Kids & Parenting
Raising daughters in a healthy home
My beloved daughter, as I seek God’s direction for you and determine what He wants to accomplish in your life, I have come to the realization that it is a step by step process. It’s nothing that can be taught quickly or learned quickly. It will require a lifetime of self-denial, self-sacrifice and self-discipline.
There are always two paths available to you in moments of crisis; Path A (long-term others-centered) or Path B (immediate self-gratification). Path B is easiest in the short term, but it will crush you in the long term. In every word or action, consider the consequences of that word or action in terms of a 20 year time frame.
At moments of impropriety you have two options as well; blame or accepting the responsibility of a poor decision. Blame is the easy choice; it causes us to avoid the pain of a critical self-analysis, it gives us victim status, it helps us rationalize our behavior and it supports an inflated self-perception. But the acceptance of responsibility will develop a mindset of maturity. It will cause us to evaluate our mindset and cause change. It will create a realistic self-image and produce humility. Accept full responsibility even it you are only 5% at fault.
Avoid impulsive responses or reaction to wrongs or wounds in life. Be slow to speak and quick to listen. Form a big-picture view of life. Map out a direction and vision of life and then live by it.
Healthy relationships in the home with produce healthy attitudes towards God
Theologically, the creation story of Adam and Eve defines the important notions about the true masculine and feminine. First, Adam and Eve were created equal in terms of dignity, value, call and purpose. They were to both fill and multiply - the realm of human relationship and Rule and Subdue - the realm of nature, animals and the earth (found in Genesis 1:27, New International Version). Second, they were created differently. Adam was created from the ground, was placed in the garden with the plants and animals and became very busy working, moving, initiating, ruling and subduing. Eve, on the other hand, was the only created being made from another living being. Her primal essence is one of human relatedness. She was immediately placed in front of Adam and became busy relating-being known and loved. Both Adam and Eve were needed to complete God's purposes for humanity, but it seems that their very origins and initial experiences point to difference and uniqueness.
Since God’s plan for men and women are different, they also grow and develop differently. Boys and girls follow different developmental paths in terms of attachment and identification. Both boys and girls are initially attached to mom at birth. To develop healthily, a boy must move, strive and initiate to successfully separate from mom and ultimately attach and identify with dad. A girl on the other hand is supposed to remain and rest, so to speak, in an experience of ongoing or continuous connection. Figuratively speaking, she warmly rests secure at home with mom, to eventually receive dad who is to gently move towards her to offer his love, affirmation and protection.
Perhaps the true feminine means having an exterior that is inviting, restful and peaceful with an inner core of solidness and strength of being and courage to face the complexities of another soul and the requirements of ongoing intimacy. Lisa Beamer (the wife of Todd Beamer who helped guide United Flight 93 away from human targets) is a great example of a woman with an inviting, restful exterior and a solid inner core. She was sad, but not crushed as she faced the tragedy of losing her husband. She was not fragile, wispy, whiney, needy, overly dependent but solid, strong, articulate, lovely. She appeared on ‘Larry King Live’ a record number of times because she was one of the first women he had encountered with a peaceful, graceful exterior yet had a firm resolve of inner strength and character that even the toughest of life’s circumstances couldn’t break.
The true feminine is not weak, but boasts of the strength, courage and power to be - to be present and connected with her own heart, emotions and thoughts and with another, even in the most difficult or tragic time. The true feminine can weather loneliness. Lisa can stand in the face of her husband's death because she has her self and many other vital relationships.
Unhealthy women typically lack or struggle discovering and accepting both of these aspects as women. They are toughened, prickly and defensive on the outside and sense emptiness and desperation on the inside. Their toughness defies their inner need, which so often is expressed in terms of dependencies, speaks to the depth of their gender brokenness. They are not living out of the strength of the true feminine.
Of interest is the typical profile of the mother of an unhealthy daughter. According to many women dealing with emotional issues and identity issues, their mothers typically had no solid self or strength of character or integrity, regardless of how they presented it on the outside. The mom of a struggler is a mom who:
- hid in bed under the covers when dad became abusive or rageful
- was mentally ill and relied on her daughter to continually talk her out of committing suicide
- was driven by fear and anxiety as being the rule, not the exception
- didn't even know the basics of housekeeping let alone caring for a baby or child
- openly hostile towards the father and subverted the family authority structure
- was a social butterfly and alcoholic leaving her little daughter alone and unsupervised
- was unable to separate from an abusive husband
- was a dutiful wife but a shell of a woman
- bragged incessantly about herself and kids, negating any negative feelings or experiences in her daughter
- hated being a woman, never shed a tear and despised her daughter
- was openly jealous of her daughter
These vignettes do not describe a woman who is solid in being and strength of heart. They describe a woman who is insecure, dependent, afraid of being alone, weak, lost and broken and underdeveloped in her own femininity. It is easy to understand why a daughter who has a sharp intellect, strong sense of justice and integrity, high energy level with deep passions might conclude that if becoming a woman means becoming like mom, she wants nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, in the girl's detachment and flight from femininity as portrayed by her mother, she too begins to live out a deep inner desolation and crisis of her true gender identity. She has had no "home" in which to develop or become. "I don't know who I am," "I hate being a woman," and "I don't know how I feel." Many unhealthy women feel and believe they are not women.
In broad sweeping terms, the roots of insecurity can be discovered in four basic elements:
• A strained, detached or disrupted bond or attachment with mother without an available mother substitute, resulting in a need for secure attachment.
• A lack of respect and/or protection from men, often in the form of sexual abuse or rigid gender roles, resulting in a fear or hatred of men.
• Few, if any, close girlhood friendships, resulting in a need for belonging and fun.
• A sense of emptiness and lostness in lieu of a full and rich sense of self and identity as a feminine being, resulting in a need for a self and gender identity.
To briefly summarize, healthy development for a girl first requires that she rests and remains in the warm and secure home of her mother so that she can form and develop an inner home for herself - out of which she will live, express her strength and power, create, relate, connect, nurture, bring forth life, etc. Without this inner sense of home or a secure and solid sense of self and feminine identity, she will not have the capacity to enter into healthy intimacy. Yet she will live with a deep belief that she cannot be alone. Therefore, she is unconsciously driven or on the move to find a "home" or true "self" outside of her self.
Emotional insecurity initially becomes a possibility when this needed ongoing attachment with mom is absent, insufficient or undesirable. (It becomes compounded if dad's movement is non-existent, abusive, or becomes masculinizing of his daughter.) If for the girl, her initial attachment to mom is perceived to be weakened or broken, a type of homelessness is created for the girl. The girl is essentially stripped of her most fundamental tether in the universe. There may be no greater trauma in a girl's life developmentally than one that interferes with her primal relationship with mom. Mom is not only the first bond and attachment for a little baby girl, but is the relational object with whom this little girl will form her first sense of self and eventually rely on to complete her identification process as a female.
Besides internalizing the insecurity that a break in this foundational relationship creates, the girl will activate or move in an effort to find the attachment for which she was designed and so desperately needs. She begins to follow the developmental path of a male; that is, moving, striving and initiating. Unfortunately, trust in others and her self is not adequately formed to support secure and meaningful connection or relatedness. She is filled with a sense of aloneness and need that further fuels her movement and initiation to resolve her dilemma. Simply put, this emotional movement disrupts her normal growth and development and identification as a feminine being (identity confusion), not to mention the false paths such movement will uncover.
A girl can best develop in a healthy secure environment if she has a healthy and secure mother and father. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. There are brutal family environments in which many girls are being raised. She can overcome the upbringing by looking to God instead of her parents to provide the unconditional love, the warmth and security she is desperately looking for.
A girl needs to be aware of the defects in character of her parents, while respecting them for their God-given position in her life. But as she grows, her dependence must lessen on her parents and her dependence on God begins to grow.
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I am sure this will be a great help with my three daughters. Thank you for the advice. I can see myself described in some of your writing, in times past.
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