It was Afternoon Out, our weekly time together as mother and daughters. The problem was, only two of us — Janelle and I -- wanted to be there. My other two daughters, Nicole and Kristin, sat at opposite ends of the backseat staring out their respective windows. Their slouched shoulders and blank expressions saying what words did not. Janelle and I chatted in the front seat for a while, but their non-participation was impossible to ignore.

I suppressed the impulse to turn the car around and expel them both to walk the rest of the way home. Instead, I breathed a prayer for the Holy Spirit’s help and broke the silence.

"Okay, girls," I began, "what’s going on?"

"Nothing," came the predictably weak reply.

I wasn’t about to let it go at that. After several more probing questions, they finally admitted they would rather be doing something else. Basically, they lacked any enthusiasm for being with their mom.

I wasn’t prepared for my daughters’ attitude change toward me when they reached the teen years. What happened to the little girls who would jump up and down with glee just to go to McDonalds with their mom? And it seemed only a short time ago that they were excited about my husband’s idea for Afternoon Out. He would watch Chad, our infant son, so I could take the girls out for lunch and an activity. Somewhere along the way, however, their excitement had waned.

Conventional wisdom would tell me that this is normal teenage behavior and that a smart mom should back off when her daughter reaches this stage.  She must give her space and not take it personally. If her daughter doesn’t feel like talking to her, that’s okay — so say many of the "experts."

But informed by Scripture, Paul Tripp suggests that this strategy is a mistake:

Sadly, I am afraid, many parents accept the moat that teenagers tend to build around themselves. They adjust to the lack of time and relationship with their teen who, only a few short years ago, wanted to tag along with them everywhere they went. They quit talking when their teenager quits talking. So, at the point where significant things happen, which the teenager was never meant to deal with alone, Mom and Dad are nowhere to be found.1

Building a Relationship Requires Persistence

I’ll admit it. At first I was sorely tempted to "accept the moat" separating me from my daughters. What kept me from doing that was God’s command for me to be the primary influence in their lives. As we read last month, we are to teach and instruct our daughters in the ways of the Lord (Prov. 1:8). This includes the successful hand-off of the language of biblical womanhood.

This process requires a relationship. Clearly, for me to exert any meaningful influence in my daughters’ lives, I must be close to them. I must be consistently, actively, and intimately involved in their worlds. And while this is important at any stage, it is absolutely crucial during the teenage years. As a mom, I had to press in all the more intently during this pivotal season, whether my daughters eagerly received my friendship and guidance or stubbornly resisted it.

A word to daughters: may I urge you not to resist your mom’s involvement in your life? If you have built a moat around your heart, you have not cut off an enemy but a friend. A friend, I might add, who has the essential tools you need to navigate the teen years. She isn’t perfect, I know, but I am almost certain she is lovingly committed to being your friend so that she can lead you in the ways of the Lord.

Now moms, I can imagine you responding out loud to me as you read this. "Okay, Carolyn," you say, "I’m convinced that I need to be involved in my daughter’s life. I want to be a faithful mom, but she won’t let me get close to her. What am I to do?"

The Key to Your Daughter's Heart

While I don’t pretend to hold the key to a young girl’s heart, I know the one who does. As mothers we must appeal directly to the throne of almighty God. Proverbs 21:1 discloses: "The king’s heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will." The sovereign God who directs the hearts of kings and presidents holds our daughters’ hearts in His hand.