My 7-year-old daughter Annie and I have enjoyed making lots of memories together. After having two boys, though, I quickly realized that caring for my daughter’s heart requires its own unique approach.
Talk about a learning curve!
Thankfully, I now know a little more about how to do that than I did the day she was born in that South Florida hospital.
My own mother used to say she never heard “I love you” growing up. I know I didn’t hear it much either. To break the cycle, I showered Annie with “I love you” out of the gate. It might have even become a little annoying, now that I think about it.
But as Annie has grown, I’ve realized she needs to hear other things too—things that make her feel secure and valued in other ways. Annie’s face lights up when she hears these things. Her heart softens and her identity strengthens.
So what do I say to my daughter? Read on, and try using some of these phrases with your own daughter. They’ll help her to develop the confidence, security and self-worth to become the woman God intends her to be.
1. Say this: “Remember who you are.”
Your daughter needs to be reminded that she is a daughter of the King and that He cares. She needs to know that in the middle of her pre-adolescent drama, everything is going to be okay because Jesus loves her enough to die for her.
Even for a young girl, this puts things in perspective fast. And if she can get this in her heart now, she’ll be able to avoid unnecessary drama and resist harmful temptations for the rest of her life because she’s resting in the security of her Father’s love.
2. Say this: “I love your mom.”
When I say this and model it with my behavior, I achieve two things. First, Annie feels secure in a loving, stable home. Second, she’s developing a standard for how men should treat women and what love should look like in her own future. If we parents can set the standard for healthy spousal love that our daughters can maintain when they seek out husbands, we will have given them a tremendous gift.
3. Say this: “Just because it’s on sale doesn’t mean you saved money.”
My little girl isn’t a teenager yet, but those years are coming fast and furious. (Pray for me!) And if there’s anything I know about teenage girls, it’s that they’re a species whose natural habitat is the mall. That’s why I’m trying to prepare Annie early, before those years hit, to be wise with her cash when her friends might not be.
By teaching her that “sale” doesn’t always equal “savings,” I’m trying to help her understand that sales can actually be a store’s really sneaky way of parting you and your money. That’s because you still have to spend money at a sale—often money you hadn’t planned on spending in the first place!
How many black dresses will she really need, anyway?
If I teach her this lesson often enough, I’m hoping it’ll be the start of money wisdom she’ll carry into adulthood.
4. Say this: “How does that make your heart feel?”
How many adults do you know who are closed off or have a tough time expressing their feelings in a healthy and mature way? How about adults who aren’t really sure why some things irritate them while other things fulfill them?
By asking our daughters to consider their feelings, it not only opens up a lot of healthy dialogue, but it also encourages them to think through their feelings and handle their emotions in a healthy way.
And maybe most importantly, it’s an opportunity for me to just listen to her share her heart, which teaches her that her thoughts and opinions have value.
5. Say this: “You are beautiful.”
This one is so much fun! When I tell Annie she’s beautiful, I can see her heart come alive through her eyes and smile. One time, about 10 minutes after I told her this, I saw her through the crack in her bedroom door repeating what I’d told her in front of her mirror.
Our words are so powerful! If our daughters believe that they’re truly beautiful when they’re young, they won’t look in all the wrong places for affirmation later.
These five small phrases have been huge for my relationship with Annie. It’s my hope that the important conversations we’re having together now will prevent some of the possible issues that could arise as she gets older.
Let’s not lose the chance to shape our daughters’ hearts and futures. And good news, parents! If you feel you may have already messed this up, it’s never too late. These phrases can heal and restore, as well. So be encouraged to love your daughters well.