What I Told Your Daughter
Her sense of who she is depends a lot on you.

If you sent your girl to Philadelphia Youth Camp this summer, let me give you some inside information.

I was given the opportunity to teach a class in Womanhood to all of the girl dorms. Though I have taught such classes before, this would be an unusual experience for one simple reason: For the first time, among those in the audience would be my own daughter.

Looking at the schedule the day before I was to give the class for the first out of three times, I realized that not only would Zoe’s dorm be there, but also that it would be her 13th birthday.

Immediately I started to second-guess and rethink my lecture. I had been accumulating a lot of general material about the importance of a woman’s God-ordained role. But the message suddenly became far more real and personal as I contemplated speaking directly to my own freshly turned-teenage girl. Questions flooded my mind: What sort of woman do I really want her to become? What advice would help her to better navigate her teenage and the years that follow? How can I best prepare her for her future marriage and family life? These are questions I’ve been pondering quite a lot the past few months, but they quickly took on a new urgency.

Amid these musings, a profound thought crystallized. I thought about Malachi 4:5-6, and about how God prepares us for spiritual family. It occurred to me that perhaps the best way my daughter could thrive is by nurturing her relationship with her physical father.

The lecture ended up being titled “Daddy’s Girl.” It is probably good that you know this, and I’ll explain why.

“I want to talk to you about your relationship with your dad—your physical father,” I told the camper girls. “Today I want to encourage you to be a Daddy’s girl. I want to inspire you to love your Daddy. To want to please him and make him proud. To live your life in a way that brings honor to him.”

Obviously there were a number of girls at camp who don’t have fathers at home, or at all, or whose relationships with their fathers are deeply compromised in some way. As you might imagine, this gave rise to no small amount of emotion in the audience as I set up the subject matter with some introductory stories and comments. These girls, I encouraged to make the best of a bad situation: to improve the relationship if possible—and if not, to really build a strong, beautiful Father-daughter relationship with their Daddy in heaven.

But I tried to help your daughter recognize what a wonderful gift she has in you. I prodded her to put a higher value on her relationship with you. I tried to show her how truly valuable you are in ushering her toward a rich and fulfilling womanhood.

Yes, a daughter needs a daddy! Her sense of who she is depends a lot on you. What she thinks about boys and men—how she relates to them—whether she trusts other people, especially those of the opposite sex—whether she feels and acts feminine—whether she is glad to be a young woman—whether she feels worthy of other people’s love—how confident she is—how independent, how responsible. Studies have shown all these things are deeply affected by a girl’s relationship with her daddy.

The awesome reason for that is that we all need God the Father! And God gave us physical fathers to help us come to understand and know Him better! A girl’s physical, emotional and spiritual need for a strong physical father points her in the direction of her heavenly Father.

If you do your job right, then no one else can help your daughter more in learning how to relate to God. The more she builds that physical relationship and seeks to please you, the more it will fortify her spiritually.

My lecture aimed to give your daughter some valuable perspective: to see herself through your eyes. And to provide some practical ways to make herself even more beautiful to you, and to her heavenly Father.

I spelled out four specific points for her to think about.

One: Your Daddy loves when you’re humble. Your daughter is much easier for you to enjoy and to work with when she has a teachable, childlike attitude. God, her ultimate Father, calls “a meek and quiet spirit” an ornament of great price in a woman (1 Peter 3:4). If your daughter can learn how to submit happily to you today, that lesson will last her whole life and on into eternity.

We dads need to remember this as we guide these future women. We really need to recognize when our daughters are falling prey to attitudes of stubbornness, resistance to authority, arrogance and so on—and we need to confront them! Recognize that they make her miserable (as well as everyone around her—and anyone else who gives in to them!). Help your daughter nurture the humility, the meekness, that God values so highly in all of us, and that He praises as being particularly lovely when manifested femininely by a woman or a girl.

Two: Your Daddy loves when you’re honest. I really encouraged your daughter to have an open, communicative relationship with you—to seek your counsel, to solicit your help, even to be upfront with you about her mistakes. Her spiritual Father truly loves and desires such communication. “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me,” He says in Proverbs 8:17. Such a relationship on the physical level facilitates one on the spiritual level.

This point seemed especially important to share with you. A handful of girls said after the lecture that they found their father difficult to talk with because he was preoccupied with his own interests and tended to brush them off. This was painful to hear—mostly because I know firsthand how easy it is to fall into that trap. (That is essentially what this articleis about.) I encouraged these girls not to give up—to continue to seek ways to build that rapport, and to know that, even if it doesn’t seem to be working, God still looks highly on such efforts and will bless them.

At least a couple dozen camper girls told me that they are determined to improve their relationships with their daddies. This thrilled me. And to be honest, it also concerned me just a little. I pray they succeed. I’m writing you in hopes that it will increase their success rate.

Three: Your Daddy loves when you’re hard-working. Here I simply told your daughter how much it means to you to see her take responsibility for herself, building habits of organization, industry, attentiveness and service. I prodded her to apply herself to her education. I told her to learn to recognize other people’s needs and to fill them. To look for ways to help around your house, learning the skills involved in being a homemaker.

You might just take notice of these things, and ask yourself whether your daughter is on track to become a capable and industrious helpmeet, homemaker, educator and mother. Now is the time for her to build that mindset.

Finally: Your Daddy loves to see you happy. This world has trashed the God-ordained role of women—and females are miserable as a result. So many are bitter, edgy, brash and mean. I encouraged your girl to get control of her emotions—to not allow herself to be moody, grumpy, irritable and self-centered; but rather, to be a ray of bright, cheerful sunshine. To be sweet—sweet-natured. I told her how much you appreciate and love that—and how much more beautiful she is to you when she has that attitude. I told her how much you appreciate it when she runs up to give you a hug when you arrive home from work.

Stay alert. If your daughter makes the effort, show your appreciation. If your daughter approaches you to talk, recognize what an opportunity God is giving you. Seize that moment. Make the most of it.

It is easy to underestimate just how much your teenage girl needs you. She needs you more now than when she was younger. She needs your attention, your encouragement, your concern, your counsel, your guidance, your perspective, your correction, your firmness, your stability, your love.

The window of opportunity to give her those things is small. If she is actively seeking them, then embrace her while you can!

Your daughter won’t live under your roof forever. There is a point when she must “leave and cleave,” and she comes under the authority of a different man. She should never be a “Daddy’s girl” in the sense of being unable to do that. Instead, her relationship with you today will have equipped her with the security, humility, emotional balance, godly confidence and joy of life to be able to step into that role wonderfully well, and to fulfill it with her whole heart—for eternity.