In a discussion centered around her latest book, What a Girl Needs From Her Mom, Cheri Fuller talks about the importance of a mother listening to and praying for her daughter, as well as helping her to develop confidence and a healthy body image.
Jim Daly: Cheri, what is one way a mom today who has had a strained relationship with her daughter, what's one thing she can do today to begin to repair that?
Cheri Fuller: if there's a strain, I would ask God, what's my part in this strain, in this lack of good relationship and peaceful." And then be willing to humble yourself and go to your daughter. And if the Lord shows you something, then say, you know, go to her and ask her forgiveness. And you'd be amazed the power of forgiveness between a mother and a daughter, because the truth is, a mother-daughter relationship is a special gift from God, but it's often fraught with conflict, with misunderstanding, with sometimes drama and emotions that your daughter's going through. So, I love the whole idea of parenting on my knees and we need to.
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John Fuller: Well, you're hear more from Cheri Fuller on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly about connecting with your daughter and really positively influencing her life. We're glad you're listening. I'm John Fuller.
Jim: John, that bond between a mother and daughter, it's a unique relationship. It's something special, probably very much like a father and a son. I mean, there is something unique about that. And we want to talk to moms today and daughters, to do the best they can do, hopefully in a great way, to connect and have that relationship that makes it special. And here at Focus on the Family, we want to help you thrive in those relationships and today we're gonna talk to Cheri Fuller, as you said. Now you guys aren't related are you, John?
John: I don't think so.
Jim: Maybe distantly?
John: We'll have to—
John: --I'll have to do some (Laughter) ancestor research.
Cheri: --maybe distantly.
Jim: Well, Cheri, welcome back to "Focus."
Jim: Thank you, Jim and John. I'm delighted to be here today to talk about mothers and daughters.
John: Well, we're glad to have Cheri back. She's been here a number of times. She's written about 40 books and the one that we'll be talking about today is called, What a Girl Needs from Her Mom, which really covers the span from birth, all the way up to high school and beyond. Cheri and her husband, Holmes, live in Oklahoma and they have three grown children—two boys and a girl and six grandchildren.
Jim: Cheri, let's start there. You had two boys and then all of a sudden, boom, you had your girl. That must have been exciting.
Cheri: It was very exciting. I love and adore my boys, Chris and Justin, who were three years apart and Justin came first and then, Chris, but you see, Jim, I grew up in the middle of girls. I'm one of five girls.
Jim: Oh, really.
Cheri: And I grew up in a girlie world. (Laughter) We loved makeup. We loved doing our hair. I started--
Jim: Dolls, playing with dolls.
Cheri: --dolls. Now I'm a real outdoor person, so I mean, I loved to be out riding my bike, playing football with the neighborhood boys, but I grew up with girls and I was very excited to have a little girl named Allison.
Jim: Oh, that is sweet. And you say that most mom initially feel confident when they discover they're going to have a girl and then, that is often replaced by frustration. Why does that special relationship sometimes end up with such great frustration?
Cheri: Well, Jim, I think sometimes we think our little daughter's gonna be just like we are.
Jim: Ooh, that's a lot.
Jim: You're saying it straight there.
Cheri: --think she's gonna like the things that I like and she's gonna have a temperament like mine and in most cases, our daughter may be very different than we are. And if she's just like us, you know, we can butt heads, because we're so much alike. And if we're different, we have a hard time understanding where she's coming from. So, that's why I have a chapter about understanding your daughter's temperament. A mom who understands her daughter's temperament that's probably different from mom and dad and a daughter who has different gifts and a different way of processing information, which … which we call learning style.
Jim: Well, in fact, you have a story in the book, What a Girl Needs from Her Mom, of when your daughter, Allie, was going through puberty and it dealt with a poncho. (Chuckling) Talk about that.
Cheri: Yes, well, Allie was about to go to youth camp and she was about a 7th grader or 8th grader. And we had gone out and we had gotten, you know, her a poncho, because the camp was gonna be in Missouri and it rains a lot there. And we had gotten, you know, all her toiletries and everything and then she was packing and she just drug her heels and so, that day I went up to her room and I said, "Allison, you know, we've gotta be at the church. The bus is leaving in 45 minutes."
Well, I mean, that really made her mad. And I said, "And don't forget your poncho and don't (Laughter) forget your tennis shoes." And so, that started the conflict. And I mean, she said, "First of all, I'm not takin' that poncho and I'll take the shoes I want to." And you know, she did actually make it and go to the camp, but things were strained in the car, 'cause she wanted to pack herself. She didn't want mom interfering. And there is a time that our daughters want us to believe that they can solve their own problems and you know, if she gets to the camp and gets rained on, 'cause she didn't take that poncho, she'll learn a good lesson.
Jim: Well, let's tease this out a bit, because it's really important in a high-control parenting environment—
Jim: --like we're in today and that is, you know, a lot of us as parents, we fear—
Jim: --the environment. We're very cautious with our kids, more so than—
Jim: --in past generations I think.
Jim: And even in that context, yeah, you're right. They get to a point where they need some control over their own life and usually it's around 7th, 8th, 9th grade.
Cheri: Yeah or maybe—
Jim: They're starting to say, "Let me make some decisions on my own."
Jim: So, I mean, over a poncho, it seems rather small.
Jim: So, did you finally come to the conclusion, "If you don't take the poncho, you'll just get wet" and walk out of the room.
Cheri: Well, yes. I mean, I didn't want to fight all the way to the church about the poncho. I'll tell you something that moms could really relate to though and that's hair, how your daughter wears her hair and how she looks. And so, when Allison was about 15 or 16, she had this beautiful natural blonde long hair and she wanted to cut it off and dye it burgundy, which I thought was just gonna look awful.
And so, when she told me that, I said, "What? I'm gonna pay for burgundy hair? And you'd cut all your pretty hair off." Well, that became a big issue and she boiled about that inside. She thought she should be able to make that decision, even though I was paying the bills to the—
Cheri: --haircutter. Well, I really prayed about that, because I mean, that became a strain in our relationship, just this undercurrent of tension and we had always gotten along great. So, I said to God finally after a few weeks, "Lord, what are You tryin' to say to me? What do I need to do as a mom? Give me wisdom here." And the Lord, you know, He can give you a really good message in about 30 words--
Jim: Right, exactly.
Cheri: --when you're really listening and you want to know and He said, "Let go of her hair."
Cheri: Let go of her hair. So, that was hard. I wrestled with that one. Did I want to let go of her hair and let her do anything to it? Not really, but I purposed, I wanted to be obedient. So, the next day after some wrestling with God, she and I were in the kitchen and she came in and she said, "Hi, mom." And I said, "Allie, I want to talk to you for a minute." I said, "I just want you to know, I'm letting go of your hair and it's your hair and you can do whatever you want to with it and I will pay for the haircut." And she about dropped her teeth. I mean, she was just shocked and I said, "The Lord told me it's time to let go of Allie's hair." And so, very funny, eventually she did cut it off and dye it burgundy a few years later, but …
Jim: But she didn't in that moment.
Cheri: She didn't in that moment. It helped our relationship, because I was letting go of something that really was her deal. And if I kept controlling her and telling her how to dress or how to wear her hair, more tension would grow within us. And one of the problems today we have is over-parenting, like you just said, Jim, being overly attentive, overly competitive, intervening inappropriately. And I'll tell you the funny thing that came out of that is, that a few moms called me, friends of hers—
Cheri: --their moms called me and they said, "What did you do that for? (Laughter) Now my daughter says you let go of Allison's hair and so she can decide what to do with it." And I said, "Yes, I did. That's what the Lord told me to do." And I did.
John: And they were worried, because now they were getting pressure to do the same with their daughters?
Jim: Yeah, I mean, that's what happens. You talk about in the book the busyness of life and we can all relate—
Jim: --to that and particularly moms, I think. I'm just thinking of Jean and she is working in the home.
Jim: And you know, it keeps her really busy, especially with two boys.
Jim: And well, really three boys, I guess. (Laughter)
Cheri: Including you.
Jim: Yeah, including me, but talk about that environment, especially the moms that are working and—
Jim: --you know, trying to get everything done. And I'm sure dad's pitchin' in, but it's a really busy environment. How can a mom stay connected with her daughter in that kind of a high-stress, high-volume activity-driven household?
Cheri: Well, first of all, I would say that purpose to spend focused time with your daughter, with each —
Jim: Does that mean scheduling it?
Cheri: --of your children. I'm not a real scheduled person. I'm kind of spontaneous, but I'm saying make it your aim to spend time at least once a week where it's just you and your daughter and you sit down and either play a board game or have a tea party if she's little or go outside and take a walk with her, if she likes that. Just do something with her that she enjoys at least once a week, because these little girls, they are gonna grow up so fast and their little handprints and your boys, their little handprints that sometimes kind of mar the lovely paint on your wall—
Jim: Yeah, right. (Chuckling)
Cheri:--are gonna go higher and higher and then you're gonna disappear. And they're gonna put their iPads, their flip flops, all their stuff in their car and drive away. And you're not gonna be saying, moms, you're not gonna be saying, "I wish I'd spent more time on my computer." "I wish I'd spent more time at work or on Facebook." No.
Jim: Or getting organized.
Cheri: Or making your house perfect. You're going to savor the times you had with your daughter. And so, make time. I mean, and if your kids are really acting up, really acting up and they're having a behavior problem, I just encourage you to once a day, either mom or dad, sit down and play; do something with them for 15 or 20 minutes—
Cheri: --where they are your focus. Cell phones are put away. Nothing is on that's gonna distract you and you just have time with 'em. Do that for 30 days and I have a feeling they won't have a behavior problem.
Jim and John: Hm.
Jim: You've listed many good things in your book and I want to touch on—
Cheri: Thank you.
Jim: a couple. You talk about the importance of a mom to be a good listener and you've touched on that, but speak specifically to that art, to be that good listener. Again, I think it ties in to the busyness of life, but I'm thinking of Jean again. I mean, she's got lots of lists in her mind and that's a lot of—
Jim: --a lot of moms—
Cheri: We have a—
Jim: --are like that.
Cheri: --lot of to-do lists.
Jim: You got this to-do list and this to-do list and you're keeping that all organized. How do you slow yourself down to be a good listener?
Cheri: One of the first ways is to be available and to know that when your daughter wants to talk with you, it may not be convenient for you. Now if you have an emergency conference call going on, because you work at home, you can say, "Okay, honey, I really want to talk to you about that and so, we're gonna schedule a time in an hour" and then get back with her.
Jim: But that—
Cheri: It's most—
Jim: --shows you're prioritizing.
Cheri: --exactly, but most of the time we can stop what we're doing and we can give her eye contact and we can listen to her. And as I share in What a Girl Needs from Her Mom, not finish her sentences. That'll shut her down. That'll shut down what she wants to say.
I was guilty of that. I share a lot of my mistakes in here and what I learned. I didn't come out into the world as a good listener, because I was a talker (Laughing) and I had a lot of sisters and we all talked.
But so, first of all, is be available and give her access to you. It may be at 10 o'clock at night or 11 or 12, if she's 16 or 17 or 18, that's when she wants to talk to mom. A lot of kids, it's bedtime, where they know they can stay up 15 minutes later if they'll talk (Laughter) to you.
But it may be when she's had a bad day at school. Let her speak to you and don't try to change her emotions. If she says to you, "You know, Jamie was so mean to me today at school and she just called me names on the playground and I'm so mad at her." Well, sometimes we moms take up the other child's point. We take up their thing and we say, "Well, don't be too mad at Jamie. She didn't mean to do that." Or "She's having a rough time." No, take your daughter's part. Be her advocate. Say, "Oh, that is so hard. I just understand." Just reflect back what she's saying, saying that, "Relationships are hard and friendships can be hard."
Cheri: And listen to her and if she asks you, especially if they're teenagers, if she asks you for input and advice, give it, but don't be too quick to give her advice. She really wants to be heard. That's the first thing.
Cheri: She wants to be heard.
Jim: You also talked about letting go of expectations. This is a big one, 'cause I think moms particularly, all of us as parents struggle with this. But I think as I have observed it, moms can really build up some high expectations about grades, about many things. Talk to the moms about that. How do we keep our expectations reasonable so we don't alienate our kids?
Cheri: As moms, like you just said, and dads, we want our children to be all they can be. But I share in the beginning of this book, this is not about being the perfect mother and we're not raising perfect children. We're all flawed and if our expectation is, she makes all A's, she's top in gymnastics, she always looks perfect, you know, then ultimately, our daughters are gonna feel like they can't ever please us and that they're a disappointment.
And I think week need to really accept them where they are. I'm all for great expectations about, God has a purpose and a future and a hope for you that's bright, but that doesn't mean that you're gonna be the first in everything, every year in school and everything else.
Cheri: The problem with too high of expectations is, that it puts so much pressure on kids, they underachieve. They really do, because they get all anxious about—
Jim: They pull back.
Cheri: --right, they pull back and they get anxious about, "Well, I've gotta make 100 on this test."
Cheri: You know, but instead if we focus on their efforts, like, "You made 85 on that test. I know you studied for your math test; I see you made 85. That was really good effort. You really spent time on that. And that, that's five points more than you made last week." That's what we call "effort praising." And effort praising is motivating. She will work harder the next time.
But if she makes 98 and you say, "You are such a math genius." Or she comes in first in soccer and you say, "You are fabulous. You could an Olympic soccer player." Well, I'm telling you, that is too much pressure and they won't try things that they're not good at. So, it kinda backfires. I mean, we're trying to be encouraging, but if we blow up, you know, like with your son. He plays a good football game. "You can be the next NFL star." (Laughter) So, whatever it is, our expectations need to be reasonable--
Cheri: --and not pressuring. (Laughing) That's the best way I can say it.
John: Well, it's a good way to say it, Cheri and we're grateful that you're here. It's Chery Fuller on "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly and What a Girl Needs from Her Mom is the book that we're talking about and it's full of some really good perspectives. You can find out more about the book and a CD or a download of this program when you stop by www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
Jim: Cheri, let me challenge you a little bit, because parents may get lost in what you're saying. I want to make sure that we're hearing you clearly, because standards are important. You want—
Jim: --to be able to put the bar at an attainable height—
Jim: --not unreasonable, but you want to have expectations. Some people might be hearing you say, just you know, don't worry about it. It'll be okay. Just love 'em for who they are, but I don't know if that's good enough. You want to have some expectations, right?
Cheri: Of course and I'm never saying lower your expectations so they don't have to work hard to reach the goals and to make good grades. I mean, I was a teacher. We need to have great expectations for our children.
But if your daughter is not good in math, nagging her about making 100's on her report card or A's in math may not be a very good idea, 'cause we need to focus on their strengths.
Cheri: If she needs help achieving what's the best she could make if she works hard and that might be a B, then get her the tutoring and let dad help her if he's good in math. But it doesn't mean pressuring them to be perfect in everything. And it means having realistic expectations and not trying to make them be perfect.
Jim: Yeah. Jim: Cheri, you recommend that moms focus on the donut and not the hole. I kinda like donut holes; what about you, John? (Laughter)
John: In moderation.
Jim: What are you getting to at that? What are you getting to when you say that, focus on the donut, not the donut hole?
Cheri: Well, the point is, think about a donut and then the hole that's not there inside, that you can actually see through it, okay? Focus on what she's doing well, which is like her efforts, like I just talked about. Focus on the fact that maybe she missed one day this week feeding the day, but four days or six days, she fed the dog. That's the donut.
The hole is saying to her, "You're so irresponsible. You forgot to feed the dog today."
Cheri: So, if we focus on the donut, we're focusing on what they are doing, on how they're trying to do better. I mean, think about childhood. It's this giant marathon of learning all these things. And they need buckets of encouragement. This is the kind of encouragement that's very practical, like snapshots, for instance would be focusing on the donut, like "You were so kind to your sister and you helped her pick up her blocks and her dolls. That's what I call having the servant's heart."
Cheri: And that's what I call being helpful. And so, it's just a perspective of not focusing on what she's not doing—
Cheri: --like "You really make a messy bed, when you make your bed." It's instead saying, "You are really getting better at making your bed." And really, we all need that, in the workplace, little boys need it, is to focus on the donut, what they are doing.
John: So, what's the motivation when mom says, really drives home about the negative for the daughter, is it a fear that I really have a problem with this part of life and so, I just really need to kinda nag her about that, so she doesn't go there? What's behind the negative focused mom, particularly in the mom-daughter relationship?
Cheri: I think really you hit the nail on the head, it's fear. It's fear that she's not gonna be good enough or smart enough. It's fear that I see a flaw in her that really reminds me of myself and therefore, I'm afraid about this. And you know, I have interviewed women who, they still remember when they came down the stairs and they had dressed as cute as they cute to please their mom and they got a disapproving look. They don't need that. They're gonna have hundreds of negative things said about them, sometimes unfortunately by teachers, who don't think they're trying hard enough, often by classmates, boys and girls. And we need to be the person who's pouring faith and spirit into our daughters.
Cheri: I love the definition of little girls, that what little girls are made of us courage and sacrifice and determination and commitment and toughness and heart and talent and guts. That's what little girls are made of, not just sugar and spice and everything nice. Bethany Hamilton, the young woman whose arm—
Jim: Bit by a shark.
Cheri: --bit by a shark, said that. What a young woman of courage and we need to raise our daughters as young women of courage and confidence and faith.
John: Cheri, I appreciate that so much. We've got three girls. My wife has been a, I think, a great mom to them. It's been challenging at times. One of the things that really caught Dena as she was looking at your book before our time here together, I shared it with her and she said, "Oh, you know, the body image chapter is pretty important." A mom plays a pretty significant role in shaping her daughter's body image, doesn't she?
Cheri: She does, a very significant role. And today, I mean, girls of every age have the media, Hollywood, the Internet, their friends, all worried about, am I too fat? Are my abs flat enough? I mean, all these things about body image and so, we have all these girls with distorted body images and therefore, they become bulimic, anorexic or they have some sort of disorder.
But what you don't' realize and yes, there's all these influences out there in the media and other kids, but here's the thing. She's watching you. Your daughter's listening to you and if you're always saying, "You know, I just gotta get on another diet." Or "I just hate the way my thighs look," then your daughter is gonna look at herself that way.
If we can be accepting about our bodies the way God made us and do the best we can. I mean, be fit. I encourage moms, get out there and be active. Be fit. Let your daughter see a role model of a mom who's taking care of her body, but not over-focused on her being skinny or putting her daughter on diets or things like that, that are really harmful, because she's gonna go through all these different phases with her body and then finally, it's gonna kinda stabilize hopefully when she a young woman, so your daughter can accept herself the way God made her and be thankful for the body He gave her.
Jim: Talk about prayer and how praying for your daughter is the most important thing you can do.
Cheri: Because we do not have control in this fallen world of everything that affects our daughter or our son, I have always believed that the best and the most important influence we can have in our daughter's life besides loving her, raising her, taking care of her, is prayer, is covering her life with prayer, because the prayer of a mom connects our heart with our daughter and with God's heart.
And when we pray for our daughter, He gives us the wisdom to be the mom that she needs us to be at all these different stages and all the changes she goes through. And besides that, E.M. Bounds once said, "Prayer shapes the world." Our prayers are deathless. The lips that prayed the prayers may be closed in death, but the prayers live on. And my prayers as a mother and as a grandmother, they're gonna outlive my life and they're going to affect my child's generation, the next generation and the next, until Christ comes. And God has used mother's prayers to truly shape the world, so I encourage you, get together with some other moms and pray with them. Have a prayer partner that you know you can call and the more you pray, the less afraid you'll be and the more you'll enjoy being a mother.
Jim: Well, we covered a lot of territory today and Cheri Fuller has talked with us about What a Girl Needs from Her Mom and really, there's so much application, just what parents can provide their children, regardless of gender. You can apply it to dads and sons, as well—
Cheri: That's right.
Jim: --it's so obvious. So, thank you, Cheri. Thank you for bringing that wisdom and for helping us better understand the relationship between a mom and a daughter.
Cheri: And thank you, Jim and thank you, John. It's just a privilege all these years to get to work with Focus on the Family and get to just bless and encourage moms and dads and so, their kids can have the best childhood and they can really grow into the kids that God wants them to be and that He made 'em—
Jim: Amen to that.
Cheri: --to be. So, thank you.
John: Well, we're appreciative of your heart, Cheri and again, the book title is What a Girl Needs from Her Mom and it'll really open your eyes to situations and issues that girls are facing today and you'll find some really practical active and great wisdom to apply to your relationship with your daughter or perhaps your granddaughter. And it might be helpful to note, as well, that Cheri has questions at the end of each chapter for you to discuss or to journal about. So, look for that book, What a Girl Needs from Her Mom when you're at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us and we'll tell you more. Our number is 800-A-FAMILY.
In fact, if you can make a generous contribution, a gift of any size to the ministry of Focus on the Family today, we'll send that book to you as our way of saying thank you for your support and trusting that, that'll be a resource in your hands or perhaps a neighbor or friend's hands that'll make a real impact. Find the book and ways to donate to the ministry, as well as the download or the audio CD of this program and our mobile app at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.
And our program was provided by Focus on the Family and made possible by generous listeners like you. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening. I'm John Fuller, inviting you back tomorrow. We'll hear from a pastor and his wife about a marriage that went through 20 years of neglect, but they found healing. You'll hear that encouraging conversation tomorrow, when we're back to help your family thrive in Christ.
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Cheri FullerView Bio
Cheri Fuller is an award-winning author, a popular conference speaker and a frequent guest on many national TV and radio programs. She is also the executive director of the Oklahoma Messages Project, a nonprofit organization that serves children of incarcerated parents. Cheri has written more than 45 books including What a Girl Needs From Her Mom, What a Son Needs From His Mom, When Mothers Pray and The One Year Women's Friendship Devotional. Cheri and her husband, Holmes, reside in Oklahoma. They have three grown children and six grandchildren. Learn more about Cheri by visiting her website: www.cherifuller.com