Mom: The Primary Influence in a Girl's Life
- 2005 19 Oct
I picked up the latest copy of a popular teen magazine the other day. I was looking for someone, but I couldn’t find her.
Here’s what I did find: "419 ways to be beautiful" (what kind of random number is that?), foolproof ways to "get great hair," and my "love horoscope." The cover was plastered with a close-up of — surprise, surprise — a beautiful actress. What more could a girl want than advice on love, hair, beauty, and some gossip about a celebrity? At least that’s what the editors seem to assume is the base level of a teenage girl’s interests.
I was looking for Mom, but I couldn’t find her. She didn’t even make the back page. From boyfriends to prom dresses, from acne to hairstyles, Mom was nowhere to be found. There were plenty of friends and plenty of boys and plenty of advice from "experts." They even had a kind of "phone-a-mom" replacement named Julie (not her real name), but no Mom.
It made me mad. I wanted to have my own little magazine-burning right there in the bookstore. I wanted to write a letter to the editor. But that wouldn’t do any good. Besides, it’s not only magazines. Television, movies, and other media for teens frequently portray a motherless society. The world they depict is largely peer-centered with a few mom-replacements on the side.
But girls have been duped by the cultural lie that Mom doesn’t understand and can’t relate. Of course, she’s good for making dinner, buying school supplies, and driving them to and from friends’ houses and swim meets. But go to her for advice? Look to her for support? This hasn’t occurred to them. Sad to say, many young women miss out on one of God’s main channels of wisdom, comfort, and blessing just when they need it most.
Adding to the problem, many moms have faded into the background without complaint. They think being an "understanding" mom entails giving their daughters space, encouraging their peer relationships, and not prying too much into their personal lives. They just try to love their daughters in hopes that they’ll open up someday. These moms are hesitant to exercise their authority or get involved in their daughters’ lives.
This approach is not limited to our ungodly culture. It’s increasingly common in the church as well. One sincere and godly woman who has a wonderful ministry to girls nevertheless resigns herself to this faulty view when she writes, "The influence of positive peer relations in a group of girls cannot be overemphasized. A parent’s influence during adolescence is limited. Not all girls will allow their parents to make a difference in their lives at this time. Friends will have the greatest impact."1
Bringing Mom's Role into Focus
However, if we as mothers and daughters want to speak the language of biblical womanhood, we must start by bringing Mom’s role into focus. Although mom-as-bystander is a common notion, I want to introduce you to an alternative viewpoint: God’s view of parents as presented in the Bible.
In His Word, God opens up a whole, new exciting world of parent-child relating. Verse after verse insists that Mom and Dad play an active and primary role in their children’s lives. Take Proverbs as an example. It fairly explodes with instructions to the son [and daughter] to "Hear . . . your father’s instruction, and forsake not your mother’s teaching" and to "receive [your parents’] words and treasure . . . [their] commandments" (Prov. 1:8; 2:1; 3:1; 4:1, 10, 20, etc.).
Author Paul Tripp comments, "God essentially says this: ‘I have designed the family to be my primary learning community. There is no better context to teach the truths that need to be taught so that my people would live the way they should live’"2 (emphasis added).
So classrooms, youth groups, and friends — though beneficial — are not the primary learning community. It is the family. It’s Dad, and it’s Mom. Why? Dr. Tripp goes on to explain: "Parents have unique opportunities to instruct their children, opportunities no one else will have, because parents live with them."3 God has set children up with the best possible help right in their own homes. And while Dad’s leadership role is essential in the family, we want to look at Mom’s role in this article.
God has chosen Mom to be our primary teacher, to be the foremost influence in our young lives. She possesses wisdom from God for us, and He has chosen her to impart the qualities of biblical womanhood.
When we pay close attention to our moms’ teaching, the Bible predicts a splendid outcome: ". . . for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you. . . . you will find favor and good success in the sight of God and man" (Prov. 3:2, 4). Following our mothers’ teaching will launch us into a lifetime of blessing and honor. What a sweet deal!
If you are reading carefully, you may notice who is not mentioned in any of these verses: substitute moms and peer relationships. Indeed, Proverbs often warns of the dangers of ungodly peer influence: "The companion of fools will suffer harm" (Prov. 13:20).
Now I am not advocating that you abandon all peer or other adult friendships. Godly relationships are gifts from our heavenly Father. A prudent mom will seek to position her daughter to benefit from the encouragement and example of other believers.
What if Your Mother is an Unhealthy Influence?
I also recognize that some young women may lack the spiritual guidance of a Christian mother. Maybe you’ve lost your mother, or maybe your mom is not a Christian or is an immature believer whom you can’t rely on for godly advice. You may find yourself discouraged as you read this; you wonder how you’ll ever learn to speak the language of biblical womanhood without a mother to teach you. But do not despair — you have not been left out.
In Titus 2:3-5 God directs all older women to train the younger women in the qualities of biblical womanhood. And God never issues a command that is not accompanied by the support we need to see it through.
So pray right now, and ask Him to provide a mentor. You are simply praying God’s Word back to Him. You are asking for His assistance to obey His Word. Imagine how eager He is to answer this request. Then go in search of a godly woman to train you in biblical womanhood.
However, when God does provide a young woman with a godly mother, the daughter must not neglect her mother’s teaching. A wise mother’s influence, guidance, and instruction are special blessings from God that we should enthusiastically embrace.
Getting Mom Back on the Cover
So, daughters, where is Mom in the magazine of your life? Is she on hand for all the important issues? Is she nearby in the pages of struggle and confusion? Does she pop up amidst your questions and decisions? Does Mom grace the front cover of your magazine?
Maybe you’re not sure. How about taking the following quiz to find out?
• Who is the first person you go to with a problem or a question?
• Whose opinion matters most to you?
• Whose counsel and advice do you respect the most?
• Whom do you go to for comfort in difficult times?
• Whom do you look to for guidance and direction?
• Who is the most influential teacher in your life?
If Mom was not the answer to most or all of these questions, then whoever was is probably the primary influence in your life — whether you’ve realized it or not. And, chances are, you’re missing out on the benefits that follow from your mom’s teaching.
So please don’t wait another moment. Bring Mom into the content of your life. This may be a new idea for you, but start by doing something simple. Begin by talking to your mom. Share with her what you’ve been thinking about lately, and tell her that you desire for her to be your primary mentor. I am confident that God will bless even this small step.
Moms, maybe you find the responsibility to be your daughter’s primary teacher quite daunting. If so, remember that God has called you to be her mother. And when God calls, He enables. He supplies all the wisdom, strength, insight, encouragement, hope, creativity, help, and grace you could possibly need to teach the language of biblical womanhood to your daughter.
So don’t hang back and wait for your daughter to come to you. With confidence in God’s abundant grace, step up and begin to impart wisdom and instruction to her.
And finally, girls, don’t forget the book of Proverbs’ predictions. If we heed our mother’s advice and receive her teaching, we will find peace, favor, and good success (Prov. 3:2, 4). So let’s ask for God’s help to put Mom back on the front cover where she belongs.
1. Donna Greene, Growing Godly Women: A Christian Woman’s Guide to Mentoring Teenage Girls (Birmingham, Ala.: New Hope Publishers, 2002), 43.
2. Paul David Tripp, Age of Opportunity: A Biblical Guide to Parenting Teens (Phillipsburg, N.J.: P&R Publishing, 2001), 41.
This column is part of an ongoing series on Mother-Daughter Conversations on Biblical Womanhood. Read last month's installment Your Mother-Daughter Relationship: Imperfect Makes Perfect.
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.)