This is for you dads! Have you ever felt completely disconnected from that strange, emotionally-charged, phone-abusing, high-pitched “thing” living in your house? I’m talking about your daughter. Yes, she’s loud, she talks all the time, she eats all your cookies, she speaks only in acronyms, and her favorite family member is her Chihuahua, Snuggles. Basically, she’s a cute alien. I’m sure you’ve done everything you know to do to connect with her, but it’s just not working is it? I’ve got news. You’re not alone. You and many other dads with teenage daughters out there are struggling to understand the crazy mind of your rapidly-growing, rapidly-changing little girl. And that’s OK. I’m here to help!
Every week, I get the pleasure of mentoring, discipling, and goofing off with high school girls. Few other twenty-something women can say that their job involves hanging out at Panera Bread and Starbucks laughing-out-loud about school, boys, and embarrassing moments at the Friday night football halftime show. In some cases, I spend more time with these girls than their very own fathers. And this isn’t always due to lack of trying on the dads’ part. I just connect with these girls fairly easily, and you know why? Because I was once a high school girl too. I totally get them! But, I’d rather you “get them” than me.
Your daughter is so fortunate to have you in her life. And most likely, she’s aware of that even if she doesn’t say it often. She really wants a relationship with you! And if she doesn’t, maybe it’s because she feels awkward around you, or she has somehow been hurt by you. First things first. You need to address any issues with your daughter that involve you hurting or offending her. These things might be large elephants in the room that both of you have been avoiding, or they might be small things that you never even imagined mattered to her. Either way, she needs to know that you love and care for her. Be a dad who exhibits confession, repentance, and humility in front of your family. This is huge. Do not miss it. Displaying these godly characteristics to your daughter shows her that you desire to follow Jesus. You may not be perfect, but she’ll appreciate that you are led by your Father in Heaven, not your ego. This will also build a foundation of trust between you.
While we’re on the subject of godliness, let’s take a look at what scripture says regarding the role of dad. It says in Ephesians, “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” I like this. Don’t antagonize or provoke your daughter. Instead, lead her to the throne of God’s good grace through discipline and instruction. Fathers, you are an irreplaceable and integral part of your children’s spiritual growth. Teach them, pray with and for them, model good stewardship and humility. No one wants to follow a person who doesn’t lead well, and it is certainly no different in family life. You have a responsibility to encourage spiritual discipline and character in your daughter, and the best way to do that is to lead by example. Let her see you reading your Bible, praying with the family, working hard around the house, and treating others with love and dignity. Be an intentional dad. Be a radical dad. Show her who’s boss – Jesus.
Although spiritual leadership is priority, you cannot properly execute a model of healthy spiritual discipline without also caring for your daughter’s emotional and social well-being. She wants to know that you recognize her need for relationships. Don’t make the mistake of under-valuing her friendships and relationships with other adults. There are few things more important to a teenage girl than her friends. Who does she see at school every day? Her friends. Who does she sit with at church? Her friends. Who does the want to go to the mall with? Her friends. Who does she text in the waiting room at the dentist? Her friends. Why is this? Why is she so dependent on this group of four or five girls who all look just alike and are all vying for the same man? (That would be Channing Tatum. Just Google him.) It is because these girls, and sometimes boys, allow her to feel like a part of something. They validate her feelings and struggles because they are often experiencing the same things. They provide her with an outlet for expressing her style, her interests, and her dreams. Friends are fun, and fun is good! Allow your daughter the joy of friendships. Encourage her to meet new people and try new things. Clearly, there should always be boundaries in friendships, and that’s something you can teach her, but encourage the growth of her interpersonal skills through maintaining and enjoying good friendships. Don’t ever deprive your teen of this. It is a valid need.
Now, it must be said that high-school relationships tend to partner themselves with emotional drama. Anyone who’s been a teenager knows this. Even the boys exhibit their fair share of unnecessary gossip, bullying, and rivalry. But the girls – ooooh the girls! Even of my most mature students, I can’t think of one who has not experienced some level of emotional upheaval in the past year. Stories of boyfriend-stealers, best friend backstabbers, and social media snobs plague our conversations. Do I want to tell them that their concerns are silly? That they’ll look back on these things and laugh? Yes, often. And sometimes I do. But what are they really looking for? They’re looking for emotional support and encouragement in their troubles. They want someone to walk with, not someone to tell them they’ll be alright…eventually. Dads, I have a feeling that your daughters would love to have you respond to their feelings of unattractiveness, worthlessness, and loneliness with a hug and a listening ear. You may not get it that she stands in front of her full-length mirror for 20 minutes staring at one outfit or hairstyle, because to you, clothes are for covering up your body, and hair, well, you’re just happy to still have some. But to her, feeling pretty is huge. And do you know who she wants to hear it from the most? You. I beg you, I plead with you to tell your daughter she’s beautiful. Notice her new shoes. Notice her haircut. Take her on a date and tell her how privileged you are to be the father of such a gem. This is what gives her confidence. That cute boy in algebra may not notice her, but her daddy does. Her best friend since first grade may abandon her, but her daddy won’t. Her coach may tell her she’s not good enough, but her daddy will appreciate how hard she works.
I know your daughter seems to only care about boys, friends, and cute clothes, but I promise this – she sees you out of the corner of her eye, and feels your love, or lack thereof, deep in her heart. She takes notice of your life, and she’s dying for you to take notice of hers. I just dare you to be that radical father who is enamored with the unique beauty of his daughter; the father who loves her above his money, his job, his car, his golf buddies, and his pride. Watch what happens when you seek to romance her just like our God in heaven romances the church with his grace, love, and compassion. This doesn’t mean you aren’t strong, or that you’re “girly.” It means you’re respectable, and an excellent provider, not only providing for your daughter’s physical needs, but providing for her heart.