12 things your daughter needs you to say

In high school, I loved all those little sayings I heard Christians say. You know the ones - When God closes a door, he opens a window. Or Don’t put God in a box! My personal favorite was when one of my friends in my small group went through a break up with a boy, our small group leader proudly announced: Rejection is protection! And we all promptly dove for our journals to write that one in big, bold letters.

12 things

I tried to use that one once  on my current small group to see what they would do. They just stared at me and rolled their eyes. Then they laughed because they knew I was joking.

Maybe teenagers in 1995 were a lot more corny than teenagers in 2013. Or maybe it was just me.

There are things our daughters (and sons, too!) need to hear us say. And even though the clichés may encourage some of them and may look cute on a poster, they will most likely fall flat on young ears. Here is my best attempt to come up with 12 non-cliché things our daughters need to hear us say.

12 Things Your Daughter Needs You to Say - by emily p. freeman1. I have hope.

could tell her “Have hope.” But, I speak as a daughter here, it means more to me to see my parents have hope than for them to tell me to have hope. My hope (or lack thereof) speaks louder to her than my words about hope.

Show her you have hope – you trust God with your family, you have hope for her future, you see light in dark places.

2. Live with God rather than for God.

It is common to tell young people to live their lives for God. And though I get the sentiment, I have seen how telling her to live for God can be confusing. The truth is the life she now lives, she lives by faith in Jesus. To tell her to live for God could lead her to try to perform for acceptance rather than living from the acceptance that is already hers in Christ.

God isn’t sitting out in the audience of her life, waiting for her to get things in order. No, he’s standing with her on stage. Even better, he stands within her. Remind her of her kind, compassionate, powerful companion who goes with her wherever she goes.

3. I’m sorry.

Of all the words I’ve ever spoken to my children, these two seem to have had the most powerful impact. Admit you are wrong when you are wrong and own the consequences.

12 things 1

4. Be who you already are.

She needs to be reminded of who she is, not who she is expected to be. In Christ, she is loving, even if she is acting unloving. In Christ, she is patient, even if she is acting impatient. Appeal to her new creation identity rather than simply shaming her for her wrong behavior.

Tell her she is beloved. Tell her she is beautiful. Remind her what is already true. Invite her to live into the truth of who Christ is forming her to be.

5.You can’t save people.

Only God can do that. I grew up with a mom who knew Jesus and a dad who didn’t. So I spent four years of my young life carrying the weight of my dad’s salvation on my shoulders. The story ends well as he accepted Jesus when I was 11. But looking back I realize what a ridiculous expectation I put on myself. Remind her to pray for those who don’t believe, but to never carry the weight of trying to save them on her own.

6. I’m trusting Jesus. Want to join me?

John says this one a lot to our kids (our twin girls are 9 and our son is 6) when our family is in the midst of a transition or facing something potentially scary. It may seem a little corny for older ones, but the message it sends is this - I am trusting God and am okay whether you join me or not. I invite you to join me and would love for you to join me, but the choice is entirely yours. 

I’ve heard it said you can’t make a kid eat, sleep, or use the bathroom. And I’m going to add this: you can’t make a kid trust God. Remind her that your faith is your own and so is hers.

7. You have something to offer the world.

I realize this dances dangerously close to You are a unique snowflake. But it’s kind of true, isn’t it? She is the only one of her there has ever or will ever be. She is made in the image of God and has the distinct privilege of carrying that unique image around in the world. Christ lives within her and will come out of her through the filter of her unique personality. Remind her she has something (lots of somethings, actually) to offer the world. Walk with her as she experiments with what those things might be.

8. I trust Christ in you.

When I was in high school and would have a problem I was trying to work through, my dad would listen and offer advice, but he would often end our talks with this statement: “You know where to go.” He never freaked out, never tried to push me into a decision. He could have said “I trust you” and that would have built my confidence some. But what I knew was that he actually trusted Christ in me – and that is where the mystery Paul speaks about in Colossians 1:27 comes in – Christ is in me. So it’s me, but it’s him, but it’s me, but it’s him – what a beautiful mystery indeed.

For me, knowing my parents trusted me built my confidence – but knowing they trusted Christ in me took the pressure off.

9. You are deeply loved.

Or, to put it a little differently, I like to use these words from Andrew Murray:

why does God love us?

10. You are not alone.

This could be one of the most heartbreaking realities I see among girls – they feel so desperately alone. Remind her you are with her, Christ is with her, and be careful not to try to fix her loneliness. This may be the very intimate place where Jesus could show her his companionship as he never has before.

11. Want to go get some FroYo?

She might roll her eyes. She might say no thanks, Mom. She might rather spend time with her friends. Keep asking. When and if she finally says yes and you have the chance to sit across from her with a cup full of cake-batter flavored frozen yogurt with strawberries and gummy worms on top, look into her eyes and release your own agenda. If she wants to talk about the weather, let her talk about the weather. Be curious. Be open. Be available to her even if it seems like she doesn’t care if you’re available or not.

She does care. She absolutely cares.

12. ________

No, that’s not a typo. Sometimes the one thing our girls need to hear us say is nothing at all. Words mean nothing if our lives don’t speak for us. I am personally aware of how I sometimes use words of belief to cover up for my lack of real belief in my daily life. It’s easier to tell my kids a bunch of things that are true than it is to live as though I believe those things are true.

12 things to tell our daughters

I’m reminded of a story Brennan Manning shared in The Wisdom of Tenderness of the elderly Uncle Seamus who joyfully skipped along the Irish shoreline. And when his nephew asked him, “Uncle Seamus, you look so very happy. Do you want to tell me why?”

And he responded, “Yes, lad. You see, the Father is very fond of me. Ah, me Father is so very fond of me.”

May we be able to speak love into the lives of our girls only and always because our Father speaks love into us – and may we say with Uncle Seamus, the Father is very fond of me.

As I said before, this list is by no means exhaustive. I’m sure tomorrow I could come up with 12 more. But since I shared earlier this week one thing your daughter doesn’t need you to say, I thought it only appropriate to offer some things she might need to hear. And if I’m very honest, I need to hear them, too.

12 things your daughter needs you to say

What would you add to the list?

Want a resource to read with the teen girl in your life? I wrote a book called Graceful just for her. Read the first chapter here for free or watch the 3-minute mini-movie

Comments

  1. Cindy says

    Hi, Emily. I really appreciate this blog entry. Thank you. I have a 16 year old daughter and a 26 year old daughter. The 16 year old is like an only child now, as her sister is married and on her own – out of state. My relationship with the 16 year old is quite strained – due to both of us being who we are. To be able to speak these things into her life would be wonderful. I will indeed pray about that. I especially like number 4. God bless you richly!

  2. says

    Why is it always the simple things I forget? Totally going to invite my daughter to FroYo this weekend. Every single one of these is gold. It’s amazing what just saying the words “you are not alone in this” to one of my children in a hard or distressing situation does to their spirits. It’s all we ever really need to know isn’t it? That there is one somebody willing to walk with us in the hard stuff.
    Thank you for this post, Emily.
    Dena´s last blog post ..This might not work

  3. says

    This is so good Emily. Thank you! I have noticed the common cliches can be for some a landing place, and that can become a bondage place. Your time studying and writing is a blessing. I think the 12 things could be for the boys too. I will share this with my email-list. :)
    Kathy Schwanke´s last blog post ..All This Talk About Heaven

  4. says

    In light of the “doesn’t” post, I was glad to see this as a follow up!!! I love your perspective here….Our words are soooo powerful. Using them to communicate our personal hope in God is such a key! Kids know what adults (especially in the church) want from them….What they need is their eyes off of manpleasing and onto God knowing!
    Victoria´s last blog post ..S’more, Please

  5. Lori says

    Great words of wisdom when I’m not in the mood to deal with teenager stuff. My almost-13 year old is constantly on top of me and always has something to say about everything I do. This is a good reminder to be gentler, even if I don’t feel that way.

  6. Lisa B. says

    All I can say is, ‘Wow!’ I so needed this encouragement today in communicating with my sweet daughter. Thank you for your insight and for your obvious love for teenage girls. My soon to be 17 year old daughter will be a senior next year and my mind is racing with all the things I want to share with her and show her before she leaves for college! Thank you for helping me make a ‘short’ list. You’ve mentioned some of the very things I want to touch on with her in the next 12 months. God knows what our girls will face in this modern world and anything to encourage and support their walk with Him beyond our homes is my goal! Look forward to subscribing to your blog. May God bless your ministry!

  7. Shanon says

    Emily, thank you. What I would have given to hear these things when I was young! I can’t tell you what they mean to me even today. My husband and I don’t have any children, but I’ve tucked this post away for them someday if God does bless us with them. Thank you for letting Him speak through you.

  8. Jennifer says

    This relates back to yesterday’s post, but I found the Uncle Seamus story very similar to my final thoughts after a lot of temptation to seek approval on Mother’s Day. Here is the post I sent to a friend:

    I am not and never have been or even thought I could be perfect… but that doesn’t mean that I don’t struggle with the desire to please people, especially my mother. As Sunday was Mother’s Day and I went with Mother to a funeral service, we did not have a lot of time to talk but I was in tears on the way home because I knew she did not approve of me. It took so much praying to remind myself that I do not need her approval. My God loves me, yes, me! – But I think I will add to that, “Ah, me Father is so very fond of me.” It just makes me feel like I got a hug from my Heavenly Daddy.

    (BTW, my mom is a very special lady. She just has a very hard time relating to me and I have the same problem relating to her. We are so very different.)

  9. says

    This is lovely. Because grandmothers also play such an important role in a child’s live, the only thing I sould add is that…things GRANDmothers also need to say. By including grandmothers in children’s lives we significantly improve their chances of understanding and growing in God, and in building their confidence. Thank you for your lovely posts.

  10. Dianne says

    Such encouraging words to a mom with three daughters. I would also add: stay in community with other Christians. Something I’ve let slip as I mother five kids. I am trying so hard to make it a priority, and it is hard to start new at my age!

  11. says

    I’m an email subscriber and I’ve never clicked over to comment, but I wanted to tell you how much I’ve appreciated these last two posts about daughters! Mine is only 3 1/2 but I’m already struggling with how to teach her to live from the inside out, honestly and confidently and joyfully! She’s a PK, so I know she’ll feel extra pressure to make her Christian life a performance instead of her true identity. Thank you for your wise words!
    Lindsey´s last blog post ..On Casting down my Golden Crown, or Not

  12. Ro elliott says

    I love this….I am now an old mom of a 16 yr old…my oldest being 30….I am still learning…sometimes I wish I had a redo button….I really want my youngest to really be ok with her strength and weaknesses….I have learning issues and she seemed to get the gift from me….so I want her to really embrace all of who God created her to be…that God doesn’t make mistakes….not one above another …no one less than….so don’t compare yourself with others….some people’s skills are more measurable….art….scores…but some gift may only be seen by those who love us…who know us….first God…then family…friends…and one day she might be blessed with a man like I was…one who loved me into a more courageous place.

  13. Anitra says

    I would add……”Stop trying so hard. The answer lies in surrender.” I think too many times we try to do things ourselves. We try to have more self control. More patience. More love. We try to be a better friend etc. But in reality, it is God who gives us strength. It is the Holy Spirit who fills us up and then those characteristics flow out of us. It is not us trying harder. It is us surrendering our weaknesses, flaws, battles, worries and fears at Jesus’ feet. Surrender, not try harder.

  14. says

    I just found you through a friend posting your last blog post on facebook. WOW! I am just in love!! I don’t have kids yet, but can imagine this is exactly how I want to raise my daughter. This is good stuff for me to soak in for my own heart! You could easily rename this “12 things your friends need to hear you say!” I love your “I trust Christ in you.” I have said that for years and love it when people say that to me. It is so freeing!!

  15. Caroline says

    True. I am 13 almost 14 and these are some powerful things to hear. :0) If every girl my age heard these from at least one person in her life, maybe there wouldn’t be so much pain in teenage girls…

    Thank You for writing this.

  16. Jami Balmet says

    This is so beautiful! Thank you for sharing this wisdom and insight!! I only have boys (but Lord willing we will have a girl) but will remember this for the future!!

  17. says

    I love this. Thank you. My oldest daughter is 8. She is quickly maturing before my eyes and as a recovering “good girl” myself I often wonder how best to nurture her so that she can be her authentic self. I appreciate your insight much more than you know.
    Sara´s last blog post ..“Good Moms…”

  18. says

    So good, Emily. I don’t have any daughters of my own, but I have plenty of young girls in my life with whom I can share : ) I so wish I had been told these things in my younger years, but hearing them now is just as helpful. Thank you.
    Pam´s last blog post ..Just remember this . . .

  19. says

    Great, great article. Thank you for speaking these truth to encourage mothers and their conversations with their daughters. I know I am taking this to heart.

  20. says

    Four nights. Three projects. Two females. One goal. Last night was the first night without tears! We celebrated and congratulated ourselves on the projects and the way we communicated. I agree that they need to know that we struggle and have found it such a relief when I can look at her and say I don’t know, I don’t get it. It’s the one corner of parenthood where it seems better to “be a friend, not an example.”

  21. says

    I love this post! I’ve heard a few similar sayings growing up, but not from the perspective you’ve listed here. I love all your points and especially #2…live with God vs for God. I’m glad to know that I’m also speaking many of these things into my daughter, but definitely need to do it more consistently and not leave any thing out .
    Hope´s last blog post ..40 B4 40 List

  22. says

    Do you know what? I’m going to come back later and read this again. And I’m going to bookmark it so I can read it again and again and again. Because we are one-third of the way through middle school around here and times, they are a changin’. I am feeling oh so without the right words and oh so prone to spew the wrong ones. You are a voice of grace and hope and I am needing it badly right now. Thank you friend. : )

    Also, I never hear “rejection is protection” but that is GOLD. Such gold.
    Scooper´s last blog post ..Homes Updates: Anatomy of a Gallery Wall

  23. Diane Arnold says

    Wow! How very true and inspiring – and I have three sons! But, as you said, these are things that our daughters (and our sons) need to hear us say – true, true, true! Thank you for sharing.

  24. Deb says

    I would not limit my words about or get images of God to masculine ones. God is neither make nor female. God is our Father and Mother AND Redeemer AND Spirit. Lets broaden our vocabulary and our images of God — which indeed are biblical.

  25. says

    Emily,
    I just discovered your website, and I am so encouraged by the things you write. As a woman who grew up in typical Christian culture and have been recently learning what living WITH Christ really means, I have experienced much of what you write about. I find it so encouraging to know that the next generation of women have people pointing them to Christ, and it challenges me to do the same.
    Lindsey´s last blog post ..Therefore I tell you…

  26. says

    Thank you so much for this post. While my own daughter is only 3 years old (but hey, I can start early with her…), I help teach the 5th grade girls at our church. I need to know how to say these things because THEY need to know these things. I’m bookmarking this one, probably printing it too. Thank you for sharing what you’ve learned along the way.

  27. says

    Yep, every single one of those is awesome, Emily. One more that I tell my daughter is that she’s my wonderful girl. I also remind her that she’s wonderful because God made her, not because of anything she’s done. And then I tell her again that she’s my wonderful girl.

    Cheers,
    Tim

    P.S. Even wrote a guest post on it for Jaimie over at Living in the Light. (Link to the link, in case anyone’s got nothing better to do: http://timfall.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/advice-is-overrated-encouragement-isnt/)
    Tim´s last blog post ..Huntin’ Bear with Jesus!

  28. says

    Thank you, Emily. Saving this for the years that lie ahead. (My girls are 7, 4 and 11 months now–and I have a strong feeling I will be reading this more than once, or twice.)

  29. Jessica says

    Thank you for this. My daughter is 8, so some of these things already apply and some will be tucked away for our next big talk. However, as the wife of a youth pastor, I’ll be using 7 of these statements as I counsel a young lady with an eating disorder today. The words you’ve provided are sure to be a precious life-line for her as she navigates this dark place. Thanks for allowing God to use you and for equipping me to be used, too.

  30. says

    What wonderful advice. I have 3 daughters of my own, each having at one point ‘accepted’ Jesus, but now live life their own way, not following Jesus. But all of the advice is still excellent, even if they don’t acknowledge Jesus in their lives. It’s important for them to see me acknowledging Jesus in my life, and trusting Him to work in their lives, even when they don’t really believe, ya know? Consistent non-judging, accepting, caring love is the key to building and keeping relationships, and helping them to see that they are meaningful, vibrant and valued women both to me and to God. It was wonderful to read your list, and I thank you for the thoughtfulness you put into it.

  31. says

    Love these :-) So many wonderful and wise ideas here. One I’d add is “Wanna snuggle?” Somehow we forget our daughters need physical affection even more after they’ve hit puberty — hugs, snuggles, kisses, hair brushing, toenail painting — to fill up that love tank.
    Rebecca´s last blog post ..How to Camouflage Meaty Upper Arms

  32. says

    My daughters are mama’s of young children. I love to remind them that they are great mothers. That they know just what they need to know to take care of their children. That Im praying for them and so grateful that are great God has chosen them to mother my grandkids!

  33. says

    This post was fantastic! And, I do agree when you say teenagers were different back in 95. I remember all those saying from my parents and grandparents. It made a whole difference to me. Thanks for sharing these beautiful words of encouragement. Have a blessed day.

  34. says

    My husband and I just found out we’re expecting our first child. I can barely wrap my mind around the fact that I could have a daughter myself in 8 months who needs me to say these things! (Or a son who will need me to say essentially the same things, but in more boy terms.) Thank you so much for this wonderful, practical application of what solid parenting looks like. I know I’m on this side of the situation, but it seems to me that parenting really is about leading your child’s heart to the Lord, evangelizing your children as it were, more than anything else. Thanks again!

  35. Amanda says

    Have you by any chance read the book “WITH” by Skye Jethani. He writes about living life “with” God instead of
    For, from, under, and over. Beautiful book(he just so happens to be my husband) I really enjoy your writing-thank you for blessing us all.

  36. SLB says

    I don’t have any children (unfortunately), but I love what you have to say. My mother continually defended a counselor that I thought wasn’t competent and, in fact, unknowingly contributed to my problems. All I really wanted was for my mother to be on my side. Finally, she said she wished she hadn’t sent me to her and my anger began to dissipate. I just wanted her to say she’d made a mistake, she could see my side and that she was sorry.
    As a woman, I also think it is SO important to love your children as they are, not for who you want them to be and to tell them you love their uniqueness, you are so proud and yes, (possibly despite a bad situation) you are hopeful for the life ahead of them. Of course, children mimic what they see… so it’s good to love your uniqueness as well. And I think your daughters are very lucky to have you for a mother.

  37. JenX73 says

    Based on this first chapter of Graceful, I am absolutely ordering it for my graduating-from-high-school-in-June niece (also an Emily) who is a wonderful, lovely Good Girl. Much like her mother and her two aunts. Also seriously thinking of ordering a second copy for me. And perhaps third and fourth copies for her mom and other aunt!

    Thank you for saying all the things that have been in my head all these years.

  38. Jacqui says

    This was a wonderful, wonderful post. I am excited to start sharing these with my daughter (5 almost 6). Thanks for keeping it simple, honest and directing the praise, glory and focus where it should be.

  39. says

    Coming from a Daughter’s perspective, I loooove this post! I also really enjoyed the previous post about what you should never say to your daughter. Growing up in a Christian household and in church my whole life I’ve heard “you need to be an example” waaaaay too much and it really does put so much pressure on young people. I’m also studying scripture now trying to figure out why we put so much pressure on kids who grow up in church…I have found that Christ is the example we are to follow, and past Christian’s lives have shown us an example of what not to do…. but it take me a little while, I want to study more.

    The only thing I would add to this post is: I have confidence in you. My dad tells me that all the time and it’s so encouraging to know that even if I don’t quite have confidence that I can do something, I know my daddy does and it’s helped me to view my father God the same way. Even of I don’t have the confidence in myself to get something done, I know my father God has so much confidence in me and I can do the impossible through Christ who gives me strength!

  40. says

    Such a lovely article. Daughters are so precious, aren’t they! Going to share this with a friend who has a 20 year old daughter but sadly their relationship is so strained. So much that they don’t want to talk to each other. I hope she makes an effort to change things.

  41. says

    I’ve recently started following you and am so encouraged to discover you. I too am a pastor’s wife and have a heart for teenagers. Our oldest will be a sophomore and I began teaching a Bible study of she and her friends when they were in 6th grade. It is hard to find good material for teenagers that is not just fluff, but gets to the root of what is going on in their heart, uncovering the idols and giving them grace. I plan to read your books this summer and then use them with my girls!
    Would love to connect sometime as I am working on a book for teenagers that I hope to also have published.
    And, look forward to reading more on your blog and hearing what doors God opens up for you and your husband and family to walk through.
    Kristen Hatton´s last blog post ..Welcome Wootens

  42. Jiin says

    This post is really sweet… and really true. (I also read the one on “one thing your daughter doesn’t need you to say”.)
    I’m 18, and I wish my mom would ask me out to FroYo. It’s hard to be the initiator when I want to talk… and it’s hard that I can’t talk to my mom when I need a mom’s advice.
    I wish my mom would realize I have struggles too, I’m not perfect, and though I was born in a Christian family I fail miserably at times.
    Then again, I wish I could tell myself the same things.

    I’m going off to college in a month. I’m going to be thousands and thousands of miles away from my family. I hope I’ll be able to have a really good, important talk with my mom before I leave. I’d love to show her this post but she’s not so good with English. (We’re not American).
    Thanks

    • says

      To Jiin:

      You post really touched my heart. When I was 9 we lived in Chattanoonga, TN, the largest city I had ever lived it at the time. Once a month my dad would take a handkerchief and wrap it around bills (money) and tie it to my wrist. Then give me the money to ride the bus to downtown. I rode the bus and made my way to where my mother worked as a bookkeeper. I sat very quietly while she finished what she was doing, and then she took the money off my wrist and we walked to the realtor office where she paid the rent.

      Then my mother took me to the drugstore where they had a soda fountain counter (don’t know if any exist any more and surely not in a drugstore or pharmacy.) She would buy us each a cherry Coke from the soda fountain. We would sit on the stools at the counter and sip our cokes. I don’t remember anything we talked about, but I remember how special it made me feel to have a Coca-Cola with my mother. As a child of four, I think it was the only time that I had special time alone with her. As I remember it seemed like the only time she smiled at me.

      As a teenager it seemed like she worked all the time and I was busy working too. I wish I had asked my mother to take me for a Coke, just the two of us, and wish that I could have felt free to talk to her about all that was going on with me

      So, please do, find a way to have a special moment with your Mom. Just say, “Mom, I sure would like to go to FroYo with you.” And see what she says. She may be surprised that you ask. Tell her it will be fun. She may be shy about initiating too… but go and have fun with your Mom. I will pray that you will have an open talk with her. Ask the Lord to let it happen for you and your Mom and I’m sure He will open the doors for you to share with her what you want to say.

      God bless you Jiin!

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