By: Meg Bucher
Without words, my dad faithfully repaired the doorframe every time my teenage angst slammed it off its alignment. No one ever asked him to check on me after an outburst that ended in tears behind that slammed door, but he always did. My dad loved me despite the massive cloud that took over from time to time during those hard, teen years. When I was wrong. When I overreacted. When my heart was broken by some boy. My dad always checked in to make sure I was OK. He reminded me who I was and that he loved me.
I realize not everyone is blessed with the same story, but from the outpouring of mine, I share ways that fathers can forge lasting and real relationships with their daughters. It’s not rocket science. Rather, it’s simply putting the door back on the hinges, wiping the tears away, and lending hugs to let them know they are loved more than they could possibly understand.
1. Listen to Her
“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” James 1:19NIV
Daughters give us ample opportunities to listen. They need to talk out, in detail, the very thing on their minds at all times. It can be annoying and exhausting, which is why it’s so notable when dad is really listening. Try not to interrupt them. It teaches them manners, and lets them know this is the kind of treatment they should expect from other people.
James advises, “be quick to listen.” We are too busy to stop and listen now, assuming we’ll have more time later. “Tell me later” drifts into the teenage wasteland before we know it, and if we’ve not built those trusting channels of communication early on, the silence of their teen years will be deafening. Listen now.
2. Make Time to Talk
“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
Important as it is to listen, there is a time when it’s our turn to talk. The advice that we pass on to them lays the groundwork for their value system. Instruct, discipline, and guide their decisions with a Christ-led and Scripturally-fed heart. Daughters need to know how to guard their hearts in friendships that aim to take advantage of them or mistreat them – and later on in romantic relationships.
A girls’ strong sense of self can be fostered by a father who reminds her who God says she is. Because she is a child of God, the standards are higher than society’s. It’s important to talk to them about what’s going on around them, why we believe what we do, and how that impacts the way we live our lives. A daily time set aside to read a Biblical devotion is a great way to start a practical conversation about what’s happening in their lives. God is faithful to meet us in those moments as we seek Him with our daughters.
3. Daddy Dates
“Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them- not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.” 1 Peter 5:2-3
My two daughters love to go on “daddy dates.” On occasion, my husband will take them one at a time on little adventures. A simple ride along to the local drug store for milk with their daddy makes their faces light up. Find little ways to include them in excursions.
The time that we invest in our kids during formative years can help their overall confidence when they face the challenges of adolescence. Even the tween years are riddled with new changes that threaten to derail their innocence and self-image. Stay in touch with your daughters, so they remain grounded in Who and Whose they are.
4. Read with Her
“Listen, my son, to your father’s instruction and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” Proverbs 1:8-9
When my oldest daughter hit the third grade, we began to read a popular book series aloud together every night. I was amazed when she suddenly asked if she could take over the reading. Some of the vocabulary was way beyond her years, yet she read through without stumbling! When my youngest reached the same age, I was looking forward to keeping the tradition. But she was disinterested in my reading to her.
However, when her daddy picked up a book and took the time after a long busy work day to read her one of his favorites, it sparked her interest. My husband will tell you, he doesn’t even like to read! But he knew she was struggling and wanted to give it a try. It worked.
Fathers, read with your daughters. Books they are interested in, books you are interested in and loved as children, and most importantly the Bible. Reading Scripture to and with your daughters teaches them the practical importance of God’s Word in our daily lives. And it means a lot coming from you.
5. Treat Others Well
“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” Matthew 6:33
This is single-handedly one of the most important ways to build a formidable relationship with your daughters. Fathers, treat people well. Your daughters are watching, taking notes on how they are to be treated, based on your actions.
In a world where women and men are looked at as equals, give note to what makes her unique. There are remarkable qualities about your daughters that might never surface, less they think it’s too wimpy to be sentimental or weak to cry. Hand someone a tissue when they tear up. Lend a hug. Open a door. Say "thank you,” and go out of your way to do nice things without being asked. These are all ways that signal we are valued by others, and we want our daughters to feel valued by those they choose to spend time with when they are older.
6. Let Her See You Seek God
“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness.” 2 Timothy 3:14-16
It’s hard to squeeze time with God into the morning hours, but the witness to our children is irreplaceable. When they know the wisdom they hear from us comes from God, they are more apt to seek Him themselves.
Fathers, as you visibly put trust in God to lead your family, it sets a tone that they will hopefully follow someday, too.
My daughters know that when they awake, they can find me at my desk, seeking God in the quiet hours of the morning. And to my amazement, every so often one of them creeps quietly down the stairs to join me. We often forget how much like us they want to be! She sits next to me with her Bible and her journal. It’s my prayer that she continues to understand the importance of seeking Him first as she grows.
7. Pass a Tradition Down
“Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.” Exodus 20:12
There are many things that come back around as time moves forward. Trends and music from decades past make good conversations starters with our kids. They become interested in what we loved to do. The whole idea of how old we are cracks them up! Beyond the generational gap, though, are things from our youth that we can pass on as traditions.
Did you collect baseball cards as a kid? Buy a couple of packs for your young daughter. Throw the ball with her and teach her to hit. You may be surprised by the bond waiting for you. I remember shooting hoops with my dad in the driveway for hours. We laughed and talked. I played one season of elementary basketball and never took a shot. But all those hours in the driveway with my dad helped build a friendship that we still enjoy today.
“Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4
It seems so mundane but apologizing when we are wrong makes a big impression on our children. Especially when we apologize to them. This world lacks empathy. In order for our daughters to learn how to empathize with others and possess enough humility and courage to apologize, we must model it for them.
Fathers, when you aren’t paying attention to what they are saying, interrupt and apologize. Ask them to begin again. They will appreciate that you are flawed, too. I guarantee they feel a little flawed all the time. When we come down too hard on them, saying we’re sorry means so much. Empathizing with how it feels to be wrongly accused or yelled at means a lot to them, and they will treat others with the same respect and empathy.
9. Discipline Consistently
“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11
Fathers, discipline your daughters. Whether we live in traditional married families or blended ones, come together as a united front to discipline children. It can be hard to find common ground and to agree on disciplinary consequences, even for those living under the same roof. Pick simple plans of action that are easy for all parties to adhere to. In our house, the kids are part of the discussion. House rules are revised every once in a while, and the entire family is included. This helps keep things consistent for children and eliminates any “he said/she said” confusion.
For example, the rules in our house right now include: be on time; think before you speak; apologize when you’re wrong; help and encourage each other; and no tech before we talk. The consequences are clearly listed alongside of the rules and posted on the refrigerator. It helps to have a clear set of go-to rules, especially in moments when were tempted to lose our tempers.
Our daughters are in elementary school, and as they grow up, we will definitely be adding rules and standards to when and who they date! They may feel it’s an effort to control them in the moment, but in the end, they will see through to the heart of our care for them.
10. Empower Them
“In everything, set them an example by doing what is good.” Titus 2:7
Fathers, empower your daughters. When I was growing up, I looked up to track and field athletes, successful authors, and my own parents and grandparents! They set amazing examples for me to strive after. Today, I take all that I learned and those that inspired me to work every day, whether as a stay at home mom, author, or retired old distance runner.
Make sure your daughters have some amazing people in their lives to look up to as examples. Mentors at every stage in life are so important. It’s very beneficial to have someone a step ahead that can reach down and advise us along the way. In my own daughters’ lives, I know they have other women of faith to look up to beyond me. It’s important. Empower your girls to dream big and seek God’s will in their lives. It’s more than they can ask for or imagine.