This article is part of the Questions and Answers series.
1. How can I encourage my daughter’s growth in Christ?
Christian parents pray the Lord will draw their daughter’s heart to him. Long before she is old enough to understand the words in the Bible, each story we read or hymn we sing by her bedside is a spiritual investment made in hopeful anticipation she will one day come to faith. Even after she understands and professes faith, the careful process of investment continues. As we continue to plant seeds of faith, we must shape her understanding of what it means to “grow in godliness” and encourage her to learn to cultivate this growth in her own life.
In Ephesians 4:13-16 the apostle Paul calls believers to strive for growth in godliness “until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God.” In order to grow into a mature Christian woman, your daughter’s aim for maturity must be based on the “measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” Teach her what it looks like to sit at the feet of Jesus and humbly learn from him so that by learning, she will no longer be “a child tossed by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, human cunning, and craftiness in deceitful schemes” (Eph. 4:14). Regularly remind your daughter that the goal of growing her faith is to continually grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Pet. 3:18) until she is conformed to the image of Christ (Rom. 8:29).
2. How can I determine if my daughter’s faith is growing?
Your daughter’s church attendance and the fact that she has Christian friends or listens to Christian music isn’t a dependable gauge for her spiritual growth and maturity. Ephesians 2 places your daughter into one of two categories: 1) dead in her trespasses and sins, following the course of the world (Eph. 2:1), or 2) saved by grace through faith and made alive together with Christ (Eph. 2:5). Saving faith in the gospel of Christ always produces heart change and spiritual fruit that is observable (Matt. 7:16-17) throughout her life in increasing measure.
Healthy trees bear good fruit—fruit of the spirit— for God (Rom. 7:4). This fruit grows when her spiritual roots are grounded and nourished by God. Jeremiah 17:7-8 says, “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.” Parents can nourish these roots and fruit by regularly teaching and commending daughters to the Christian’s most ordinary means of grace: Scripture, prayer, corporate worship, and fellowship with the body of Christ.
If your daughter’s fruit isn’t healthy, you can help by clearing a path to growth. Consider removing some of the most common obstacles: busyness, boredom, and lack of direction. Don’t overschedule her. Help her learn to manage her responsibilities at home and school in ways that leave room for Bible reading, sabbath rest, church attendance, and Christian fellowship. Help her think through establishing healthy boundaries for schoolwork, social media, television, and rest and relaxation. Encourage her to seek accountability with a trusted Christian friend or mentor. Regularly encourage her by praying with her and asking God to help her roots grow deep and her fruit grow in abundance.
3. How can I encourage my daughter to open up to me?
First, understand there is no one “trick” to drawing out the deep thoughts and feelings inside your daughter’s heart; it takes time, patience, and humility. But, it is not an impossible task. And, it is a necessary skill in the course of discipleship. If you want your daughter to open up to you, begin by developing the quiet compassion and humility of Jesus inside yourself.
Consider how Jesus often engaged hearts. The Son of God who knows all things frequently asked questions. He asked his own disciples in John 1:38 what they were seeking. In Luke 9:20, he asked, “Who do you say that I am?” He asked the crippled man in John 5:6 if he wanted to be healed, and the blind beggar in Matthew 20:32, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked questions, listened attentively, and skillfully engaged with their answers. While we tend to rush to offering counsel, questions can be more prudent. Patiently invest in the relational work of selflessly earning your daughter’s trust. Pray for the Holy Spirit to shape you into the likeness of Christ who was a selfless, gentle, trustworthy, and wise friend to sinners.
When the good work of raising your daughter feels burdensome or too difficult to carry, find rest in Jesus.
Parents, strive to be physically and emotionally present for your daughter. Spend one-on-one time together doing what she loves. Enjoy downtime together. Creatively cultivate a discipleship relationship early on. Regularly remind her, in every stage of growth, that you desire to know and understand her. Ask her for suggestions of ways you could improve as an active listener and present source of help. Put your phone down. Turn off the television. Ask questions about how she’s processing her life, social situations, and current events. Be slow to anger and abound in love even when you’re frustrated. Be patient and committed and give her lots of love.
4. How can I raise a strong daughter?
Many parents today are intent on raising a “strong” daughter. But, why? Ask these parents and you’ll find they are less aware of the reasoning. If you haven’t clarified the goal of feminine strength—for yourself or for your daughter—you may be unintentionally preparing your daughter to chase an idolatrous version of worldly strength. When you call your daughter to “be strong,” make sure you’re clearly defining strength as a measure that is uniquely found in Christ, which equips her to be “strong in the Lord.”
The Christian’s strength is never intended for selfish gain or to garner the praise of man. Rather, it is for the purpose of faithful endurance that enables us to persevere in obedience and love for God. Because the world is a broken place filled with sin and suffering, Christians need strength to withstand the burden. This strength is found through conditioning; by strengthening weak knees and feeble hands to stand firm in the faith.
Parents must teach their daughter to discern when the words or encouragements she’s hearing from coaches, teachers, friends, and culture, are unbiblical false narratives. Does she understand that inner-strength is not enough? Does she know how to seek, find, and rest in the Biblically accurate alternative of Spirit-dependent strength? Help her learn to look to Christ’s strength by repeatedly walking her through situations where she’ll need to depend on the Father, trust the Holy Spirit, and submit to Christ’s commands to love God and others even when it’s hard. Rest assured, Christ is able to strengthen your daughter; and when he does, it will be according to his riches and to bring about the obedience of faith (Rom. 16:25-26).
5. How can I help my daughter when I can’t give her everything?
Many parents take the ability to physically provide for their daughter for granted because they can usually offer her plenty: a warm bed, food to eat, toys, and even technology. If you have faced a circumstance where you could not give as freely or even provide something that felt like a basic necessity—whether it’s school shoes, trendy clothes, private school, orthodontia, or a vacation—you might have noticed you felt disappointed, angry, and perhaps even guilty. God enjoys giving good gifts to his children; you likely do too! How can you care for your daughter when your tangible resources don’t match your desires for her good?
God often uses a child’s disappointment and unmet desires to reveal a parent’s limits and bring them face to face with their own insufficiency and necessary dependence on him. While this reminder to trust God may feel unsteady to us as human parents, God is not shaken and his parenting strategies work to steady our hope in him. Sometimes these seasons of want are the good gift. In the Lord’s hand, the wrestling, weeping, and waiting give way to abundant spiritual fruit when you stumble through disappointment and longing together with him. Feeling your way to God’s kindness and trustworthy character alongside your daughter helps her to practice trusting Jesus, not just turning to you. Lack can be God’s kindness teaching your daughter to look to Christ and depend on his inexhaustible resources and abundant generosity.
6. What if I feel overwhelmed by the responsibility of raising my daughter to fear the Lord?
Raising a daughter in the fear and admonition of the Lord is not an easy calling. While we labor in the home toward an eternal kingdom, we pray in hopeful expectation for our daughter’s salvation, plant seeds of faith, tirelessly water with the word, and excitedly wait for growth in godliness. But sometimes, we worry too. As you pray for your daughter’s spiritual eyes to open and that the labor of your hands would produce eternal fruit and that Christ would be exalted in your family, do you also feel the weight of responsibility is crushingly burdensome and a constant opportunity for failure? Like you’re not doing enough? Not saying the “right” things? Or saying the “wrong” things too often? What if you mess up?
Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” When the good work of raising your daughter feels burdensome or too difficult to carry, find rest in Jesus. He is helping strengthen you, providing for you, and enabling the work of your hands to listen, learn, teach, train, disciple, and love your daughter even when the responsibility feels like too much. Rest assured, the burden of guilt and shame have been removed; you need not fear failure. Trust Christ to gently and lovingly carry you with ease through each and every difficult day of this path of parenting your daughter.
Lindsey Carlson is the author of Growing in Godliness: A Teen Girl’s Guide to Maturing in Christ.
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