Raising Daughters in a World that Devalues Them: 7 Things We Must Tell Them

I took my daughter shopping one night over Spring Break. It’s flip flop and shorts weather down here in Texas about 10 months out of the year, not to mention my girl gets taller every minute. She passed me up months ago.

Shopping with my teenager should be fun. And mostly it is, except for the actual clothes-shopping-part. It’s so hard to find modest clothes. My teen doesn’t even ask for the shorty shorts any more, even though it’s challenging to find anything but in the stores.

“Why do they do it, Mom? Why do so many stores sell such immodest clothes for girls?” She was frustrated. It was a question I didn’t know how to answer. I think about how girls are viewed in this world and in return, how they view themselves. How do I tell my 13 year old daughter that sex sells? But I do tell her. She’s a smart girl and notices that some stores sell padded bikini bathing suit tops to 8 year olds.

It’s time for moms to be offended and stand up to giant stores like Victoria’s Secret and the way they sell sex to our daughters. Their new tween brand is called, “Bright Young Things,” and includes lace black cheeksters with the word “Wild” emblazoned on it, green and white polka-dot hipsters screen printed with “Feeling Lucky?” and a lace trim thong with the words, “Call me” on the front. Source.

“Our country is replete with an unprecedented number of young girls suffering from eating disorders and body mutilation, while pushing the limits of sexual promiscuity. Is this racy underwear modeled by unrealistically thin girls really the best that we have to offer our girls? In this age when female sex trafficking is becoming a wide-spread crisis, reaching into the depths of our inner cities, is it really responsible for Victoria’s Secret to entice our impressionable young girls with this “come hither” message?

Underwear that reads, “Call me” does nothing but cheapen a girl’s self-esteem while exacerbating the objectification of her God-given femininity. Our children are being objectified by retailers who see them as nothing more than a path to increased profits.”-Amy Gerwing

7 things we need to tell our daughters

We live in a world that hates girls.

Too harsh? I don’t think so. Globally, did you know that more than 200 million girls in our world have been aborted or abandoned in what is being called a “gendercide?” Many who survive, face neglect, violence and most likely sex trafficking. We might feel detached from this epidemic on this side of the world, but we aren’t. The Super Bowl is the biggest day for sex trafficking in the world and most major cities including the one closest to me, is a hub for young girls to be sold into sex slavery.

Coupled with the pornography industry, when you consider every second, 28,258 Internet users are viewing nude images of somebody’s daughter, it’s more than disturbing.  Source

Yesterday I read about a young girl who was raped. She was just six years old. I’ve heard of horror stories like these thru our work at Mercy House, but this wasn’t in distant Africa. It was in our county, 20-something miles away. I have an innocent six year old and I am sickened by the crime against this child.

And as if all that isn’t enough to turn a momma gray, the surge of aggressive girls taking the initiative with guys at a very young age, trying to lure them into sexual activity has increased dramatically :

What in the world is happening?

What is going on in the hearts of some young girls that causes them to be so assertive?  I think there are several reasons for what we are seeing: (from Family Life)

First, the culture is supporting it.  Movies, television shows, commercials, magazines, books …  they all glamorize sex and intimacy and the right of young women to go after whatever it is they think will make them happy.

Second, we have a whole generation of young men who are confused in their own sexual identity. Are they supposed to be sensitive or aggressive? Leaders or helpers?  Many young men today are not being taught how to treat a young lady with nobility, dignity, and respect. Many are growing up without a father or male figure to provide guidance.  As a result, some of these young men have no idea how they should expect to be treated by a real young lady.

Third, the breakdown of the family has resulted in a whole generation of daughters who have been abandoned. And in the absence of a healthy, emotional attachment to their fathers and mothers, they’re trying to fill their emotional gas tanks with the opposite sex.

Finally, there’s little or no preparation for adolescence occurring among parents of preteens or early teens.  This may be the core problem.  When you ask parents of preteens how many of them would like their children to have the same experience they had in adolescence, there aren’t many hands that go up.  But those same parents often become increasingly detached as their children move into the adolescent years.

Seven Things We Must Tell Our Daughters:

  1. You are Valuable:: She needs to know she is important and so valued that you will protect her with rules and boundaries because you love her. There is safety and comfort within those restrictions, even when she pushes against them.
  2. Your Worth Isn’t Based on Your Appearance:: She needs to be told she is beautiful–not because she’s wearing a sassy outfit or new lipgloss–her worth is not found in her appearance, the opinions of others or herself. She is beautiful because she was created in the image of God. Her appearance has little to do with true beauty and her worth isn’t wrapped up in looking good or being perfect.
  3. You Don’t Need a Guy:: She needs to hear starting at a young age (but it’s never too late to start telling her). She needs to be told a boy doesn’t complete her, God does. Chasing or enticing or wanting a guy doesn’t make her attractive and it doesn’t make her a woman. The only guy she needs in her life for a long time is her Dad or a father figure until God brings her a husband if that’s His plan.
  4. You Are Amazing:: Our daughters need to hear we are proud of them. She is enough. Tell her out of all the girls in the world, you’d always choose her. Sadly, she will be tempted to spend a lot of time in life trying to prove her value to others. Create an atmosphere where she is loved, just like she is.
  5. You Don’t Have to Believe What You Hear:: She needs to hear your affirming voice in her head. Because there will be mean girls in her life, peers with pressure and adults in her world who will let her down and have low expectations of her. She needs to hear the opposite at home, your voice will lead her to Him and she’ll know who to listen to.
  6. You Have Me:: No matter what happens in life, the ups and downs that will come her way, the losses and gains, our daughters must know we are there for them. She needs to know she can talk to you about anything. Anytime. More importantly, we can show her Jesus.
  7. You Can Change the World:: She needs to know she can dream big and can accomplish whatever she wishes. She can do so with God by her side and she doesn’t need a boy or society to make it happen. She can be anything she want to be with your help. Stand by her, with her and watch her fly.

I’m raising two daughters in this world and my heart cries for Jesus to rescue us all. But until He does, I can’t always protect or shield them, so I will tell them the truth. I can’t change (all this) in the world, but I can prepare them for it.

“Our daughters are precious, intrinsically valuable and deserve better — they deserve to be cherished and protected.” -Amy Gerwing

edited repost from the archives

5 Things Your Teen Wants You to Know

Remember when you brought your first baby home and you didn’t take them out of their carseat carrier all night because you were afraid if they woke up, you wouldn’t be able to put them back to sleep?

So you just watched them most of the night.

No? Maybe that was just me.

I was terrified of that 8 pound bundle of baby joy. She cried loud, fists clenched, purple face and that was just taking her socks off.

I was new on the job, uncertain, inexperienced, scared and she was totally the boss of me.

I was a new mom, trying to figure out what my baby needed. I learned that first night that kids bring out the best in you. And the worst. And this classroom of sticky floors has taught me that God uses parenting to reveal my weaknesses.

She’s gotten bigger and we’ve had our ups and downs. Our eyes have locked in the middle of stand downs. We’ve comforted each other, and loved our way back to one another. We have an imperfect relationship. I’ve learned a few things, but some days I feel like that new mom, trying to understand my teenager.

5 Things Our Teens Want Us to Know

I still have a lot to learn, but I’ve discovered 5 things our teens want us to know:

1. They are tired, the exhausted kind: Every time I see another parent of a teenager, I ask them about their teen’s schedule. And I get the same answer: it’s brutal. We held off a lot of extracurricular activities when my kids were younger and I’m so glad we did. Because high school is a whole different game. My daughter is in marching band and she has very long days and is up more than 20 hours on game days. Even without this extracurricular, her academic work load is heavy and then there is homework and projects. We may not be the norm, but across the board, teens don’t get enough sleep and they require more than most think. I’m cautioning her not to add more to her plate, letting her sleep in on the weekends, and mostly, acknowledging that she is tired and needs to rest.

2. They want time alone, but they don’t want to be alone: Teens need space. They want a place to listen to music, read or just relax. I’m learning to give my kids this freedom to unwind. At the same time, teens don’t want to feel alone in the world. They want to know we love them, we understand or we care even if we don’t get it.

3. They thrive on change. Sometimes: The scene goes something like this in our house: “Mom, I love eggs. Can you fix that for my breakfast?” I stock up on eggs and by Wednesday, “I never ever want to eat another egg.” And I’m like, huh? I read recently that teens thrive on change, but don’t stay at one place long. It’s part of their growth and development. Everything in their world is changing constantly–fashion and friends and they figuring out who they are. Remaining unchanged- a constant source of consistency will help them in this sometimes turbulent season.

4. They want you to look for the best in them, even at their worst: We all have horrible, bad, no-good days. I don’t want someone to summarize or stereotype me based on one of these and we shouldn’t do that to our kids either. Call it what it is and start every new day with a fresh start. Don’t hang yesterday’s bad day over their head.

5. They need you to try and understand their world: My favorite time of the day is at night when my older kids are in their rooms. After giving them some time alone to unwind, I like to enter their world, crawl on their bed and just wait for them to talk. They always do. I’ve learned important things going on in their lives when I’m quiet enough to listen. And I’ve discovered they want me to know them.

I love this time in my life with my teens. They challenge and inspire me. They make me laugh and sometimes, cry. We are learning together and making mistakes along the way. But I want them to know I’m on their side. I’m for them.

And sometimes, the best way to tell them is by listening to what they aren’t saying.

Talk to Me: Parenting Survey

Update: Wow, Thank you.

Congrats to random commenter #230 Julie K on winning the family shirts!

I’m in the middle of a big research project. I might even call it one of the biggest, most challenging writing projects of my life.

And I’m not even being dramatic.

I need 1000 people to complete this parenting survey (click over or complete it right here on my blog). It’s anonymous and mostly multiple choice. It will take a few minutes and when you’re done, if you leave a comment on this post, you’ll be entered to win “My family rocks” shirts for your entire immediate family! (Winner will be chosen randomly at the close of the survey).

Talk to me, people.

Would you also consider hitting Share on this post below to help spread the word?

Thanks, friends!

*updated to add* If some of the answers don’t fit your family, please feel free to leave your thoughts in the comment area. I’m not trying to prove entitlement. I think it’s already been proven in our culture. I’m just trying to determine if we think it’s a problem in our homes and how we are trying to teach our kids to be grateful in light of it. Thank you!

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey , the world’s leading questionnaire tool.

What We Need to Say to the Mean Girls

“I asked my friend if she would fold me a fortune teller out of paper like she did for the other girls,” my daughter told me after school.

“But she said she only makes them for her prettiest friends,” she said and her lip quivered.

That girl is not your friend, I whispered in her ear.

It’s my second time to have a second grade daughter and this isn’t our first rodeo with mean girls. But that doesn’t make it any easier.

I hugged my little girl and reminded her that not only was she beautiful on the outside, she was on the inside, too–where it really mattered.

“What did you say to her?” I asked, trying not to show my anger.

Nothing. She said. I turned away from her.

Sometimes the best thing to say to a mean girl is just that–Nothing. It speaks volumes.

whattosaytothemeangirls

Like most 7 year old girls, mine is obsessed with cheerleading, much to her older (band member) siblings dismay. “This will pass, right mom?”

She’s never been a cheerleader, never really performed a cheer, but that doesn’t stop her from joining the other second grade girls from cheering for the boys playing football at recess. We are the Texas stereotype down here. The struggle is real.

My daughter explains one of the girls who is a “real live cheerleader for her brother’s team” has put herself in charge. So naturally, she tells everyone what to do, where to stand, what to say. She’s the “Cheer Coach of the Second Grade” if you will.

On the playground, after this had been going on for a few days, a new girl wanted to join the “squad.” But the Coach wouldn’t let her “because she didn’t like the dress” the new girl was wearing.

It was at this point in the retelling of the story, I stopped my daughter, “What did you say about that?”

“Well, Mom, I felt bad for the new girl. She’s really nice and I liked her dress,” my daughter said. “And it made me sad when she sent her away.”

She finished her story, but I could tell we weren’t done.

Because sometimes the best thing we can say to a mean girl is stop.

“Honey, you know that yucky feeling you had when your “friend” said you weren’t pretty? It’s the exact same way the new girl felt when she was excluded. Here’s the thing about girls who are mean-they change the rules. What happens if you wear red tomorrow and she decides everyone wearing red can’t cheer? I think if you stand up for your new friend, you both might feel better.”

And I could tell by the look on her face, she was thinking hard about this. I knew she understand standing up for someone being targeted, might make you the target.

After school the next day over a snack, she said very nonchalantly, “Mom, it worked. The girl in charge changed her mind and now everyone gets to cheer.”

Moms, here’s where we get to teach our daughters and speak into their lives that we are sisters. We protect each other. We support one another. We turn away from the mean girls by saying nothing. And sometimes we tell them to stop making up their own rules because we won’t follow them. Because when we go along with something wrong, we aren’t helping. We can encourage our daughters to stand up for each other.

It didn’t take more than two weeks of school for my daughter to encounter her first mean girl. It happens. And maybe that little girl wasn’t even trying to be mean, but she was asserting control over others. You know what’s crazy? We’ve all seen it in grown up women and it’s just as ugly.

We can live by the same rules. The next time a friend  talks badly about another or excludes someone, we can do the same thing we want our girls to do.

My Family Rocks (Even When It Doesn’t)

Friday mornings around my house are hectic.

With one kid in the high school marching band with a football game at night, it means for a very long day. This past Friday was no different, except that my marcher overslept, my son had to be at junior high early and my youngest was still asleep. My husband and I tag teamed it and while I took my son to school in the dark, he went the opposite direction with our girls, one still in pajamas.

There was traffic and a bad hair day and drama in the car and a lot of oh-my-goodness-the-weekend-is-almost-here thoughts.

Our second grader is years behind her siblings and usually takes their schedule in stride. But not on Friday.

What started out as a small thing, quickly grew to a full blown meltdown. You know the kind. At one point, she was so angry, she started spouting off all the bad words she knew, words like dumb and stupid and shut up. And then she let out the big one she read on the wall at the taco bar we visited this summer. The one I hoped she had forgotten. I knew it was a mistake eating there when she read loudly off the wall “The best damn tacos around” as we were ordering. A good reader has its disadvantages.

We hushed her and told her that was a bad word. Our first mistake.

Because when you’re riding in your pajamas, taking your sister to high school and you’re not getting your way, those bad words are the first thing you think of. Oh, sin nature, you do start early.

She used the word completely wrong and it wasn’t funny at all-the whole morning was a disaster, and when I looked down at the shirt I was wearing, I really wanted to laugh.

photo 4

Sometimes I think people think our family has it all together. Childless young married couples have told us, “We want our family to be like yours one day.” Oh, to be a fly on our wall.  Sure, we run a non-profit and we said yes to God and it looks good from the outside…like we are perfect parents with perfect kids. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. We are a big fat disaster most days and that’s why it’s remarkable. Because God uses weak, messy people to change the world.

Two out of three of our kids told us we were mean parents that morning. I don’t know what’s wrong with the third one.

But after taking her consequence like a boss, my little girl hugged us hard and apologized. I chaperoned the marching band on Friday night and thought I saw pride in my high schooler’s eyes. And most of all, I was reminded that my family rocks.

Even, when it doesn’t. Especially then.

We are just [damn] normal.

And I have the t-shirt to prove it.

Get yours here.