Two Christmases ago, Donelle and I bit into a delicious cupcake to find a pink jelly bean; and the room erupted. Not because we successfully ate a cupcake – that is a well-honed skill for me. The excitement was at the color of the jelly bean. It was a “reveal party” my parent’s arranged where we could celebrate, together, discovering the gender of the baby we were expecting a few months later. In a moment, we discovered just a little bit more about our child’s identity and we could dream a little more about HER face, HER voice, HER personality, HER destiny.
In the days that followed, two ideas grew in my mind; and they terrified me. First, sleep deprivation. That wasn’t contingent on the baby being a girl, it just scared the pants off me. I’m still not over it. But Donelle has had it far worse than me, so I can’t complain too much.
Secondly, I was terrified at the question, “how do we raise a girl in today’s culture?” I really don’t care what your persuasion is, we’ve gone over a cliff in society. Things that were unthinkable in my childhood are glorified today.
Below is a wonderful and encouraging article from Selma Wilson on the topic. If you are raising a little girl(s), I hope it encourages you as it has me, today. – Joel
I have two amazing girls who are now adult women—wives and mothers, using their gifts to serve others. One of my daughters is a writer and teacher, serving alongside her husband in planting a church in Thailand. My younger daughter is a Physician Assistant (PA) who will give birth any day to her son, Caleb. She has served with her husband as youth pastor and now bags are packed as they head to medical school.
This is a great season with my daughters but I do remember some harder times like when they were in middle school and going through the “mouth” stage. I remember telling Rodney he could raise them or they might not live!
Every culture and every time has its challenges but the basics taught to us in Scripture stay the same. Just ask your parents or better yet your grandparents what the challenges were in their day. A different set for sure but still a challenge. Rodney and I have been in marriage and family ministry now for almost thirty years. We don’t have all the answers, but here are some things we have learned as parents of daughters:
- Be positive. Don’t groan about the challenges but accept the opportunity and blessing of parenting. Your children will quickly notice if you have the joy of parenting. They need to know that even when it’s hard, you see it is as a privilege to be their mom and dad.
- You must be “all in” as parents. Parenting is a commitment to engage with your children. There is no room for passive parenting. You need the spiritual workout daily to be a fit parent (physical health is important, too.) Be actively engaged until you launch them from the home. Many parents start out strong then lose that engagement in the teen years. See it through.
- Pray and then pray some more. I can still remember my mom and dad on their knees praying for me during the teen years. Seeing them pray made such an impact in my life. When my oldest daughter became interested in a young boy we didn’t feel good about, we prayed. Soon his parents sent him to live with his grandparents several states away. Jennifer joked with friends to be careful of her parents who pray! Seek God in all your parenting. He created your children, gifted them, and loves them even more than you do.
- The best partner in parenting is the church. I am so thankful for other moms who were spiritual mothers to my girls—nursery workers, preschool teachers, and youth pastors. All were critical partners in raising my daughters to own their own faith. Even today as grown women, my girls still have people in the church that pray for them and encourage them in their faith. There’s nothing like the support of other moms to pray with you as you raise your daughters.
- Open home. From preschool through high school, having your daughter’s friends over to your house is a great way for you to understand the issues, challenges, and culture your daughter lives in. It is critical that your daughter has friends and this open home view will give you the opportunity to know her friends. It is messy and takes a great deal of investment but it is so worth the benefits.
- Live an authentic faith. It isn’t about you being perfect, in fact your daughter needs to see you struggle with life issues but also see that you trust God in all things. She needs to see you live out your faith daily through prayer, time in God’s Word, and as you share your faith with others. If you want her to love the church, you need to show her how to love the pastor and God’s people.
- Tell your girls they are beautiful. Get their attention. When our girls were little, we had a little game we would play where we would say, “Look at our nose.” This meant we had their attention and were looking at them in the eyes. This is a great teaching position for children. We wanted them to hear from us regularly that God had made them, that God had a plan for them, and that they were beautifully and wonderfully made by God. Our culture is so “beauty” focused and self-esteem issues are huge for girls in our culture. Make sure you counter this with speaking the truth of God’s Word to them often.
- Bring out the gifts you see in them. We saw the creative gifts in Jennifer as a young girl and we saw the gift for science in Natalie as a young girl. Help develop the gifts God has given your daughter. It is part of God’s plan for their lives. One of the joys of parenting is watching those gifts come to life in your children.
- Daddy’s girl. A strong relationship with their father is so important to girls. If that isn’t possible, find a godly man who will be involved in their life. I can’t emphasize enough how critical it is that girls are cherished by their fathers. Loved. Blessed. Told they are beautiful. A father teaches his daughters how a man should treat a woman. Rodney took the girls on “daddy dates” from the time they were in preschool up through high school. Those times were so critical for the girls as they developed into young women.
- A few rules is enough. God gave us the Ten Commandments and hundreds of promises. You want that balance in your home. A few strong rules but hundreds of blessings and promises from God. One absolute rule we had in our home was respect for all family members. Another was every family member had a job to do. We had other rules and the rules changed with each season but we tried to have more “yes” themes in our home than “no” themes.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. These words that I am giving you today are to be in your heart. Repeat them to your children. Talk about them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” (Deut. 6:5–7 HCSB)
Selma Wilson is a wife, a mother, a grandmother, an advocate for moms, a cheerleader for marriages, a lover of Jesus, a family and marriage counselor/speaker, and the President of B&H Publishing Group.