My daughters were all grown up, and I was nearing middle age. As I struggled to adjust to an empty nest and my new season of life, I had this troublesome feeling that life was almost over and that I hadn't accomplished much in my lifetime—nothing great anyway. I was having quite the pity party.
But one evening, while having a conversation with my second oldest daughter, Tiffany, everything changed—especially my perspective about my life's accomplishments.
Tiffany, recently engaged, had come over to talk about her wedding plans. The more we talked, the more she became overwhelmed over all that was involved in the planning. Finally, she said, "Well I don't know much about planning a wedding, but I certainly know how to be a godly wife, because I learned that from you, Mom."
I began to weep. Then I tearfully shared with her why her words had meant so much.
Tiffany had no idea I was struggling with self-doubt, and upon hearing my words she too began to weep. After regaining her composure she shared some of the things she and her sisters had learned from me, like what it means to be a godly wife and mother, and other life lessons. We talked about the choices they had made and the way they were now living their lives, and the women they'd become. At that moment I realized that, by God's grace, I had achieved something great in one of the areas that matters most— I had raised my daughters to become godly women.
Raising girls isn't easy, especially in today's culture. The hormones; the attitudes; the emotions; the battles about rules, clothing, and friend choices; the onslaught of peer pressure; and the yearning for independence! Whew!
Raising a teenage girl is both a huge challenge and a great joy. And my husband and I had four! Life was very busy to say the least. It's exhausting and exciting at the same time. It requires intentionality, time, prayer, discipline, and relationship-building.
There are so many voices coming at teenage girls from every direction: family, friends, broadcast media, social media, celebrities, teachers, pastors, and others. These voices can influence how girls view themselves, how they relate to others, the choices they make, how they view God and faith, what they should do with their lives, and more. It's important that our daughters know which voices to listen to.
As parents, my husband and I wanted our voices to be the most influential in our daughters' lives. We realized that building strong, healthy relationships with our girls would be necessary in order for our hopes, dreams, convictions, and faith to be heard and embraced. We made time with them a priority and had lots of meaningful conversations. They knew they could talk to us about anything.
Most important, we made it a priority to help our daughters cultivate a growing relationship with Christ. We wanted them to know and submit to the authority of God's Word as the voice that prevails over all others. And we wanted them to understand that their identity is in Christ, not in their appearance, accomplishments, friendships, or anything else.
We took God's calling on our lives to raise our daughters to become godly women seriously. Did we make mistakes? Absolutely. Did our daughters do everything right? Absolutely not.
Beginning in infancy and continuing through adulthood, children will do things from time to time that will hurt and disappoint us. But God will use those foolish mistakes and tough lessons along the way to strengthen and refine them into all that He has created them to be.
Our job as parents is not to raise perfect kids, because as imperfect parents that would be impossible. Instead, parenting is about accepting our children as God's gift (Psalm 127:3), loving them unconditionally, praying for them faithfully, building godly character into their lives, and guiding them through the ups and downs of life.
As you seek to help your teenage daughter become a godly woman, here are five questions to consider:
1. Is she prepared for the responsibilities that come with greater independence?
As your daughter nears driving age, she will want more and more freedom. But along with greater independence comes greater responsibility and the ability to make sound decisions. In order for her to handle these well and move toward successful independence, she will need:
- Wisdom. Proverbs 1:7 says, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction." Encourage your daughter to read, study, and memorize God's Word, and then put what it teaches into practice in her daily life.
- Relationships. In addition to the influence of family and church community relationships, friends also influence your daughter and help to shape her identity. Therefore, it's important that she chooses friends wisely—those who share similar values, and who will challenge her to grow and make wise decisions. 1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals.'"
- Practice over time. Help her understand that she doesn't have to wait until she grows up to begin a life of her own, that she can start now to practice independence. She can begin by being faithful with what God has given her at this stage in her life. Doing this will prepare her to be ready for whatever He has for her in the future. Encourage your daughter to be creative and start her own venture—one that requires her to exercise maturity and responsibility, such as her own babysitting business, or a non-profit designed to help others in need.
2. Does she understand what it really means to be a woman?
Even though there's confusion about gender identity in today's culture, we can find a clear definition about what it really means to be a woman given by the only One who could write it—God. He can define femininity because He is the One who created women.
In teaching your daughter about authentic womanhood, help her to understand that God created women to be beautiful—not just on the outside, but with beautiful character, which is lasting and precious in His sight. He created us to be helpers—of equal value, dignity, and worth as men, but with different roles and responsibilities to accomplish His purposes. He also created us to be life-givers, not just in the maternal sense, but also by encouraging others to live for Christ. And, finally, even though it's not unique to women, He created us to live with a heavenly focus—to live with the understanding that life is short, so make it matter for eternity.
3. Does she have a solid spiritual foundation that will make her a godly woman?
About half of kids who grow up in a Christian home leave the faith once they gain independence. This happens primarily because their faith wasn't grounded in Christ but in something else—their parents' faith, what their youth leader said, or in following someone they admired. Your daughter needs to know that following someone else's beliefs won't be enough. She has to have a personal faith in Christ—one she calls her own, and in which she is seeking to grow day by day.
4. Does she know how to effectively navigate her relationships with other girls and with members of the opposite sex?
Relationships are critical because they're so influential. One relationship that is very helpful is with a mentor. Help your daughter to find a mentor who can build into her life and also encourage her to be a mentor, where she's building into the life of a younger girl. We all need someone to inspire us to be better, and to do better.
Also, as mentioned earlier, encourage her to choose her friends wisely; and to have honorable relationships with the opposite sex. Help her understand how important it is during her teen years to focus on becoming the right girl (in her faith and character) instead of on finding the right guy. That prince she's looking to marry someday will surely be looking for a true princess. A godly man seeks a godly wife.
5. Is she living a purpose-filled life?
God has a unique calling for each of our lives. How exciting it is to help a daughter discover that she has been uniquely created by Him for a specific purpose.
Inspire her to learn what her purpose is. Encourage her to seek God's direction through prayer, and help her identify her interests, spiritual gifts, and talents. Then explore together how she might use what He has given her now and in the future for His glory.
Be encouraged as you walk this awesome, life-changing journey with your daughter. Lean into God for strength, courage, and patience along the way. And never give up as you work to help her become the beautiful woman He is calling her to be.
Copyright © 2016 by FamilyLife. All rights reserved.
FamilyLife offers resources to help you prepare your teenage and preteen children for the challenges they'll face. Passport2Purity® offers audio lessons and guided conversations for a weekend getaway to build heart-to-heart communication with your preteen while laying a foundation of purity for the turbulent years ahead. And be sure to look for Passport2Identity, a new resource to experience with your adolescent children. Coming in April.