I haven’t had the privilege of raising sons, (I’m sure I’ll get my chance to help nurture the adult lives of my future son-in-laws some day), but I do have three daughters. They all have different hair color, different eye color and very different personalities and interests. They even were all born in different cities.
As I pondered the topic of raising daughters (since I’ve been asked to speak about this next week to a group of young moms) I admit, I felt a little stumped. How did we raise our daughters? Good question. Our first has turned out to be artistic, caring and thoughtful. Our second is fiercely competitive, outgoing and organized. Our third is hilariously funny with strong leadership aspirations. While we definitely did some things right, we unfortunately made our fair share of mistakes too.
I would hesitate to concretely advise that doing this, or saying that, is the fool-proof methodology to raising daughters. After all, every family has their own set of dynamics that are unique to the background and upbringing of each parent. And when you couple that fact with everyday life that includes many curve balls, even the best laid plans can go awry.
As I thought a little more, I realized that these three words seemed to sum up the environment that we tried to cultivate within our family.
Confidence – Competence – Consideration
Confidence – To build confidence is to build self-worth, perseverance, risk-taking, leadership, humility, authority, trust, hopefulness, value and the ability to pursue passions.
I believe a women’s greatest enemy is her lack of confidence.
When our daughters are born, they come with no concept of self. Their understanding of their personal worth, abilities and latent potential is like a blank page in the story of their life. They simply have no concept of who they are or what they can do.
They begin to develop their sense of confidence based on the messages they receive from those close enough to make a mark on their page. Parents have the greatest opportunity to leave indelible imprints. By the time she reaches eight years old, the ink on her page has dried as to what she thinks about herself and her options in life. As parents, what we say and how we treat our daughters creates their confidence manual they will reference for life, unless they choose to go back and make edits.
Competence – Becoming competent at anything requires training. Training is hard work; the home is the training ground.
A common proverb states ‘train a child in the way he should go.’ Since each daughter is unique, it requires tremendous insight to train her in the way that is right for her. As parents we have to open our eyes to the individuality of our daughters and provide the opportunity and encouragement for them to excel individually. Once we have a grasp on the latent potential within each one of them, we can focus on those strengths, helping them to develop competency. For me, it meant learning about hair color and sports and acting, even when those interests of my daughters were not my personal interests.
Consideration – Cultivating an environment of consideration develops self-lessness, empathy and security within the heart of our girls.
I clearly remember the daytime dramas of public school and the mean girl days of high school. With the raging hormones of three (actually four) women all under one roof, we had our fair share of theatrics. But one question consistently came from my lips ‘how do you think your (sister, friend, father, coach, fill in the blank) must feel?’ Developing consideration for others helps to de-escalate emotions and provides insight for our daughters to realize that the world does not revolve around their personal happiness. A sense of security comes in knowing that while they may be considering the impact their actions and words may have on others, hopefully others are considering the same for them.
A few weeks ago I solicited my friends on Facebook as to their thoughts on raising daughters. To my surprise, one of my own daughters commented;
‘I really appreciate the importance that my parents put on family. Both mom and dad and my sisters are my closest friends and I trust them more than anyone else for advice, know I can always laugh with them, and understand that the feedback they give me is because they love me and honestly wish the best for me. I also love how much they support me and my sisters AS INDIVIDUALS. They recognize our strengths and weaknesses and because of that (through trial and error) learned how to parent us each differently in ways that we value and that resonate with us.’
If you’d like to hear more on this topic, join us at MOPS, Gateway Church, London, March 28th 2013.