One of the biggest complaints about motherhood," wrote humor writer Erma Bombeck, "is the lack of training. We all come to it armed only with a phone number for a diaper service, a polaroid camera, a hotline to the pediatrician, and an innocence with the life span of fifteen minutes."1 In her book Motherhood: The Second Oldest Profession, she asserts, " . . . education is the answer. If we only knew what to do and how to do it, we could survive."2

Although motherhood as an institution has existed for millennia, I have yet to meet a mother who really thinks she’s mastered the trade. We all stumble along, making the same mistakes, on a desperate search for tips, solutions, and sound principles. Then our daughters become teenagers, and we can despair of ever succeeding as a mother—much less passing on the language of biblical womanhood.

But if we would only avail ourselves of holy Scripture, we would find the wisdom and direction we so desperately seek. We must not neglect God’s Word while we pan for the fools’ gold of worldly counsel.

In Titus 2 we find a genuine nugget of mothering wisdom. It tells us to "love [our] children" (v. 4) tenderly. This may not appear to be a new and novel parenting tip, but J. C. Ryle insisted that this biblical principle is "one grand secret of successful training."3

Now I know you love your daughter. You would die for her, and sometimes you feel as if you already have, many times over. You’ve endured labor and delivery or the innumerable hurdles of the adoption process, only to wake up multiple times per night to feed your little girl. You’ve changed her diapers, potty trained her, taught her to dress herself, helped her with schoolwork, prepared her three meals a day, washed and ironed her clothes, and driven so many cumulative carpooling hours that your car feels more like your home than your house does. You’re a mom, and moms are good at sacrificial love. It’s an essential aspect of mothering. But the love Titus 2 is talking about is a tender love. It’s the warm, affectionate, nurturing kind. It speaks of enjoyment and delight in our relationship with our daughters.

J. C. Ryle described tender love as "a willingness to enter into childish troubles, a readiness to take part in childish joys,—these are the cords by which a child may be led most easily,—these are the clues you must follow if you would find the way to [her] heart."4 Similarly, Paul Tripp encourages us as parents to "remember what it was like to live in the scary world of the teen years."5

A simple test of the effectiveness of tender love requires only a moment of self-reflection. Don’t we all respond better to a person who takes an interest in us and expresses affection than to someone who tries to force or manipulate us to comply with their wishes? Our daughters are no different. Discipline, correction, and training are ineffective and even detrimental when void of tender love. But these same tools are more readily welcomed if they come with a kind and gentle hand. The biblical maxim to treat others as you would like to be treated most certainly applies here.

And wasn’t it a tender love that the Savior showed to us when He granted us salvation? He leads us with "cords of kindness" (Hos. 11:4), and "He does not deal with us according to our sins" (Ps. 103:10). So the most important reason to apply tender love is because it displays Christ’s love to our daughters.

There are countless avenues for us to express a tender love specifically, constantly, creatively, and sincerely. The following are merely seven practical suggestions:6