9 ways to raise independent daughters

I want to begin by saying that this isn’t a comprehensive list. I would love to learn from you how you foster independence and confidence in your family. I want to be clear that my daughters are not perfectly independent or confident. They have however grown in this area! Their growth inspires me over and over again…

know how to drive and have their own transportation

When our girls each turned 16 (Sophie turns 16 next month!) we have given them a car. Ellie’s was a branded title 2011 Hyundai Elantra hatchback, Kate’s was our neighbor’s old Audi A6 and Sophie’s will be Ellie’s boyfriend’s old 2005 Acura. The cars have not been new…or super fancy. They have been practical yet not perfect. While they are in school, we help with maintenance-but they know every step and cost of that. Especially when they are in college, we have felt how important it is to have the ability to get where they need to go. They have been grateful and responsible.

make your own $ and learn to care for it

Ellie mowing

There are many opinions on this. I have had friends, music teachers and educators that have felt differently than we do-that their education or extracurricular interests should be their “job” while they are in school. For our daughters, some of their greatest feelings of confidence and purpose have come through employment. They have learned so much about the business and service industries. Ellie and Kate have no problem asking for what they are worth in the work place, far better than I was at their ages. Kate explained to me once, “work is a place where I can be someone new, not tied to the expectation of those who have known me for a long time.” They love their paychecks too!

Before they were old enough to be employed, we found opportunities in the neighborhood (babysitting and Ellie helped at a horse barn), extra work at home, and our apartments. Teaching them to work was one of the many reasons we bought rental property. They grew so much. The first few years mowing the apartments, we would turn the corner and they would be on their phones or laying in the grass. This last summer-Sophie took it on by herself and mowed the whole property several times alone!

Kate can never resist a pile of leaves!

(photos taken at our apartments in 2018)

participate in preparing food and home care

Ellie loves to make dinner, Kate loves to help Danny with repairs, and Sophie loves to bake! Ellie and Kate, now living on their own, have been great at maintaining an apartment and chipping in with the responsibilities there. I wasn’t sure that would be the case- cleaning was not their priority when they lived at home. A few weeks ago I called Kate on a Friday asking her weekend plans- “I am going to go to the store and get cleanser for the bathtub and clean my bathroom” I was shocked that the was the first thing on her mind for the weekend. The last time I visited them, I offered to help Ellie and Lauren (my niece and Ellie’s roommate) clean. They were wiping down blinds, vacuuming under couches, wiping doorknobs! I was so proud of them!

value progress over perfection

I have made it a rule not to ask them about grades in college (I am still in Sophie’s business about school performance in high school). When they do share results they have had on tests or assignments- I celebrate with them if they are happy with it…AND remind them about progress over perfection if they aren’t happy with their scores. Progress beats perfection in every area of our lives. I try to remind them to celebrate their wins and look for the good they do each day…hoping they will let go the times they haven’t done what they had hoped.

drop “stereotype” jobs

We have apartments where we have given our girl opportunities to work for us mowing or shoveling snow. One morning Sophie was shoveling. The tenant saw her shoveling the snow in front of her door and asked “don’t you have any brothers to do that for you?” Sophie responded that she didn’t. The woman continued, “any neighbor boys?” astounded that a 15 year old girl would be doing that labor. This summer we had a carpenter working at the house from North Carolina. Kate was mowing the lawn and he was shocked! In his southern accent he asked, “Can I take a video of this!? I need to send this to my wife!” He let us know that in North Carolina women don’t 1) mow the lawn 2) take out the trash 3) get their own gas Kate thought North Carolina sounded like a pretty great place to live 😉 But actually, our girls have confidence in doing physical work…and most of them would rather work outside than clean the bathroom or kitchen!

encourage academic and vocational education

College has been such a great experience for Ellie and Kate. They grow so much while living on their own and pushing pass their comfort zones. I don’t have a preconceived hope on what they do after high school. They can get a traditional college degree, learn a vocational skill or a combination of those things. They can strive in an entrepreneurial lane. We just want them to turn their time and focus into growth. Supporting them with encouragement but not 100% financial support has been what we have chosen as their parents. They have small college funds (529s) but nowhere near what they will need to graduate. Being responsible for how they buy books, pay tuition, and support themselves has given them a lot of “skin in the game” which has been good for them. If they live away from home (both Ellie and Kate have chosen to) we give them a monthly allowance to help lessen some of their living expenses. We have been so proud of their growth, but more importantly- they are proud of themselves!

teach the importance of health and fitness

I was a bit late to the fitness and sports focus in my parenting. We had more emphasis in music when they were young. Sophie was the first to push us in this area. She quit music and focused on power tumbling. She needed the movement and the energy of sports. I quickly saw the benefits- physically, with ADD, and maybe most important- emotionally. Kate found lacrosse in high school (which she LOVED). Sophie is now playing lacrosse too. Ellie worked out with Danny at F45 her senior year. She really missed it when she went to college. She was beginning to struggle and we told her we would help pay for F45 if she wanted to go. She was so faithful and it made a big difference for her. Now she and Kate go together and we pay for both of them. It is an amazing physical and emotional outlet and I LOVE that they do it together! Most of their locations offer a student discount too!

faith and service

Ellie in Tonga building a home for a family.
Kate in Brazil building a recreational/literacy center for the community.

We have tried to incorporate faith and service in our home through church and being thoughtful of neighbors and family members. Our girls have been pretty good about participating with this whenever we asked them. They have seen Danny and I do it independently too. One of the greatest catalysts for this was participating in HXP Humanitarian trips. Ellie went to Tonga and Kate went to Brazil. We are excited to see where Sophie will choose to go. Ellie went the summer before her senior year. Kate went the summer before college. These trips did absolutely change their lives and perspectives of the world, their faith and their outlook on their own futures. I am really grateful for the program! Whether you find opportunities in another country or right next-door, spending time and energy in service of someone else teaches our hearts so much.

unconditional love

We don’t see eye to eye on everything. I have learned through my years of parenting to let go, trust them and that love can connect us and help us more than anything else.

I would love to know what has worked in your home! Please leave your ideas here in comments or email me at carindavis@gmail.com. I will share your ideas here.

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