Today as I rode shotgun in the car with my 13 year old middle daughter who was learning how to drive on the church parking lot, something hit me like a ton of bricks. That Barbie doll playing, nursery rhyme singing, big bow wearing little girl is growing up way too fast. She has lived way more than half the time she will live in my home, and her older sister has less than two years before college! That made me want to eat a big bowl of ice cream and double-check the struggling college fund. As I write this, I am thinking and praying about my sweet daughters and this cruel world.
Daddies, don’t let your daughters grow up without daddies! God gave daughters daddies to help guide, love, and protect them. What do my daughters need most from me? As I review all God has called me to be and do for them, I can’t help but feel overwhelmed, underequipped, and oh so inadequate. That’s why I need to be close to and more like Jesus so they can see the perfect Him through the imperfect me. I know there’s way more, but I thought of eight things every daughter needs from their daddy.
1. Affirmation. This world will chew up and spit out our daughter’s innocence, inner beauty, and confidence. It falsely presents an ever evasive fantasy of perfectionism they can never attain and never fulfill. They need to hear their daddy say, “You are fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14, and “Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised” (Proverbs 31:30). They need to know that true beauty, “Should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:4). Dads must speak the truth of God’s Word into their daughter’s heart and soul because the world, their flesh, and the devil are all screaming at them how much they cannot measure up and how hopelessly flawed they are. Dads, we must reassure them they are made in the image of their Creator (Genesis 1:27), and He Who started a good work in her will complete it (Philippians 1:6). We must disciple them in the way they should go and when they are older trust the Lord they never depart (Proverbs 22:6).
2. Security. My daughters need to know that their worth is found in Christ and He is their defender. They need to know God is for them and not against them (Romans 8:31) and so is their dad. They need a safe home, a strong dad, and a secure relationship with Jesus. A safe home is one where they are unconditionally loved and given grace. A strong dad is one who is humble, consistent, and unmistakably looks like he’s been with Jesus. A secure relationship with Jesus is one that is modeled and strengthened by dad. Dads, our daughters don’t need a distant, macho, rule enforcer. They need a compassionate, loving, Spirit-filled daddy that humbly models what a husband and man should look like. They need to see how a man treats a woman and never settle for anything less. They need a dad to protect their purity. They need a dad to protect her God-given calling. That kind of man is irresistible and they won’t forget it when they go looking for a boyfriend and, one day, a husband of their own.
3. To be heard. Daughters need dads who are quick to listen, slow to anger, and slow to speak (James 1:19). If the only time our daughters hear from us is when they are in trouble, our relationship is in trouble. Are we the angry guy that’s always yelling at them? While we have a lot to speak into our daughter’s lives, we shouldn’t be doing all the talking in the relationship. Daughters need their dad’s attention, and dad’s must intentionally inquire about their daughter’s interests. Every day when I get home from work, one of the first things I do is go to my daughter’s rooms, knock on the door, and show them I’m glad to see them. I intentionally ask them about their day then and at the dinner table as we eat together as a family. This builds trust and permission to speak into their lives. Daughters crave their dad’s attention and input.
4. Time. Daughters need to know their dad’s think they are valuable. Nothing says, “You’re worth it” like time spent together. Listen to the stories about their day. Investing time into your relationship will reap a harvest. Watch a movie they like. Listen to them about cheerleading, dance, even girl drama. don’t try to fix it, just be there. Hug them. Be playful. Be goofy. Laugh. They need to see a side of you reserved for them. Talk about the things of the Lord with them. Don’t hesitate to set boundaries. Don’t worry, they may not like every one you set in the moment, but they know it’s done with love because of your sincere love for them.
5. Love. Man this is an important one. The world does not know what true love is at all. In a world that screams break up and move to the next boyfriend and ditch your best friends over trivial perpetual drama, they need to see what true love honestly looks like. And it is how Jesus loves us. They need to see the kind of love a husband gives a wife as he is madly in love with her. They need to see you hug, kiss, and flirt with your wife (their mom) and hold her on a pedestal as you “treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life” (1 Peter 3:7). They need to see love that is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not rude, is not proud, keeps no record of wrongs, is not easily angered, and always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
6. Our full attention. Dads are easily distracted. We are men, and there is much vying for our attention. 24/7 sports on television, every hunting and outdoor event and gadget, and work that never seems to end. Dads, they need us at their games watching them, not our cell phones. They need us cheering their backhand springs and clapping after their recitals. Work never ends…it will be there waiting on you tomorrow. You’ll have more of it to do after they graduate high school. Ditch the hunting show and the golf channel, even your buddies if you have to. Be willing to set whatever is necessary to the side to fully be present with and engage them.
7. Forgiveness. Give them room to mess up because they will. If you are only seen as the enforcer of rules and the dealer of punishment, you can be sure you’ll have a weak relationship. When they make mistakes, encourage them. Better yet, harp on all that is good and choose not to bring up what isn’t at the moment. For instance, overlook that bad grade among all the good ones. They need to see a man that gives grace, allows mistakes, and loves them no matter what. If not, you’re the one making a huge mistake. Don’t just give forgiveness, ask for it as well. When you mess up, confess up. Ask the Lord to forgive you and your daughter to do that as well. That will gain you huge respect and admiration in their eyes.
8. Perspective. Our daughters need to see the big picture. This is extremely tough in the moment, especially as a kid. Somehow, we have to help them see not winning first place in that contest isn’t the end of the world. They need to know to pray for that mean girl in school as she soon be a distant memory when your daughter moves on to college and beyond. Our job as dads is to help them see the young women they are in light of the young women they are to be. They need to know God has a plan for them beyond the grade they are in and the popularity they so desperately desire. Keep affirming them in the present, but also ushering them into the future God has for them. They will look back when they are an adult, a wife, and a mom and say thank you.
What else do daughters need from their dads?
Stephen and his wife Haley have called Arkansas home all of their lives. Stephen has served in several ministry roles over the last 25 years and as a lead pastor for the last 8 years. Stephen attended Williams Baptist College and earned a BA in Biblical Studies from Ouachita Baptist University, an MA, MDiv, and DMin in Christian Leadership and Pastoral Ministries from Liberty University. When not pastoring, Stephen enjoys running, cycling, reading, writing, camping, fishing, and spending time with his family.