Girls, girls, girls

So I had a special request from someone that I write a little something about raising older daughters. “Older” in this case means something more along the lines of upper elementary age . . . I don’t yet have any teenage girls. (But when I do I’ll have them in spades . . . my girls will be 13,14, and 15 all at the same time!)

“Daughters” is kind of a big topic actually, and a whole lot of things spring to mind. I’m not even going to try to say everything all at once – I thought maybe I should pick away at it and just mention a couple of things right now.

The first thing I thought of is “foolishness.” This is something that we’ve worked on from the time our girls were very small – it’s not only relevant to older girls. However, I’ve been very grateful that we have been working on it for years . . . because we’re now hitting the age where this category actually matters. Basically, you reap what you sow. You harvest what you plant and tend. If you don’t want a harvest of foolishness when your daughter is grown, don’t tolerate foolishness when it’s small. Picture a garden. That enormous stink-weed there amongst the lettuce didn’t just appear there overnight. It started out as a seedling, and you let it grow for months and months. Not only did you neglect to pull it up, you probably watered it diligently every day. If you don’t want the big stink-weed, learn to recognize the little baby stink-weeds and get rid of them as they appear. Hint: they don’t look nearly so dire when they’re smaller. They might possibly even be cute. But they’re much, much easier to pull up when they’re small and cute.

So how does this apply to foolishness? Well, what does folly look like in a grown woman? Now rewind . . . how did that folly get there? It didn’t magically appear overnight. Rewind and ask yourself what it looked like when she was 10. What did it look like when she was 8? The fact that it suddenly blossomed and everyone noticed when she was 22 does not mean that it wasn’t there all along. It just means that no one took the time to pay attention to what was actually growing. Turns out it wasn’t a lettuce.

Here are some examples of the things that we’ve focused on and labeled as “foolishness.” We’re trying to train our girls to see these traits in their friends as well as themselves. We want them to be able to identify folly in others so that they can refrain from participating, or try and steer the activity in a different direction. I’m purposely picking things here that are not obvious sins (hopefully those things are straightforward enough!) – and I’m not trying to say that these are officially sins at all. I’m just saying that as we try to train our girls away from folly, these are some of the things we’ve identified.

1. Babytalk / weird voices. Yeah – this may seem uptight. I’m not talking here about girls playing a game with a baby doll. I’m talking about the situation where you have a group of 10 year old girls talking babytalk to one another. We’re not into that. If it pops up, we remind our girls to not use foolish voices and to talk like big girls. We’re trying to train our girls into maturity, and this seems to be an obvious area where people tolerate and encourage immaturity. I’m not trying to say girls shouldn’t laugh and have fun together – I’m all about that. But I think this is one area where folly looks so completely innocent that people feel ridiculous making a deal out of it. But once again, what does this turn into? If you nurture this one, where does it go? If you’ve ever seen a group of college girls squealing and hugging and jumping up and down and using babytalk, I hope you’d agree that it’s utterly unbecoming and foolish. And embarrassing. And cheap. And not cute at all. And I never want my girls to be those girls. So when the baby version of that shows up, we work on it. Sometimes it seems tied to one particular friend – after playing with her our girls seem more inclined that way. That’s a great learning opportunity, and it means that we can remind them before playing with her again that they need to make sure to guard against using foolish voices.

2. Coarse Jesting. “Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks.” This segues right out of the previous point. It’s amazing to me how “foolish talking” almost immediately turns to “coarse jesting” in children, and I remember being incredibly struck by this verse in Ephesians when our kids were small. Those two things almost always go together. The babytalk girls almost always inevitably descend to potty humor. And as they get older, the coarse jesting “matures” along with them. If you don’t want them making sex jokes with the boys in high school, don’t let them get away with potty jokes right now. It may seem innocent, but learn to recognize the weeds when they’re small. For us, coarse jesting is a disciplineable offense, not just if you made the joke . . . but also if you laughed at it. If your friend says something off color, you have to look them in the eyes and tell them that they need to not talk that way. Again, recognize that your small girl needs to take a stand when her friend makes a joke about buns . . . because you want her to be able to take a stand later when it’s a sex scene in a movie. Help them fight the battles when they’re small – and remember that he who is faithful with little will be faithful with much. Give your girls all kinds of encouragement when they make that stand – be proud of them and realize that it takes a lot of courage to stand up to a friend, no matter what age you are. It’s also a good reminder to watch what you yourself joke about. Most of the time that our kids have to stand up to friends for coarse jesting, it turns out that it’s actually  the parents who are pretty free and easy with what they joke about at home.

That last point can be taken very wrongly by the way. Girls inclined to be Goody Two Shoes are a whole other problem requiring a whole different plan of attack. If your daughter is inclined to the foolish talking and coarse jesting, then that is where you need to focus your attention. But if your daughter is inclined to be better than everyone else, you have a whole different situation that needs a lot of wisdom. Definitely a topic for a whole separate post.

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37 thoughts on “Girls, girls, girls

  1. Great advice! I love the stick weed metaphor. Plus, those two points apply to parenting sons, too.

    Amusingly, we never had issues with baby-talk with those sons until the neighbor girls moved in. My, but those motorcycle noises (at the top of the lungs) are far preferable to baby talk.

  2. Thanks so much for this post. We are dealing with a subset of this behavior right now in our son (and oddly enough, I think that this post might even apply more to boys!) – that is, goofy talk and goofy faces. At first I thought it was innocent, but then I realized that it is purposely rude and disrespectful. And WOW is it hard to weed out – we are working on it around the clock. Thanks for the confirmation that this behavior is NOT okay and that I am not crazy for trying to weed it out. Love the blog, BTW.

  3. Ditto Claire!!!

    We don’t have baby talk, but an entirely different variety where speaking with a (strange) British accent is really enthralling. Hmm, maybe that’s what happened to some of those weird celebrities that pick up British accents…

  4. Yay! Please continue to write about raising girls. There is so much good material out there on raising boys, but I have one 3-year-old daughter (the 3rd of 4, with 3 brothers), and I often feel at a loss. I had mostly brothers and my mom was a plain-dealing, no-nonsense type. I feel much more comfortable parenting the boys than my daughter. Boys are so much more straight forward to figure out.

    Keep the daughter advice coming!

    And thanks for the encouragement on the babytalk front. My daughter, who is perfectly capable of speaking clearly and with hard ‘r’ wants to pick up a lisp lately. I make her repeat what she says “clearly and correctly.”

  5. This is so true! I am a missionary in South Africa and we have had college teams come here with young women who were incredibly immature…Thanks Rebekah for your experienced words of wisdom! An encouragement as I disciple my little girlies!

  6. Thank you – those are things that I definitely agree with and work on as well. I wonder if Nancy could write something about girls going through puberty? My oldest daughter is almost 12 and getting extremely emotional!

  7. Great post! Good food for thought. I second the motion for the post on girls who think they are better than everyone else.

  8. As I former pastor’s wife I thought this was excellant. Mothers need to think this through before hand. This may also mean some soul searching and maturing in mothers. Dealing with mother/daughter issues in the ministry was so often a mother problem. Undisciplined daughters grow up to be mothers who are silly and immature or harsh and uncompromising and do not know how to deal with it in their own daughters.
    Marilyn

  9. Well you have pretty much put your feet in the cement, cause from the comments above, you have been beckoned. And I agree.
    It is great to read wisdom hitting on older elementary girls. Warning on what we should be looking for. I can relate and appreciate the guidance. I have not found much out there in the way of counsel for raising young ladies. Your mom did a series years ago for teenage daughters and another one for mothers and daughters, and I still listen to those as an encouragement to make sure I am heading in the right direction with my girls. But your fresh perspective is clearly wanted and I hope you will keep it coming. Thanks for taking the time here.

  10. The second point is super relevant to us right now. However, we are at a stage with our 3.5 year old son where the other parents are usually present during this potty talk, and often egging their sons on towards coarse jesting, saying “isn’t it funny how boys will be boys”. Any tips for correcting this behavior without coming across as totally self-righteous and alienating other parents? Thanks!

  11. Sounds like good stuff to know if you ever plan to teach as well. I was called on when a teach left right before the end of the school year and “just kidding” was their thing. Another teacher pointed me to Prov 26:18-19, and the behavior pretty much subsided.

    I do have a question though – as a family (us and our cousins) we’d often joke around and fall into affectations of various accents or funny voices or mimicry. Is it possible for there to be parameters for that sort of thing? I get the jumping up and down squealing in the mall thing. It just seems that there are times when funny voices make for some ripping humor.

  12. I just want to add this, after thinking about it: The thing I loved so much about Bekah’s post was the encouragement for parents to take a closer analytical look at the seemingly innocent foibles our kids manifest in these early years. I remember borrowing a book on parenting from Heather years ago. I never can call up the name of it on command, but have also never lost sight of one very basic piece of advice it contained: namely, if your kids are doing something you don’t like…make them stop. How simple and relevant. I think a lot of parents feel that if they can’t tack a Bible verse on it, they can’t designate it as a no-no. The burden of proof ends up resting on the frazzled Mom who can hardly remember her own name, let alone why it might not be a good idea for the kids to hang from the ceiling fan. Bekah’s advice is of the same stripe — e.g., it really is our job as parents to make judgment calls that will sometimes seem a little subjective and shoot-from-the-hip. WHAT we decide to enforce may vary from family to family, but we’re all shooting for the same thing: mature men and women who love the right things.

  13. Claire, since you asked (however facetiously), here’s how I remember: e.g. = example given; i.e. = it equals. Useful for moms who can’t think of good reasons not to swing on ceiling fans…and other busy people who’ve forgotten their Latin. 😉

  14. Very good and helpful stuff! Keep it coming.
    One thing to think about – sometimes kids with Asperger’s will affect an accent. Not sure how to deal with something like that.

  15. This was a really helpful post. I have three boys, but seemed very relevant to our situation. Would love to see more as well!

  16. Rebekah, yay for this post! I was one of those foolish girls, and I grew up to be a foolish young woman. I’ve been a Christian for about 7 years, and I’m still weeding out silly habits. So I totally get the thing of not tolerating silly behaviour in my little girly. Just wondering how this fits with the thing of having our kids love the standard? How do you explain it to your girls so that they are encouraged to turn their backs on foolishness for always? And also, I’ve been aware of not bogging my daughter down with 40 thousand “no no’s” (she’s still a toddler so that’s the term of choice). How do you personally decide what’s worth disciplining for and what stuff is not worth it?

  17. I really liked this post. I was just wondering how you communicate to your girls to be aware of these things in friends while not encouraging self-righteousness and backbiting?

  18. I appreciate this post. In our family, the boys come first and right now, we are having many talks about restraint and maturity when it comes to joking/being funny. They are mostly appropriate but they want to get the laugh all the time. It’s hard to have a good conversation with them, especially if they are all together. I know this has grown from small weeds of humor from their younger years and I wish we had thought ahead more in this area. Seeing this in my boys has, of course, caused me to notice the feminine twin in my younger girls and we’ve begun to have these talks, too. I hear the foolish talk but also have begun to hear and see snottiness. Thanks for the post which has reinforced what I’ve been feeling.

  19. Ok this makes a lot of sense but you made a connection with “potty jokes” and “sex jokes”. My parents wisely did not allow this kind of talking, but I grew up thinking sex is dirty and gross just like the potty is dirty and gross. How do you keep that from happening?

  20. Great post! I have 6 and 4 year old daughters, and while we don’t have a whole lot of potty jokes instigated by them (that’s little 3 year old brother’s job apparently), I often remind them about only speaking what is edifying and will build each other up, because they have the tendency to push each other’s buttons, and I can see it growing up into terrible attitudes – mean spiritedness and harsh words. I would love to hear more specific ideas of examples of what foolishness looks like… I hadn’t even really thought of the baby voice thing.

  21. This is great. Being a teacher of both elementary and high-school students over the years, I find many things that I try to weed out of the younger ones before they get to the older stage. It’s so much harder to train them then! Thanks for the reminder and some good specifics to go on.

  22. Great post! Thank you!

    @Em regarding dirty vs funny jokes: For me, whether the joke is honoring or dishonoring the subject has been a good indicator as to the general appropriateness. Blessed, wonderful, wholesome, marriage bed sex has funny moments sometimes, but the fun isn’t at the expense of either husband or wife or the sanctity of the bed. Does that make sense/help?

  23. (Post Script: and admittedly, some funny things aren’t to leave the fun of the room itself. Sometimes even wholesome fun is only meant to be enjoyed exclusively by the participants.)

  24. I agree with Em’s post. I actually needed counseling as a married adult to get over the “sex=dirty & bad” thing. And was raised by loving, Godly parents. I have 4 girls (15, 6, 5 and 2) and do not want to pass this on. But I really love the perspective here…and it validates my knee-jerk reaction to some things I see or hear from my girls. Thanks!

  25. Thanks abra, for your thoughts. That does make sense, but…how do you convey this to your kids? Thinking about what you said about dishonouring. Maybe if we taught it along the same lines as – we don’t make dishouring jokes about Jesus, because He is holy, not because it’s dirty to talk about him.

  26. @Em, my oldest is only 5, so the application is pretty basic. But yes, jokes shouldn’t dishonor the subject. Of course, that is easier said then done. Especially when the subject isn’t particularly respectable. Nothing like teaching myself right along side my chicklets! But saying something unkind doesn’t by default make a joke dirty. You can dishonor a person without being crass or obscene, which is also inappropriate, I think, in most situations. If someone is actually a horrible person, say Hitler, shouldn’t we be teaching our kids how to think about that/worldview instead of cracking jokes? I am, in no way, against jokes in of themselves, though. I kinda enjoying laughing. :)

    I don’t have it down to a science yet, I’m kinda just learning as I go, so what works in your family, might look different then what works for others.

  27. I am so glad you posted this. I have always felt guilty for not wanting my kids to act foolish. And yes, my daughter definitely has more of a problem with the goody-two-shoes (she’s the oldest). We had to deal with that yesterday (she thinks she’s better and smarter than me!) and it made me cry. Which is silly b/c she’s a good kid….

  28. @Em one of the things we’ve done with our oldest son (12) is to not tolerate those kind of jokes (although we’ve been known to laugh at a ‘fart’ joke now and then. Boys just find that kind of thing hilarious) And then he and my husband go out every so often (they try for once a month) and are going through ‘Tecknon Warrior”. As well as talking about what it means to honor a woman and the beauty of the marriage bed among other ‘coming of age’ things. HTH

  29. Great stuff! I was permitted a lot of foolishness as a child and its NOT helpful at all. Im aiming higher with my little daughters but the goals seem hard to define. Thank you for some clarity. When you have more to share, keep it coming! Thanks

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