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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?