It is an interesting and creative job to raise daughters. For one thing, as the mother of three of them, I can say categorically, girls are not all the same! See Part I.
They were not all equally excellent at housekeeping…or even equally interested in learning housekeeping skills! I think they have all turned into great cooks. They are all active in some form of exercise. A couple of them are runners. They are all mothers of children ages 11-2 now…but we’re starting on the birthdays this week for 2015, so that will soon change.
Are you raising a young woman or a future wife?
But when we are raising our daughters, as much as we would like to think of ourselves as raising future wives and mothers, that may not be the case. I certainly taught my girls, or helped them find someone who could teach them, the skills they would need not only to be a housewife, but to care for themselves if they never married. But there is nothing that leaves a young woman more vulnerable than to not have a life-skill that can provide her with a good living if she isn’t married.
For starters, she needs to know where she has strengths. What makes her unique and special? What sets her apart from a group of 10 girls. Some of what I am talking about would be character/spiritual gifting. But often there is quite a bit of overlap.
- Is she the one who is more likely to offer someone something for their comfort? A glass of water, some food? Is she more hospitable and likely to make a person feel comfortable and at home?
- Is she an encourager? Does she come up alongside people and encourage them, being sensitive to their feelings? Are her friends often confiding in her or seeking her counsel?
- Is she someone who is more urgent about truth…in herself as well as others? I’m not talking about a tattler, but someone who is honest, possibly to a fault? Or does she want to get to the heart of truth in Scripture? Help nurture her in these areas or find someone who can.
- Does she love working with children/peers teaching them Biblical truth? This doesn’t necessarily mean she will get married and have a houseful of children. That would be wonderful, but she can also develop her skills in caring for children in a variety of contexts…teaching, childcare, social work, foster care…to name a few.
- Is she tender hearted with an inclination to mercy ministry? Help encourage that in her. As a child, she can learn to pray for people who she knows about that she would tend to worry about. This is a positive way to guide her positively away from worry and toward those she wants to help. Encourage her as it is age appropriate, to be involved in a variety of mercy/helps ministries. Of course, she can always be doing things like helping to take meals to sick families, those with new babies, sending cards to people who need encouragement, etc. Just a few ways
- Give your daughter opportunities to minister in her church…as a church member. She has opportunities to try different types of ministry, not necessarily in the context of her youth group, but as a normal member of her church. Do they need help in the kitchen? the nursery? VBS? working on the grounds? There are lots of opportunities middle school or high school kids can help out at their church. Some ways are official, others are less so. Paying attention to the row you sit in, in church and leaving it neat and clean when you leave, is a way to help a small child help in their church…or have them help as bulletins are handed out or folded. There are many little ways to have them help when you look and ask questions. Helping them learn what it means to be an active member of their church family from an early age, helps them avoid that attitude that they are there to be entertained or to sit and soak.
- Are her capabilities more in the arts or sciences? Encourage her to try all areas. Don’t simply let her off because girls aren’t good at science (so not true!) or math (another lie!) Don’t allow them to buy into stereotypes for their sex.
- Is she introverted or extroverted? This will affect how her leadership style will show itself…if she is a leader. It will affect how she expresses what she wants, who she is, and what she wants to do. An introverted child may not be as vocal about what she wants, but that does not mean she doesn’t have strong feelings about what she wants! If she is ignored or not asked, you may notice some anger and not know why it is there. This is your hint.
I know some of you are thinking to yourselves, I don’t want her to get too proud. Please, I beg you, don’t follow that line of thinking! There is nothing godly or Biblical there. Keeping people humble is GOD’s business, not ours. There is nowhere in Scripture where you will find that it is our job! There are plenty of places that tell us to encourage one another.
Our job is to prepare them for adulthood and knowing who they are is one of those ways
As humans, we were created in GOD’s image and as such, although that image has definitely been marred by sin, there are plenty of aspects of His image left. As Christian parents, we need to watch and see the areas where our children do well so we can point them out. This is different from bragging. It is more clueing them into reality.
Don’t cherish exaggerated ideas of yourself or your importance, but try to have a sane estimate of your capabilities by the light of the faith that God has given to you all. Romans 12:3 (JBPhilips)
Just like looking at someone and seeing that they are short/tall, have a square/round face, have red/brown/blonde/black hair, have blue/brown eyes. So you can see some of these other character traits.
Children have nothing to compare because they have only known themselves. Your experience is wider. Helping her see her positives can give insight into her negatives. Did you know that many of our weaknesses are strengths gone to an extreme?
This may help you find some of your child’s strengths. For some children, their negatives are more glaring, for others their strengths. In order to not be harping on their negatives all the time, think of their negatives (if it seems that is all you are seeing) and ask GOD to help you see what extreme of a positive that is.
I know it may sound like I’m being weak on their sin or discipline. But if you are always talking about what they are doing wrong and never what they are doing right, they will stop listening. As a parent, you need to be able to see them as GOD does…with potential in specific areas!
Even the child who lies often (something that definitely needs to be dealt with) can be seen as someone with strengths. She has a great imagination. She can create fiction. She is creative.
Of course, you don’t want to glamorize that skill. You want to pray that she will be caught in her lies. You don’t want to cover for her when she does get caught. But you don’t want to label her as a liar either. Having her parent calling her a liar is something difficult to get out of her head. Being called a liar and having an event described as a lie? Those are two different things.
She is plenty aware of her selfishness and failings if she has been helped to see how she compares to GOD’s perfect standard. What she is less likely to realize is how she is special and unique. For all she knows, everyone is like she is. She may think everyone thinks about others in the way she does. She doesn’t know that others are not introverted like she is (or extroverted).
Helping our children know their strengths is great preparation for life!
I remember as a young adult married woman that I could have given a long list of my weaknesses, but had no idea what my strengths were. Anything I could do well, I assumed that, given the same opportunity, anyone else could have done too!
It wasn’t until we were in Jamaica and working through material on spiritual gifts, personality traits, etc. that I learned where mine were. It was extremely liberating for me. But I think I drove some people a little nuts with my excitement.
Growing up in a Christian home, attending Christian schools and colleges…I should have learned that along the way much earlier. But I was surrounded by people who were intent on teaching me to be “humble”! In the process, I didn’t learn to have a realistic view of myself…and I wasn’t really humble either!
I found great joy and excitement when I could encourage someone. It was something deep inside me. It was not superficial at all! It still isn’t. I have had the opportunity to memorize a lot of Scripture in my life. I can’t always remember the references now, but I can remember the words and ideas and if needed, look up the reference in a concordance. I love being able to encourage people with truth from GOD’s Word. What better encouragement can there be?
It is at a deeper level than simply, “this too shall pass.” To know that GOD has a plan for your life and that each thing He allows to come into your life is there for a purpose is very encouraging! The events that happen…joyful or sad, have purpose to them. They aren’t random.
That is a wonderful gift we can give our kids, especially our daughters. To know who GOD made them to be, to enjoy the lives GOD has given them whether single or married. If they are happy and content as single people, they will for sure be happy as married people if the time comes for that relationship.
But living in limbo until they find a husband is no way to live. They are gifted as women as they are. Any education they receive will only add texture and depth to them as people. Work experience is good for them and broadens them even more. Nothing is a waste in GOD’s economy.
Two of our daughters married in their 20’s and one married in her middle 30’s. Each of them had lives before marriage and life after that brought richness to their marriage and parenting. Looking back, I think they all would be glad for their experiences. One daughter worked in Central America for a couple of years after college before grad school and learned to speak Spanish.
Another daughter worked a few years, paid off college loans, then went as a missionary to Ukraine and learned Russian. The years she worked there were very enriching for both her and the people she worked with.
Fear can be a big obstacle as we release our daughters to adulthood
We don’t know the path GOD will lead them on. But He leads them along and has a special path for them as they look to Him for guidance…with help from their parents as well.
Raise them to be women who serve GOD in the sphere where He puts them, content in that place, knowing who they are for His glory…and able to make a living in a place they enjoy and love.
If they marry, great! Their skill and interests will only add to their marriage. If marriage doesn’t come their way, they will be able to make a living happily and find fulfillment in it.
Certainly we will have times we struggle with fear…for their safety, for their future, for what others will think of the way we are raising them…and on and on the fear machine will go. But GOD is huge. He loves them and cares for them. Do I wish they lived closer? Of course! But I know that each is in the place where GOD is using them for His glory.