Every morning I put a hairbow in my daughter’s hair. She will admire it in the mirror for about two minutes, and then she pulls it out. No amount of coaxing will convince her to leave it in there. In fact, I’ve met very few girls who actually like the hairbows. Adults love them because we associate them with innocence. But innocence doesn’t come from hairbows, and there are a lot of gray areas in raising a daughter in the modern world that parents have to navigate.
Note: This is not a blog post that tells you to do A, B, and C to navigate this gray area. This is not an inspirational post. This is simply an acknowledgement of how difficult it is to teach godly values while raising daughters in the modern world.
The Gray Areas of Raising a Daughter in the Modern World
Most parents would probably tell you that they want to keep their children innocent and carefree for as long as possible. However, that’s very hard to do in the modern world. From concerns about safety from human predators to bullying from other children to media consumption in a sex-fueled society, there’s a lot for Christian parents to deal with in the modern world.
These are the areas where we don’t have direct rules in the Bible to apply. These are areas that will steal our daughter’s innocence of sin both in tiny pieces and giant chunks. The kicker? It’s left to the individual to prayerfully consider, consult Scripture about, and to find their own convictions on.
Modesty and Body Image
Every morning, Hailey sits on the bathroom counter as I get ready. Being the inquisitive little thing that she is, she wants to fiddle with every item that we house on our bathroom counters:
- Hair stuff
- The Hubby’s shaving equipment
So she learned about shaving brushes and shaving soap. She started practicing combing her hair. She began asking for lotion. And, of course, she started mimicking putting on make-up. My daughter is more faithful about putting on her “lip-sick” and “eye-sa-dough” than I am. (Note: I give her chapstick and the cheap eyeshadow that doesn’t leave residue easily.)
My daughter – who is not even two- is already learning her perception of beauty and body from me. I like to think I’m that modeling a healthy view of body image for her, but it’s still a gray area.
How we approach make-up, our clothes, and modesty are all things that we need to consider:
- What is a healthy body image? How do we foster this?
- How do we encourage a daughter to present themselves well without letting her nitpick at perceived flaws?
- How do we encourage a daughter to embrace the body that God designed for her without overstepping the bounds of modesty?
- What exactly is modesty?
- How do we handle the traditional modesty rules in light of recent research that shows a correlation between bras and cancer?
Many bloggers will tell you that there are rules to follow for this. Even those outside the Christian niche will talk about the rules of complimenting a daughter to encourage a healthy body image.
Truthfully, there are no rules about these things. I’ve written about modesty and the modern day Pharisee before (spoiler: I was the Pharisee). Body image – which develops very closely with self-confidence and mental health issues – is also not something easily dissected into individual rules.
Friends, loves, frenemies, and enemies are the relationships that truly define a young girl’s character. As she interacts with others in each category, she will clearly define her own convictions while learning the skills and tricks to help her navigate society in the future. These can be good things for your daughter, but they can also be the things that can completely break your daughter down.
Betrayal, bullying, and rejection are all things that steal little pieces of our daughter’s innocence. Those of us who have been through these things (and who hasn’t?) understand that these events change how we perceive the intentions of others.
So how do we protect our daughters’ innocence in this area? How do we prepare them for the potential problems that happen when we build relationships with other people?
The Media Issue
It is ridiculous to expect all media to fit inside the narrow little box of one person’s beliefs.
Media – whether social media, television shows, music, or books – are forms of art that belong to all people. Okay, so social media is more like the opposite of art, but it still belongs to all groups of people.
Most of us realize this. However, this is a huge problem for Christian parents who have to decide how to approach media when it comes to protecting the innocence of our children. Beyond the usual attacks against Christin beliefs that have been well-discussed in Christian circles, there are more subtle things to worry about for our daughters.
You see, even if you found the secret formula to teach your daughter how to honor God while building up a healthy body image, that doesn’t mean that your painstakingly-taught ideals will also be reflected in media where:
- It’s common for girls to be portrayed stressing over their hair.
- It’s common for revenge and spitefulness to be portrayed as a good thing.
- It’s normal for girls to develop instant crushes on a “hot guy” or to pine after a relationship.
What do we do about this? Use media as a training ground? Cut it out completely? Or just ignore it unless your daughter starts to ask specific questions?
There’s not a right or wrong way (and most families will use a mixture of all three approaches depending on the personality of their daughter’s and the values being portrayed) to approach media.
How do we teach “stranger danger” while also living out Biblical calls for hospitality and the Golden Rule? How do we protect our children during the internet age where very few people truly have privacy?
There are so many different concerns that come into play under this one category, that I could write a whole post dedicated to discussing them. There’s technology use (like cellphones and tablets) to be considered, along with real-world activities that will take a daughter out of our sight.
Femininity as a Christian
Last but not least, there’s the issue of femininity. I don’t need to bring up how society defines femininity because I’m pretty sure our society no longer has one clear definition for it. Instead, it’s a cacophony of insults, compliments, celebrations, and arguments that touch on all kinds of moral and ethical issues.
Our daughters are going to wonder, “What does it mean to be female?”
You need to prepare your answer now. Is being a female tied up in material outer items like makeup, clothes, and shoes? Is it the persona of the demure little angel in a dress? What about the fierce warrior Mom working a job to provide for her family?
While you can find plenty in the Bible about what God says about femininity, there’s not a clear-cut way to teach these things to our daughter. This area becomes even more complicated when the “traditional Christian female” has been set up as a strawman for antagonistic individuals to beat up. Not only do we have to teach what the Bible says, but we also have to filter out what others claim the Bible teaches.
Ladies, I’m writing this as a Christian who is semi-frequently mistaken as a feminist and who identifies herself as having a tom-boy personality. Out of all the gray areas I’ve written about in this blog post, this is the one that concerns me the most about raising my daughter.
Let’s Go Deeper Together!
Leave a comment to help us build community. Then look for another comment or two to respond to. Some suggestions:
- What gray area did I miss discussing?
- What are you doing to help navigate raising your daughter in the modern world?
What area concerns you the most?