comes over to one of us, pokes us repeatedly with her finger, and says, "Pay attention to me."

Girls in their Autonomous Years may not be quite as bold as Leanne. More likely, they will sit on the kitchen countertop as you are preparing dinner. They will take out the trash before you ask. They may ask you to help them pick out a prom dress or maybe just scoot a little closer on the couch.

Whether they are subtle or obvious, these girls want your attention. They have a need for you to be interested in them; and they long for you to admire them and appreciate them.

These are deepening years for girls—years in which they develop more strength, more compassion, more tenderness. As we talk about in the spiritual development section, these girls are finding their own voice—who they are, what they believe, what they are passionate about. This voice, however, is new—and they are often tentative about expressing it.

That's where admiration comes in. Admiration—from you and others they care for—begins to take the blurriness of who they are becoming and brings it into focus. It makes them feel a little freer and walk a little taller.

Another friend has a father who understood this need during her growing up years. For as long as she lived at home, he had the same routine every time she walked down the staircase. It didn't matter if she was wearing sweats or a party dress. He would stop whatever he was doing, turn toward her, and whistle the theme song to Miss America.

Every time her father did this, he was saying to her, "I see you. You are delightful and worthy of my attention." She couldn't have verbalized this then, but she knew he was doing more than just whistling a tune that made her feel good. He was communicating to her that she was valuable enough to pay attention to. He was both appreciating and admiring her.

Your daughter in these years wants you to notice her, she wants you to listen and be interested in her, and she wants you to be proud and respect who she is becoming.

Point out her gentleness. Tell her you're proud when she has written something well or shown someone kindness—and tell her friends, too, when you see things in them.

It's tragic how many girls don't have an admirer. To be respected, appreciated, and noticed during these years serves to reinforce all God is doing in the lives of Autonomous-age girls.

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