Having four daughters, I have a lot of mother-daughter time. With my oldest almost 26 years old though, those precious times of being together all day and just living life are quickly changing. My girls are all grown up and we don’t have tea parties or doll dress-up afternoons anymore. Now we talk about things like men, money and life goals. Building relationships with your daughters when they are young is key to having a healthy relationship with them when they are grown. Trust me, I have made a LOT of mistakes and I am still learning every day. There are things I would change if I could go back, but I can’t so it’s full speed ahead.
I want to be real, open and frank with you. It is hard, mothering older girls. It’s much easier when you can send them to their room or hand out discipline. These days I sometimes feel like I am swimming against my natural mothering instincts. I’m growing up right along with them! I’m learning and changing and I am incredibly thankful for the blessing of being mom to these 4 amazing women.
In the spirit of Titus 2, here are 8 mother-daughter tips from an experienced mom to those in the midst of the process. . .
- Listen. I can definitely ramble and share too much of my own advice. I have to make myself be quiet and listen. Girls need to be heard, they need to trust that you care even when you don’t agree. If I could go back I would give less advice and do more listening. I’ve spent the past several years honing my listening skills. And when I really need to talk or fuss, I call my friends. My daughters get my listening ear anytime they need it.
- Learn. My girls are all so brilliant! Their youth and energy is something I can learn from. Yes, I was young once and I may have experiential wisdom, but I don’t keep up anymore with the latest trends or hot topics. I don’t do technology as well as they do and I often can’t find my way around my phone. I will ask one of my girls, “Hey, can you show me how to ____?” This gives them a sense of confidence and shows that I respect their knowledge. I’m always looking for ways to learn from my daughters.
- Give compliments. There’s no getting around it….girls need compliments. I’ve heard that it takes 14 compliments to undo 1 criticism. Why are we wired that way? I wish I knew! But keeping that in mind helps me remember that I have the power to help my girls overcome all of the attacks that come at them from the outside world. Or even better….to overcome a quick, hurtful word I spoke to them in haste. I tell them what a good job they did or how proud I am when they try something new. A compliment is not only how someone looks, but their actions and decisions as well.
- Walk shoulder to shoulder. As my girls find their way in this big, difficult world I see my role as a support and less of a teacher. My job of being their teacher is done and now I try to stand with them shoulder to shoulder as they make their own decisions. It’s not easy, mama! So often I want to move ahead and protect them from mistakes or get behind them and push. When they ask for my thoughts I will tell them, then follow it with, “That’s just my thought; I will support whatever you decide.” I have slipped and gotten out of place more than I’d like to admit. But this is my goal. I’ll never be perfect at it, but I can improve every day.
- Be humble. Even though we know more, can often see the mistakes our girls are walking into, and may even be 100% right about a problem they are facing….we aren’t always right to say anything to them about it. It’s a balancing act of when to share your idea and when to keep it to yourself, but if you’re humble it will go a long way toward building your daughter up and helping her find her own path. When I struggle with humility I will remind myself what it felt like to be attacked for my ideas and how that drives a wedge in a relationship. I don’t want that with my girls, so I ask God to help me stay humble. Being thankful and appreciative of their role in my relationship helps a lot.
- Give gifts. This isn’t about big ticket gifts, but things that let them know you love them. When one of my girls mentions that her purse is falling apart I may pick her up a new one. I keep a stash of each of their favorite candy to send them when they seem like they’re having a hard time. I write a little note and hide it for them to find later, or arrange for an outing with a friend so they can have a break. In a way I think of it as romancing them. I want them to feel treasured and adored by me, to know that I think of them even when we’re not together and that I care about the little things in their life.
- Get to know their friends. I always, always ask my girls about their friends. It can be hard to keep up, especially since a couple of my girls don’t live at home anymore and have friends I have never met. But I try to ask, “How’s Maggie doing?” or “Whatever happened to Susie’s problem with her roommate?” (this is where #1 comes in handy!) Young people place high importance on those friendship relationships so anything you can do to show care for their friends is showing care for them! Of course, someday this same principle will apply to their husband!
- Be yourself! There will come a time when your daughter may not seem to like the choices you made. Maybe she criticizes your wardrobe or seems hostile toward your household chore schedule. Mama, she is just trying to figure out who she wants to be. I remember feeling hurt by my daughter’s criticism, then I thought, “Wait a minute….she can make her own choices when it’s her house. I don’t need to change just because she thinks there’s a better way.” The key here is not to get hurt over her rejection of you. It will pass. You just keep proudly being the amazing woman you are and that will set an example for her to be confident as well!
If your daughters are still young, this is the time to invest in those future relationships. Spend time with them, have those tea parties, draw pictures, read together. Spend time memorizing Scripture together and share books like Brave Girls Faithful Friends Devotional. It is filled with devotional ideas and helpful conversation starters.
Spend as much time as you can with them, in the car, at the store, cooking dinner, sitting on the porch, during sports, whatever you like to do as a family. Give her room to grow. One thing I always did was to ask my girls all about their day even if I thought I knew the answer. I would ask at night, “How was your day?!” Even though we homeschooled and were at home most of the time, we weren’t always in the same room and they may have been having struggles I didn’t realize. Night is a great time to connect with your girls (and boys too, but that’s for another post).
The value of your time with your daughter now can’t be measured. Those 8 things on my list are not just for grown daughters. You can incorporate them now, as you work toward healthy adult relationships with your beautiful, brave girls!
What’s your favorite way to connect with or show love to your daughter?