In that I have a 14-year-old daughter, I suppose I could be accused of making this article somewhat self-serving but I would like to chat for a bit on the role of fathers in raising girls. As a father of both a boy and a girl I have read numerous articles on the importance of fathers in raising sons. And certainly a father’s role in raising boys is vital and cannot be overstated. Not so much has been written, however, on a father’s role in raising daughters and this, I believe, is just as important a role. Fathers, hear me on this: Your daughter needs you. She needs your time. She needs your attention. She needs your love. Simply put, she needs you. There is a reason why God created families to include both a mother and a father. Both contribute vital elements in the raising of children, including daughters.Now, having said this, let me hasten to add that I am aware that there are a lot of broken homes out there. There are a lot of single parent families where children are, either through death, divorce, or abandonment, without fathers. Let me reassure single parents. Your children are not inevitably destined to live troubled, dysfunctional lives. Children from single-parent homes often grow into mature, balanced, and contributing adults. These children, however, do best when their mothers have a community to support them. Incidentally, this is one of the roles that churches can play in the lives of single mothers. Every church can serve as a community of support to single parents as they seek to raise their children under difficult circumstances.
All this is to say that fathers (or supportive faith communities) are important. Dads, your daughter needs you to help her grow into the woman God wants her to be. There is a reason why God brought the two of you together. There is a reason why God wants you to be a part of your child’s life. So, apart from the basics of food, shelter, and clothing what is it that daughters needs from their dads? Let me suggest three things:
1. Your daughter needs your love expressed. Note that last word. As fathers, we all love our daughters. Sometimes, though, we don’t do a very good job of expressing the love we feel. Sometimes we feel embarrassed when we show affection to our daughters—especially when they reach the teenage years and start rolling their eyes at us. Don’t let those rolling eyes stop you, however, from expressing affection to your daughter. Whether she knows it or not, your daughter needs you to communicate your love to her. A touch, a hug, a smile, a kiss, those three little words, “I love you,” are simple ways a father can communicate love to his daughter. For better or worse, your daughter will internalize your attitude and treatment of her. How do you treat your daughter? Do you accept her without reservation? When you treat her as a person of infinite value she will internalize that and feel that way about herself. If you ignore her or act critically towards her, she will begin to feel worthless.
2. Your daughter needs to see that you love and respect her mother. Your daughter will get her cues as to what she should expect from men from what she sees modeled for her. If you treat your daughter’s mother with love, respect, and honesty she will come to expect these things from other men who come into her life. If you are thoughtless and inconsiderate towards your wife, or worse are emotionally or physically abusive, your daughter will come to see these things as normal. Teach your daughter that she has the right to expect courtesy and respect from men by how you treat her mother.
3. Your daughter needs you to be involved in her daily life. You should be your daughter’s biggest cheerleader. Help her to feel good about her abilities and achievements. Get involved in things that interest her. I know of one father who took up taekwondo with his teenaged daughters in order to spend time with them. As you walk through life with your daughter, you will begin to see the world through her eyes. What an amazing gift! Time is precious and oh so fleeting. Make the most of the time you have with your daughter.
There are few things in this world as precious as a father-daughter relationship. And there are few people in the world who will have the impact on your daughter’s life that you do. A daughter is an immense privilege and a huge responsibility. Let’s take our role seriously. Let me close with an anonymous poem that expresses the seriousness of this responsibility:
“Take stock of yourself and consider your child,
Your time and your thoughts are her due;
For how would you answer the Lord if he asks
‘What kind of a father were you?’”