Enjoy these additional tips on having this conversation across the age ranges. It’s never too early to begin talking to your daughter about virtue. Let’s re-introduce the long-forgotten word back into the English vocabulary! Please add any wisdom or insight you may have to offer by commenting below the post!
If your daughter is 5 years or less:
Be careful to guard your daughter’s exposure to children’s programs/movies/literature/media that contain themes/situations geared to older children. Help neutralize the princess attitude by introducing age appropriate chores and praising your daughter when she displays behaviors that are others-focused. Obviously, your daughter is going to have a higher level of neediness at this age, but she is fully capable at the older end of this age range to experience the joy of serving. It won’t necessarily come naturally, so find ways to involve her in age appropriate mission projects. Help her go through her closet and toy box and gather together the clothes/shoes/toys she’s outgrown to take to Salvation Army or a needy family. Explain to her in a language she’ll understand that God wants us to help the needy.
As she begins to develop a wider vocabulary, help her understand some of the attributes of virtue (Proverbs 31) by pointing out some of the qualities you see practiced by others. In continued support of Conversation #1, focus on internal attributes of beauty rather than external attributes. If she hears you praising virtuous qualities you recognize in others, she will be more likely to focus on inner beauty in the latter years and admire those who possess virtuous qualities. Her understanding is limited at this age, but never underestimate the value of modeling servanthood.
If your daughter is 6-11 years:
Encourage your daughter in this stage to look outside of Hollywood for role models. As we have witnessed over the years, even the Disney stars will often disappoint. At the upper end of this age spectrum, introduce your daughter to the concept of “reputation” and the pursuit of a “good name in the sight of God and man.” Girl drama and mean girl situations will escalate in these years and our daughters should be attentive to their perceived “reputations.”
Be attentive in this stage to a princess attitude that may be out of balance. What may have been cute in the toddler years is not as cute and endearing at this stage especially if a sense of entitlement has taken root. If not addressed, you may be paying a hefty price when your daughter rounds the corner of adolescence and the demands become intolerable.
Involve your daughter in missions projects and if possible, give her hands on experience by serving alongside her. There are plenty of age appropriate projects offered through churches and Christian organizations/camps. As I mentioned in Chapter 18, my home church takes families to serve in a poverty-stricken community on the Texas/Mexico border. Many of these families bring along their children in the 6-11 age range and expose them early on to the privilege of serving others who are less fortunate.
On the upper end of this age spectrum, help your daughter begin to grasp the meaning of “fear of the Lord.” Make sure she doesn’t walk away thinking it means to be afraid of God. Rather, highlight the need to be in awe and reverence of God and begin to point out examples that show a lack of respect for God. Examples include taking the Lord’s name in vain, phrases such as “Oh my God,” and “Jesus Christ” that are used improperly. Whether it’s a song, TV show, item of clothing, message on a t-shirt, movie, etc…, help your daughter develop a foundation where she asks herself regularly, “Would this bring glory and honor to God?” Finally, introduce the words “virtue” and “virtuous” into your daughter’s vocabulary during this age range. These are long-forgotten words, but no doubt, qualities that God esteems in the quest to be godly young women. Be faithful to point out virtuous behaviors you see them or others display and even use the word “virtuous” when commending the behaviors.
If your daughter is 12 years or older:
Everything mentioned in the 6-11 year age range is also applicable here. Consider setting aside a time where you can walk through the truths presented in this Conversation with your daughter and discuss it in more detail. If God has convicted your heart (as He did mine regarding my failure to expose my children to hand’s on mission projects at an earlier age), sit your daughter down and apologize to her. Humility goes a long way with our children and gives them the freedom to also admit mistakes and weaknesses.
Once your child hits the high school years, I highly recommend that you send her on an organized missions trip with her youth group or another reputable Christian organization. In the earlier years your presence is necessary, but as she nears adulthood, she is perfectly capable of traveling without you to serve in Christ’s name.
Just as it was important to keep the Princess influence in balance in the younger years, it is equally as important in these years to curb any narcissistic behaviors you notice. Teens have a tendency to think life is all about them, but that doesn’t mean we rationalize the behavior and allow it to become a habit. Again, the best remedy for narcissism is to expose your daughter to the joy of serving others. Expect her to grumble and complain at times, but don’t relent!
Talk to your daughter about having a good reputation that would bring glory and honor to God. Further, ask her what her classmates might say is the “generally accepted estimation” (reputation) of her. Make sure that she understands the key to obtaining a “good name in the sight of God and man”: (Proverbs 3:1-4):
“My son, do not forget my teaching, but keep my commands in your heart, for they will prolong your life many years and bring you prosperity. Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.”
Now, it’s your turn! What spoke to your heart in this conversation? Do you have some wisdom or insight to offer our readers? If so, please include your daughter’s age when you post your comment.