Here is something you may think you already know, but the full truth of which is more powerful and exciting than you probably realize.
Our ultimate responsibility is to turn our children’s hearts toward God the Father (Malachi 4:6). That is a big job. Happily, though, God has implanted within their hearts a natural yearning for the love, stability, protection, guidance and correction of a father. When it is lacking, children wither or crack. When it is present—when a man fulfills his God-given role with strength, authority, compassion, sacrificial generosity and spiritual maturity—they flourish.
You know that, but you may not fully realize just how potent your influence is, especially with your daughter.
For her, you are nothing less than the epicenter of her world.
If you have a daughter in your home, pay attention in your interactions with her. She aches for your attention. She yearns to win your affection. She is extremely sensitive to your words, your deeds, your touch. She craves your awareness, your love. She needs your protection, your security. She values your convictions, your stability. Far more than you think.
Even your teenage daughter who is pouting or shouting and pushing you away is actually testing your commitment to her. You must be man enough—your love must be tough enough—to tear down those obstacles and prove that you care.
Wrap your mind around this truth: You are a wonderful gift from God to your daughter! You are truly valuable in ushering her toward a rich and fulfilling womanhood.
She Needs a Father
“Dads, you are far more powerful than you think you are,” writes Meg Meeker in Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. “Daughters are never lukewarm in the presence of their fathers. They watch you intensely. They hang on your words. They hope for your attention, and they wait for it in frustration—or in despair. They need a gesture of approval, a nod of encouragement, or even simple eye contact to let them know you care and are willing to help.
“When she’s in your company, your daughter tries harder to excel. When you teach her, she learns more rapidly. When you guide her, she gains confidence. If you fully understood just how profoundly you can influence your daughter’s life, you would be terrified, overwhelmed or both.”
Your daughter needs your masculinity, your ability to confront and solve problems, your logic, your firmness. “Let me tell you a secret about daughters of all ages,” Meeker writes. “[T]hey love to boast about how tough their dads are—not just physically, but how strict and demanding they are. Why? Because this allows daughters to ‘show off’ how much their fathers love them. If only you could be privy to the private conversations of girlfriends.”
A daughter needs a Daddy! Her sense of who she is depends a lot on you. What she thinks about boys and men; how she relates to them; whether she trusts other people, especially males; whether she feels and acts feminine; whether she is glad to be a young woman; whether she feels worthy of other people’s love; how confident she is; how independent, how responsible—studies have shown all these things are deeply affected by a girl’s relationship with her Daddy.
The awesome spiritual reason for this is that we all need God the Father! And God gave us physical fathers to help us come to understand and know Him better! A girl’s physical, emotional and spiritual need for a strong physical father points her in the direction of her heavenly Father.
If you do your job right, then no one else can help your daughter more in learning how to relate to God. The more she builds that physical relationship and seeks to please you, the more it will fortify her spiritually.
Teach True Beauty
Our world is full of toxic influences: pressures on our daughters to look and act in ungodly ways; assaults on modesty, decency, virtue. This world is geared to make them self-centered, beauty-obsessed and materialistic.
The pressure on a girl to be pretty can be intense. She naturally tends to want to look lovely, sweet and special, and that inclination must be guided. God is not against outward beauty—He created it, and it points to the spiritual beauty He creates inside of us. God describes women like Sarah, Rebekah and Esther as outwardly beautiful. But He also says beauty is vain. He advises women not to get wrapped up in beauty that will soon fade. He wants women to focus on inward beauty: righteous character (e.g. Proverbs 31:30; 1 Peter 3:3-4).
What makes the pressure to be pretty worse is how society often defines beauty. It focuses on extremes—unhealthy thinness, masculine muscularity, oversexed voluptuousness. For many girls, the pressure is so strong that they develop eating disorders; some undergo cosmetic surgery before their bodies have finished developing! Unhealthy messages about body image can induce vanity, materialism and other character flaws, as well as a mishmash of health problems.
This trend proves the influence of the god of this world, the prince of the power of the air (2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2). This being was lifted up with vanity because of his own beauty (Ezekiel 28:16-17). He transforms himself as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14), making his twisted thinking look glamorous and attractive.
Take an unblinking look at this ugly reality facing your daughter. “While you want the world to be cautious and gentle with her,” Meeker writes, “it is cruel beyond imagination—even before she is a teen.” A failure to recognize this makes you ill equipped to battle it with sufficient firepower.
You are your daughter’s greatest hope to escape these pressures. You,with God’s help, are your daughter’s number one protection. You need to stand between her and those satanic poisons, and give her a chance to grow up with her innocence preserved and her dignity intact. Satan would have you believe you don’t stand a chance. That is a lie. The truth is, she doesn’t stand a chance without you—a shining knight with a lion’s heart, carrying God’s banner.
One can see why God puts such responsibility on practicers of true religion to look after the fatherless (James 1:27).
You have a special role as the first male authority in your daughter’s life to ensure that she not only feels beautiful but that she also knows what true beauty is.
Make sure she dresses in a way that pleases God. Teach her that modest clothes make her more beautiful. Immodesty is actually ugly—it arouses lust in males and leads to more ugliness. Ask your daughter: Does she want to be an object or truly beautiful? She can attain beauty the way God intended, through living a happy life that shines through the face and then adorning her body in a way that highlights her figure but doesn’t draw undue attention to it at the expense of her character, mind, sparkle, energy and smile.
And whether or not she understands this deeper truth yet, make sure when she goes out the door she is dressed modestly.
The world’s fashion holds two extremes. One is stretchy, clingy clothes that too tightly conform to the female body. The other is baggy, form-hiding clothes that do little to distinguish girls from boys. Teach your daughter to avoid both extremes. God wants her to dress femininely, with modest yet flattering, attractive clothing and hair that reflects her inner character.
Teach her, with the aid of her mother (assuming she is in the picture), that good hygiene and proper health often does more for the appearance than clothing. Exercise helps yield good muscle tone and healthy skin.
Train Her Emotions
Remind your daughter that her most beautiful asset is her smile. Many young women are too self-conscious and insecure to smile. And society often discourages it. Many “beautiful” women grace magazine covers with sour looks on their faces; many pop stars and fashion icons look angry. Teach your daughter that she exudes beauty when she has a positive attitude and facial expression. When she is in a foul mood, she is acting “ugly.” When she is happy and smiling, tell her how beautiful she is when she behaves that way.
In a world that has trashed the God-ordained role of women, females are miserable as a result. Many are bitter, edgy, brash and mean. Help your daughter learn to get control of and manage her emotions. Express how much you appreciate it when she doesn’t allow herself to be moody, grumpy, irritable and self-centered, but rather makes an effort to be a ray of bright, cheerful sunshine. Encourage her to be sweet—sweet-natured. Tell her how much more beautiful she is to you when she has that attitude. Ecclesiastes 8:1 says “wisdom maketh [the] face to shine.” Teach her the truth about eternal, inner beauty and how it will cause her face to shine more than all those who spend thousands of dollars keeping their face “lifted.”
Encourage her to develop feminine mannerisms. Even a plain-looking person can be very attractive with a feminine personality—happy, fun-loving, tender, soft, lovable, innocent and pure. A physically beautiful woman who lacks discretion can really turn others off (Proverbs 11:22).
What your daughter needs most is real, lasting spiritual beauty. Study 1 Peter 3:1-6 with her. Though Sarah was outwardly beautiful, it was her trust in God and His government that gave her the most beautiful adorning any woman could desire. Teach your daughter to trust and obey you and her heavenly Father.
Your daughter is a joy when she has a teachable, childlike attitude. God, her ultimate Father, calls “a meek and quiet spirit” an ornament of great price in a woman (verse 4). This doesn’t mean she should be a pushover or shy. Meekness is a fruit that manifests itself in all those (male and female) who have God’s Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). Quiet means tranquil or peaceable. Few things are less attractive to a spiritually astute man than a brash or contentious woman (Proverbs 21:9, 19; 25:24; 27:15).
Remember this as you guide this future woman. Recognize when she is falling prey to attitudes of stubbornness, resistance to authority, arrogance—and confront them! Recognize that they make her miserable (and everyone around her). Help your daughter nurture the humility, the meekness, that God values so highly in all of us, and that He praises as being particularly lovely when manifested femininely by a woman or a girl. If your daughter can learn how to submit happily to you today, that lesson will last her whole life and on into eternity.
In 1 Timothy 2:9, the Apostle Paul urges Christian women to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing” (nkjv). Verse 10 shows that “good works” are also part of the formula for what makes a Christian woman beautiful.
Teach your daughter how to show respect, how to seek godly humility, and how to develop her mind in the understanding of God’s Word. If she seeks these virtues, she will one day possess the beauty of a God being—with a radiant face, shimmering hair and dazzling eyes!
How She Learns Love
Build an open relationship with your daughter. Many girls find their fathers difficult to talk with because these men are preoccupied with their own interests and tend to brush their daughters off. Don’t be one of those dads! Make time for regular conversation. Build rapport and make sure she is comfortable talking with you. Ask her questions and make sure she can seek your counsel, solicit your help, even be up front with you about her mistakes. Her spiritual Father truly loves and desires such communication. “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me,” He says (Proverbs 8:17). Such a relationship on the physical level facilitates one on the spiritual level. If your daughter approaches you to talk, recognize what an opportunity God is giving you. Make the most of that moment.
Give her instruction and opportunities to take responsibility for herself, building habits of organization, industry, attentiveness and service. Encourage her to apply herself to her education. Ask yourself whether your daughter is on track to become a capable and industrious helpmeet, homemaker, educator and mother. Now is the time for her to build that mindset. Help her learn to recognize other people’s needs and to fill them, to look for ways to help around your house, learning the skills of homemaking. Take notice as she does these things.
Daughters learn from their fathers how to relate to men. They learn to appreciate their own femininity. They learn that they are worthy of a man’s love by loving and being loved by their fathers. It is from you that your daughter learns what proper, respectful male attention looks and feels like. It is from her interactions with you that she gains the sense of self-respect that is so crucial to resisting inappropriate male advances.
A daughter who is not cared for by her father will either feel she is not worthy of a man’s love or will seek that attention in misguided, damaging ways. Daughters without fathers have a void in their lives that they often try to fill with sex. A girl who stops living with dad after age 6 is twice as likely to have sex by age 16—and if deprived of dad’s presence before age 6, five times as likely. Often a fatherless girl’s ability to remain adjusted sexually and emotionally with one male is notably impaired throughout life.
Think about how much you demonstrate your love to your daughter. Are you teaching her that she is loveworthy? That she is worthy of being loved and cherished and treated with tender, selfless devotion? She looks to you for support, and to tell her what you find admirable about her. Love and adore her. If you show proper love and attention, she will feel cherished, protected and truly beautiful. You cannot overestimate the value to your daughter of your consistent demonstration of unconditional love.
Tell her how much you love it when she runs up to give you a hug when you arrive home from work. Stay alert. If your daughter makes the effort, show your appreciation.
When your daughter becomes a teenager, it is easy to underestimate just how much she still needs you. She needs you more now than when she was younger. She needs your attention, affection, encouragement, concern, counsel, guidance, perspective, correction, firmness, stability—and love.
The window of opportunity to give her these things is small. If she is actively seeking them, then embrace her while you can!
Fan the flames of your devotion to your daughter! Appreciate how God designed the female mind to embrace fatherly authority. Take advantage of the limited time you have to exercise this influence for good, to turn your daughter’s heart—not to you, but to her heavenly Father.
Your daughter won’t live under your roof forever. There is a point when she must “leave and cleave” and she comes under the authority of a different man. But if you have done your job well, then her relationship with you today will have equipped her with the security, humility, emotional balance, godly confidence and joy of life to be able to step into that role wonderfully well, and to fulfill it with her whole heart—for eternity.