Growing up as a dude who was a bit of a relational addict – who always had a girlfriend – and now having been in ministry on the counseling end of things, I know that very few girls grow up without some sort of a father-wound. And typically, it shows itself in unhealthy ways: a need for attention, for affection, for approval, a distorted view of self, an insecurity of body image, a desire for male affirmation. And all of these things can, in many ways, be traced back to a father-wound.
My greatest desire as a dad is to raise two girls without a father-wound.
My affirmation of them is internal, not merely external. I have two very beautiful daughters, but seldom will I compliment them on their looks. Why? Because that’s not the most important thing. I’ll say I appreciate your work ethic or I love you for who you are on the inside. I let them know that their beauty comes from the inside not from the outside.
I’m very intentional to snuggle with my girls every day. We snuggle in some way. I’ll tell them, I don’t care how big you are, this lap is always yours. You’re always welcome here. This is always a safe place. I want them to see that there can be affirmation and affection that’s non-sexual.
I try to do what is almost impossible for men to do – and that’s to speak woman. I don’t speak woman naturally. I don’t understand the language. But I recognize that my little girls are little women, and they’re emotionally charged.
And they have more words than I do. Oftentimes, those words are covered in tears. I have to learn how to listen with my face, and let them see my eyes, and say, how does that make you feel? I have to filter through the emotion to get the root issue. Peyton was crying in bed one night, and I said, “Sweetie, what’s up? Why are you crying?”
“I don’t know.”
I realize there will be hormonal power surges in their life and they will not know how to process them. So I need to be patient with them in those moments.
WATCH THE PRINCESS MOVIES
We’re into My Little Pony. I can tell you all the fairy names; I know all the princesses. We’ve seen Frozen 14 times. I watch the princess movies. Not because I’m into them, but because I want them to know I’m interested in what they’re interested in. I enjoy watching things with them because it helps me see their world. It’s really important for a daughter to want to sit on a daddy’s lap and watch something that he wouldn’t watch alone.
My daughter is playing volleyball right now. She needs my approval – bad. I can’t believe how bad she needs it. She’ll get a point and who does she look for? Me. She messes up. Who does she look for? Me. In between each game, who does she want to talk to? Me. Now Momma is there, but Momma is always affirming her and she knows that. There’s something about the affirmation she needs from her dad.
So I breathe life into them. And I practice with them. And I encourage them. I realize my involvement in their lives will show them what a man ought to be.
DATE YOUR DAUGHTER
Go for walks and hold her hand while she still wants you to. Take her to dinner. Open the door. Pull out the chair. Why? Because one day she is going to date a boy, and she is going to compare that boy to everything you did. So if you threw down a couple too many beers, got annoyed because she got in the way of the football game you were watching, and spent all your time on your fantasy teams…
Then she’s going to go find a man who drinks too much beer, is annoyed with her, and spends too much time on his fantasy teams.
EXPLAIN THE “F” WORD
“Where did you come up with that?” I asked.
“It was written on the playground.”
I had a choice to make. Do I brush off the issue or do I deal with it? I explained the term. This is what it means, this is what it’s about, and this is why people say it – and that’s why we’ll never say it in our house.
Dad needs to be safe, a safe place for them to come and be honest about what they’re feeling. You don’t ever have to ask a friend, you don’t ever have to look on the internet, you don’t ever have to try and find someone else to answer it. Whether appropriate or not, you can come to me and I will answer any question you ever have.
UNDERSTAND SHE COMES SECOND
They need to see you love your wife. My kids know they’re second.
People will ask, how does that affirm them? Shouldn’t they feel like the most important thing? No. That’s a spoiled brat. They need to know they’re important but Mommy is more important. If they ever talk back to my wife, I’ll say, you don’t ever speak to my wife like that. It’s not that they don’t speak to their mother like that. She is their mother – but she was my wife first.
If they whine about date night, I tell them, I loved her first, and long after you’re gone, she and I are going to be together. So this relationship is the most important relationship in this world for me. And if that means I sacrifice time with you to get time with her, that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.
BE THE SPIRITUAL LEADER
Does that mean you need to teach your kids the Bible? Not necessarily. But they need to see you in your Bible. Now every night before Peyton goes to bed, she reads her Bible, and she asks me questions. And we talk about what I’m learning. I read this and I was convicted… I read that and I was encouraged...
MAKE HOME SAFE
I’ll let them see Jen and me being affectionate. I’ll kiss Jen in the kitchen, and they’re like, that’s gross. But they’re giggling about it, which means they’re happy about it. They try to get in between us and I say, get outta here. The point is: Mom and Dad are going to be okay.
We don’t always conflict in front of our kids, but we’re not afraid to talk things through in front of them either. I want them to know we’re working things through just like they will have to. But they never have to worry about the safety of our home. We don’t mention divorce. They know I’ll never leave Jen. The cycle of dysfunction stops here.
So when my girls get married, God willing, Jen and I will be there – hopefully passing on the healthy things we want them to replicate in their homes.
Originally published on bradjbell.com.