Thankfully, King Solomon tells us clearly what our part is in our little girls’ growing up. He says, “Teach your children to choose the right path…” (Proverbs 22:6 NLT). The teaching of our girls is, of course, an exhaustive study. But for now, I want to look at just one small but important area: how our words affect our girls who “get bigger every day.”
Most girls are very social, and even at an early age, they are generally acutely aware of little details. Girls, in general, notice things. They know who is wearing what, who is friends with whom, and who belongs to the “in” crowd. Most of them not only know, but they also care about these things. Their interests become a stepping stone to what we want them to know. What an opportunity for us to be a role model with both words and actions, demonstrating what is important in life! Whether it is fashion or friendships, we can add something positive.
And positive is the keyword. Girls criticize each other, but they quickly become defensive if an adult voices those same criticisms. When talking with middle school and high school girls, I often preface my opinions with statements they can’t argue with: “I can’t tell you what to think, but this is how I see it…” or “This is what works for me…” or sometimes, “Have you thought of….” This works better than blunt criticism of their thoughts and opinions. To do this, obviously, we have to think before we speak. We have to be a role model for the thinking process as we gently guide them into it.
Many, if not most, adolescent girls are talkers. Often, talking is with their own friends because they feel that with their peers, they can say what they want and not be criticized. We have to set the stage for open communication long before they hit the adolescent years. We must begin very early, taking time for “girl talk.”
Before my granddaughters were two years old, I began to invite them to share “girl talk” while sitting on the steps or snuggling on the couch. If anyone approached while we were talking, they would call out, “You can’t come right now. We’re doing ‘girl talk.'” We talked about how we liked to do our hair or our favorite colors or why we liked the shoes or the shirt we were wearing—anything that would help them express their opinions. They learned early that their thoughts and opinions were important to me. And they learned it was safe to share them, and they would not be criticized. Because I honestly cared what they thought, they also cared what I thought.
As they grew, our conversations grew, too, in depth and seriousness. Now that they are older, they freely express what they think and feel because “girl talk” started early and is a safe place to share. Girls need that safe place where they can share with openness and honesty.
When talking with adolescent girls, whether I know them or not, I often tell them, “There is nothing that you can’t tell me, and there is nothing you can tell me that will make me fall off my chair.” That statement levels the ground for them. They know I won’t be shocked by what they say, and many teenagers love to shock adults. It gives them the green light for whatever they have to say.
Girls need affirmation that they can and will make the right decisions. We hear a lot about “teachable moments,” and truly we must look for them in every situation. We must notice when our girls make the right decisions or show thoughtfulness in any way. A teachable moment comes when we mention it, and mention it we must. For example, “I saw how you treated so and so, and it showed me what a good heart you have” or “I know this was hard for you, but you did it!” or “I know you are thinking this through because I noticed….” They need to know we believe they will make the right decisions, especially during the adolescent years when decision-making is so critical.
We can also use the opportunities to link what was done with serving and pleasing God. Tell your girl, “I think God must be happy when He sees how thoughtful you are.” They need to know that we see the good in them and that God sees it, too.
Some of the best teachable moments occur in the car. A teachable moment is not sermon time but rather drawing lessons from your conversations together. If they think you are preaching, they will mentally tune you out or turn you off. I try to have good stories and good experiences ready for these times, so the girls are more interested in what I have to say than what is playing on the radio. Then I let them draw the lesson and tell me what they think.
Teachable moments are best done subtly. No neon lights flashing the message, “Here comes a lesson.” This means I have to pay attention to them. It also means I can’t let myself be distracted by my own world. Too often, adults mentally tune their teens out as just so much noise.
Affirmation and Decisions
Affirmation is important at all ages, but especially during the growing up years. Too many young people hear the scoldings and criticisms for wrongdoing but don’t hear the affirmation for doing what is right. Everything we say is going into a memory bank, so we must fill that bank with good deposits.
As your child grows in the decision-making process, she can use your belief in her ability to do right to give her strength to actually do right. For those times when she doesn’t make a good decision, your words can point her in a better way by affirming what you want her to be. You can say, “I’m just so surprised you did this because I know you, and I know in your heart you are not this way!” When you express disappointment, remember you are disappointed with the actions and not with her. Children know the difference.
Of course, our affirmations must be honest. Children, and especially adolescents, can’t be fooled by pretty words. So we have to keep looking for honest opportunities to affirm them. And affirmations can’t be based just on what they do. The media teaches our girls that how they look is all-important. Our words can affirm what is really important. Our girls need to hear “You are growing up so nicely, ” “I enjoy you so much!” and “I really like you.”
Teenage girls want to be liked as well as loved. Their growing-up years form their picture of who they think they are, and often that picture stays with them through life. I often tell my granddaughters, “I am so glad you have a good heart that wants to do right. I love how you love Jesus!” What an encouragement for girls to hear things like, “I think God must smile when He sees you,” and “You are such a bubble of joy; you are so precious to Him.”
If we want our little girls to “grow up in the most delightful way” we must make growing up a delightful experience for them. Our words can provide a base for them on which to build their characters.
King Solomon tells us, “Timely advice is as lovely as golden apples in a silver basket” (Proverbs 25:11 NLT). Thus, our words must be worthy building blocks, blocks of affirmation that point our girls the way we want them to go—the right way!
King Solomon also tells us what is important, “Teach your children to choose the right path…,” and ends with these words of hope: “and when they are older, they will remain upon it” (Proverbs 22:6 NLT).
Thank heaven for little girls. They can “grow up in the most delightful way.” But we must do everything we can to make it happen.
Ginny Allen writes from the Pacific Northwest.© 2002 - 2021, AnswersForMe.org. All rights reserved. Click here for content usage information.