News flash: parenting is demanding work. Always has been, always will be.
Part of the reason it’s difficult is that the moment that tiny person appears, we suddenly no longer come first in our self-centered little world. This precious bundle of burping, crying, sleepless joy now comes first.
As dads, it can be a challenge to know how to nurture these adorable beings overflowing with feisty, fragile femininity. Many of us are still dealing with our own wounds from childhood while fighting every day just to protect our manliness in a world that seems hell-bent on attacking every corner of our hearts.
And it’s hard enough to deal with testosterone, a fairly familiar and predictable substance; now we’re expected to deal skillfully with this utterly foreign material called estrogen? Just the thought of it can be emotionally exhausting, especially for someone like me who usually just wants to be left alone to retreat into a dark, silent man cave at the end of the day.
Yet that is our calling, and these precious warrior princesses deserve nothing less than everything God has purposed for them to receive from their daddies. And no, I’m not talking about pink bikes, ballet lessons, and Frozen-themed parties. I’m talking about four things that our daughters need from their earthly fathers to know, deep down in their souls, that they are truly cherished and beloved.
The best part? These four things don’t require complicated strategies or hours-long time blocks. They can be done in small doses in everyday moments.
4 Things Daughters Need From Their Dads
Sounds simple. But in our digitally distracted, turbocharged lives, time is the scarcest of resources. How much of it we do (or do not) give to our daughters speaks volumes to them about their value in our eyes.
And here’s something I’ve been learning about time: we can’t fracture it, splice it, dice it, or multitask it if we want it to be quality. We’re either all in or all out from our children’s perspective.
One of the saddest images to me is one I see at the playground: the checked-out parent, eyes down on the smartphone, trailing their toddler around the park, texting between swing pushes. That’s not presence. That’s not attention. That’s not being all in. And it’s easy to fall into; trust me, I get it. It’s one of the reasons my wife and I created three “no phone zones” as parents: the dinner table, the playroom floor, and the playground.
And if your daughter’s love language is quality time, this becomes even more important. The other weekend, my four-year-old wanted to play dolls, so we sat on the floor and played with the dollhouse for thirty minutes. The next morning, before she even came downstairs, she yelled to me, “Daddy, can we play dolls again?” It’s not so much that she wanted to play dolls — it’s that she wanted to feel more of daddy’s love. I’m just glad I had ears to hear in that moment what she was really asking me for.
They say kids spell love “T-I-M-E.” Dads, let’s give it to our daughters. Let’s be present, so they can truly believe that there is a Heavenly Father Who is their strength and “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
Words matter. In fact, words are power. God created the cosmos through words. Similarly, as fathers we are continuously shaping our daughters through our words. Positive, affirming words are, in a very real way, infusing our girls with power and strength.
Conversely, harsh, negative words and criticism are sucking strength right out of them and bruising them in profound ways. And an absence of communication altogether can be just as harmful. A cruel, cynical, sexually violent world is waiting to step into that void.
Let’s secure the perimeter of our daughters’ hearts by talking about their uniqueness, our love for them, and God’s delight in them continually (as in, “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7).
And, by the way, tell stories. Talk about your childhood. Talk about Grandpa in the war. Talk about the day your daughter was born. Research has shown that kids who hear stories from their parents are more resilient and confident as they go out in the world. Tell them your stories, so that they can understand their own vital role in the beautiful narrative God is crafting around them.
As far as I can tell, the answer to the question, “What is my oldest daughter’s love language?” is … all of them.
Without a doubt, though, physical touch ranks highly. When I hold her gently and tickle her arms and back, I can describe it only as her melting in my lap. All of the anxious energy seems to dissipate as she goes limp in peaceful repose.
That’s what appropriate and loving physical touch can do. Oxytocin is the hormone released when humans engage in loving, gentle touch, like hugging, kissing, holding hands. It’s sometimes called “the bonding hormone.” It truly binds us together, and a lack of it, like a lack of affirming words, can create a void that inhibits trusting, intimate relationships throughout life.
Research has even shown that the more healthy touch that kids experience from their parents, the more uncomfortable any unwanted touch from others feels to them. In a world that is daily trying to molest our kids, mentally and physically, holding our daughters’ hands and hugging them in our arms is, in a very real way, protecting them from harm.
What better way to model for them their Heavenly Father, who gathers his children “in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11)?
All three of these needs — time, talk, and touch — require the common element of tenderness. In some ways, this is the hardest thing for me as a father. It seems every day there are moments where I simply am not tender — I was too harsh, too terse, too indifferent. Sometimes it’s my speech. Sometimes it’s just because I’m tired. But that’s what love ultimately is: dying to my own needs and desires and putting those of my daughters first.
Often, I’m not as tender as I should be because I forget how delicate their hearts are. You’d think after fifteen years of marriage I’d be cognizant every moment that no matter how tough, independent, and formidable my wife and daughters may be externally, internally their feminine soul will respond only to tenderness from me (see Hosea 2:14).
But, I forget. I make mistakes. I blow it. Maybe you do too. And even though we’re imperfect, we serve a redeeming Father Who is perfect, and He gives us grace to give our daughters more time, more talk, more touch, and more tenderness tomorrow.
Ultimately, that’s the most important thing, because just like us, they’ll blow it too. As I learned at the roller-skating rink the other week, they will fall down, often, and our job is to help them up tenderly, tell them they can do it, and hold their hands as we take baby steps forward together. And if an afternoon roller-skating is in any way an accurate metaphor for life, I can promise you that the bruises and scrapes will be far outweighed by the joy and delight we’ll experience … hand-in-hand with our daughters.
@2015 by pureHOPE. Used with permission
Noel Bouché serves as the president of pureHOPE. His passionate focus is to inspire and equip followers of Jesus to pursue a world free of sexual exploitation and brokenness through personal transformation and community collaboration. He holds a law degree from The University of Texas, and an undergraduate degree from South Dakota State University, where he was quarterback. Noel and Vanessa live in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area with their two daughters.
You just finished reading “4 things daughters need from dad,” by guest blogger Noel Bouché of pureHOPE.
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