“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” -Deuteronomy 6:6-7
"It is admirable for a man to take his son fishing, but there is a special place in heaven for the father who takes his daughter shopping."
- John Sinor
The following is a long list of ideas designed to help dads to connect with their daughters. We originally provided it to all the dads who came to our Father/Daughter Dance in 2009. We hope it gives you some great stuff to think about!
You have in front of you a powerful little tool. It is a collection of basic things to know and simple things to do in order to stay connected with your daughter. I encourage you to keep it someplace you will see it regularly, if only to remind you to consistently embrace the essential role you have as “Dad.”
Depending on the age of your daughter, some of these “tips” might be more applicable than others. However, all of them will be relevant at some point along your journey. So use the ones that fit, adjust the ones that don’t, and above all else, ask God to help you to be creative as you turn your heart towards your daughter.
She will have a lot of people come and go in her life, but she only has one Dad. And even if she pulls away as she gets older, she still wants you to lead, protect, and love her. So don’t stop. Don’t relax. Fatherhood doesn’t happen on accident. We have to be diligent and purposeful. And we have to do it every single day.
I pray that these ideas will help you to create a lifetime of memories and an unbreakable bond between you and your daughter.
Minister to Young Marrieds and Families
"Remind Her of Who She is in Christ"
Almost every day in the world around her, your daughter will receive false messages about her identity. She will be told that her worth is based upon her grades, her physical attractiveness, her charm, her ability to make money, etc. Many times, a dad can unintentionally add to this false identity by stressing these values, as well.
And while some of these things are worth teaching, if all we do is address them without reminding her of who she is in Christ, then she will grow up with the impression that she must perform or achieve to earn God’s (and your) love. One of the most powerful ways you can bless your daughter is to help her grow up with a sense of her real identity.
*The Search for Significance by Robert McGee is a great tool for this!
“A Night at the Museum”
Plan a day (or evening) trip to a local museum. Let your daughter pick where she wants to go, but choose something that’s not in your normal interest…something that might stretch you both a bit. Depending on the age of your daughter, you might choose an art museum, a history museum, or even the children’s museum (for very young girls).
Art is a fun choice because you can critique what is good, bad, orinteresting about different works you see. You can have some fundiscussions of what you think each artist was trying to capture in his creation. Plus, it’s always fun to look at some of the modern art and hear your daughter say, “I could have done that.”
“Get Into Her World”
Identify something that she really loves about life: an activity, a hobby, or a passion she has. Plan an afternoon or an evening to spend in that world, letting her show you why she loves that particular thing. Ask good questions andlearn about your daughter as she teaches you about the things that she loves most.
A GOOD IDEA:
“Get in the Practice of Writing to Her”
Hearing the words “I love you” is a necessity. But reading the reasons for our love on paper can penetrate our daughter’s hearts like nothing else. Our daughters are desperate to have their father’s blessing. Our spoken words must express that but a written blessing can powerfully reinforce it. And it can be something that they visit over and over again, even after we are gone from their lives.
One idea is to give your daughter a special letter to her in a pretty wooden box. This letter should express all the great things you see in her and the wonderful future that God has in store for her. Then tell her that she can expect to get more letters like this one and that the box can be a special place to store them.
Then make it a discipline to write her something every few months. Affirm in her the ways that she is maturing and that God is working in her life. DO NOT use them as a way to correct her. These should be blessings only! Over time, she will develop a clear picture of who she is and how her dad sees her, all in a format she can view, again and again.
“Let Your Love be Consistent”
One thing your daughter will remember about you once she is grown is whether or not you were consistent in your love for her. When you are consistent and unwavering in your acceptance of her, she will truly feel comfortable about coming to you with anything.
Remember that girls, especially teens, live in hormonal, social, spiritual and emotional ups and downs. Having you as a stable force for love and acceptance in your daughter’s life is a very big deal.
“Hail to the Chefs”
Secretly work with your daughter to plan an amazing meal for your family. Plan the menu, the table settings, and everything else. A few days before, let your wife know what you have planned, but don’t give too many details. Go shopping with your daughter and let her participate in picking out all the supplies. The day of the meal, encourage your wife (and sons?) to get out of the house for a few hours so you can prepare everything.
As you are working, have as much fun as possible.Wear aprons, speak in Italian accents, give creative names to the dishes, etc. Asappropriate, talk with your daughter about the value of learning to prepare her own meals as she grows older. Once the rest of the family arrives, host them as if you are the operators of a fancy restaurant.Create some fun memories here!
“Go to Africa...Or Across the Street"
Nothing will connect two people together better than sharing an experience of service to God. Depending on the age of your daughter, pick an appropriate activity or event where you can work side-by-side on a Kingdom-building project. This may be an afternoon or a week-long mission trip.
The Johnson Ferry Global Missions office might have ideas about opportunities in our surrounding areas and around the world. Helping your daughter to minister and serve will do wonders to get her attention off of herself and on to the needs of others.
A GOOD IDEA:
“Candy is a Girl’s 2nd Best Friend”
Every girl loves gifts, especially ones that her dad picks out for her. You can powerfully express your love to your daughter through the simple things you give her. And you don’t have to spend much money. It truly is the thought that counts.
Learn to see every place you go as a gift-purchasing opportunity: the grocery store, the drug store, and every place in between. A simple candy bar with a note attached or pint of her favorite ice cream can go a long way to communicating, “I treasure you and I’m always thinking of you.”
“Be a Good Husband”
A critical element of your fatherhood is your role as husband. Your daughter is more secure when she knows that her parents’ marriage is strong. She will be more confident in your unconditional love for her if she regularly witnesses your unconditional love for her mother. In addition to that, you need to clearly model for your daughter what a good husband looks like. She’ll be looking for one of those before you know it and you want her standards to be high!
Likewise, a single father can model integrity and character as he interacts with the women in his life. This definitely includes your daughter’s mother. Christ-like behavior and sacrificial actions should be the norm with your ex-wife.
The next time you have a small home improvement project, invite your daughter to join you. Let her help you to think through the plan and determine what supplies you might need. Take her to the home improvement store with you and make the most of your drive-time conversation.
Teach her a new skill or show her how to use a tool.As you work on the project, look for opportunities to discuss things going on in her life. Once the job is complete you’ll both have pride in your accomplishment, but you’ll also be able to connect the project with the things you talked about.
“Interview Anyone Who Wants to Date Your Daughter”
Dad, you can’t afford to drop the ball in this area.
By in large, teenagers and freshly-charged hormones make for a bad combination. Your daughter desperately needs your protection and oversight here. If a boy wants to “go out with” your daughter (whether that means some form of “going steady” or an actual date), you need to know him.And he needs to know that you are holding him to a high standard.
From a VERY EARLY AGE, train your girls that if a boy wants to date her, he must first talk to you. For the 20% of boys who actually follow through and call you, set up a time to meet him. Find out who he is and decide if he isappropriate for your daughter. (The principle of being “equally yoked” with other believers applies to dating as well as marriage. But don’t assume that him being a Christian makes him free from impure motives.)Set the bar very high regarding what you expect of him as you trust him with your daughter.
*Read Interviewing Your Daughter’s Date by Dennis Rainey.
“Extreme Makeover: Room Edition”
When it comes time to paint your daughter’s room or change something in the décor, join her in the process.If paint is involved, teach her some basic painting skills and let her do some of the work. She’ll love making a difference in her own living space.Plus, it will give you a great memory of creating somethingbeautiful together.
As always, look for opportunities to discuss something biggerthan just the room, such as the way that God wants to constantly renovate our lives through His Spirit.
"Prepare Her for the Battleground, Not Just the Playground"
Some dads feel that the best way to show love is to provide for their daughter’s every desire and whim. They buy toys, gadgets, candy, McDonalds, etc. They get into their high school years and the pampering continues. Only now, the toys are much more expensive. What does that communicate to these girls?
Meanwhile, other dads prepare their girls for life on the battleground where a spiritual battle is taking place. These dads are well aware of the unique challenges that our daughters are facing in the world today. They realize that their girls need more than toys. They need to be equipped for life so that they will survive the difficulties and trials they will face.
This doesn’t happen on accident. You must stay diligent. You must be committed to living out the truth of Ephesians 6:4. Look it up, dad!
“Shoot the Hooch”
Nothing will give you more time to talk and connect with your daughter than three or four hours on the river together. We are blessed here in East Cobb to live close to a fun and beautiful stretch of the Chattahoochee River that is just begging you to float down it!
Borrow a canoe from a friend or rent one from a local outfitter. Arrange someone to portage you back to your car (your wife will do nicely). Pack a lunch and enjoy a day of fun and conversation. Don’t force a heavy talk…just let it happen naturally over the time you are on the river.
A GOOD IDEA:
“Stay in Her Business”
While this might not be her favorite way that you show your love to her, it is essential. It is a dad’s responsibility to provide accountability in his daughter’s world. This means knowing who her friends are, where she is going, AND what she is doing online or on the phone.
From a very early age, let her know that her phone and computer use are a privilege and that you have the right to look into her activities there at any time. She needs to know that you have a right to know her password to her e-mail, Facebook, and other sites so that you can be aware of who she is connecting with and what she is doing online. While she might not be thrilled about this, she needs to know that this is an act of loving protection, not cruel oppression.
On a similar note, every family computer should have an internet filter of some kind. Do some research and get one that is tamper-proof, even by you, dad!
“Shopping With the Sugar Daddy”
Take your daughter clothes shopping. Set a budget, something reasonable enough to buy one outfit or a couple of shirts. Let her show you what she likes.
Use it as an opportunity to talk with her about what kinds of clothes might not be appropriate for her and why. Depending on her age, this might be a great chance to explain the inner workings of the male brain as it relates to how girls look.Let her know that you love her enough to set boundaries in this area.
Finish off your time together with something like ice cream or coffee.
A GOOD IDEA:
“Put Her on Your Digital Calendar”
If you use Outlook or another digital planner to schedule the important things in your life, why not schedule your daughter on there, too? Ask her to show you the important things on her calendar so you can make sure you can take part in criticalactivities. This also helps her to know your schedule so that family/work conflicts are minimized.
In addition, plan a few months’ worth of “appointments” to connect with your daughter. These can be as grand as a daddy/daughter date or as simple as a reminder to call her after school or to send her a text message telling her you love her. A quick reminder in your busy day can go a long way!
“Mystery Date Night”
Plan something fun that you know your daughter will enjoy. It might be a movie or dinner or something unique like a picnic or hike in the woods. But don’t tell her what you have planned.
A few days out, invite your daughter on this “mystery date.” Give her enough advance notice that she’s excited about it and curious about what you have in store. Be sure to tell her what she needs to wear or bring. Any hint you can give that peaks her curiosity is a good thing.
As you begin your date, let her try to guess what you have in store the closer you get to your destination. Hopefully, no matter what you are doing, she will be excited to have some quality time with her dad. And the big point you want to get across is that you value spending time with her.
"Deal with YOUR Issues"
There are no perfect human beings. Yet if you don’t deal with your own issues (your sins, your insecurities, your feelings of inadequacy, etc.), these can powerfully impact your daughter. She may end up having to deal with some of the very issues that you have failed to resolve in your own life. This is a good place to be reminded that more is “caught than taught.”
Our girls are very bright. They notice things that we think we have hidden from them. If you have significant struggles in your own life, they WILL negatively impact your ability to be the dad your daughter needs.
So ask God to reveal to you those things that you need to deal with in your life. Take those things humbly to the cross of Christ, inviting him to make you more like Himself.
Ask God to give you leadership and inspiration as you strive to capture and keep the heart of your daughter. Because it’s much easier to keep than it is to get it back once you have lost it.