7 Principles for Raising Girls
While there are many fundamental ideas which apply to parenting boys or girls, there are certain areas of concern which are specific to one gender or another. For girls, the challenges--and their remedies--are sometimes quite different from what moms experience in parenting their boys.
Here are some key areas where parenting your daughter may be unique.
1. Teaching her that her worth is based on more than her appearance. Our culture and its media send one consistent message, day-in and day-out: how she looks is everything. If you want to protect your child from the disappointment that values like these will certainly cause her, you must give her something to put in its place. Your job is to show her—in the way you value yourself and other women—that we are more than what the eye can see. Teach her that her worth comes from God, who made her perfectly and endowed her with gifts and talents that are the essence of who she is.
2. Protecting her purity. You are the last line of defense between your daughter and a world that would encourage her to give up the innocence of childhood far too soon. If you don't put boundaries in place that prevent her from experimenting sexually, who will? Don't underestimate the pull of curiosity, boyfriends, and the influence of her more worldly friends. And don't let her be in situations where she's forced to be strong before she's ready for that responsibility.
3. Teaching her to handle "mean girls." There's something about the way girls—even little grammar school girls—socialize that can bring out the worst in children. Odds are, your little girl will be the "odd man out" on the playground at some point, and she'll have to know when to let it go and seek out more authentic friendships, and when to stand up for herself. Help her to have the confidence to understand that when this happens, it's because the other child(ren) has failed at being kind—not because she has failed at being worthy of kindness.
4. Teaching her not to BE a "mean girl." I know what you're thinking. "This one doesn't apply to me. My child isn't the bully." But let's be honest—every bully has a mom, and she's probably almost always in denial about her child's capacity for meanness. Have you ever laid down the law with your child about the level of kindness you expect from her toward others, and what the consequences will be if you ever find that she's treating another child unfairly? Maybe we should all do one another a favor and have those conversations whether we think they're needed or not...
5. Helping her to balance femininity and strength. The women's movement did a lot for girls, opening doors of opportunity for all. But help your daughter to understand that equality isn't sameness. Our femininity is what makes us distinct—God made us to be different from men for a reason. To deny that in some misguided effort to project an image of equality just strips us of what makes us, well—us! Help her to learn to be smart and strong like Ginger Rogers, who did "everything Fred Astaire did, except backward and in heels."
6. Protecting her safety. It's a sad reality that we live in a world where danger is a constant companion. Keeping your daughter safe will look different at various stages of her development, but you must be vigilant always. Take a long, hard look at her potential exposure to predators online, and in her real-world routines. Teach her, in age-appropriate ways, how to protect herself in various situations. As she becomes a teen and has more freedom, make sure she knows how to be safe on the road and on a date.
7. Modeling for her what a good wife and mom looks like. There is no other single factor that will influence how she carries out the roles of wife and mom in her own life more than what she observes in you. Live your own life with the kind of integrity and wisdom that you want her to embrace; and odds are, she will.
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