One of the greatest joys in life is being a father. There’s truly nothing that rivals it. And for me, that joy has been exponentially magnified by the fact I’m the father of girls. Two of them. And though
severely outnumbered, I really dig swimming in the deep end of the X chromosome pool. Y fight it?
As president of my own sorority, I’ve learned a few things about girls and what it takes to raise them and understand them. Though certainly not perfect, the last dozen years or so have enlightened me to the significance of God’s female creation and its complexity, its beauty, and its sheer wonder – all of it a reflection of a genius Creator.
So what have I learned?
1. I’ve learned that a girl wants to know that she’s loved, without condition.
Girls need to be told that they’re loved, often.
Please notice the two most important words in the previous sentence: told and often.
“Told” means opening one’s mouth and actually uttering the words “I love you.” Out loud. So she can hear you. While you look at her in the eyes. Plain enough?
And “often” means…well, often. For those who need further elucidation, think, at least daily. In fact, I’m convinced it’s impossible to genuinely communicate to your daughter your love for her, too much.
- Tell her you love her before she goes to school.
- Tell her you love her before you discipline her (she probably won’t believe you, but say it anyway).
- Tell her you love her after you discipline her (this tremendously reinforces the concept of unconditional love).
- Tell her you love her when you tuck her into bed.
- Tell her you love her with no “action” attached. Just because.
- Tell her you love her before she goes on her first date. She’ll inevitably compare “him” to you. For an intentional dad, this is a really good thing.
- Tell her you love her before you walk her down the aisle. If you’ve done your homework, you’ll probably be handing her over to a guy a lot like you.
- Tell her you love her so much that she rolls her eyes and says “I know, Dad.” Then keep telling her.
I’m utterly convinced that girls have no “Full” mark when it comes to hearing their father’s love.
2. I’ve learned that a girl desperately craves her father’s attention and affirmation.
- “Daddy, watch this!” (a tutu-fluttering twirl commences in the living room)
- “Daddy, come and see ____________.” (what goes in the blank isn’t the issue… the first four words are)
- “Dad, this is ____________.” (it doesn’t matter too much what “his” name is… this isn’t a statement, it’s a question… “What do you think?”)
Girls are hard-wired to seek out their father’s approval. If our daughters know we’re proud of them, we’ve done more for them than we could ever imagine. And if they know our pride isn’t based solely on what they do, but on who they are, we’re building into them a security and confidence that’s hard to overstate.
I know their requests for time and attention don’t always come at the most opportune moments, but we must constantly remind ourselves that the importance of our daughters’ long-term development trumps our personal convenience. Big time.
So, tell her she’s intelligent when she shows you her report card. Tell her she’s creative when she shows you her fashion design notebook. Tell her she’s unlike anyone else.
And watch her twirl.
3. I’ve learned that a girl’s view of her own body is helped immensely when her dad’s voice is louder than the culture.
Girls are incessantly bombarded with unrealistic messaging – magazine cover models at the grocery store, movie and music stars walking the carpet, fashion images conveniently hiding safety pins, special lighting and air brushing.
What’s real, isn’t. The glamour widely seen and craved by some is a very poor substitute for inner confidence.
Tell your daughter often that she’s beautiful, inwardly and outwardly. Tell her that her worth isn’t determined by her weight, size, or how quickly she grows. And dads, we’ve got to vigilantly express this. Girls are going to hear a very different message all around them, all the time. Opinions are often formed by listening to those speaking most loudly. Make sure it’s your voice heard above the others. She’ll listen if you talk.
And one more thing. You might want to buckle your seat belt for this one.
If you struggle with pornography, find someone who can help you overcome it. It’s not harmless. It’s not innocent. It’ll chip away at your view of women. It’ll objectify in your mind, what’s meant to be viewed as a whole. And perhaps most disturbing, it’ll detrimentally affect your ability to positively relate to the women in your life and confidently speak into the life of your family.
Sacrificing the permanent on the altar of the temporary is never a good decision. Live pure.
And then, with confidence, remind your daughter of the innate beauty she possesses. And do it often.
4. I’ve learned that a girl wants to know her dad loves her mother and is committed to her.
One of the best things your kids can see you doing is hugging their mom. If a good song comes on the radio, dance with their mom while they watch. Yeah, they’ll probably mock you for your lack of rhythm (welcome to my world), but dance anyway. Then take it up a notch and grab your girl and dance with her. If she’s hesitant, don’t worry. Her public protest is likely hiding a private joy.
I think it’s also vital to tell your daughter (when it’s just you and her) how committed you are to her mother.
“I just want you to know that I love Mom with all my heart, and we’re always going to be together.” Say it.
If your relationship with your daughter’s mom is fractured, remember that your broken relationship still involves the most significant female influence in your daughter’s life. So intentionally avoid comments that devalue or diminish. You may not be able to turn back the clock, but just remember how you speak of your child’s mother is sinking deep into a very impressionable heart.
The bottom line of raising girls? It’s a privilege like no other. Direct them. Encourage them. Love on them. Demonstrate unwavering support for them. And lead them carefully.
Eventually we’ll work ourselves out of a job, and what’s left will be a masterpiece. A woman who loves and is loved. A woman who looks at herself, and is happy with what she sees.
And we’ll take great comfort in a job well done.