The Number One Rule The Obamas Had For Sasha And Malia Obama Growing Up

As parents, Barack and Michelle Obama prioritized providing their daughters, Malia and Sasha Obama, with as normal a childhood as possible. Michelle gave Malia and Sasha reality checks while they lived in the White House, and they were determined that their approach to raising their daughters would remain the same as it had before Barack Obama became the 44th President of the U.S. At the top of that list was the rule "No whining, arguing, or annoying teasing," as Michelle told People in August 2008 (via National Review), months before Barack won that year's presidential election. In 2016, Michelle elaborated on this idea of not complaining and explained how it correlated with hard work and success. "Excellence is the most powerful answer you can give to the doubters and the haters," she said during her commencement speech at Jackson State University, per Time.

As part of their parenting strategy to help Malia and Sasha refrain from whining, the Obamas encouraged their daughters to stay busy and active. Malia and Sasha pursued sports and creative activities, like dance, tennis, and piano lessons. Each sister was required to play two sports. Michelle was the decision-maker for one of the sports because she believed it would be a character and skill-building exercise for her daughters. 

Michelle and Barack Obama fostered Sasha and Malia's autonomy

While Michelle Obama worked to keep Malia and Sasha Obama's whining and confrontations to a minimum, she also worked to maximize their self-reliance. From a young age, and during Malia and Sasha's childhood in the White House, the sisters were required to use an alarm clock to wake up on time and get dressed on their own. They were also tasked with making their beds, although they weren't critiqued on neatness. "When your parent trusts you ... it encourages you," Michelle said on NPR. "It tells you that if my mom thinks I can do this, that I must be capable." In addition, both Michelle and Barack Obama felt that implementing these routines in their daughters' lives provided a structure to help them thrive. 

While she let Sasha and Malia exercise their independence, Michelle also kept tabs on them and made sure they stayed on task with their homework. In situations when her mom instincts were alerted, she'd peek in on her daughters and do a quick check-in. In addition, she wouldn't hesitate to comment if she heard chatter unrelated to schoolwork. Even so, Barack and Michelle wanted their kids to understand how to make good choices, rather than blindly adhering to parental mandates. 

Malia and Sasha Obama had a monetary incentive for good behavior

As part of teaching Malia and Sasha Obama the value of a job well done, Barack and Michelle Obama paid the girls for their efforts. Although Sasha and Malia have enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, their early paychecks were quite minuscule. For chores that included getting ready for school, keeping their toys picked up and their beds made, and setting the table for dinner (and removing the dirty dishes later), Malia and Sasha each netted a weekly salary of one dollar. Due to Barack's demanding schedule during the first presidential campaign, he sometimes owed his children as much as 10 weeks back pay — and his daughters weren't afraid to make sure he paid up. As the sisters got older and more job opportunities opened up, Sasha took a summer job serving seafood on Martha's Vineyard when she was 15.

Sometimes, however, Malia and Sasha had difficulty adhering to the "no arguing" part of their family's rule, and they'd quarrel over topics like borrowed clothing that wasn't given back in a timely fashion. Fortunately, as adults, Sasha and Malia enjoy a deep, unique bond and live together in Los Angeles.  Michelle couldn't be prouder of her daughters. "It feels good to know that the two girls you raised find solace at a kitchen table with one another," she told People.