Connect with Your Daughter through Godly Girl Talk
- Tuesday, December 20, 2005
Talking is what teenage girls do best. They’re professionals. They talk to friends on the phone, strangers who will listen, the dog, or even to themselves. When it comes to talking to Mom, however, conversation may not come so readily. Does this sample conversation sound familiar?
"How was school today, honey?"
"What did you learn?"
"Who did you talk to?"
"No one really."
"Is anything wrong?"
Gripping dialogue, isn’t it? Actually it falls far short of God’s intention for mother-daughter communication. We read of His remarkable pattern for our talking in the book of Deuteronomy, immediately after the Israelites received the Ten Commandments. There God commanded with majesty and authority:
Hear, O Israel: the LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deut. 6:4-9, emphasis added)
From examining these verses and dipping into one or two others, I want to suggest five principles for girl talk: mother-daughter communication that speaks the language of biblical womanhood. Along the way I will recount my own journey of communication with my daughters.
Good Mother-Daughter Conversation Starts with Mom
The first thing to note from these verses is that parents are chiefly responsible to initiate communication with their children: "You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them" (Deut. 6:7). Mothers, we are accountable to God to promote conversation with our daughters. If there is only token interaction between us, we must assume responsibility to reverse that trend. Godly communication isn’t a happy accident. It is only possible by the grace of God, but it requires faithful effort on the part of us moms. So the first girl talk principle is: Godly mother-daughter communication starts with Mom.
Daughters, you are by no means off the hook. Picture an asterisk next to this principle. While your mom has primary responsibility for communication, you should not simply wait for her to take the initiative. Rather, you should initiate communication as well. If you are going to benefit from your mother’s wisdom and counsel, then talking and listening are a must.
At first, in my daughters’ early teenage years, I was the one having to initiate most of our significant discussions. Sometimes the dialogue went smoothly; other times it was quite discouraging. But I knew that I wasn’t allowed to give up.
Setting aside dates with each daughter, and yearly overnights helped to ensure that communication remained a priority. I realized that in order to have particular important conversations, I needed to put them on the calendar. Often I prepared specific questions, words of encouragement, or topics to discuss on these occasions. To be sure, there were instances when these plans went awry; however, this practice did generate many profitable hours of communication.
From time to time my daughters brushed aside my efforts to talk or probe their thoughts. Occasionally they felt awkward, and I had to wait patiently till they were ready to divulge. Sometimes they were happy to chat about trivial stuff but hesitant to share what was on their hearts. My daughters quickly learned, however, that "I dunno" wasn’t an acceptable answer. Though it wasn’t always easy, I sought to lovingly persevere and promote godly conversation.
At some point, and almost without my realizing it, our mother-daughter communication took on a life of its own. The silence and reluctance gave way to an unending stream of conversation that hasn’t stopped to this day. In fact, my role now is primarily as listener. I no longer need to ask many questions before the truth comes pouring out.
Developing a Constant Stream of Conversation
Girl talk should be squeezed into every available moment of the day: ". . . when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise" (Deut. 6:7). This just about covers it, wouldn’t you say? In every place and at every time of day we are to be talking to each other. So the second girl talk principle is: Godly mother-daughter communication happens all the time. This means we shouldn’t wait until a crisis or only for the scheduled times. We are to be talking constantly.
Conversation with my daughters often began the moment I awoke and concluded well past my ideal bedtime. Sometimes it started during my morning devotions when a daughter would hesitantly knock and ask to chat. Frequently one or more of the girls would join me as I got ready for the day, borrowing my mascara and gabbing all the while. Talking continued as the girls popped in and out from one activity or another. And dinnertime often lasted well into the evening as we enjoyed many memorable family discussions. By being home and being available, I was able to foster ongoing conversation.
But for single moms and women who don’t have the option to be home with your children, remember that God will assist you to make the most of each moment that you do have.
Girl Talk: A Holy Pursuit
Deuteronomy 6 prescribes not only the frequency of our mother-daughter conversation but the content of our talks as well: "These words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them" (v. 6). We shouldn’t try to have good communication simply so we can experience a happy and peaceful relationship. Our conversation should be centered around the most important topic of all, God and His Word. Thus our third and most significant girl talk principle is: Godly mother-daughter communication is about the Word of God.
For mothers and daughters, talking about the Word of God includes our language of biblical womanhood. Communication with my daughters touched almost constantly on one aspect of biblical womanhood or another — whether it was the fear of the Lord, purity in their interactions with guys, or how they dressed or cared for their appearance. I didn’t say, "We’re going to talk about biblical womanhood now;" rather, it was the thread that ran through all our conversations.
These conversations took place before and after social events, church meetings, or any other activity outside the home. I tried to prepare my girls for the temptations they were likely to encounter: for example, trying to attract a certain boy’s attention or tolerating gossip. I also coached them to enter any setting poised to serve, to reach out to others, and to set a godly example.
When they arrived at home, we would debrief — if not that night, then first thing the next morning. I sought to be faithful to keep them accountable to their commitments to display biblical womanhood. I praised them for demonstrations of godly character. And my daughters would often disclose temptations they had faced. Together we discussed their conduct, and, if necessary, I would send them back to confront or encourage a friend.
While God’s Word is of first importance, this doesn’t mean we must only talk about spiritual things. My daughters and I have had plenty of frivolous conversations about current events, hair problems, or whatever crazy predicament Nicole has gotten herself into lately. These don’t make up the primary substance of our conversation, and they aren’t the primary goal. But the light-hearted chatter forms a relational platform from which to address more serious issues. Today there is really no line between what’s serious and what’s fun. Both are jumbled together in one delightful mix.
True Girl Talk is Honest
Also vital to the transfer of biblical womanhood is truthful communication. That leads us to the fourth girl talk principle: Godly mother-daughter communication is open and honest. First John 1:7 insists: "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin."
Again, moms, we must work vigorously to set a standard of humility and transparency. As one wise author says of parenting: "It involves investing your life in your child in open and honest communication that unfolds the meaning and purpose of life. It is not simply direction, but direction in which there is self-disclosure and sharing. Values and spiritual vitality are not simply taught, but caught."1
To help our daughters catch the beauty of biblical womanhood, we must inject our conversations with personal confession and humility and admit where we fall short of God’s perfect design. If we proudly seek to present a faultless image, our daughters may well throw up their hands in despair. But when we share our own sins and also our experiences of God’s mercy on the sometimes-bumpy trail to godliness, it will encourage our daughters to persevere. Although we must employ wisdom in determining what is appropriate to disclose, our honest communication will make it easy for them to share their own temptations and sins.
Girls, may I implore you to be truthful and honest with your mom? If you are hiding any sin from her, you are headed for trouble. You may think your mom will never find out. But someone already knows. God knows. David confesses in Psalm 69:5: "O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you." Deceiving your mom is like pretending God can’t see. It’s living in a make-believe world where sin has no consequences. But the Bible tells us that in the real world, "the wages of sin is death" (Rom. 6:23) and that "your sin will find you out" (Num. 32:23).
However, by confessing your sin to God and to your mom, you can admit the truth that God sees and thus avoid these dire consequences. This is "walking in the light." As a way to encourage my daughters to be open and honest, I would periodically ask, "Is there anything that you need to tell me?" So let me also ask you, "Is there anything that you need to tell your mom?" When you admit your sin, you will experience fellowship with your mom and with God. And best of all, the Bible says, "If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9).
Godly Girl Talk Depends on Grace
Now for all you moms who have been sinking deeper into discouragement with each successive girl talk principle, please do not lose heart! While constant communication about the ways of the Lord is certainly hard work, you are not without help. May the fifth and final girl talk principle buoy your soul, for: Godly mother-daughter communication is possible through the grace of God.
You will probably have days when it seems your communication is regressing instead of progressing (I certainly did!). Or you may be deadlocked in a conflict that prevents you from moving forward in meaningful conversation. But no barrier or challenge is insurmountable with God.
He can take our faltering conversations and flawed efforts and transform them into rich communication that brings glory to Him. He reminds us: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9). Pastor Charles Spurgeon elaborated: "He gives grace abundantly, seasonably, constantly, readily, sovereignly. . . . He generously pours into [our] souls without ceasing, and He always will do so, whatever may occur."2
You see, in God is available the all-sufficient grace we need. Let’s admit our inadequacies to Him and ask for His blessing on our mother-daughter communication. So why don’t we put this book down and spend some time talking with our daughters.
For Further Study
War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles by Paul David Tripp
1. Tedd Tripp, Shepherding a Child’s Heart (Wapwallopen, Pa.: Shepherd Press, 1995), xix.
2. Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Morning and Evening (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1995), 551.
This column is part of an ongoing series on Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood. Click here for last month's installment.
Carolyn Mahaney is a wife, mother, homemaker, and the author of Feminine Appeal: Seven Virtues of a Godly Wife and Mother, and Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood. During her more than 30 years as a pastor’s wife, Carolyn has spoken to women in many churches and conferences, including those of Sovereign Grace Ministries, which her husband, C.J., leads. C.J. and Carolyn have three married daughters and one twelve-year-old son, Chad.
Nicole Mahaney Whitacre is the oldest daughter of C.J. and Carolyn Mahaney, as well as a wife, mother, and homemaker. She assisted her mother with Feminine Appeal, and is the co-author of Girl Talk. Nicole and her husband, Steve, have one son, Jack.
Carolyn and her three daughters keep a weblog for women in all seasons of life, also entitled "Girl Talk."
This column was adapted for Crosswalk from Girl Talk: Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood (Crossway 2005) by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Mahaney Whitacre © 2005 (Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, http://www.gnpcb.org.)
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