Raising Strong Daughters
Mama, I’ve Got You
Life is hard. No question about it. There are roughly 7 billion people on Earth(and counting) at any given point and most of us are all just trying to do our best and carve out a little happiness for ourselves and our loved ones.
There are so many things to be worried about these days. Growing climate threats, political debacles, racial injustices, poverty, cancer, gender confusion, bigotry, anxiety, depression, suicide epidemics. The list is endless.
Now lets just add raising a good human to the mix, never mind “strong daughter”, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for stress induced Myocardial Infarction.
But, Mama, don’t stress. It’s going to be ok. I promise.
I am a mama to three incredible young ladies and raising them is the hardest thing that I have ever attempted to do. I’m not done yet, so the jury’s still out on weather or not I’m doing a good job.
However, I have learned a thing or two along the way that I know is making a difference in their developing character.
If you’ve got a daughter, rest assured, you can do this! I believe in you!
So, without further ado, here are my top motherhood-of-preteen-girls-guidelines (the name is a work in progress):
Model the Behavior You Want Them to Have-
Wait! Don’t go! Hear me out. I know that this is a tough pill to swallow, but if you want your daughters to be strong, confident, smart, and kind women, they have to have an example. And, mama, you’re it!
She is learning everything from you. Not by the long winded lectures you force feed her (because Lord knows she is ignoring every word!) but by the way you are living your life.
She notices when you lie to your boss about being late. She notices when you look in the mirror and complain about your body. She notices when you hide in the back of the room so you don’t have to talk to anyone. She notices when you gossip on the phone and talk badly about other people.
Trust me! They notice everything.
So, be the woman you want your daughter to grow up to be.
Be kind. Be generous. Be bold.
If you don’t want your daughters to grow up worrying about what everyone else is thinking about them, then you have to find a way to show her the same.
This includes self care as well. Show your daughter what it looks like to take care of herself by actually taking care of yourself. (if mama ain’t happy, ain’t noone happy!)
Be the best version of yourself whenever you can. And when you slip up, give yourself grace and tell your daughter, “I’m sorry. I shouldn’t have acted like that.”
Parents are human and make mistakes, too. It’s ok to admit to our children when we messed up. That way they know how to make mistakes and then make them right.
Be Intentional in Your Pursuit of Her Heart-
This is so important! Listen to me, mama! Your daughter doesn’t want to hang out with you. She doesn’t want you to come into her room and ask her how her day was. She doesn’t want you to chase her down and make her spend quality time with you.
Do it anyway!
See, I’ve come to learn that young people are not the best in making the choices that are best for them.
They will opt for friends over family. Soda over water. Candy over food. Sleeping all day over personal hygiene. They just don’t know how to choose what’s really good for them.
Our jobs as parents is to make sure that they are getting plenty of rest, eating healthy food, being safe on the internet, and making sure they know that we love them.
Being intentional in our pursuit of their hearts needs to be priority.
I don’t care how tired or overworked you are, make time to let her feel special. Pick her up early from school and surprise her with ice cream. Lay on her bed and listen to her talk about whatever she wants to talk about. Be present.
Because, believe me, as much as she acts like you are annoying her, she loves to know that you love her. And that will give her a sense of security that will stay with her always.
Respect Her and Give Her Freedom to Be Herself-
A balancing act, for sure. On one hand you need to pursue her and let her know you care and on the other hand, you need to give her the freedom to blossom into her own unique self. I personally believe that the two work together.
The safety and security that she feels knowing that she is loved and accepted by you will give her the courage to spread her wings and discover who she is.
Listen to her ideas about life and encourage her to think about tough topics. Challenge her to be a problem solver. Let her know that her opinions and ideas have value. She is a little human after all. Her needs are no different than our adult needs. Everyone wants to be heard and understood.
Give that to her.
Don’t be the one to make her feel small. She will have to face that from the outside World soon enough. For now, take special care to foster an environment where she can become the person she was born to be.
Get Involved in the Things She Likes (including her friends)-
I know that this isn’t always easy. Remember, kids make questionable choices and sometimes, their interests are weird. That’s ok. Encourage them to explore that weirdness. It’s what makes them, them.
When we take an interest in our children’s interest, we are sending a message that they are valuable and that they matter.
Also, being present in your daughters life when her friends are around is just as important as when they aren’t. Her friends need to know that you are the type of parent that cares because if they sense any weakness, they are going to influence your daughter to take full advantage.
And if she is hanging out with the wrong crowd, it’s your job to guide her away from that crowd and encourage her to develop friendships that are healthy for her. You can’t do this effectively if you are sitting on the sidelines.
Be an ever present figure in her life and she will value your opinion.
Encourage Her to Celebrate Her Strengths and Chase Her Weaknesses-
As girls develop insecurities, they will start to downplay their strengths and use their weaknesses as a crutch. I’m certain that this is some kind of evolutionary survival tactic that we haven’t found a way to eradicate, yet.
Our job as parents of these girls is to squash this absurd idea that they have about their limited potential.
We do that by not letting them quit on themselves.
We push them to keep going when they want to quit. We challenge them to see things through and to try hard in the face of adversity.
We don’t allow them to give up because “it’s too hard” or they “can’t do it”. We make better choices for them when they won’t do it for themselves because, damn it, kids make dumb choices sometimes!
When my daughter turned 12, she lost her drive. She started slacking in school. She wanted to quit all extracurricular activities. She was starting to develop a nasty attitude. And she was picking friends that were doing the same.
Honestly, I felt like I had lost my daughter. The sweet and loving child that I had known for 12 years had disappeared almost over night.
I started thinking about everything I was doing as a parent and I immediately started envisioning myself sobbing on an episode of Dr. Phill while I try to explain where it all went wrong.
This is not a good place to be.
We had a problem and it was our job to fix it before it got any worse.
We immediately started implementing all of these things I’ve discussed, including forcing her to stay in sports and encouraging her to hangout with better people.
We have shown her love and respect and encouragement. We are intentional about showing up for her and are crazy about keeping the lines of communication open.
I can’t say that we’ve won the war just yet, but the difference in my daughter now is night and day compared to where she was a year ago.
The outside World is harsh. But when our daughters know that they have us to come home to and they feel supported and accepted no matter what, they can take on everything that comes their way. Stay strong, Mama!
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