(This post was written by Heidi)
Whether or not we realise it, each little girl has a resounding question in her heart, waiting to be answered. Knowing this question and actively answering it can be one of the single most important things we do as parents of little girls.
Week 2 of 10 in the Raising Girls Series
(See Raising Boys Series here)
Before my tom-boy phase as a preteen, I remember twirling skirts. Pink sandals, sparkly hair bands, glitter nail polish and swirling dresses that lifted and danced when I did. I remember the giddy light feeling of being blissfully happy, of being the centre of attention in my daddy’s world and of wanting to marry him when I grew up.
I remember waiting in anticipation for him to get home at night, waiting to see what treats he had hidden in his pocket for me, of sitting on his knee watching TV, wrapped up warm and safe in his jacket on his lap, and going for long walks in the fields with the dogs and our cat, happy to just be with him. Those days seemed to revolve around questions in my heart, ones that centred around how he saw me:
Am I lovely?
Do you see me?
Do you want to see me?
Are you captivated by what you find in me?
As I grew up into a snotty teen, and younger siblings entered the picture, and circumstances changed, so did my relationship with my father. Out went the skirts, in came pants and tree climbing, hanging out with male cousins, playing lego and cars, and in a blur, I was in the middle of my teenage years, worrying about make up and boys and whether or not I could hide my smokes from my folks. But those early years of little-girlness were unforgettable. And my ‘dads response to them was so important.
In each little girl’s heart, lie questions waiting to be answered; her identity and self image waiting to be molded and formed. Her parents are her world, and their answers are of huge significance. If you as a parent, are not aware of these questions, the small moments and opportunities to answer them may go by unnoticed. A little girl singing her heart out may not seem like a child asking ‘Am I lovely, do you see me, and I captivating to you?’
She may seem a child who is testing her boundaries, standing on the table AGAIN, singing while you are trying to watch your favorite TV program. The temptation to snap at her to get down before she falls and breaks something may be all too easy to succumb to. But pause a moment. I know parenting can be manically busy at times. If you could view your little girl in a new light, with a new lens, and see her not as a testy, defiant little person who seems to want to push her boundaries at any given opportunity (although sometimes this really may feel the case, especially if you have a strong willed child!) ; if you could see her as a little girl with a big heart, and a big question in it that needs answering, perhaps you would change how you respond to her each day.
We all know that people respond better to affirmation than to criticism, that they grow in the light of positive feedback, not destructive talk. How true this is for our children!
- How are you answering your daughter’s questions?
- How gently and affirmingly could you treat her heart if you spoke to your spouse about this, and worked together on it?
- If you feel pushed to your patience limits, how would pausing and counting to ten (or twenty) to calm a bit before responding, change your attitude, words and actions towards your daughter?
- How would talking before raising your voice change your relationships in your home?
Moms and Daughters
Moms and their daughters have a special bond. We bake, shop, dress up together; there is an underlying sense of familiarity and understanding that lies there, unspoken but felt. Mom, you have a powerful place in your daughter’s life, one from which you can speak security and life. Choose your time together wisely – plan it, come prepared, let her know you accept and love her, that she is worthy of love, that she is valuable and enough. Nurture her.
Dads and Daughters
Dads and their daughters seem to have an even deeper bond. Father issues in adult women tend to run really deep; no person can take that place of a father. If the relationship is good, it’s a foundation for security; if not, it’s a place of deep hurt later on. Dad, lead your daughter. Keep communication open, even in those awkward teenage years. She needs a strong self-image before she becomes an awkward teenager. Praise her often. Tell her you love her often. Teach her to respect herself. And be aware always of the question she needs answered.
Jon & Stasi Eldredge’s book Captivating is a stunning book on the inner workings of women & girls. If you want to understand your daughter in a much deeper way, check it out!
We have a few precious years with our daughters, in which to mould them into responsible, secure adults who can step out into the ‘real world’. Let’s not forget that in each girl, regardless of temperament, lies a heart that loves to be loved, to feel significant, and to feel she is enough. Isn’t that how you feel sometimes too? Answer that question for her, in the most positive way you can, in each moment she asks.