Five Ways a Daughter Deeply Needs her Daddy
As an architect Justin sometimes has to work long hours. It’s an unavoidable part of his job. I know it’s a little hard on Ayla when she goes a few day’s without having good time with him. Despite the lack of time, I feel so lucky to have a husband who uses the time he does have with her to the best of his ability. The other week when he had to work late a few days in a row he suggested we meet him for lunch and have a picnic. Ayla loved this idea and insisted we pack the picnic in her little plastic picnic basket toy. That hour made such a difference for her that week and it was so sweet to see her light up when we reached his office.
Daddy’s play such an important role in daughter’s lives. Because Dad’s are often not the primary care giver, I too often see Dad’s struggling with feeling either less significant in their daughter’s life than they are, or they feel the weight of the importance they carry but struggle with guilt over not being able to spend more time with their daughters. While time is important (and yes, some Dad’s definitely do need to rearrange priorities to put family first) being busy at work and providing for your family does not mean you can not be for your daughter what she needs you to be. Your daughter doesn’t need hours on end with you but for you to use the time with you have with her wisely. That can be hard to do when you don’t know what your daughter needs from you. I also believe one of the most tragic things a father can do is the underestimate the importance he carries in his daughters world. Daddy’s have a unique ability to speak into a little girls life in a way no one else in her life does. So what does your daughter need from you? Here are a few ways Dad’s are super important for their little girls:
You help her know and experience her worth. You know when your little one comes running up to you so excited to show you something or spins in circles in front of you in her princess dress? She’s asking a question she may not even be aware of yet and you as her daddy have the ability to answer that for her before she even has words to articulate what it is. The question that is written on her heart is “Am I valuable?” Every little girl wants to be loved and delighted in. She needs to know if she is the kind of person worth delighting in. Is she deeply beautiful to you? Not just her appearance, but who she is. She needs to know that she is not just loved but delighted in. Little girls who have present fathers that speak into their lives about their value and make them feel truly cherished, statistically become sexually active far later in life and with fewer partners than little girls who’s fathers were not as present. When they know they are valuable, they don’t need to seek attention from men to answer the question “Am I valuable? Am I worth delighting in?” When you use your words to tell her she is valuable she learns to know her worth in a logical way. That is so important, however, when you actually engage your heart and truly delight in her she gets to EXPERIENCE and feel her worth reflected back to her through your genuine enjoyment of her. You taking 5 minutes to smile at, laugh with and adore your daughter makes all the difference in her world. She can feel the difference between you reading a story and rushing her off to bed and you taking a few minutes to enter her world and engage with her emotionally. That 5 minutes can make all the difference.
She learns healthy affection from you. It doesn’t matter if your daughter is super snuggly or always on the go. She may love to crawl up on your lap and snuggle up for a book or she my push you away every time you try to scoop her up for a hug. Regardless of your child’s temperament she needs to learn from you what healthy affection from a man looks like. Your hugs, kisses and snuggles are so important. Giving her space when she asks for it is equally as important. She needs to know that your arms are always there waiting for that hug but that it’s ok for her to say no when she’s not feeling that squeeze. I’m not saying that the occasional stolen kiss or hug is not ok, in fact it think its sometimes necessary when it’s done in a warm and caring way, but overall she needs to know that saying no to affection is ok. This will help to her to have healthy physical boundaries later in life and the expectations that others will respect her boundaries and stop when she says no. Having her Daddy fill her need for healthy affection also means she will crave less inappropriate affection as a teenager. It will help her have healthier boundaries about what physical affection she will allow and what crosses a line for her. And yes, all of this starts when she is just a baby, but no, it is never too late to start.
You make her feel safe and secure. When you offer warmth, respect her boundaries and make her feel provided for, she will always know she has that stability to catch her when she falls. It gives her the safety she needs to explore the world and take healthy risks in life. It gives her something to stand on when life doesn’t go the way she had planed. When I say provided for, I don’t mean that she has all the newest technology, every toy in the world and a new car on her 16th birthday. I simply mean that she has what she needs. Food on the table, clothing on her back and a daddy that makes her feel loved and emotionally secure. That sense of safety will carry her well into adulthood. Even now as a woman in my 30’s, who is not reliant on my dad at all for day to day life, I feel a sense of safety knowing that if something tragic ever happened to my family my daddy would be there to offer love and support in whatever ways he could. In other words, the security you provide your daughter as a child will help her to feel safe and secure in her world as an adult.
You have the ability to call out her greatness. She will look to you to for approval and leadership. You get the unique opportunity to learn her strengths and call them out. She will either hear from you the ways she is not living up to expectations in the ways she is weak or she will learn to manage her weaknesses while truly devoting her energy to growing and investing in her strengths. She needs to know that the unique gifts she carries are not only ok but are beautiful. She needs you to help her know what to do with them and how to grow them to so she can flourish and meet her greatest potential. She needs to know that you approve of who she is, how she is made and that you are proud of her. Help her discover her calling and to see a deeper purpose for her gifts. Call out her strengths weather those strengths lead to her being a doctor, a waitress, a teacher or a stay at home mommy.
She learns how a woman should be treated. She watches you. She not only sees and feels the ways you treat her but she sees and feels the way you treat her Mama. She watches how affectionate you are and the tone of voice you use when you speak to her Mom. She sees if you take time to delight in the most important woman in her life and it shows her how a husband should treat his wife. She learns what she should hope for and expect from a marriage one day by watching you. She learns how to handle conflict (good and bad) and she learns what commitment means in the more difficult seasons. Let me encourage you to love your wife the way you want a man to one day love your daughter and if you can’t do that in this season then ask for help. Ask for help from close friends you can trust, or your church or find a trained counselor. Having and modeling a healthy marriage is one of the best ways you love your daughter.
Every dad will fail in some of these ways from time to time and that’s ok. It’s not about never failing but about being on a trajectory where you are growing in these areas for your daughter every day. The reality is that some dad’s are not safe, or present emotionally or even there at all. Hear me say that it does not have to be something that irreversibly harms your daughter. In the ways that a little girl’s daddy fails her or is not even in her life at all, she needs to know that God is her father and deeply wants to meet all of these needs for her. Dad’s, maybe the biggest way you are important in your daughters life is that you have an ability to point her to a God, who is the perfect father. Single Mom’s, you carry so much, let God carry the weight of being your child’s father and speaking into her life in the ways only a father can. Help your daughter see how God desires to be all of these things to her.
Knowing God is the perfect father means Dad’s can walk in freedom from guilt over the ways they are imperfect. It means Mom’s can help their children who have harsh or absent fathers, to experience the safety and value they were intended too experience through their earthly father’s through God himself. It’s all too easy to view God through the eyes of how our fathers treated us. The truth is we have always been made to see our fathers though knowing first that God is the perfect father. For those of us with less than perfect fathers, knowing the identity God’s given us, along with his protection and love, gives us strength to walk in forgiveness towards those who have harmed or failed us. At the end of the day a Daddy’s role is unspeakably valuable in a little girls life but it was never intended to replace the role God longs to play in her life.