Building a Bond for Generations

This is a compilation of notes from a conference session on "Moms and Daughters" but  these are principles I apply in parenting all my children, not just my daughters.

The main thing to take away from this is encouragement.  If you and your daughter clash, or aren't close, or you feel handicapped because you and your own Mother are at odds, do not despair.  That does not have to define the relationship between you and your daughter.  Be prepared to be patient, commit to lots of prayer, and expect teethmarks on your tongue from not saying some things you want to.  But you can have the sweet, intimate, long-lasting bond you hope for and you can begin a legacy that can endure for generations.  I believe with all my heart that you are the "perfect" Mom - for your daughter.  Because you have been chosen by God Himself to parent her and He Himself will equip you in the best way.  I know there are myriads of books out there that tell you "the best way" to parent but I think that the best way is the way God leads YOU.  Learn all you can from whomever but ultimately, listen to HIM.  What I am sharing with you are just some things I've learned from my Mom and from my own parenting - take what resonates with you and leave the rest.

Here are the "HELPS" I shared for Moms:

H - Honor your own Mom.  Cannot overstate this.  The example set by how we treat our own mothers (and mothers-in-law.....) is way more powerful than what we say to our own girls.  It's OK if your Mom isn't your BFF but if you treat her (or her memory) with respect and grace and understanding and forgiveness and value, you're far more likely to reap the same from your daughter. Sure, our Moms drive us crazy sometimes - and it works the same in both directions! Extend grace.  Repeatedly.  Resist the temptation to blame your own shortcomings on your upbringing.  (I gave that up pretty soon after I saw for myself how hard parenting is!)  I'm not talking about denial or enabling or covering up truth - I'm talking grace and honor and kindness.  Remember that mercy is most needed when it's least deserved.

E - Empathy and encouragement.  Two of the most powerful tools in our parenting arsenal.  And their negative reciprocals are two of the most destructive.  Remember that.  By empathy, I mean seeing things from your daughter's perspective and responding with understanding.  Not necessarily agreement but understanding.  I mean, seriously, don't you remember how hard it is to be a middle school girl????  Even with the value of perspective that age brings, I can remember the hurts from those years.  And they felt irrecoverable.  Your daughter probably feels some of the same.  Don't tell her that something "doesn't matter" or is "not a big deal" .  To her, it does and it is.  Work hard to relate to that pain and respond with kind understanding.  There's time enough to help her gain perspective.  Empathize.  (Note that I'm not saying "sympathize" - no need to feel sorry for her all the time -- just compassionate.) Strengthening this trait in your relationship is vital for establishing trust and intimacy.  I find this true among friends, not just family.  If someone can't see my perspective (they don't have to agree with me - just validate my view!), then I am unable to feel a close affinity with them.  Just cannot.  And you want your daughter to trust you, to talk things over with you, to tell you her hopes and hurts.  And she will - if she thinks she will get an empathetic ear.  Make sure she does.
The other E - encouragement.  Your daughter needs to know she can draw courage and confidence from you.  Courage to do the right thing when circumstances lure her elsewhere.  Confidence that she's accepted and valued by you regardless of what her world says about her.  I'm not suggesting empty accolades or flattery (I don't believe in the "everybody gets a trophy for being on the team" approach - but that's another post)  but I am saying to tell her over and over and over again that she's valuable.  Praise her for character traits - not performance.  (But when she wins the 100 yard sprint or passes her boards or gets the nomination - it's perfectly OK to praise those too!!!!  Celebrate them like crazy....and point out those character traits that got her there - diligence, integrity, perseverance, positivity, etc)  Express your confidence in her especially when she lacks her own.  This infuses courage into her soul.  And she will need it because the world is sucking it out in a million different ways.

L - Love.  Your first thought might be, whew, finally one that I'm good at!  Of course we love our daughters.  But conveying it might be the challenge.  Hugs, time together (btw - quantity counts...), verbal affirmations, thoughtful "little" things, 100000 ways to constantly say "I love you".  Do them all.  And once you're done, do them all over again 10000 times.  Just as the world sucks courage and confidence out of your daughter, so it also depletes her feeling of being loved.  And we as Moms have the highest calling and privilege to keep those cups filled up.  Think of times as "touch points" in her day - first thing in the morning, when she leaves for school, when she comes home, bedtime - all those times need to be especially punctuated with "I love you" because those are significant windows of opportunity when her little spirit is open (whether she's aware of it or not).  Our family makes it a habit of saying "I love you" at the end of every phone conversation, too.  Maybe it seems trite and one might argue that it's just a habit -- but I will argue that those are the words I want ringing in their ears when other voices are screaming not so loving things at them.  BTW - I've noticed that this is such a habit in our family that my kids' conversations with each other even end this way! That makes me celebrate!!
Let me briefly address that there will be times we don't feel loving. Or times that gal doesn't act too loveable.  Those are the times we must love all the more intentionally.  Thank the Lord that love isn't a feeling - it's a commitment.  And we can choose commitment every time.

P - Prepare  One of the greatest ways we build that bond with our daughters is by our training of them.  Preparing them for life, for work, for womanhood.  Preparing them for changes, for social situations, for whatever role God has called them to.  Oh, the difference it makes in our confidence and our courage when we feel prepared!  Let her know what to expect - from how to behave as a toddler in the grocery store to what's happening with her body at 13 to which fork to use at The White House dinner...prepare her!  When our girls feel prepared for what life is bringing them, they will be able to be way less self-conscious and way more others-focused.  Isn't that what we want for them?  It won't happen by accident - we have to prepare them.

S - Say I'm sorry.  Stuff's gonna happen.  Feelings are gonna get hurt.  Things are gonna get said that shouldn't.  You're gonna let her down.  Mistakes are gonna loom big.  Remember remember remember that to preserve the relationship, you gotta say "I'm sorry".  Restore the bond.  Reconcile the differences.  Return to the nearness.  Even if you think you're right and she's wrong, initiate the reestablishment of equilibrium....say "I'm sorry".  This does about a million things, all of them positive.  It conveys a sense of value to your daughter, affirming to her that this relationship matters.  It ushers in God's grace, which is what is needed for all things good.  And it lets your daughter know that it's OK to fail, that it's possible to get up when we stumble.

When we do our best to do these things, I believe God steps in and takes over.  My family is living proof that He will take our frail and feeble attempts to love and obey Him and bring from them a treasured legacy of love and blessing.  In fact, His Word tells us exactly that - Exodus 20:6 promises that He will design and establish and compound His lovingkindness into a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments. 

Moms and daughters - a gift from God - a bond for perpetuity....needs some H.E.L.P.S from above!