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This is Part 2 in a 3-Part Series on inspiring your daughter. Read Part 1 here.
Our daughters watch us, look to us for what they need, and often imitate both our weaknesses and our strengths. So being aware of what they most need can help us focus on getting them through their teen and young adult years.
As I surveyed daughters, ages 15-45 for my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I found that, overall, our daughters don't need more money, leniency, opportunities, structure, extra-curricular involvement, or music lessons as much as we might think. Instead, what they all indicated that they needed - and still need - is their mother's "love and support."
My daughter, Dana, now 21, says: "I needed my mother's love and support in everything I did. No matter if I did something completely wrong, I needed her to love me anyway and to let me know it was going to be okay."
I asked my survey respondents to further define the phrase "love and support" so moms could get an idea of what it would tangibly look like to show that to their daughters. See if these sound like something your daughter might need, too.
1. She Needs to Know She is Your Priority
As a 19-year-old college student who has never doubted her mother's love for her, Annie says: "My mom made me her center. I don't think that spoiled me. Rather, it made me secure in the fact that she loved me and would do what it took to provide for all I needed."
Another daughter said: "Not to sound selfish, but I needed my mom to choose me first over a lot of things, to let me know that I was a priority in her life over work and finances."
Because we tend to live such over-scheduled lives, it can be challenging to let our daughters know they are more important to us than the job or the tasks at hand. (For some practical ways to show your daughter she is a priority, see the upcoming Part 3: Giving Your Daughter the Gift of Your Time.)
2. She Needs to Know She Is Accepted
A young woman needs to know she is accepted by her mom, no matter how old she is. She needs to feel accepted as she is recognizing her uniqueness, in the ways she feels "odd" or out of place in a crowd, and on the days she feels she didn't measure up to others around her.
3. She Needs to Feel a Connection with You
Karen said she never really felt a deep emotional connection with her mom.
"My mom was a single parent raising me and my siblings. She worked outside of the home through most of my adolescent years. I didn't feel a connection with her because she had a "hard shell" around her heart. While I always knew she loved me, it was very difficult to approach her.
"Even as I matured and became a wife and mother, I did not feel I could share with her the secret places of my heart. I never really felt like I could share intimately with her. Only a few times can I remember really opening up and sharing deep thoughts with her."
Be the one who initiates an emotional connection with your daughter. Even if she's acting like she doesn't want that, she will know that you are the one who is reaching out.
4. She Needs a Spiritual Foundation
Katie, who was raised in a committed Christian home, says that although she might not have appreciated it at the time, her mother's insistence that she attend church every Sunday and learn strong biblical values is one of the best things her mother could've done for her. It is something Katie intends to imitate with her own children.
Krystle, who is raising a teen and pre-teen daughter, said she wishes her mom had made more of an effort to bring her up, spiritually.
"My mother was a loving, devoted Christian stay-at-home mom up until my parents divorced when I was around 7 years old. Our lifestyle changed dramatically after my parents divorced. My mother struggled to support and raise four children on her own. She became discouraged and left her church for a while. She worked a lot, turned to friends and partying. She became more focused on her life and her needs and didn't encourage her children enough. I feel that my mom should have drawn closer to the Lord during these times."
Our daughters need us to have a strong dependence on the Lord so they can imitate that walk and develop a dependence on the Lord, as well.
5. She Needs to be Allowed to Fail
One young woman who was raised with a strong spiritual foundation said she wishes her parents had realized she was human and she would, indeed, fail.
"I felt very lucky in that both my parents were great examples who showed me love my entire life. The downside for me was that I never felt I could be completely open and honest because the lines of right and wrong were so clearly drawn I was afraid I wouldn't be accepted for the mistakes I did make. I wish at ages 14-16, I had been given permission to make mistakes without judgment. That's not to say I would have made better choices than I already did, but when I messed up, I didn't feel like my mom was as approachable."
When our daughters are young, there are times we want to step in and do something for them, rather than risk their disappointment or having to watch them fail. But it is crucial to their development as young women to learn how to pick themselves up after they fail and move on. Your daughter needs to be okay with the fact that it's perfectly normal and human -- to make mistakes. She needs to know it isn't the end of the world if she fails to do something right. And she needs to know that coming in second or third or not placing at all, is often a part of life.
Guiding your daughter through disappointment and failure is just as important as guiding her through victory and success. Let her make mistakes. Let her feel badly. Let her live out what it's like to be imperfect. And love her through it. Could anything show her more of the way God loves us?
6. She Needs You to be a Woman of Integrity
I can't help but think that is my daughter's greatest need from her mother, as well. I can raise her according to biblical principles, and talk to her about the importance of living frugally, being Christ-like, loving others and having a pure heart. But the bottom line is, if I am not modeling any of it myself, then my words are merely words. She needs to see the Christ-like life lived out in me every day of my life and know it is real before she will know how or even have a desire to live it herself. She needs an example to follow in making life's choices and being the woman she knows I want her to be.
7. She Needs Your Stability
I will venture to say that your stability is even more important than hers. Our daughters can't be the ones who hold us up, emotionally. That's our job. Sure, it's nice to have a relationship with our daughters in which we can share with them what's on our hearts. But be discerning. Your daughter does not want to hear about your marital struggles, your loneliness, or your depression with how things are going in your life. It is our job, as moms, to bear their burdens when they need emotional support and nurturing.
If we're not careful, we can reverse the situation and cause our daughters to feel the weight of having to emotionally carry us. I know many college-aged girls who feel guilty about going away to school because of how difficult it is on their moms to be away from them. Our daughters need us to be a rock because we look to Christ, our Rock, in times of trouble and adversity. Our daughters need us to be women of integrity who show them how to be in the midst of a compromising world. And our daughters need us to be women who can keep it together when life around us falls apart. If we are the ones with the emotional issues, we can lead our daughters toward depression, a sense of hopelessness, or a desire to distance themselves from us.
Because our daughters model our behavior in so many ways, they end up imitating both the positive and the negative in us. So, if you are constantly searching for your own identity, struggling for a sense of purpose, or dealing with insecurities, chances are she will be, too.
In short, be the woman you want your daughter to become. And chances are that she will, in time, follow suit.
Cindi McMenamin is a national women's conference and retreat speaker and the author of a dozen books, including When Women Walk Alone (more than 100,000 copies sold), When a Woman inspires Her Husband, and When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, upon which this article is based. For more on her books and ministry, or to download her free article "Suggestions for Mother-Daughter Memory-Making" see her website: StrengthForTheSoul.com.
Publication date: September 3, 2013