This is Part 1 in a 3-Part Series on inspiring your daughter.
Young girls swoon today over the music, looks, and happenings of the popular British Boy Band One Direction. But what if I told you that you could compete for that kind of influence in your daughter's life
Although you, as her mom, start out as the single, most influential voice in your daughter's life, that may change the day she decides to look elsewhere for a role model. Friends, boyfriends, celebrities and musical artists all compete for her heart, mind and values. So I want to encourage you with some ways to remain (or reclaim) an inspiration in her life through some deliberate and intentional actions on your part.
After surveying daughters aged 15-45 as I was writing my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I learned a lot about what girls need most from their moms. And three things stood out that, if practiced, can do wonders to build your relationship with your daughter, rather than break it. Here are three ways that you can be the one person your daughter looks to, over anyone else, for advice, approval, encouragement and inspiration throughout her growing up years and beyond.
A - Accept Her for Who She Is.
This sounds like a no-brainer. But you'd be surprised how many daughters I've talked with who truly believe they can never measure up to their moms' standards. In fact, not feeling accepted by her mother was the most common wound I encountered as I interviewed young women to talk about their relationship with their moms. Daughters need to know they are loved for who they are, not what they do. It's one of the ways we show them the unconditional love of Christ. In most cases where daughters carried a wound of not feeling accepted, their moms were unaware their daughters saw them as critical and unsupportive.
If you tend to be a critical person, or somewhat of a perfectionist, your daughter may see that as a lack of love or support for her. Critical words can easily slip out of our mouths when we talk to our daughters. Through the years, I've found that Ephesians 4:29 is an excellent safeguard for how to talk to our daughters: "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen."
A girl's deep need for acceptance is often at the heart of every choice she makes concerning friends, boyfriends, activities, and where and how she spends her time. Knowing she is deeply loved and accepted for who she is will cause her to set her standards higher when it comes to relationships, rather than making decisions so she'll "fit in" or "feel loved."
You can show acceptance to your daughter by supporting her dreams and ambitions even if they are different from yours. You can also show your love and support by understanding and accepting the ways she is different from you. For example, you may be tidy and neat, she might not. You may be an early riser, she might be a night owl. You may have excelled academically, she might be more interested in art or music. Give her leeway to be herself and appreciate and affirm the ways she is unlike you, because those things make her unique.
B - Become Interested in Her World
Our girls will want to be around others who "get" them. Why do you think they are so attracted to musical artists their age and celebrities who talk about what they are interested in? They long to connect with someone at an emotional level and when a celebrity or singer says something they are thinking or feeling, they make the emotional connection. We can better understand our daughters by asking them questions and listening to them or, better yet, listening to what they are listening to.
Another way to enter your daughter's world and be an encouraging observer there is to "friend" her on Facebook (if she's old enough to have an account) and be an encouraging observer. Sometimes it's better if we just verbally and positively comment on their posts, rather than write something that would embarrass them in front of their friends. Another way to enter her world is to take her to movies she is interested in and offer to bring one or two of her friends along. Or, become involved in what she is interested in by being the driver (if she can't yet drive) or the greeter (who meets her at the door to share in the excitement of what she has just experienced). Be creative and find a way to take an interest in what she's interested in...even if it is not something you would've liked when you were her age.
C - Cheer Her On, No Matter What
Our daughters will want to be around people who make them feel good about themselves. So that's where you and I, as mothers, need to be doing all we can to build them up, not tear them down. My daughter recently told me "If you're ever having a bad day, Mom, just watch a One Direction music video. They'll make you happy." Now why does she believe that? Because those boys sing things like "Don't need make up to cover up. Being the way that you are is enough" and "You don't know you're beautiful." When I realized the power of encouraging words on my daughter, I began to use them more often when talking to her. That caused her to listen more, rather than shrink away.
Our daughters are hard-wired to want to please their mothers and make them proud. That's why it's important that you and I, as moms, affirm their efforts, but also let them know that it's okay to not have to look perfect or excel at everything. Your daughter may still be struggling to figure out what it is she does well and what she wants to pursue in life. Give her time. Allow her to fail. And be her cheerleader every step of the way. She will want you around if you praise her more than you point out what she's doing wrong.
Cindi McMenamin is a national women's conference and retreat speaker and the author of a dozen books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 100,000 copies sold), When a Woman inspires Her Husband, and When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, upon which this article is based. For more on her books and ministry, or to download her free article "Suggestions for Mother-Daughter Memory-Making" see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Publication date: August 27, 2013