I was completely and totally caught off guard when my daughter moved into the tween years. One minute, she was playing with her dolls and the next minute, she was asking for a bra. As I helped her navigate the stormy seas of adolescence, I often felt like a ship’s captain without a compass. The teen years were right around the corner, and I knew my days were numbered at the wheel of the ship before I experienced the familiar “Man overboard!” (Or shall I say, “Mom overboard?!”)
As mothers, we know we are charged with the responsibility of discipling our children and impressing God’s commandments and truths upon their hearts (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). God’s Word is our compass and it’s up to us to show our children the way in a stormy culture. But in reality, intentional discipleship often gets shuffled to a back burner or delegated to the local church. It sounds good in theory, but in truth, it’s hard to practice. Many of us may wonder what it even looks like to disciple our daughters. As I think back on my own parenting journey in discipling my daughter, here are a few tips that helped:
- Come up with a plan. I get it. You’re busy shuttling your kids to extracurricular activities and managing a calendar full of commitments. I used to be you. Until God convicted my heart that there was nothing more important than discipling my children. Bottom line, if I was too busy for that divine responsibility as a parent, I was quite simply, too busy. I made some necessary changes and scaled back on my children’s extracurricular activities, as well as my own, and redeemed more time to devote to the spiritual training of my children. My biggest regret is that I didn’t do it sooner. Maybe your first step is to take an inventory of your activities and the things that hinder you from discipling your daughter and make a list of what needs to go. Another time-saving solution is to find a resource to go through with your daughter, so you don’t have to start from scratch. My new devotional for moms and their tween girls, Just Between Us was written for this very purpose. It is laid out in 52 weekly devotions and includes interactive activities as well as questions for mothers and daughters to ask each other. I only wish it had been around when my own daughter was a tween!
- Be creative. Oftentimes, when we think of that word, “discipleship,” we associate it with spiritual homework, a Bible reading, or a lesson plan. It doesn’t have to be that way! There are a multitude of creative and fun ways to help bring God’s truths to life. Deuteronomy 6:7, is a reminder to “teach them diligently to your children” and “talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Take advantage of teachable moments throughout the day with your daughter and connect them to principles in God’s word. For example, one time my daughter was dealing with a bully in her gymnastics class (she was about 7-8 years old at the time) and we made it a practice at bedtime to pray for this little girl. (“Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44) After about a week of doing this, my daughter had the great idea to “love her enemy” by making her a card and giving it to her the next day in gymnastics class. I have to admit, I had been praying for this little girl through gritted teeth, but I agreed to the plan somewhat reluctantly, fearful it would backfire and my daughter would be further hurt. I figured if we gained nothing else, we would have a great time working on a craft project together. The following day, my daughter gave the homemade card to the girl in her class and would you believe, she received a hug in return?! I’m not sure who was discipling whom on that particular occasion!
- Be transparent. As mothers, we sometimes feel pressure to have it all together when discipling our daughters. It’s easy to forget that we were once their same age and facing many of the same challenges. And like them, we didn’t always respond in a way our parents had hoped or expected. Our daughters need to know we weren’t perfect at their age, nor do we expect them to be perfect. The spiritual truths we are teaching our daughters will go a long way if we are transparent and vulnerable. For example, when I would talk with my daughter about the importance of seeing herself through God’s eyes, I would also share with her about my own experience of basing my worth on the culture’s shallow standards at her same age and the resulting fallout I experienced (an eating disorder, low self-esteem, etc.). In fact, I admitted to her that it remained a struggle, even into my adult years as a grown woman and a mom. In doing so, I wanted her to know we are always a work in progress when it comes to applying God’s truths to our everyday lives.
So, what are you waiting for? Discipling your daughter doesn’t have to be a chore. Come up with a plan; be creative; and be transparent. God will take care of the rest. The most important part is that you show up and fulfill the task He has given you.
Vicki Courtney is a speaker and the best-selling author of numerous books and Bible studies including Ever After, 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Daughters and 5 Conversations You Must Have With Your Sons. Among her latest releases are two books for tween girls, Can You Relate and What About Me, as well as a devotional for mothers and their tween daughters, Just Between Us. More information about Vicki can be found at VickiCourtney.com.