For obvious reasons, I have been thinking a lot about raising little girls these days. I am very much concerned about how to protect young girls from the spirit of the age that exalts the flesh, carnality and sensuality at every turn. I am not just concerned about protecting from the dangers of our culture, but also in the development of a heart and mind that loves the Lord Jesus and desires to seek after godliness in all things. This is not just about external adherence to specific standards in dress and conduct. It must go much deeper than that, right to the issues of the heart that motivate a girl. That, of course, cannot come from parents. It must be a work of the Holy Spirit.
But parents are powerful influencers of children. What is wisdom today in the area of raising young girls? I have written before on this subject, but believe these issues are terribly important. I have watched other Christian families raise some wonderful daughters, and I very much would like to make wise decisions in the areas that matter the most. Here are a few random thoughts I have on the subject. They are not very organized, but I would love to hear from other mothers (or fathers) of daughters on this. What do you think, based on your experience, are the most important areas parents can influence a daughter to love the Lord and live in godliness? Pardon the somewhat scattered nature of my thoughts here, as I am really just brainstorming on the subject based on my experience and also my beliefs on the matter.
1. Fathers are a huge part of the equation in raising daughters. I never had enough of my Dad because he was involved in broadcast ministry and was gone a large portion of my girlhood. That’s not a criticism, it’s just an observation. His absence left a hole in my life and created a need for male affirmation that affected me deeply as I grew older. I can’t say enough for the power of a father in a girl’s life. I remember once I was on a flight from Cleveland with Dad next to me. I was 16 and looking at a fashion magazine with ads for make-up products. Dad leaned over and told me that my skin was every bit as nice as the model in the photo. I was stunned and pleased more than he will ever know. I had a very low image of myself and his off-hand comment was savored for a long time. That’s why I still remember his comment to this day. Having a father who speaks encouragement not just in areas of physical attraction but in areas of character, most importantly, seems to be a real antidote to girls listening to the culture when it comes to their worth.
2. Mothers are absolutely crucial in setting an example for girls. I have always adored my mother. Mom can’t possibly know how much she meant/means to me. More than anything, Mom is a person who will roll up her sleeves and help others, often to her own cost. All three of her children can’t honor her enough for example of selflessness and love. Mom’s influence is seen in my life every time I am with my own children. While our personalities are very different, what is not different is our love for our families. Mom also showed me that life as a woman was not about fashion and image, but about serving the Lord and using our hands to do useful things.
3. Girls are not being taught to be useful today. Even Christian girls get lost in the peer jungle of social media, pop culture and boy/girl drama. The world sets the standards and evangelical kids follow them to their own detriment. Hapless parents enroll their children in high schools which often serve as little more than a training ground for worldiness. It is a rare girl who can withstand the seduction of peer influence and not be swept away by it. Few girls today know much about homemaking at all. How many high school girls are prepared to competently help a mother in a situation like mine (bed rest) where meals are needed, basic cleaning needs to be done, shopping and so forth? As for care of babies and little ones, young girls rarely have that chance due to our smaller families today. Babysitting can go a long ways in this area, but hands on care of little ones day in and day out is a rarity in families.
4. Girls appreciate things more when they have less. I admittedly went overboard when our older daughter Mary arrived in our family. After having all boys, I overindulged at times with things like pretty dresses and shoes and so forth. While an objective observer may not have thought so, compared to my childhood, she was blessed indeed at a young age. I don’t think these things mean as much when they come easily. I had two memorable dolls in my girlhood. Not ten, two. One doll took me up to age 8, the other was my pride and joy until I outgrew dolls altogether. Mom sewed clothes for the dolls, I didn’t get ready made ones from the toy department. Today girls get too much stuff, and I don’t think it is helpful to their characters.
5. Related to the doll comment, most girls by age 8 are now considered what the advertisers now call “tweens.” This means they are aspiring teenagers. This is a sickening trend that destroys innocence in young girls and thrusts them into a place of early sexual awareness. A simple check of the clothing department for young girls in this age range will demonstrate how innocent girlhood has been replaced with the hard-bitten sexual awareness of our age. Disney has seen to it that little girls as young as three and four are being dragged to “tween” rock star concerts where they’re taught to writhe around sensually to the latest hit number. It’s a desecration of girlhood and a tragedy.
6. Finding service opportunities for daughters is important in their development. A girl who is never taught how to help and serve others is a sad thing to observe. The youth culture says it’s all about you. The Scriptures tell us that it’s all about others. By requiring girls to help and serve, whether at church, in a nursing home ministry, in a grandparent’s home and so forth is not placing a burden on a girl, it’s giving her an opportunity to develop compassion and a heart for others. Empathy and a view to ease the loads of others is a hallmark of a maturing mindset in a young woman. I want our new daughter to learn to help from an early age. I have seen that little ones of a very young age can help. Mary used to fold laundry for me when she was 4. She got the biggest charge out of folding towels and washcloths for me with her little hands. She liked doing that more than playing. Seizing these moments to teach the joys of doing a job well around the home is important. I told her that every time we fold a pair of socks or something from the family’s laundry, we can think about how much we love that person. Girls need to connect the mundane work of the home with an act of love. I have a tape of Mary when she was about 6 or 7, talking about what she liked to do most. “Mama lets me iron pillow cases,” she said. That’s the kind of mindset I think we ought to strive for.
How old-fashioned, how primitive, sneer the feminists. Sorry, women. You can burn your bras and run around the business world while outsourcing your motherhood, but true joy is found in serving others, beginning with our own families. Those are the values that make for happy homes, busy and useful girls, and the development of young women whose eyes are on the Lord and not on their bodies.
I’m interested in your thoughts, mothers, fathers. What do you think is important in raising girls to a God-honoring womanhood? What can we do as mothers to set an example? I know I have left many things out today. I am sitting in my recliner and reflecting on all of this. I pray the Lord will help me do what I can with my girls. Ultimately, heart issues can only be addressed by the girl herself with the Lord’s help. But as parents, we want to make sure we are doing all we can to show Christ in our lives to our young girls with unconditional love and service to our families.