Recently, I have been challenged again to see how we raise our daughters.
Let me be more specific, how Christians raise their daughters. Since we have had daughters only in our house, it has been something I have put a lot of thought into…over more than 40 years when that first little girl landed in my arms!
At the time, I didn’t think a lot about the responsibility of raising girls as opposed to raising boys. But over time, I have become a little irritated to hear a double standard, even in these more “enlightened” times, regarding the ways in which daughters are raised and educated vs. the ways in which boys are.
Now that I have a larger picture of what it means to parent daughters, the challenge seems even greater in many ways…but the wisdom of people I read and listened to seems wiser now than I realized. The wisdom of Scripture is wiser as well…isn’t that a surprise?
I hear women as they talk to me and think, “How could this be considered Christian or Biblical…the way this family is treating this woman?”
Daughters need to learn discernment and confidence in decision making just as their brothers need to learn to learn submission to authority…these are human skills needed for everyone!
“Why do they feel it is necessary to treat her so differently from their sons in terms of her education, her opportunities to make decisions, her respect and confidence in her ability to make wise decisions?”
As we raise our children, they all need to know how to make decisions, to be discerning, to have confidence in their skills and abilities that have been given to them as a gift by GOD.
All of them need to learn to submit to varying types of authority. In their worlds now, it is their teachers and parents, sometimes employers, but they also have to learn to get along with people and at times that means certain kinds of submitting…not insisting on their own way, learning to cooperate, sharing, etc. These are varied forms of submitting. Hopefully, we don’t only teach that to our daughters and not to our sons…or they will turn into tyrants!
But they also need to learn to have confidence and self-assurance in the decisions they make. They need to be discerning whether they are girls or boys. It is part of character development.
Daughters also need to learn to say, “No.” in a way that they are heard.
A woman needs to be firm in the way she says, “No.” It needs to be clear that her “No.” means just that. Whether it is to a person who is trying to touch her in places they shouldn’t, a young man who wants to go further in physical romance than she is comfortable with or whether she is speaking to her child who needs to know that her “No.” means just that…the first time! It is no less feminine for a woman to say, “No.” appropriately, than it is for a man.
This concept that Christian women are supposed to be happy all the time, not questioning, particularing of their husbands when they see them headed in unwise directions, is a warped view of what a Christian woman is supposed to be…and what we need to raise our daughters to be.
In the history of Christianity, you see women like Deborah (who killed the enemy by hammering a stake through his head while he was asleep!) Esther, who put her life on the line by going to her husband not knowing if he was in the mood to see her, to save the lives of her people. In church history, there were women as well as men, who were burned at the stake, and in other ways, as martyrs because they were not willing to sit on the sidelines to stand for strong principles.
There is nothing Christian about being wishy-washy. Being Christian is realizing I have a desire but am willing to put it aside for the sake of another…if needed. The trick is knowing when this is needed and when it isn’t.
There are times when it is very needed for me to speak up…in my marriage, in my church, in various relationships. I don’t need to be sweet and quiet all the time. That truth was very encouraging to me. As a woman, I do need to have a submissive spirit that is willing to submit to authority but I must also know when to speak up! When I have truth to speak to a situation, I need to find a way to speak it so it will be heard. Helping my daughter learn that is also an important life lesson.
So, I am speaking up on some issues I see as problematic in some areas of Christendom. This will be for those of you who are able to deal with people who can have differing opinions. In fact, you may vehemently disagree with parts of what I have to say. I just hope you will hear me out. I’m quite sure you won’t agree with me on everything! Which is fine. Life would be very dull if we all agreed on everything!
Others of you who read this will think to yourselves that you really aren’t reading anything that is very shockingly trend-setting. If so, I’m glad.
Here are a few of the problematic areas:
- Overteach regarding Biblical submission to the point that daughters are unable to make wise decisions or confidently make decisions in a wise, Biblical way.
- Attempt to control our daughters overprotectively so that when they go out into the real world no matter what their age, they have difficulty functioning with courage, perseverence, wisdom, and/or accountability.
- Teach about sex/virginity in a way that promotes fear and does not prepare a woman in a positive way for the sexual side of marriage…or help her accept her sexuality as a positive part of who GOD created her to be.
- Don’t teach about marriage as a relationship between man and woman, but primarily as a means of procreation.
- Present the parent is the all-wise, omnipotent one who never makes mistakes vs. someone who is frail as they are but is tasked with the responsibility to lead and guide them to adulthood, pointing them to Christ who can provide the wisdom and forgiveness both of you need…the one that truly won’t let them down!
If you are still reading, you are truly brave…or you haven’t had your toes stepped on!
The other end of the spectrum of parenting: I just want her to be happy!
So these are some areas I see that are taught in a negative way. Of course, on the other extreme is the teaching that whatever makes the child happy is what we will let her do. That is something you will soon discover to be flawed both in terms of Scripture AND reality. What child do you know who is indulged, continues to be happy? It will not happen! Indulged children who have no limits, are most unhappy and dissatisfied.
So the two extremes of raising children, especially daughters, will be problematic at some point. Frankly, along the way, we will all make plenty of mistakes raising our daughters. In writing this, I have come across plenty of areas where I remember failures on both sides of these issues!
GOD’s grace often overcomes our failure…thankfully
We need to depend on GOD’s grace to help us in the process as we get to know each one and her strengths and weaknesses. How do we help her understand where she fits in the Kingdom, in the world, in her church?
It is our job to help her in these areas. We don’t know if it is GOD’s plan for her to marry or not. And if so, if she will marry in her 20’s or 40’s. Even if she marries, she may need to work as well. We don’t know if her husband will have an illness or may even be taken from her. There is too much about the future that is unknown. So helping her have a profession is never a waste!
How are you preparing your daughter(s) for life after your home?
Are they aware of some of their strengths/weaknesses? Spiritual gifts for functioning in the church?
Does she know how to relate to people with different lifestyles than hers? different worldviews?
How are they discussed in your home?