Kate Obenshain: 12 steps to raising a conservative daughter – from my very wise daughter

Parents must teach their daughters how to be courageous defenders of individual freedom

After reading Michelle Easton’s excellent new book, "How To Raise a Conservative Daughter," I thought I’d ask my conservative daughter, Lucy, what in the world I did, if anything, to contribute to her world view.

According to Lucy, we parents have very much to do with the eventual philosophical persuasion of our daughters. In fact, she thinks not enough parents are actively passing their values on to their children, resulting in the disastrous sway culture has over them.  

She says it’s high time for parents to step up and teach their daughters how to be courageous defenders of individual freedom. As Michelle Easton says, don’t assume osmosis will make our daughters conservative.  Just because we are, doesn’t mean they will be. It takes intentionality.

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So here’s my 18-year-old's parenting advice (hey, don’t knock it yet) on raising conservative daughters: 

Never suggest to your daughter that she’s oppressed. Or a victim. It will taint her entire worldview. Instead of feeling brave, optimistic and hopeful, as if she can accomplish anything, she will become timid, angry and despairing. You will instill feelings of weakness, powerlessness, and entitlement.

Talk about ideas and events around the dinner table. Your girls will learn that ideas are important and they’ll know how to talk about them and things other than their feelings or their day at school.  

Don’t protect your daughter from current events. Help them understand what’s happening in their country and the world, and that it’s important. 

Lucy Griffin and her mom Kate Obenshain

Lucy Griffin and her mom Kate Obenshain

Start early. You can’t expect your daughter to start standing up for her beliefs in front of her peers or authority figures in high school when she’s never really thought about what they are in the first place. They have to become HER ideas in order for her to risk defending them. 

Set an active example – live out your ideas. Go to rallies. Take your girls to hear conservative speakers. They are never too young! They may not understand the content, but they see you engaged and caring.  

Don’t let your girls be wimpy. There’s an epidemic of wimpy girls who want, at all cost, to be liked. Not to offend. Let them experience some conflict and disappointment. Teach them that conflict can be navigated, rather than avoided.

Bottom line: if you want your daughter to grow up to be a conservative, raise her to be brave.  

Help your daughter separate what is personal from objective points. Girls take differences of opinion personally. They will follow the crowd to avoid being perceived as wrong. Unless you have raised them to be strong, and to understand ideas, and not to take differences personally, they will absolutely post the black square on Instagram (having no idea what BLM actually stands for) because they will care more about the popularity contest. 

Tell your daughter she is smart. Lucy says, "I was told I was pretty, but mostly I was told that I was smart. And strong. And brave. That became what I wanted to live up to." 

Never tell your child to moderate her opinion in order not to offend someone. Don’t tell her that her teacher won’t appreciate it or her grades may suffer. Defend her, and teach her to defend herself and her ideas. Tell her, "You are strong and brave. And smart. Now go get ‘em!"

Lucy Griffin and Kate Obenshain

Lucy Griffin and Kate Obenshain (Family photo)

Teach your daughter about the founding of our country – that it was a radical experiment, for the first time acknowledging that individual liberty comes from God, not government. Honor the United States and her Founding Fathers in word and celebration. 

Lucy, having grown up from age 4 to 14 with a single mom, has a special warning for two-parent, stable families – I was fascinated by this one. Do not shield your daughter from an understanding of what it took to achieve that stable life. We can make it look easy, but it’s not obvious to our children. They need to understand the value of hard work.  Of what it takes to have a happy, healthy marriage. Traditional values, too often taken for granted, need to be instilled through discussion.  

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Introduce her to God from the beginning, and make Him the loving, fun, very real center of your family life. Make sure she knows He created her just the way He wants her to be, and He loves her. That, right there, will give her all the courage she’ll ever need. 

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Wise counsel, I think, from Lucy, who finds herself surrounded by girls who are trying to figure out for themselves what to believe in and what will make them happy. If they look to culture to figure that out, any conservative inklings they have will be obliterated.  

Michelle Easton knows the danger culture and the Left present for our daughters. Her book addressed that threat, head on, and is a primer – detailed, eminently readable and profoundly inspiring – helping parents instill "the right pillars of belief in your daughter and then strengthening those beliefs though practical, consistent, real-life application." 

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Bottom line: if you want your daughter to grow up to be a conservative, raise her to be brave.  

Easton recounts in her book that her father didn’t send her out the door every morning telling her to "Have a good day." Rather, he told her to go out there and fight for what she believes in. She sure did. And still does. He clearly gave her the courage and wisdom to do just that. Now she’s helping the rest of us to do the same.