I have entered a new phase of raising a daughter. My oldest daughter, who is also my oldest child, is engaged. This daughter of mine has always brought me great happiness, and now, we have a friend relationship, too. I respect her advice. I seek her opinion on work matters. I look to her for fashion tips.
I tell you all of this to give you hope in case you’re still navigating the joys and challenges of raising a daughter and wondering if you’re where you need to be on the journey. I also want you to know that my path in raising my three daughters has not always been smooth. There were many times when I faltered and had to learn the hard way. Here are six mistakes to avoid when raising a daughter.
1. Expecting her to be like you.
Even if your daughter looks like you, she still might not be like you. Of my three daughters, the one who looks the most like me is the least like me. Where I am logical, she is creative and free-thinking. Where I am practical, she is dramatic. Yet it’s been in parenting her differences that I’ve become a better mother and a more well-rounded person. So if your daughter is different from you, enter into her world of interests as much as you can, parent to her personality and innate tendencies, and accept her for who she is.
2. Focusing too much on her looks.
Just because society focuses on appearance doesn’t mean we have to. To break out of the tendency to focus on your daughter’s physical appearance, realize that there are many different body types and that some children will never have a slim or toned appearance. As long as your daughter is within a healthy weight range, do not even bring up what she eats, dieting, or “cutting back.” This sends a message that you’re not good enough and sets her up for a future of dieting and hating her own body. The same holds true for other aspects of her appearance. Don’t harp on how she does her hair, her clothing choices, or other minor things. Make sure your comments don’t lead her to believe that you’re always trying to “improve” her.
3. Avoiding uncomfortable talks.
When I was growing up, my mom—as wonderful as she was—didn’t talk to me much about boys, sex, or even puberty. And while I managed okay, it’s really best if your daughter learns about these things from you. You can do this in a couple of ways: You can purposefully set aside time to address heavier topics. Or, you can weave the important points into your daily life. Whichever you choose, it’s important that your daughter sees you as a resource to turn to.
You also want her to have a very clear picture of your expectations in these areas based on your family’s values. It’s good to say, “Don’t have sex before marriage” if you don’t want her to, but don’t leave it at that. Talk to her about the choices she’ll have to make even before the question of sex comes up. Be ready to discuss how far is too far and why sex isn’t just a physical act, but an emotional and spiritual one as well.
4. Not coaching her on relationships with men.
Lots of girls assume they have to have a boyfriend to have value. Let your daughter know that’s not true and coach her on the kind of boy she should look for. Stay ahead of the game and talk to her before she starts dating. Unfortunately, I didn’t coach my daughter ahead of time, and when she was asked to homecoming by a boy she didn’t want to date, she couldn’t come up with a nice way to say no. So instead of nipping it in the bud, they started dating. When it became obvious that she didn’t really care for him, I reminded her that a relationship is a commitment and that she should’ve gotten to know him better before she started dating him regularly. Finally, they both agreed that they were too busy to date and they are still friends to this day.
5. Putting down her father.
Regardless of the state of the relationship between you and your daughter’s father, do all you can to foster a good relationship between her and her dad. Girls need the type of love a father provides. Knowing they have their father’s love makes them more secure in future romantic relationships. So try not to put down your husband in front of your daughter, encourage her relationship with him, and point out her dad’s good qualities.
It’s easy to lose sight of the big picture when raising a daughter, so choose your battles with her carefully. Moms could nitpick their daughters all day about how to improve and do better, and, yes, it’s part of our job description to help guide our children with great tips and mom advice. But try to remember that our main job as moms to our girls is to prepare them for adulthood. So think about what you want your daughter to be like as a 25-year-old woman. It will help you today to focus on what’s really important in your parenting. Also, take a look at our 10 Ways to Pray for Your Daughter printable to zero in on what’s important.
What’s your best advice for raising a daughter?