Moms with daughters, this one is for you.
There’s something really special about a mother and her daughter. Mothers are the first and greatest example of a woman to their daughters. Through you, they learn how a woman acts, what a woman does, and how a woman thinks. All eyes are on you--for better or for worse.
Their eyes are on you when you say you’re too tired to read with them. Their eyes are on you when you take a moment while making dinner to let them help--even if their “help” isn’t perfect. Their eyes are on you in the effort you put into your work, whether inside or outside the home.
Your character will drive their character. Just like you can build a spiritual foundation for your child, you can build a foundation for their character. As the principal role model in her life, here are a few things your daughter needs you to do.
Be the parent
One of the worst things you can do is to expect your daughter to be your girl friend--the one you go to for advice and a weekly vent. Your daughter may be mature, she may love to talk about you, but she is not an adult and should not be expected to take on adult issues issues.
If you are treating your daughter as your personal therapist, you are placing a burden on her that she has no business carrying.
You have to be the parent. That means casting your cares on the Lord, and no one else (1 Peter 5:7). There is a difference between seeking out Godly advice and complaining about your husband. And there is definitely a difference between doing so with a woman you respect as a peer or mentor and with your daughter.
Because girls tend to mature more quickly than boys (or at least they appear to mature more quickly) it can be easy to mistake that maturity for a readiness to engage in adult conversations. But the role of a mother is much different than the role of a friend.
“These older women must train the younger women to love their husbands and their children.” Titus 2:4
Training starts now! If your daughter grows up hearing you complain about your husband, she will eventually complain about her husband. If you complain about her or your other children in front of her, she will expect to complain about her children.
So much of parenting is training and modeling, but if you example doesn’t match your training, your child’s character is at stake. The Biblical principle of reaping and sowing is at work in our lives. When we sow honor, we will reap honor. When we sow dishonor, we reap dishonor. By protecting our daughters from our own emotional struggles, we not only protect her emotions but also her ability to honor the authorities in her life.
Make her a priority
Even though your daughter is not your girl friend, she still needs girl time and family time. One of the most heartbreaking things for a child is asking to spend quality time with your parents and having them reject you. “I’m too busy.” “I’m too tired.” “Maybe later.”
When daughters don’t find security and acceptance from their parents, they are more likely to look to their friends and peers for acceptance. Time together is crucial for your daughter to develop trust and stability. Whether sh is 4 or 14, she needs time with her mother! Time shopping; time playing games; time driving around listening to music together.
Prioritizing time with your daughter gives you the opportunity to walk with her through all her feelings, doubts, and insecurities. Choosing to walk beside your daughter during these times will help you protect her from unscriptural views about herself and the world around her. Choosing to walk beside her will give her a stable place to rest while she navigates the feelings waging war in her mind.
When you consistently prioritize your daughter, she will learn to confide in you. Kids and teenagers confide in people who are available. And, if we take our role as mothers seriously, we should make every effort to be available. Otherwise, our daughters might seek advice from women whose beliefs do not align with ours or whose priority is something other than what is best for our daughter.
Of course, there are legitimate reasons to temporarily prioritize something above quality time with your daughter. Perhaps you are finishing your taxes, or in the middle of a work project or chore. In those moments, the important thing is to express that your desire is to be with her, and to make plans that you both can look forward to.
Let her succeed, and let her fail
This is especially important as your daughter gets into her teenage years. It’s easy to fall back on the “mother knows best” mentality, but, at some point, we have to remember that our daughters are adults in training. By letting your daughter make decisions, with your guidance when necessary, you teach her that she has decision making power, and that she can rely on what she has learned to make decisions.
The moments when my parents started letting me make my own decisions, for better or for worse, were some of the most empowering moments in my life. And, it meant even more to me when it was my mother that initiated that display of trust.
We say we want to raise strong, independent women, but by enforcing our own views and perspectives, we can stunt our daughters’ ability to trust their own decision making power.
Creating a safe place to fail is just as important as allowing her to take responsibility for her success. When your daughter sees that she can make constructive decisions that benefit her life, she grows in confidence. And, when she sees that making a wrong decision doesn’t destroy your trust in her, she retains the confidence to try again in the next situation--to use the failure to grow and adjust the way she makes decisions.
If you are nervous about starting this journey, empower your daughter to make small decisions, and discuss the consequences with her. Prioritizing and connecting consistently with your daughter gives you a platform to start this process.
The Bible says that we are to raise our children in the training and the instruction of the Lord so that when they are grown, they will not depart from it. At some point you have to say, “I’ve raised my child as best I can, and I trust the Lord that this promise will not go unfulfilled.”
If your daughter’s decisions are based on your approval, you are setting yourself up to be an idol in her life. And, while this may feel great during high school, it will cause your daughter to fear making decisions even once she is out of your house.
With every decision, stress that she needs to go before the Lord and seek His council and His peace. Will she make decisions you don’t agree with? Yes! You are two different people with two different callings and purposes. Your voice can hold weight in her life, but God’s voice should have the final say.
Developing a healthy relationship with your daughter is a lifelong commitment. Yes, your role will change. Some taboo topics won’t be quite as taboo anymore, and topics you could once speak freely about may not be up for discussion. But, your relationship can be just as life-giving as it was when you were living together--if not more! If you find yourself wishing you had a better relationship with your mother or daughter, it is not too late! Take a moment to decide how you can prioritize connection with your mother or daughter, and see what the Lord will do in your life!