6 homeschool moms were recently asked to write about the topic of raising strong daughters. Here is what they said:
Ginny Seuffert from Illinois
Held shortly after the 2017 inauguration of Donald Trump, the Women’s March on Washington gave viewers a peculiar vision of strong womanhood. Spectators might gather that a strong woman is vulgar and profane, incessantly peppering her speech with words formerly confined to middle school lavatories.
There appeared to be obsessions with bodily functions exclusive to females coupled with a right to promiscuous sexual activity, while embracing the barren promises of publicly funded birth control and abortion on demand. Many signs denigrated Christianity (“Keep your rosaries off my ovaries.”) while headscarves and other trappings of a religion committed to restricting women’s most basic rights were obvious. Similar sentiments are indoctrinated on college campuses nationwide, so parents are left to question how to raise strong daughters of noble character in a world seemingly gone mad.
Studying history provides the answer. By offering our daughters examples of great women in the past, defined by virtues such as love of learning, courage, perseverance, ingenuity, and piety, we can set them on the path to leadership. Contrary to the March message, women of strong faith and impeccable morals are the ones who lead their gender in virtually every field of human endeavor.
Marie Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize and later became the first person to win two. Working on the principle that “Nothing in life is to be feared; it is only to be understood,” Madame Curie overcame the limited opportunities for women in science in her time. In addition to her groundbreaking work in nuclear physics, she saved many lives during World War I championing the use of portable X-ray machines known as “Little Curies” in the field of battle.
Other women have made extraordinary advances in science as well. Madame Curie’s daughter, Irene Curie-Joliot also won a Nobel Prize, making them the first mother and daughter to win independent Noble Prizes.
The first woman to be commander-in-chief of the military forces of a major nation was St. Joan of Arc, and she did it when she was only seventeen years old. An inspired strategist, renowned for her bravery in battle, Joan is remembered for her purity and for her insistence that morality is key to military morale. She urged her soldiers to confess their sins and attend Mass regularly, and scolded both nobles and common soldiers for foul or blasphemous language. She drove prostitutes from the French camp with her sword.
Mildred Jefferson earned her bachelor’s degree from Texas College at 16 years old. Too young to enter medical school, she first earned a master’s degree from Tufts University and later was the first black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School. Dr. Jefferson is best remembered for her tireless work to protect the lives of the unborn and the elderly by fighting abortion and euthanasia.
The first canonized American citizen, Frances Xavier Cabrini, founded the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart and traveled to America to serve Italian immigrants. Before her death Sister founded 67 institutions for the care of the sick, disabled, orphaned, poor and elderly in North and South America and Europe.
The key to raising strong women is presenting our daughters with examples of virtuous women of extraordinary achievement—firsts in their fields. Such women can be found in science, the arts, the military, and perhaps most especially in service to others. While not denying their gender, strong women define themselves by their deeds and their decency, and serve our daughters as powerful role models.
Amy Kalscheur from Indiana
My husband and I have eight children, six of whom are daughters. Our oldest daughter is 19, and the thought of raising strong daughters never entered our minds until recently. Strength is not a virtue that we ever thought about instilling in our daughters—it was not the goal. However, we have recently taken a closer look at our girls and can see that they are indeed strong.
We have taught our daughters life skills, learning at my side from the time they could walk. They have learned how to defend themselves physically, each being a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. We continue to teach them about our faith, and have equipped them to defend our Lord. We have taught them how to spend, save, and give money. They have learned how to speak in public. Each has learned a craft. They have been taught manners. They live lives immersed in the virtues, especially temperance and humility.
We have steadfastly pushed each one to surpass what they thought they were capable of, but they always knew that they were supported by us. We have given our children chances to succeed, chances to shine, chances to serve, and chances to demonstrate what they have learned. But even more importantly, we have provided a safe environment for our daughters to be hurt, to be bored, and even to fail.
When our oldest daughter was 10, we could see that she was intelligent. She was talented and had a natural flair for success. To whatever she put her hands, she excelled. However, after a time, we realized that she was beginning to turn down opportunities to try new things, to go to new places. My husband and I would urge her on, but she resisted, often saying that she didn’t want to try because she didn’t know how to do something. Finally, I decided that she needed a push. I pulled her aside and told her that she was going to participate in a particular activity. She, as I knew she would, resisted and said she was afraid that she would not know how to do it, that she would fail. I looked at her and said, “I want you to fail.” At the moment, it seemed rather harsh. It definitely took her by surprise—the mother who was always showing her the way to success, was telling her that she wanted her to fail. I let the words sink in for a while. I sat down with her and followed up by saying, “I know the way your mind works, and I know what is going to happen to you. I know what you are going to need to make you a better person. I want you to try. I don’t want you to think about succeeding. I want you to fail at something, to learn that you have to try to do things before you know if you can do them.”
That conversation was nearly 10 years ago. Today, my daughter has developed into a strong woman, who is willing to try new things. She has traveled overseas multiple times, and is about to graduate from college—at the top of her department. She is faithful, devoted, and kind. She has learned that failure is part of success. And her failures make her a stronger person.
No, we never thought about raising strong daughters. We continue to try to help our girls develop what God has already put inside them, to develop the virtue of fortitude with practice and habit. We do so with love and patience, and sometimes with fire.
Tara Brelinsky from North Carolina
After three balls of unrelenting energy (a.k.a. sons), I thought my first daughter would be the promised sugar and spice and everything nice. Well to be fair, she is a sweetheart with a big, kind heart. So what I suppose I was really expecting was a docile daughter, who’d prefer rocking baby dolls to running laps. However, considering my own personality and the line of dominant females from whom I was generated, I shouldn’t have been surprised that my wee little lass was bold from the start. Everything those boys could do, she had to do better. If they ran, she tried to run faster. If they had an interest (soccer, a particular character or book), she’d adopt it, too. It didn’t matter that she was younger and petite in stature, she made up for it all with her fierce determination.
She tolerated pigtails and dresses only until she was old enough to put herself together each day. And while hairstyles and clothing shouldn’t matter, I admit that I had to make peace with the fact that my little girl wasn’t interested in fitting into the stereotypical role of a nursery rhyme character. She was independent like me (which was probably the hardest part). Therefore, I’d say that the first step to raising a strong daughter is to make peace with the fact that she may not follow the pattern you’d imagined for her.
When our youngest child was born, my husband and I decided to place the baby’s car seat beside our oldest daughter’s seat in the van. She was 12 years old at the time and she seemed to be struggling with finding her place in the world. Her older brothers were now teens who were less tolerant of a sister trying to one-up them all of the time. Without a formal discussion, we simply placed her in the position of primary helper for the baby. It quickly became clear that she was not only capable of the job, she relished the role of mother’s helper. I realize now that she needed her own job, her own task that she could excel in. Plus, taking care of a younger child helped her to feel loved and in charge, without a desire to compete.
Though a child may be strong, it’s also important to understand that she may still be lacking in self-confidence. I mean she may know her own mind and desire to run the show, but she may still feel like the odd girl out in a culture that pushes conformity to secular values. Additionally, girl groups can be cruel (not even homeschoolers are immune to cliques.) I don’t advocate getting overly involved in childish drama, but it is worth paying attention to the groups your daughter participates in. Teach her how to empathize with others and encourage her to form healthy friendships that are based on mutual support and respect. Don’t tolerate meanness among girls.
If you’ve been blessed with a strong daughter embrace her leadership skills and channel her head-strong determination. Get her involved in sports or service organizations (we’ve had great experiences with Civil Air Patrol.) Give her responsibilities and make her in charge of something important. Require her to get a paying job if she’s old enough.
Remember, the world needs faithful leaders who are unashamed of their faith, your strong daughter may be just the girl for the job!
Mary Ellen Barrett from New York
In today’s society, when we speak of strong women, most people seem to equate that with being a twenty-first century feminist. I find this odd. Mostly because the modern feminist is defined by a kind of group-think where everyone believes the same thing, marches to the same drummer, accepts the same political ideology, and does so with a plethora of tattoos and shorn hair that they believe makes them non conformists but really makes them all look exactly alike.
I’m not raising those women.
There are certain truths that my husband and I hold dear, that we fervently hope and pray will result in our raising strong faithful daughters who have a good sense of who they are and why they were created. The first and foremost of these truths is that none of our eight children have ever belonged to us. They are children of a King, a King who loves them so much that he created them in His image and likeness and gifted them to us to raise to meet Him again. As such, these daughters of ours are extraordinary, not just because we think so but because God thinks so. They know this because we tell them. Often. When they fail, falter, sin, and drive us nuts they know that we love them and that God loves them. As such they are worth any amount of forgiveness and mercy and we try very hard to encourage them when the path is difficult.
Strong daughters are also the result of having a strong relationship with their father. When my first daughter, Katie, was born, they placed that sweet pink bundle into my arms, and as my husband gazed at her beautiful little face, I sensed in a profound way that I had just become second banana. That teeny tiny pinky finger had all six foot four of him wrapped around it and the same held true for the three girls who followed. They are his princesses and he is fiercely protective of them and they know it. I’ve often had cause to feel a little sorry for the young men who’ve had the temerity to ask if they could date one of our daughters. It’s an arduous process, breaking through my husband’s defenses and that’s as it should be. He spends time with them, takes an interest in what they are doing, and the result is that they know exactly how a lady should be treated. Strong women have healthy respectful relationships with their fathers.
They are beautiful girls these daughters of mine, both inside and out, but it’s important that they know that regardless of what they look like on any given day, they are still beautiful. The standard of beauty one finds in magazines and movies has nothing to do with how real women look, and I try my very best make them aware that regardless of a blemish, bad hair day, or a few extra pounds, that they are beautiful and worthy. Women’s bodies are amazing, and the changes that can occur as they age can be frustrating. It matters not; you’re beautiful because beauty is what you were created to be.
Strong women—the world needs them, and it is our profound joy to raise them. Women who are unafraid to love, to create, to marry, to live an authentic Christian life can truly change the world. Let’s let them loose on it.
Melissa Savage from North Carolina
In my opinion, the most important part of raising daughters to be leaders is to be a leader yourself! My daughters watch everything I do. If you want your daughter to grow up to be a leader, then you are going to have to give her a solid example to follow. You have to look to your own skill-sets and decide “What talents do I possess that make me stand out to my daughter?” Once you determine your strengths then find ways that you can get involved in activities that demonstrate those to your daughter. Be careful not to join every organization and then over-volunteer by trying to run something in each! Just pick a few that you are passionate about and keep the course. Remember, it is not how many things that you do, but rather doing those few things well—having confidence and connecting with other people.
Once you show your daughter how to be a leader, help find situations to put her into a leader role. After watching how you interact with people, she is ready to have small roles where she is in charge. Take it slow and be methodical about it. Maybe you let her watch the kids for you while you go and take a nap. When she achieves that, then maybe you ask her to help you with going on the next aisle at the grocery store and pick out the bread and peanut butter you need. Eventually you will be able to drive up to the store and say, “Why don’t I give you the money to run in and buy a gallon of milk while I will stay with the other screaming kiddos in the car?” By giving her more and more confidence with each different situation, she will learn how to handle herself and hopefully start asking for more chances on her own. Since you know your daughter better than anyone else, you can select opportunities with both levels of control (familiar & known) and scary (new & unknown) to find that perfect balance. By showing her how to overcome fear and obstacles while building a solid self-image, you are teaching what is needed to become the leader God wants her to be!
Lastly, you are going to need to be there for all the successes and the failures. This is the most important part! You have to her biggest cheerleader! Just like you jumped up and down when she learned to use the potty, you will need to be there in the same supportive nature (but in a little more discreet and controlled way) to offer congratulations and encouragement. When she gets in the car after the milk, listen to what happened and then say, “Well I knew you could do it, way to go!” As she gets older and the decisions she makes aren’t the right ones, you want to be the one that guides her to the way of “What Would Jesus Do” and help form her to be that effective Christian Catholic leader you want her to be. You need to be the one to pick her up, dust her off, give her the pep talk she needs, and push her to do it again. This is what we are called to do as parents and that we will keep doing even after they have left our nest.
Krista Thomas from Maryland
I think every mom relishes compliments about her children. I revel the most when complete strangers offer compliments about how confident and beautiful our daughters are. Everyone wants to know how they escaped the trappings of mainstream materialism and secular beliefs, defying presumptions of how today’s young women must be. Believe me, my daughters have plenty of #girlpower without ascribing to the oversexed, overdone, and over exhausted assumptions of the #gofeminists movement—and here are three things that I believe matter the most in raising strong daughters:
Parent strong to raise strong daughters. Look, our children model behavior albeit good or bad. Intentional parenting which aims to foster love of faith, prayer, and service will almost always net great results. We must be ambitious and confident in our parenting expectations, guiding them to live in truth, honesty, integrity, charity, and mercy. In a nutshell, it means setting practical boundaries with faith and reason guiding our decision-making. It means making our “yes” to mean “yes” and our “no” to mean “no” as taught in Matthew 5:37. It may be impossible to parent perfectly in an imperfect world, so be unwavering as parents, parenting for good character. That is, raising strong daughters in truth and love as the ideal aim.
Encourage virtuous friendships. There’s a saying, “Be careful who you call your friends. It’s better to have four quarters than 100 pennies.” And it’s true. In raising our daughters to be strong, we empower them to make good conscious choices when keeping company. Because one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch, it is a wise policy to know who our daughters spend time with and what they do during their time in the home and outside the home. One of the best ways to encourage virtuous friendships is to ensure they are best friends as sisters (or siblings). The commandment to love your neighbor starts in the home; therefore, fighting like enemies is strictly forbidden. Do they have their moments? Absolutely. We’re human. But in our home, we show our daughters that love (as a virtue) is more than a feeling. Authentic love possesses an attitude of gratitude based on the One who loves us first, our Heavenly Father. Strong daughters should be inclined to want the good of others (familial and otherwise), choosing to be peacekeepers which gives way to self-sacrificing, compassionate, understanding, and cooperative acts. In these formative years, virtuous friendships have been key to their development of strong character.
Engage in meaningful conversation as much as possible. Immerse yourself in their life through both deep and trivial conversations at play, work, and study. While some believe in expanding experiences with the virtual world, we limit the immaterial experiences so as to develop a “talking trust.” They need to develop a deep bond so as to trust in your parental authority for their greater good. The teen years bring about heightened self-centered passions focused toward the world, so parent in a way that safeguards their affections in a balanced and disciplined way. Focus their passions on service for what is truly good instead of the focus on pleasure. Daily conversation helps us, as parents, to understand and foster their God-given talents. Helping our daughters discern these gifts will help them to live out their vocation to the fullest potential for His glory—and doing so as strong women with a love for the Lord.
All 6 of these ladies are regular speakers at the IHM Homeschool Conferences.
A couple have also written books including:
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way by Ginny Seuffert
Ginny’s Gems: Home Management Essentials by Ginny Seuffert
Ginny’s Gems: 10 Essentials for Teaching Your Preschooler At Home by Ginny Seuffert
God is Good All the Time: A Journal of a Breast Cancer Patient by Amy Kalscheur
Feature Photo used with permission. Copyright: Krista Thomas