I just recently wrote an article on the lessons I learned from raising boys. I had so much fun writing it, I thought, “Well I have to write something about raising a daughter.” So, I asked her the other day, “OK, so what do dads need to know about raising a girl? If I were to write to dads, how would I fill them in on meeting the needs of a daughter?” I also interviewed some of the ladies I work with, and the following is a collaborative effort from a lot of the ladies in my life.
But before we dive into “what a daughter needs from her Dad”, let me start with a few disclaimers. I do not pretend to be any kind of an expert. I am sure you can add a few things to this list. Also, I know that there are plenty of single Moms (and Grandmoms and Aunts) who are doing a heroic job in raising their children. But it is my conviction that a girl needs a father in her life, and I would bet that a godly grandfather, step-father, brother, or uncle can go a long way to filling these needs.
With that being said … “What does a daughter need from dad?” She needs at least 5 things:
1. To know you love her mother.
Almost every woman I talked to instantly said this was the first priority. Dads, want to impress upon your daughter the right way she should be treated? Love her mother. Treat your wife with respect, kindness, and generosity. Your daughter is watching how you treat Mom. If you use and abuse her, she will get the impression that men are beasts (the teaching of many modern feminists) or that women are tools (the teaching of hedonists). Model the principles of servant leadership, respect, and sacrifice for your wife.
Be a gentleman and a humble, strong, and confident leader. Your wife will love it, and your daughter will learn how a man should treat her. Now, some people have told me that if you’re going to set the right example, you should never argue with your wife in front of the kids. I disagree, somewhat. I think kids need to see a good example of how adults disagree. They need to see parents argue, without using vulgarity, without getting violent, without acting like spoiled brats. They need to see a father who practices restraint, a calm temper, patience and forbearance, repentance (when necessary), forgiveness, and reconciliation.
In contrast to the out-of-control snowflakes of today, your daughter needs to see how a real man handles life when it is disappointing. And it can get mighty disappointing at times.
2. To hear words of assurance.
Your daughter needs to hear from your lips, often, “I love you.” I can’t tell you how many adults, both men and women, have NEVER heard those words come from their father. It is destructive and heart-wrenching. Your boys and girls need to hear this, but especially the girl. They must be secure in your love. Don’t brush this aside. This is serious. I hear it from adult women to this very day: “I just wish that my father told me that he loved me. But I never heard it.” Don’t let your daughter say that about you. Tell her. Often.
Tell her that she is beautiful. Emphasize that this is not about physical beauty. We want to rid ourselves of the Madison Ave./Hollywood false standards of outward beauty that are impossible to live up to. Yes, of course, we tell them how beautiful their hair is, and how their eyes sparkle, and how nice the dress looks on them. And that is important! But what is far more important is that she knows you love her for just being your daughter, and that you will always be her cheerleader.
My daughter wants to be a ballerina. We never saw this coming. But my wife and I have given our daughter unwavering support in every way to pursue this as a career. She admits she does not have the natural flexibility or musicality, but by golly she works mighty hard. I’ve told her numerous times: “Hard work beats talent when talent won’t work hard.” She believes that, and is currently doing quite well in her training! She knows beyond all doubt that Daddy is in her corner.
3. A reassuring touch.
My daughter loves it when I hold her hand in church or put my arm around her neck. Of course I carried her everywhere when she was little. She’s too big for that now, but she’s never too big for a hug! One day recently I noticed she was watching me shave. As I was slapping the aftershave on, she just reached out and hugged me! I wasn’t really expecting that, but I chuckled and hugged her back.
“What was that for?” “I just needed a hug from my Daddy.” You can’t put this under a microscope and get some scientific answer. All I know is that my boys did not need hugs to the same degree that my daughter does. Girls are different. Meet their needs. They need hugs.
4. Dates with Dad.
Go on a date with your daughter. Spend some time with her! It doesn’t have to be anything expensive. When my daughter was in the first or second grade it was a BIG DEAL for me to take her to the local coffee shop and get her some hot chocolate. I would sit her on one of those high bar stools and she would just be so happy kicking her little legs, sipping hot chocolate, and talking to her hero … Daddy.
She also just enjoyed riding around in the truck together, listening to me telling stories. (Her favorite stories were always stories of American history like George Washington crossing the Delaware or Col. Chamberlain on Little Round Top or the Americans trapped at Bastogne in the Battle of the Bulge. She hung on every word and loved it when everything turned out alright! In fact, she STILL wants me to tell her stories, believe it or not.)
Some of our dates were ministry. I am a pastor, so I would take my daughter with me when I would visit the sick or elderly in the hospital or their homes. They loved seeing her, and she learned what Daddy did and how to relate to people. And I loved being with her.
On dates, listen to your daughter. Women want the men in their lives to listen to their concerns. It starts when they are little. Let them know by listening that they are important. And when you do this, you are finding out what is relevant in their lives, and you become relevant to them.
5. To know that you have her back.
Your daughter must know that Daddy protects her. Of course a good dad is watchful about all the predators out there. And I often tell her that any boy who looks at her the wrong way will be turned into a grease spot. (I’m joking … sort of. OK, maybe not.)
But as a part of protecting my daughter, my wife and I have been teaching her the virtues of modesty. She does not exist to fulfill the fantasies of men who cannot control themselves. And she learns that her body is a gift from God and must be treated as God’s holy temple (I Corinthians 6:19). It is very difficult these days to find clothes that do not “sexualize” young ladies (even little girls!), but we eventually find clothes that are modest and fashionable at the same time. It’s tough, but we get it done.
I also protect my daughter by guiding her with whatever wisdom I have gained over the years. I teach her how to avoid dangerous situations, addictions, and toxic people. She learns how to spot problems BEFORE they arise, and how to stay away from potentially dangerous situations (like parties where there are no responsible parents supervising). And I teach her that if and when she fails … if and when she terribly disappoints her mother and me, I/we STILL love her, are open to listen, and available to help in any way we can.
I am also a martial arts and conceal and carry instructor. I think it is the responsibility of every parent — but especially the father — to see to it that his daughter knows how to fight back against an attacker. My daughter the ballerina knows how to fight unarmed and armed (firearms training is mandatory for everyone in my home). Don’t mess with the ballerina.
Aim to be the model of the man you would want her to marry: loyal, hard-working, honest, brave, humorous, wise, steady, and consistent. Ever since Jesus went back into heaven there has been an abundant shortage of perfect men in this world. But don’t feel bad. She doesn’t need a perfect dad. She just needs you — a dad who really cares about her and demonstrates it.
You only have one shot at this. Do your best. Make it count.