There is no question that girls “grow up in a cultural milieu saturated with sexualizing messages,” as one 2007 report put it. Television, the Internet, movies, magazines and music are all rife with sexually explicit content. In the world of media and advertising, female sexualization is everywhere. Young girls are made to look and dress like adults, while women are constantly “youthified.” The entertainment-driven media get their message across to our daughters loud and clear.
At the same time, crafty marketers lurk in our midst, spying on our children, appealing to their carnal and lustful desires, packaging vile products, and then preying on the spending habits of young people they desperately hope you aren’t supervising.
As fathers, how can we counteract the onslaught? How can we protect our daughters?
Your daughter is your responsibility. Don’t let society bring her up. That’s your job: to raise her up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4).
You can do it! Here’s how.
1. Spend Time With Her
Nothing is more selfish and irresponsible than siring children without regard to the responsibilities of fatherhood. Your daughter is your responsibility.
In As the Twig Is Bent, Leslie Hohman wrote, “Most fathers and mothers—especially fathers—do not devote many hours enthusiastically to their daughters and sons after the first novelty of babyhood is past. They listen to the troubles of middle childhood when they have to, and occasionally come swooping off their perches for sudden reprimands. By the time children are old enough to be really interesting as companions to the average parent, it is too late. The children have been forced to establish other interests, pleasures, and affection relations.” That’s what happens when you ignore her. You force her to fill that void with other interests and pleasures—like boys and popular culture.
One of the conclusions Mary Eberstadt drew in her 2004 book Home-Alone America is that teenagers are far more likely to engage in sex and experiment with drugs and alcohol when their parents are absent. On the other hand, a father’s involvement in his daughter’s life puts her at tremendous advantage over her peers, as Meg Meeker wrote in Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: “With overwhelming evidence, the [studies show] that kids who feel connected to their parents (and who spend more time with them) fare much better than kids who don’t. Parents keep kids out of trouble; parental influence can be more important than pressure; and specifically, daughters who spend more time with their fathers are less likely to drink, take drugs, have sex as teenagers, or have out-of-wedlock babies. Your time with her matters.”
Don’t make the tragic mistake of substituting physical things for the one gift your daughter really wants from you: your time. That’s all that really matters. True love is expressed by giving your time and your energy—not your money. Make personal sacrifices for her welfare and well-being.
2. Restrict Media Influence
A September 2004 study found that children who view lots of televised sexual content are twice as likely to experiment with sex as those who watch significantly less sexual content. The restrictions and standards you put in place for your family’s media intake do make a difference. But in too many cases, fathers are failing to act, as Eberstadt points out in her book: “American parents tell every survey and outlet available about their disgust with popular culture, and yet toddlers watch more hours of television year by year; some 65 percent of kids 8 to 18 have television sets in their bedrooms, and some 58 percent of households watch television during dinner.”
We know it’s wrong—we know its influence adversely affects adolescent behavior—and we do nothing about it. That is an absolute shame.
All too often, fathers rely on television to keep their children occupied—and then when our daughters turn out bad, we blame television. How convenient.
Your daughter is your responsibility. Don’t allow her to indiscriminately view whatever she wants. Monitor what she watches on the one television you place in the living room of your house. Even during acceptable programming, view it with her. Apply these same standards across the board. Get rid of teen magazines that teach girls how to be “hot” so they can manipulate boys. Check up on the music she downloads, the websites she visits, the people she communicates with through e-mail and instant messenger. Get to know her friends at school—who she hangs out with. Let them know about your standards. They’ll respect you for it.
3. Establish God’s Moral Authority in Her Life
Ultimately, of course, our objective as fathers is to teach our daughters to be most concerned about what God thinks. It’s not enough for her to merely accept God’s existence. In John 13:13, Jesus said to His disciples, “Ye call me Master and Lord: and ye say well; for so I am.” They were right to refer to Him as their Master—that’s what He was! And if they accepted Him as their Master, Christ went on to say, then they needed to follow in His steps—to do as their Master said.
This principle is a fundamental building block for life: In every human endeavor, there will always be a teacher-student relationship, whether it’s parent-child, teacher-pupil, boss-employee, minister-member, or Lord-servant. Fathers who won’t reinforce this principle with their daughters are not properly preparing them for their future.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). True education begins with fearing God—which means we submit to His moral authority with honor and reverence.
Loving discipline is the greatest key there is to learning, because a disciplined mind will be an attentive learner. It will be more responsive to instructions; more discerning of good and evil. That’s why God says the rod and reproof actually give wisdom (Proverbs 29:15).
New Testament theology is based on the same principle (Ephesians 6:1-4; Hebrews 12:6-8). God punishes His children because He loves them. Shouldn’t we follow His lead and do the same with our daughters?
4. Diligently Teach
To fathers, God gives this charge: “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).
God admonished the ancient Israelites to “diligently” teach their children the laws of God “when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up” (Deuteronomy 6:6-7). To teach diligently means to repeat, reiterate, or do something again and again.
In his masterful textbook for life, The Missing Dimension in Sex (free upon request), Mr. Armstrong wrote, “If teenagers had been properly taught what they needed to know about sex, from the very first and second years of their lives, by informed and loving parents, the frightful tragedies of teenage and premarital sex would have been reduced to the barest minimum” (emphasis mine). Begin teaching early—and do it often. Don’t wait until a crisis before you reach out to your daughter. Don’t expect Mom to handle all the teaching while you make the money.
Don’t rely on schools to do your job. Even if schools get the instruction right, which they most often don’t, they are still poor substitutes for a loving father who is diligently teaching his daughter how to live.
Mr. Armstrong wrote, “Of course you cannot tell a 2- or 3-year-old more than a small part of sex knowledge. But as the child grows older, explain more from time to time. Keep ahead of the ‘gutter.’” This is the basic rule to remember in teaching your daughter about sexuality: Stay ahead of the gutter. It requires vigilance to do that! It means you establish God’s standard of conduct in your home and enforce those rules. It means you’re in regular communication with your daughter, making sure you’re well ahead of the gutter knowledge she absorbs from worldly influences.
5. Set the Right Example
No human father is perfect, but before we set out to shape the life of our daughters, we had better get our own act together first. Teaching is administered most effectively by simply setting the right example. As Hohman put it in his book, “Parental example is probably the greatest single factor in training. What you yourself do is of greater influence than anything you can say, especially if your actions belie your words. Your children will inevitably desire to be like you and to act like you” (op. cit.). And when your daughter grows up, we might add, she will most likely marry someone just like you.
Be the kind of man you hope she will marry someday—a sincerely humble man who submits to God’s law. One with the spiritual courage and determination needed to lead his family the way Jesus Christ leads His Church. A man who loves his wife and flees from sexual lust. A man of sacrifice and service. A hard worker and good provider who makes time for his wife and children—a good family man. A discerning man of wisdom and understanding who leans on God’s counsel—and who takes the time to teach. A good communicator—one who talks to God, his wife and his children.
Your daughter desperately needs you to be that man. Spend time with her, restrict the world’s evil influences in her life, be authoritative and decisive—lovingly lead—and teach her from God’s Instruction Manual. But above all, be the man you want her to be with for the rest of her life. ▪