How to Raise a Daughter

The other day I was at a meeting and mentioned that our daughter is graduating from college this weekend. Someone at the meeting, only half in jest, said, “Can you please tell us how to raise a daughter?” It got a big laugh. But I also saw the seriousness in the eyes of the one who made the request.

I got to thinking that the job has, indeed, been done. My wife, Tammy, and I have raised (past tense) a daughter. I believe that college graduation is the marking of that event.

While I will readily admit I made plenty of mistakes along the way, I am very happy to say that both Tammy and I are very proud of the woman our daughter, Ashlyn, has become. Many of the things we dreamed for, hoped for, and planned for have come to fruition: she has a college degree; she avoided the pitfalls of the teenage and college years; and, more than anything, she is a strong, church-going Christian.

I’m not presumptuous enough to say that I have all the answers, or that I could prescribe the perfect way to raise a daughter. But following are ten things that could very well contribute to successfully raising a daughter:

  1. When she is young, read to her. I have fond memories of reading picture books, short novels, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, and a children’s Bible every night before bed. To this day Ashlyn is an avid reader.
  2. Express your love to her as frequently and often as you possibly can. We had a little ritual every night where I would kiss her on the cheek and say: “You’re the best…little girl…in the world.” She was loved and affirmed.
  3. Strongly encourage, support, and reward good study habits. In our case this definitely took two parents. I have no clue about math. Tammy defers to me in the areas of writing and English. We made sure that we were there to help with homework, prod when necessary, and celebrate good grades (sometimes even monetarily).
  4. Provide extra-curricular creative outlets. From early on Ashlyn had a flair for the dramatic and a desire to be on stage. We sacrificed so that she could spend as much time as she could doing things related to theatre. We took her to auditions. We enrolled her in First Stage Summer Academy. We gave her dance lessons and voice lessons.
  5. Encourage her to pursue what she loves. For some kids theatre is a passing fancy. For Ashlyn it was something she wanted to pursue as a career. We never told her she couldn’t, or put a road block in the way. It was always our philosophy to  encourage her to “do what you love and love what you do.”
  6. Love your spouse. There is no better way for a daughter to see and know what love is than to be assured that her parents love each other.
  7. Compliment her looks, her style, her brain, and her talent. There are enough things in this world that can beat a girl down. Make sure that she feels good about herself by going out of your way to provide compliments and kudos.
  8. Balance firm discipline with age-appropriate latitude. As children are growing up they need boundaries. They will test those boundaries. Those boundaries need to remain firm. When those boundaries are crossed there must be consequences. On the other hand, with age comes more freedom and responsibility. Let out an appropriate amount of slack.
  9. Communicate with her. Tammy and I made it our business to always stay in contact with Ashlyn…know what she was doing and where she was going. We were careful not to be overbearing about it, but just made it a regular part of living together in our family. Once she went to college our good communications continued. I am not ashamed to say that she and I or she and Tammy still speak on the phone nearly every day. We communicate. That’s what parents and daughters do.
  10. Take her to church, bring her up in the church, make church a regular part of every week. When she is a child take her to church and Sunday School every Sunday. When she is in high school make church attendance an expectation, not an option. When she is in college, personally help her find a church home that is suitable to her. This includes praying for her and with her all along the way. Bar none, this is the most important of these ten items.

What items would you add to this list?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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13 thoughts on “How to Raise a Daughter

  1. Outstanding! As the mother of two already grown-up sons, this list strikes a chord within me. I forwarded this to my boys, as they are both raising daughters. I love your comment in #10…making church an expectation, not an option. Too often, parents are afraid of offending their kids and not making church attendance and church activities a priority in their lives. So, so important! Thank you for making a difference in your daughter's life and in the lives of others!

  2. Thank You.

    As the father of two girls, ages 4 1/2 and 6 months old, (with a boy in between) it's good to hear a "success story" amidst all the stories of broken hearts, pregnancies, abortions, divorces, and daughters who have left the church. I've heard so many versions of "what not to do" that words cannot describe how your words bring me much-needed and much-longed-for hope. May God continue to bless you and your family.

  3. As I have observed these past 13 years, You have certainly done a fantastic job. Sixteen years ago today, I held the hand os my son as his life left him. His last words to me where "Dad, take care os my boys", they weere 16, 11, and 6. Today they are 31, 25 and 22, great members of society. We have to take life as it is given to us. Each day, I ask myself, Why am I still here and he is not, he had so much to offer. Congratulations to your daughter.

  4. Tom, as the middle of three daughters, and with three daughters myself, I obviously loved your post and your top 10. Your reflections are so true! We're not close to college graduation, but I would add "Sing to her as often as possible." I still have vivid memories of my grandma and my mom singing to me and with me. Also, "Remind her that she is a gift from God and a child of God." Thanks for your positive encouragement!

  5. eventhough I'm not a mother, but as a daughter to my mother who has passed away 10 years ago, I remember her taking me to church, reading to me, being there to help me with homework when I needed help, singing the silly but cherrished childhood songs (and making up a couple of dances too). She will always be in my heart for all that she has done for me.

    • What great memories. Thank you for sharing them. And thank you for stopping by and commenting. It is much appreciated.

  6. Love this! I have 2 daughters in college, both theater majors, so it sounds like we have much in common. I agree with every single one of the things on your list. The only thing I might add, although I’m sure it was true for you, is to find ways to have fun and laugh together. That probably springs naturally from all the other things on your list, but I know during the serious days and hard times, the sense of humor in our family saved us. Congratulations on your daughter’s graduation! Aren’t daughters wonderful? 🙂