I’m sure you realize by now that your daughter did not come with a playbook. I know, I work with lots of dads and daughters. Most dads tell me, “I have no idea what to do to help my daughter.”
Dad, I want you to hear this: Not only are you important, but you are vital to your daughter’s health and well-being. You matter…a lot…and without your active engagement, your daughter will suffer.
I’ve noticed that men are often keenly aware of their deficits and find it easier to disqualify themselves than face the potential confirmation of incompetence. Add in the additional complexity of fathering a daughter whose needs intensify as she matures, and many fathers are stepping back rather than stepping in.
As a dad of a daughter, here are three secrets to remember:
1. Even if she doesn’t act like it, she needs you to be there.
It often saddens me to hear dads assume they don’t have value in the lives of their daughters because the bases are already covered elsewhere. I understand that as girls mature, they are less predictable, more verbal, and way more emotional, which makes it very challenging for dads.
But it’s important to remember this secret when hormones begin to rage in her body and brain, and they impact her moods, behavior, and thinking. She needs you even more during these years. If you back away, your daughter could conclude that she’s not worth loving. Your active presence (a.k.a. moving toward her and initiating time together) lets her know she is worthy and valuable.
2. She needs you to light up when you see her.
Your daughter is innately wired with the need to be the sparkle (or light) in someone’s eyes. And because you were the first man who held her, she will turn less to the counterfeit if she has experienced the real thing with you.
When you consistently make relational deposits into your daughter’s heart, she will become that sparkle, that source of joy, to you and others.
3. She needs you to interact spiritually.
The Barna Group conducted a study titled, “The Power Influence of Mothers in Christians’ Households.” You may not be surprised to hear that of the 2,347 kids who were interviewed, about 75 percent said they primarily go to their moms for spiritual guidance and encouragement.
The report also noted that 60 to 75 percent said they relied on their fathers to provide tangible needs (a.k.a. money) and logistical help. This means that dads are doing an excellent job as they set an example in meeting practical needs while also highlighting where fathers must do better.
Your daughters (and sons) are vulnerable if you don’t step in spiritually.
Here’s what I’ve heard from teenage and 20-something daughters when I asked them what they need from their dads when it comes to spiritual influence:
- “I like when my dad calls me to let me know he’s thinking of me or praying for me.”
- “I like going to church together or going to a Christian concert.”
- “I wish that my dad would ask me about my spiritual walk and if I say I’m not doing well that he would tell me how I can go about fixing it.”
Don’t forget: your daughter will be more open to listening to your input about spiritual things if you have first laid a foundation relationally by living out numbers 1 and 2 on this list.
I believe in the transformative, healing power of a dad’s love expressed through the consistent pursuit of his daughter’s heart. Let this be the year that you step up and step in as a more intentional dad. With God’s help, you can do it!
Portions of this post originally appeared on Dr. Michelle Watson-Canfield’s Blog.