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For some children, it's obvious what their calling is. They come out of the womb, it seems, with big plans of what they want to accomplish with their lives. For most, however, it can be a mystery - a secret worth pulling out of them.
That's where you and I, as parents come in. You may have one child who's a dreamer - it's part of her personality - she knows exactly what she wants to do with her life. Yet, the other may take a while to develop creative abilities or academic interests. But by watching and praying for wisdom to help cultivate that dream God has placed on their hearts, we can be there to be the wind beneath their wings when it's time for them to fly.
In my book, When a Mom Inspires Her Daughter, I outline six steps to encourage your daughter to discover and pursue her dream (and I believe these steps can apply to our sons, as well):
1. Let Her Explore
Kelly grew up with a critical mother who didn't lavish much praise on her. But she does remember one thing her mother did very well:
"She always allowed me to explore, try, and learn. I devoured books, movies, classes, and school stuff. I asked questions and got answers. I was able to go places and do things to learn more about everything around me, to challenge me, and to let me grow. Eventually I became comfortable in my own skin because I had a childhood to explore who God designed me to be."
Help her explore new areas. One of them might be the area in which she truly shines.
2. Look and Listen for What Makes Her Heart Sing
Sometimes we don't see a dream on our child's horizon because that dream is still developing. Or, as it was developing, we weren't necessarily looking for it.
Sara says she wishes she had noticed her daughter's dream when Lauren, now 23, was a little girl. "It took me too long to recognize Lauren's strong gravitation toward the arts. I am not artistically gifted but she is! She writes music and poetry, sings, plays musical instruments, loves photography and her painting aptitude is amazing! I wish I had seen this in her when she was little."
Jean, who has five daughters ages 2-11 is aware of how easily each of them could slip through the cracks when it comes to encouraging them in the area of their dreams.
Jean says: "I spend a lot of time with them and try to be a student of all of my daughters -- understanding who they are, who they are becoming, and what they want to become. By doing that I get an idea of what God's purpose may be in their lives so I can help steer them in His direction."
What is your daughter saying now about what she is interested in? What is she saying she no longer wants to do? That can give you an idea of where her dream may or may not lie.
3. Let Her Take a Break - or Change her Mind
Sometimes our children try something but find it's not what they had hoped or wanted, after all. Yes, we need to teach our children commitment and how to stick with something, but after the commitment (and hopefully she never signs up for more than a one-year commitment at a time), let her reevaluate. Sometimes she was simply gaining skills for the next step, which is something different. And sometimes she just needs time off to get her heart back for it (as was the case with my daughter, Dana, when it came to giving up piano lessons. She returned to it five years later with an amazing ability and passion for it that I never saw in her earlier!).
Cheri Gregory says this about being made to continue with her piano lessons when her dream was elsewhere.
"I wish my mom could have understood how important horseback riding was to me and let me keep up with my lessons, instead of making me stop riding, but continue piano. I took 15 years of piano lessons from top instructors and quit, never to play again, after I went to college. It was such a waste, and I was terrible -- just terrible -- in performance. On the other hand, my riding instructor said I showed exceptional promise, and I've always wondered what my life might have been like if I could have kept doing the one thing I wanted to do. "
Your daughter may know more than anyone else when it's time to take a break from something and move on to something else. (Or when it's crucial to stick with something that you don't necessarily feel is worth the time, trouble, or money.) Yes, to excel means hard work. But if she is involved in something she truly doesn't enjoy, then it's not for her. Her dream is something she will want to do, no matter what. And if she drops out for a season, she will return to it again when the timing is right, if it really is something that is leading her to God's dream for her.
4. Lighten Up
I don't say this to sound harsh. I say it because we, as moms, can sometimes overdo it when it comes to helping our daughters pursue a dream...or pursue something we believe must be their dream. We can unintentionally get to the point where we are pushing. By becoming our daughter's cheerleader we can sometimes be so into what they are doing that we unintentionally convey to them that it's more important how they do, than what they do. Learn to back off now and then and see if your daughter is pursuing a dream because it's on her heart, or because it was on yours.
5. Live it Out in Front of Her
Monica, who now has children in their teens, says: "My mom has and continues to inspire me to beat the odds and to never give up, not so much in words that she has said, but in the way she lives her life. She has inspired me to never let my fears be bigger than my dreams and to chase after the dreams and desires that God has placed in my heart."
Is your daughter seeing you pursue your dream and live it out? If not, what can you do to model to her that you fully believe God can accomplish anything in her life that she gives to Him in faith?
6. Let God into the Process
I was a little fearful when my daughter expressed an interest in attending an acting school in Hollywood right after high school graduation. I was concerned about all the 'what ifs' and if that was the best environment for her. But God eventually made it clear to her what He wanted her to do and I didn't have to be the one to do any arguing or convincing.
If your daughter is leaning toward an area that concerns you, talk to God about it first. Philippians 4:6-7 encourages us in this regard:
"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus" (NLT).
Make it a habit to be in prayer about your daughter's dream. God will make a way for her or clear her out of it if she's merely being distracted.
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: November 5, 2013