Dads Discipling Daughters
Last week a mom talked about what it was like living in a home full of boys; this week we are talking to dads about raising daughters. We asked a few questions to get the conversation started:
What has it been like to be a man living with all daughters? What have the joys been? The challenges?
What have you learned about God’s design for women?
How have you worked to show them God’s design for men?
John: Three daughters, ages 24, 21, and 16
Being the one man in a home of three daughters and a wife is definitely a joy, and of course there are challenges.
Being a dad of daughters is a blessing in so many ways. First off, it is a blessing because it challenges me. My daughters force me to be more relational; more finesse and less brute strength. For me, as a man, this is unnatural and definitely not my comfort zone. When I am being the father God calls me to be, I am engaging and searching for the heart issues underlying a particular behavior. Daughters force me to be involved rather than just adjudicating or making a ruling. Daughters force me to be gentler in many ways that might not be my normal way of handling a situation. All this may sound challenging; however, if I am truly loving my daughters in the way they need to be loved, I am a better version of myself. And that is joy.
Girls are different. Daughters (and women in general) thirst for love, security, and safety in relationships. Men desire respect. Ephesians 5 talks about some of these differences. Women have strengths that augment weaknesses in men,and vice versa. Different is not unequal.
In real life terms, that means I kill bugs. I walk to the car at night to get what they forgot so they don’t have to face darkness alone. I make them feel like they are the most important person in the world with a little gift or quick breakfast date. I am there for them when they just need the comfort and security of someone to hold them and tell them it’s going to be okay.
So before you think that I am some kind of super-spiritual Wonder Dad, let me be clear that I have had some successes that have been matched, if not exceeded, by my many failures. In a time of repentance after a dad failure, one of the first thoughts I have is, “What is this teaching them about what a man should be?” I am painfully aware that my overall behavior during their lives greatly impacts the type of man they are going to be attracted to. By trying to model how a man should treat and show love to a woman (and repenting when I fall short), I am setting a certain expectation of future male relationships.
Ben: Two daughters, ages 13 and 7 (as well as two sons)
My daughters have revealed to me the tenderness of our Father and also the essential need for all of us to remain vulnerable with God and to others. Too often women are falsely characterized as fragile, needy,or weak. My two daughters enjoy being hugged, held, and protected by me as their father. Over time this has demonstrated to me how much it means when my Heavenly Father is willing to hold and hug me as a son. All of us want that fatherly affection, but too often men in particular see a desire or need for real connectedness as inherently frail or unmanly.
Through my daughters I have come to recognize that in demonstrating my own need for affection and connectedness is actually a signpost of courage, strength, and authenticity. To seek those things in a relationship with others is to entertain the risk of rejection. Risk requires courage. Additionally, every relationship is enhanced and deepened through vulnerable authenticity –through sharing and meeting needs. My daughters have helped me recognize how much I want and need authentic connection with God and with others. This realization has been a powerful gift to me.
Gordon: Three daughters, ages 24, 22, and 20
One of the challenges in parenting daughters was understanding the intensity in which they talk with each other (sister-to-sister and daughter-to-mother). It seemed like a whole lot more mattered to them than really mattered (in my opinion). They also talked about things with much stronger emotional content than I would. At times, I would get overwhelmed at some of the passion in the discussion and one of them would say something like, “Dad, we are just talking!” It never felt like that to me. In addition, it seemed they wanted to talk about relational things more. Who hurt who, who is dating who, who is a good friend or who isn’t a good friend.
The joy is that they have celebrated life and me really well.The same intense passion I talked about above went into the good parts of their relating to me. There was more life and celebration in our home because of them. That has led to a richer, fuller, and more meaningful relationship with them. That has really blossomed as they have become young adults.
Price- one daughter, age 21 (as well as one son)
To me, having a daughter means moving in her direction instead of expecting her to move in yours. With a son, it is natural to teach your son how to be man and enjoy manly activities. As a father of a daughter, I think it’s about teaching yourself how to understand the feelings and emotions of a young girl. Dads need to move toward their daughters.
So begin with the end in mind. If I want my daughter to be proud of the woman she has become, we need to spend tons of time talking about dating, faith, hard work, setting goals, dealing with failure, treating others with respect, money, and character. Those values are “unisex” but the sexes learn them differently I think.
Girls are really watching their dad’s behavior. Remember the old saying “preach, use words if necessary.” That’s pretty true for girls. To grow a proud daughter, I need to show her how a real man treats his wife and family. I need to show her hard work, faith in action, charitable giving, setting andachieving goals, and character. There is NO shortcut.
Along the way, I need to learn some things too. She won’t hang around me if she doesn’t like me, so I better learn the names of her friends, teachers, and favorite pop singers. I better learn how to braid hair, paint some nails, and maybe dance in the den from time to time. I need some thick skin for the times she ignores me. I need to hold my temper while she learns to control her emotions. I need to hold her in my lap while she cries (still doing this at age 21). I need to extend her some grace. I need to take a backseat to her relationship with her mother. My needs come last. Still learning some of this.
A dear friend told me that the time you put into your kid’s lives while they are 1-10 is in direct proportion to the amount of time they will allow for you while they are 10-20. Dads, get over yourselves, get on the floor, and do whatever your daughter is doing while she will let you. Meet her more than halfway –so when she’s old enough to make her own choices, she will want to meet you for lunch.
Having a daughter is probably the greatest joy in my life. She is the easiest person to be around that I know. She was when she was an infant and she still is today at age 21. Yes, we meet for lunch. And yes, a couple of weeks ago she said “Dad, I am proud of the woman that I have become.”