Maybe it’s because my daughter of 19 has always loved ballet or perhaps it’s because there is so much emotional sway caught up in mothering girls, that I like to think of it as a dance. As a teacher of 9-year-old girls, I’m a witness to the drama and beauty of this dance each year. All too soon those 18 years of having your daughter dancing in step with you fly by, and it’s time for her to step out onto her stage. I hope that some of these thoughts will help you in the mother-daughter relationship dance that you are choreographing right now.
Step 1: Choose the right music
Have you ever found yourself singing the words of a popular song only to realise (with horror) what the words mean? Well if you don’t intentionally choose the right ‘music’ for your mother-daughter dance, you’ll get caught up in the latest popular ‘music’ of the time. By ‘music’ I mean truth. There are so many voices out there crooning cultural or popular truths that if you are not playing God’s truth loudly in your relationships at home, before you know it, the dance will become warped. Psalm 81:13 says “How I wish my people would listen to me!” I find if I don’t wear God’s belt of truth and ask for Holy Spirit’s guidance, I’m easily swayed into moving to cultural and popular rhythms. We first have to tune into our own ‘Holy Spirit music’ and then play it loudly in our homes. Especially in our relationship with our daughters. Loud enough that it causes us to dance in the joy of Jesus truth.
Step 2: Choose the right dance outfits
Girls love dressing up! The most popular drama lesson at our all-girls’ school has always been fantasy dress-up. The question is, what are we wearing for the mother-daughter dance? Self-image has such an impact as girls approach adolescence, and it begins when they are little. However, as girls grow, they often start wearing something referred to as ‘sticky feelings’. Sticky feelings are any emotions that cling to her, and she can’t let go of them. Emotions like stress, anxiety, jealousy, rejection, hurt and disappointment. Girls tend to hold onto these and ‘wear’ them like a mantle. John 10:10 says that “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life”. God wants our girls to wear His truth about who they are; not the lies and sticky feelings that they pick up along the way. So tie (God’s truth and commands) on your arms and wear them on your foreheads as a reminder (Deuteronomy 6:8) and show your daughter again and again the importance of dressing correctly for the dance.
Step 3: Model the steps
We all know that our actions speak louder than words. We can’t choose the music and the outfit we want our daughter to dance to and then use something different ourselves! She watches you ALL-THE-TIME! Even our teenage girls who seem to want to NOT watch you and dance to their rhythm, really are observing. They need your modelling just as much, so don’t stop!
So, show her the dance by:
- Being there for her as much as possible.
- Model girl empowerment and confidence in using your God-given gifts.
- Model reading the Word and talking about your faith.
- Model laughter, joy and forgiveness.
- Model how to love and nurture family and friends.
- Model healthy living by setting boundaries and making time for yourself too.
- Model a positive body image. (This is a big one for girls – put on that costume and swim with the family no matter how you feel about yourself. She needs to see that there is something more important than a number on a scale or the perfect form)
- Above all, show her that the dance does not have to be perfect, and we learn from failing as much as succeeding.
Step 4: When she falls, DON’T pick her up
Shew this is a hard one! As she stumbles across obstacles, or because she has listened to the wrong music, it is our instinct to want to pick her up and carry her over things to the right place in the dance. But if we do that, she will not learn how to find her dance or how to become a stronger dancer! Of course, we can be there to help, encourage and soothe but don’t disempower her dance by intervening and taking over. Some practical tips for this are:
- Listen deeply and reflect her emotions to her without making them your feelings.
- Keep pointing her back to the truth and light and don’t be manipulated by her sticky feelings!
- Girls love something referred to as catastrophising and dwelling on the worst possible scenarios (something to do with the size of our worry cortex!) Teach her to distract herself from this with scripture, music, hobbies, nature and outdoors, fun with a friend etc.
- Earnestly pray for her to get back up and be filled with Holy Spirit strength and truth again!
Step 5: Step back and point her to centre stage
This has been one of the hardest parts of parenting a daughter for me! The letting go. As you watch her spin-off towards her dance and choose her music, you have to trust in the training and ask Holy Spirit to be her music. Of course, you get the pleasure of watching her dance! It’s also time for you to work more on your dance and develop new gifts that might have been sidelined for a while. Give her freedom, allow her the limelight and remember that she will still need your applause and encouragement as she dances on! Ask her to train others as she dances, pray for the right dance partners and give her tips on how to love and nurture the dance of others around her. Hopefully, if she falls, her training will make her look for the truth and light again. Pray it does, listen to your own Holy Spirit music and dance on!