She’s having a birthday next month, guys. My little girl is about to officially enter the teenage world. To say I’m terrified is an understatement – after all, I remember being 13.
Regardless, here she comes, chasing after adulthood like a cheetah in hot pursuit. Thinking about the 13 years she has lived, left me reminiscing about some of the difficult challenges we both have faced, but it also left me feeling a bit guilty.
My oldest was a product of my own teenage years. Barely 20 years-old, I thought I knew all there was to know about the big, bad world. You know how it is – your parents are obviously in denial about how intelligent you are at making life decisions and they really should refer to you when it comes to modern advances because they are so behind and disconnected from the rest of the world.
At the time, I was married to a man nine years older than me. Although she was planned, the rushed idea of bringing her into the world was out of my desire to meet my then husband where he was in life; nine years ahead. As my pregnancy continued, having her became more about providing me companionship in an empty, alcoholic, room-mate marriage.
Early on, of course, I didn’t know she was a girl, but I prayed everyday that God would bring me a little girl in a world full of lust-driven, broken promise-making, alcoholic men.
God blessed me with my daughter and I’ll never forget holding her in my arms for the first time, heart beating wildly and the overwhelming feeling of fear creeping into my exhausted, new mom body. It was all up to me and somehow, I knew that it truly would be a solo experience.
13 is a Milestone
13. Do you remember where you were when you were 13? I was starting 8th grade in a tiny Missouri town with one stoplight and the closest mall an hour away. I had just moved there the previous school year and I hated it. I missed my friends, I missed our home, and I missed the comfort of my bedroom in our country home near the railroad tracks.
If I go could back to my 13 year-old self, what would I want to tell her?
13 Things To Teach Your Daughter Before Her 13th Birthday
1. How to Be Humble and Kind-
Yes, Tim McGraw is definitely on to something in his song Humble and Kind but unfortunately, it’s becoming a rarity. It’s important for her to grow up with confidence, but not at the expense of being prideful.
When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Proverbs 11:2
Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18
The best way to teach her this is to be an example of it. It doesn’t mean you can’t acknowledge the great things you do. It means that you acknowledge them knowing that God is the one who blessed you with those talents and abilities. Others don’t exist to serve you. You exist to serve others. Love others passionately.
2. Talk to Her About Sex and Puberty-
I’m a firm believer in talking to my children about difficult topics like sex before their friends do. The last thing I want is them getting the down and dirty from a bunch of children who have no idea what they’re talking about. This should be done face-to-face. Handing them a book only makes them feel like it’s something that isn’t natural, shouldn’t be discussed, and makes you uncomfortable. If you don’t make topics like this open for discussion, assume they’re going to hear the wrong version somewhere else. Talking to her about sex also includes teaching her to respect her body.
3. How to Think Critically
Being a prior teacher, I can tell you account after account of children who couldn’t think for themselves. Every time little boo boo had a problem, the parents came rushing in to wipe the child’s tears and scold me for allowing other children to cause such heartache. “You should have seen it happen,” they told me. Do you have 20 children at home? I digress…
Stop it. Please stop doing everything for your daughter. Even if she throws a fit, it’s way better for her to learn this lesson now than to be a thorn in her ex husband’s side years down the road. It’s better for her to slam her bedroom door than to end up without a job because she sits around waiting for people to tell her how to do things. This could be a post in itself, so let me keep it short. Give them time to think! Give them a chance to fail. Ask them questions. Ask them questions! Ask them open-ended questions. Ask their opinion on things. Have them tell you reasons why certain choices weren’t wise. Get them talking about the positive that can come from a situation. Don’t talk at them for goodness sakes. I’m totally guilty of this! I’m trying really hard to break this habit though. Break it with me, would ya?
4. How to Be Responsible-
Your daughter should be doing her own laundry by 13. You should also have higher expectations of her than that of an elementary-aged child. There is no reason her room shouldn’t be kept clean and there is no reason she can’t be given the responsibility of regularly sharing some of the household chores. Yes, I know she’s still a child. Yes, I know kids need to get outside and play. They also need to prepare for adulthood because it’ll sneak up on you and before you know it, you’ll have a permanent roommate in the form of the daughter you never taught how to fend for herself.
She should do all this, at least at first, without the expectation of a reward. She needs to learn that the reward for completing tasks is intrinsic through the boost in self-confidence that responsibility creates.
5. To Be a Hard Worker-
Mediocrity is alive! Instead of pushing their children, parents are opting for providing their child with comfort. Comfort never solved anything. Think about all the successful people in the world. They didn’t get there because someone handed them a pillow with a paycheck for life inside. They got there because they worked hard and persevered. If you don’t teach her the value of hard work, she won’t learn to value hard work. Then, when it comes time for her to find Mr. Right, she’ll go for the lazy gamer who won’t even lift his buns off the couch to kiss his wife.
6. What to Value in a Man-
My daughter has never had the benefit of a good male role model. Consequently, it will be more challenging for her to recognize a good man when she meets one. To compensate, I have frequent conversations on the topic of what makes a good man. What does that quote say that I saw recently?
Teach her to know the difference between:
-a man that flatters her and a man that complements her,
-a man who spends money on her and a man who invests in her,
-a man who views her as property and a man who views her properly,
-a man who lusts after her and a man who loves her,
-a man who believes he’s a gift to women and a man who believes she’s a gift to him,
-and then we need to teach our sons to be that man.
I’d also add that it’s important to teach her the difference between a man who says he loves the Lord and a man who shows that he loves the Lord. He can say he’s a Christian, but if his life doesn’t show it, what else is he saying about himself that isn’t true?
7. To Value Modesty-
It’s difficult enough for men without being bombarded with your daughter’s lack of modesty. Being modest actually helps her self-esteem! You’re teaching her to find value in herself the way she is, without having to lower her standards to attract men. Make sure you set the standard and expectations early. She needs to know exactly what is expected of her. She also needs you to tell her she’s beautiful, everyday, just the way she is.
8. How God Views Her-
She needs to know the truth about herself. She needs to know what to cling to during those moments when she feels less than enough. Post them on the wall, paste them to her heart, and remind her of them often. She is the daughter of a King. She is more precious than rubies.
9. How to Pray-
Prayer is what got me through my teenage years. Not just the prayers of my momma, but my own prayers. Middle school is a difficult time and your daughter is going to need to know where to turn when the stresses of school and friends, boys and school work become too much to handle. Encourage her to pray aloud until she becomes more comfortable with it. Establish a habit of praying nightly. Ask her how you can pray for her.
10. How to Cook-
At 13, your daughter is old enough to cook a meal. It doesn’t have to be a four course meal, but there is no reason it can’t be a healthy, home-cooked meal. God tells us to care for our bodies and she needs to learn how to eat healthy and cook healthy. Trust me, her husband will thank you. Start when she’s young by allowing her to help you. I know it takes longer, I know it makes a bigger mess..do it anyway.
11. About Money-
Unfortunately, it is a rarity to find a finance class in school. There are many adults these days that can’t balance a checkbook and don’t have the urgency to pay their bills on time. If she receives money as a gift, teach her to save more than she spends by having her deposit some of her money into a savings account. After depositing her money, teach her to keep track of it. Teach her about credit cards, teach her about interest, teach her about mortgages, talk to her about how banks work and how people plan for retirement. It’s never too early to instill responsible financial habits. Don’t bank on her being able to take care of you when social security is obsolete, if she can’t even pay her electric bill.
12. How to Choose What’s Right Over What’s Popular-
Middle School is downright dangerous, especially today. I thank the Lord I didn’t grow up in the age of technology. With the ability to Snapchat message your friend a dirty name and ask cute boys out via text message, I can’t imagine how difficult it is to survive. Regardless, that’s the world we live in. She needs to know how to focus on truth when the rest of the world screams something different. She needs to know how to stand firm when the storms of popularity rear their ugly head. She must know how to say no when everyone else is screaming yes. Tell her why it’s important and then ask her what the consequences of unwise choices might be.
13. How to Handle Failure-
She’s going to fail a lot. She needs to know it’s okay. She needs you to show her how to get back up when you fall. She needs to know that, really, it’s not failing – it’s just a lesson. True failure is when you don’t learn from your lessons. She also needs to know that she can try at everything, but she may not always succeed. Not everyone is born to be a professional ballerina. That’s okay! God has something else in mind for her life. Teach her how to uncover her gifts and then help cultivate those gifts to help give her the best chance at being successful. And please don’t underestimate “failures” because those are opportunities of growth.
…and a bonus:
14. How to Have a Sense of Humor-
Life doesn’t always need to be hard. She needs to learn how to have a sense of humor; how to take what life deals her and laugh sometimes. She needs to put a stop to negative thinking and exchange it for positive. Make jokes with your daughter, share stories with her about mistakes you’ve made. This is a balancing act though. There is a time to laugh and a time to be serious. Help her distinguish between the two.
That’s Not All
By all means, this is not a comprehensive list of things your daughter needs to know. These are just things I find important. Have I always done a great job at making sure my daughter is successful at these? No. Is it too late? Absolutely not, but the earlier you can get a start on instilling these things in your daughter, the better off she’ll be.
Ready or not, here she comes!
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