I wanted to give some practical steps for Dads to help them with their relationship with their daughters, so I wrote 10 suggestions for how to better connect with your daughter. I hope you’ll take some, if not all, of these suggestions and try putting them into practice. Don’t get discouraged if you screw it up at first. Keep making an effort to love your daughter through listening, serving, teaching, praying, and providing.
1. Study her.
Remember when you first pursued her mother? You made sure to know her likes and dislikes, because taking her to a Steak dinner wouldn’t go well if she were a vegetarian. You got to know her friends. You asked her what she wanted to “do” with her life. You studied her. And it is the same with your daughter. If you’re going to pursue a closer relationship with her, you must know who she is.
2. Take her on dates.
Sound weird? It is, because most fathers don’t do it. Pick a night that her friends are busy or out of town, and take her somewhere special. Don’t go cheap. Take her to her favorite restaurant. Then, let her pick what you do next. If she likes the arts, take her to a musical or museum. Let go of your own interests, and most of all your pride, and show your daughter that what’s important to her is important to you. She will appreciate your sacrifice and desire to simply be with her and hang out.
3. Tell her she’s beautiful.
When she walks down the stairs in her homecoming dress, smile big and tell her how gorgeous she looks. When she gets a new outfit or a haircut, notice it, and say it’s cute. (I know you hate that word but your daughter doesn’t, so use it!) And even when she has just woken up, especially then, tell her she’s pretty. For some of you, this may feel awkward, but isn’t it worth it for your precious daughter?
4. Allow her to dream.
Remember when you were eight years old? What did you want to be? All of us have dreams – some of them crazy – and we have this slight hint of hope that these dreams might actually come true. Maybe your girl likes cooking and wants to be a famous chef, or perhaps she wants to eventually open her own business. Maybe her dream is even so far-fetched that you want to laugh when she tells you. It doesn’t matter. Allow her to dream big. Allow her to have outrageous goals. Even if she might never attain them, instill the hope in her that God can and will do whatever he wants with His children. Help her find ways to reach her dreams, and encourage her to work hard in all that she does.
5. Be a good listener.
This goes for listening to those crazy dreams as well as listening to her weeping over a silly boy at school. Sit at the edge of her bed and let her pour her heart out. Try not to talk too much, and when you do speak, let it only be words of encouragement. Practice active listening and repeat back to her what you think she’s telling you. Make sure you really get what she’s saying. Also, don’t just assume that she wants a solution to her problems. Something I recently learned from a wise teacher is to ask the question, “Do you want me to listen, or do you want a solution?” Don’t assume that in bringing you her concerns she is looking for an answer. Simply affirm her and love her.
6. Leave her notes.
I could probably find out pretty easily who invented the “sticky note,” but I’m going to leave that a mystery and just say he/she is a genius. So much affection, appreciation, and encouragement can come from a simple sticky note on a bathroom mirror. Use the bright colored ones – they like that. Leave her scripture or a compliment. Get some notebook paper and write her a little love letter and leave it on her nightstand so she’ll see it in the morning when she wakes up. (My husband does this. It makes me feel incredibly loved.) Another option is to give her a greeting card every now and then, and not just on her birthday or Christmas. If she’s sentimental, give her a sweet, wordy one. If she loves to laugh, give her a goofy one. But remember this – it’s important – you must write your own words in it. Don’t just leave it to the card-writers. They don’t know and love your daughter.
7. Give her good gifts.
You may not be a rich man, but not all gifts are expensive. She doesn’t have to have the latest iPhone, but it might be nice to leave flowers in a pretty vase on her bedroom desk. Some of you dads might have money growing on trees, and that’s great – give generously. But the rest of – your daughter is probably aware that you don’t have a million bucks in your checking account. A “good” gift is a thoughtful gift. For example, if she likes to read and has been wanting to grow in a certain spiritual discipline, buy her a book written by a trusted author on the needed subject. If there’s a jewel that her grandma passed down to her, get it set in a ring that’s perfectly sized for your daughter’s dainty finger. She’ll love it.
8. Serve her.
Practice and imitate the servant heart of Jesus. Maybe this looks like bringing her favorite snack and a soda up to her room while she’s studying. Or, it might be nice if you ironed the outfit she has laid out for the next morning. Fix her bike tires without her asking. If she has a car, give it a regular check-up to make sure it’s in good shape and your girl is safe as she drives. That’s one of the things that my dad still does for me when I come into town. It’s a wonderful blessing! These little things really go a long way. Seek to serve your daughter daily. She may be grateful, she may not. Regardless, love her through continual acts of service.
9. Say “I love you.”
Fathers, it is not enough to merely show her your love. You must tell her! There is no substitute for this verbal expression. My dad and I always say “I love you” when we get off the phone with each other. He’s definitely not a “mushy” kind of man, but he knows the importance of telling his daughters how much he loves them. Don’t ever, ever let your daughter question your love for her. Even when you don’t particularly like her, tell her you love her. God’s love for us is unconditional, even when we disobey Him. Let your love penetrate your daughter’s heart, no matter how hard it is.
10. Love her mother.
Ummm, isn’t this article supposed to be about loving daughters? Well, yes. And an often neglected way of doing this is to show selfless, thoughtful, romantic, love to her mom. If you want to teach your daughter what a good husband looks like, imitate it for her. Let her say, “I want to marry someone just like dad.” Maybe you were one of those kids who never saw your parents kiss, hug, or even speak to each other. Don’t let that happen to your children. Even if you are divorced or separated, there is still opportunity to love her through kindness, patience, and forgiveness. What a testimony to your daughter that would be. No matter what wrong has been done to you, be faithful to God by showing grace and selfless love to your wife, or whoever your daughter’s momma is. This may be the hardest thing for some of you. But I guarantee you, it matters.
Wouldn’t you go to any length to protect and endear her heart? Your daughter is a gift. Look at her through the eyes of Jesus. Don’t ever see her through any other lens. I hope that your relationship with your bright and beautiful teen girl continues to grow in flourish under the grace and love of God!