How a Mother Shapes the Heart of Her Daughter

by Kathy Cuevas

I’ve been told countless times that my children are miniature versions of my husband and me. The similarities are uncanny… and quite hilarious at times, creating a home with no shortage of laughter and face palms. But alongside that delight exists a heavy burden that presses on my heart as I stare daily at my pint-sized reflection. The question I ask often is, how can I shape my daughter’s character and prepare her for eternity while living in and navigating this fallen and broken world?

The truth is, my daughter (and yours) was uniquely and beautifully created for God’s own purpose. She was sovereignly placed under my care and, for better or for worse, a reflection of the example I model for her, particularly in her early and most tender years. The teachings I impress upon her little heart during these young years will never leave her. I have met enough children of all ages and backgrounds to know that those little eyes can and do see everything. Not only do they see, but they imitate.

Often times, Christian parents overlook the most impressionable first years because they are consumed and overwhelmed with the physical needs of their children. When the child becomes old enough to speak, they may dutifully fill them up with plenty of Bible verses and stories while failing to prioritize their own spiritual growth. When a flight attendant announces the safety protocols before a flight, he or she will inevitably tell you that in the event of an emergency, you must secure your oxygen mask first before helping your child.  Likewise, we must not wait until an emergency to nurture and deepen our own spiritual growth and relationship with the Lord! Because like a flight emergency, if you wait, it will be too late.

Our children grow up much too quickly. So then, in shaping our daughter’s character, prioritizing our own spiritual growth for her to imitate is of utmost importance. While by no means comprehensive, I’ve selected three areas in which a mother can model godly character for her daughter.

There is nothing sweeter than Christian joy: a life spent knowing Jesus with the promise of living in His presence forever and ever. Unlike worldly joy, Christian joy can be experienced regardless of any circumstance. After all, the Bible never promises us a life free of hardship and trials, or even paralyzing grief. I can attest to this both in my study of the Bible and personal life experience. But it does promise something so much more—a supernatural joy and peace that can be experienced right here on this earth despite any trial that seeks to rob us of it.

One of the things I strive to do is infuse our home with joy. I’m not just talking about the kind of joy that involves lots of toys, games and laughter, although we certainly enjoy plenty of those things. I’m speaking about a steady, constant flow of joy that comes from “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7). Such a brand of joy is experienced when, like Paul, we learn to be content in every circumstance, knowing that it is Christ who strengthens us (Phil 4:12).

One of the best ways to model joy for my daughter is through joyfully embracing my role as a wife and mother. Nothing breaks my heart more than living in a society that devalues and belittles the role of a wife and mother as much as ours does. Sure, there is plenty of lip service given to how important and special mothers are, and how deserving mothers are of bubble baths and mom’s night outs. After all, Target is basically designed to lure mothers with their conveniently located Starbucks and affordable lines of clothing and home goods. Trust me, I know. I’m sure you’ve seen the blogs and YouTube videos parading the oh-so-burdensome task of raising children.

But where are the mothers who truly find their joy in being a devoted helper suitable to their husbands, and in raising up daughters who will want to be the same? Where are the mothers who will unashamedly teach and model for their daughters the utmost joy and privilege of being their mother because they are the future in carrying on the gospel message and being a light to the world? There is no magic formula for teaching your daughter to exhibit joy. It is modeled through your own love and devotion to Christ while finding your identity and security in Him.

It’s been said that it takes a village to raise a child. But I say it takes a church to build up a mother. The greatest disservice I can do for my daughter is to teach her that just because I am a wife and mother that I have reached my full spiritual “size” and have stopped growing. Just as she observes my every move, it is just as vital for me to learn from the older Christian women whom God has placed in my life.

Titus 2 says that older women are to “teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children” (v. 3-4). How can I teach my daughter what it means to be a godly woman if I myself am failing to model my own life after other godly women? My heart has often found encouragement hearing the words of wisdom and stories from older women who have been willing to share their burdens and to carry mine. Seeing and learning from the lives of those faithful women then spurs me on to remain faithful, and to pour the same into my own daughter.

Considering how many times I answer with “I don’t know,” my daughter is fully aware that her mother is not the source of answers to all of life’s questions. I desperately need my local church family to invest in the lives of my children and to help point them to Christ through their own lives. Inviting other believers to take part in this journey with us is a beautiful blessing. My heart beats with thanksgiving each week for their Sunday school and children’s church teachers as well as the many others who invest their time, love and patience into our children. Through our church family, they are learning how to become a part of Christ’s church, and how to be a blessing to others.

“Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight” (Ps 19:14). When you consider that on average a woman tends to speak anywhere from 10,000 to 20,000 words in a single day, it is sobering to be reminded of biblical truth that “for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matt 12:34). It is then not surprising that the hidden sins of one’s heart are bound to come out through the mouth in only a matter of time. It is also no wonder the Bible addresses the topic of speech so many times! Thus, my role as a mother is not only “to be a model of good works,” but to also “show integrity, dignity and sound speech that cannot be condemned” (Titus 2:8).

The most crucial way for a mother to model Christ-honoring speech is through the manner with which she speaks to her husband. You had better believe those little ears are hearing the kindness on our tongues and the words flowing from a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Pet 3:4) long before they can even speak! Barbara Hughes, the author of one of my favorite Christian books Disciplines of a Godly Woman writes that “gentleness is strength under control.”

Contrary to popular belief, the gentle woman is not only strong, but exhibits control of her thoughts, emotions, her fears and her tongue. Our words are to be gracious and sweet like a honeycomb (Prov 16:24). The Proverbs 31 woman “opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue” (v. 26). When our words are few and full of grace, not only are we building up those who hear it, but we are magnifying the God in whom we have placed our trust, our hopes, our desires and our fears (Prov 10:19, 12:18, 15:1, 15:28, Eph 4:29).

We live in a world, sadly, where women often find their identities and their worth in the approval of others. My prayer is to help my daughter find her value through the lens of Christ. As she grows older, the words that I speak into her heart become increasingly more precious to her. With each passing day, I see how she wears each word of loving affirmation and kindness the way she wears her treasured jewelry. I see how she looks to me to guide her and teach her how to show compassion, grace, and forgiveness. She looks to me to teach her how to trust and obey God, even when sometimes life doesn’t seem fair. For the sake of eternity that awaits, I will continue to strive to faithfully model godly character for my daughter, so that I might be able to say, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor 11:1).

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