Being a dad can be complicated. Anyone who is a dad knows this well.
I remember well the months and even years leading up to being a dad.
It was a long time ago now, but I remember having very distinct ideas about what I would do and how I would train my kids to be what I wanted and thought was important in a child.
She’ll Be Right!
I had it pretty well worked out, and what I didn’t know I figured I would work out easily enough as I went.
I saw in my mind being a dad as a puzzle that I had most of the pieces for, but not yet assembled. And what pieces I didn’t have, I would be able to work out and fill in the gaps as I went.
“She’ll be right!” is a well known Aussie saying … and this is what I thought before my first child arrived.
I also see this same attitude in my grown-up children; who look at all the things that mum and dad do wrong and think that they will be different and that their children will not have the ‘behaviour problems’ that their younger siblings have.
How naive we can be!
When my first child was born, it was time for my ideas to be tested. What a disaster!
Little sleep. Crying. Problems getting the feeding going. A wife who needed caring for more than I realised.
Frayed emotions. Crying. Nappies. More crying, and a job with commuting that also needed my full attention.
It was mentally and physically hard work.
After the few weeks, I wasn’t doing anything well. We needed help. I needed help.
Where would that help come from?
We had been part of a pre-birth (ante-natal) group that gave some connections and reset some expectations. We were also part of a local church.
We had no family in the same city, but we did have some help from our mothers who came to stay for a while which was helpful with some of the practical aspects (such as meals) but didn’t help in many of the other areas we needed help.
Then we found a parenting course that seemed to fit with our overall view of kids and family life. This was our first introduction to getting training on how to parent.
Isn’t it strange that we accept that we need training with our careers, but with the much harder job of being a dad, we think we can just wing it? – Guy Mullon
In a matter of weeks, the feeding was going well, our daughter was sleeping through the night in less than 10 weeks, and all of a sudden things began to settle down just a little bit so that we could stop and catch our breath.
Those days are a long time ago now, and we’ve had another 6 daughters.
Since then, it has definitely got easier as we have learnt what is really important and what we don’t really need to lose sleep over. We are much more efficient parents.
Why all this preamble before I get to my point?
Because it is an important lesson to remember that a small bit of help at the right time can make all the difference.
We got that little bit of advice we needed at that time, and it made a big difference.
We both got more sleep. My wife was happier. The baby was more content. I could function well at my job. We found the energy to socialise again… and so on.
It’s true being a dad can get very complicated. We can also overly complicate it ourselves by creating lists of things we must do, and worrying over the things we haven’t done.
However, what if there was just one thing that could make all the difference to your daughter’s life, and to your own?
What if you could get most other things wrong but still be successful as a dad if you did this one thing … wouldn’t that take the pressure off and allow you to breathe?
The One Thing
Well, there is that one thing.
The one thing is this.
Your daughter needs to know that she is valuable.
It sounds too simple, and that is its beauty. It is simple.
She needs to have the question answered as to whether she is of real value – not for what she can give and do, but for who she is. As her dad, she needs to know that first from you before any other.
Acclaimed author John Eldredge says it this way:
The main question every girl asks herself is “Am I lovely?” Can I be a princess? Will I be worth fighting for? Dad’s must answer this question for them. Girls want their fathers to be captivated by them. – John Eldredge
What if I Miss the One Thing?
Dr Linda Nelson, a psychology professor at Wake University, researcher and author on the topic of daughter-father relationships puts it in a more general form in terms of relationship – but lays out some of the consequences when dads don’t meet this need:
“Women who grow up with meaningful, comfortable, conversational relationships with their dads make better choices in who they date, have intimate relationships with and marry. If you have a good relationship with your dad, then you’re not desperate for male approval: you’ve already got it. If you’re used to being well-treated by your father, and you don’t have to be perfect for him to love you, that’s what you’ll expect from other men.”
Did you get that?
“If you’re used to being well-treated by your father … that’s what you’ll expect from other men” – Dr Linda Nelson.
One of the greatest fears we have as fathers towards our daughters growing up is that they will get in deeply involved with the wrong guy.
As a man, we know what the wrong guy looks like. We can see him. Perhaps we used to be him, and we know what damage he can do to our daughters.
Melissa T. Shultz is another author, and writer for a host of publications including the NYT, The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News, Newsweek, Readers’ Digest, The Huffington Post and many others.
Ms Shultz teaches women to write, and she finds that many of her students are women in their 40’s trying to find an expression for the damage that less-than-perfect relationships with their fathers have caused. She says this:
“Women take their cues from the most important man in their formative years and how he treats them…… the result is that these girls grow up ashamed, thinking that whatever transpired was their fault — and decades later, they’re in writing classes and various forms of therapy, coming to terms with their feelings.”
These are daughters who didn’t feel valuable to their dads, and in their mid-life years still feel insecure because of the need that wasn’t met 20 years earlier.
This is a tragedy that doesn’t have to be true for your daughter.
Yes, there are lots of components that ultimately make up a relationship, but if you miss this one thing – the one big question your daughter has – then you can not have the relationship with your daughter that she desperately needs.
One Question, Many Answers
A daughter needs the one question answered – “Am I valuable?”
And it is one question that can be answered a thousand ways.
In fact, the more ways you answer this question for her, then the more she will believe the right answer. There are many ways you can show a daughter she is valuable, but these are the few that I have used repeatedly, that have worked the best. You need to tell her in your own way, but perhaps some of these suggestions might help:
1. Give her a safe hug.
If you haven’t hugged your daughter much, now is the time to start. Take it slowly, and don’t come on too strong, and don’t make it go on uncomfortably long.
When my daughters were 12 or 13, they resisted hugs with dad, but I persisted. Now, as late-teenagers and adults, they seek me out for hugs rather than me having to do it.
I’d say, keeping those hugs going was one of the best decisions I made for my daughters. I love their hugs and they feel safe and valuable when I hug them.
2. Write a letter.
This one might sound ‘weird’. I thought so too.
If so, start at a birthday or other special occasion that doesn’t make it seem so strange.
Just write down what you love about her character, her inward and outward beauty, and her value (not about what she does, but who she is).
3. Spoken Words of Affirmation
This is another area where I grossly underestimated its power. I don’t think I need words of affirmation (actually I do, but wish I didn’t!) and so I am pretty bad at providing them to others.
I am more likely to think of a quick-witted comeback than a word of encouragement, and yet our daughters need our affirming words towards their womanhood, not poor-taste sarcasm dressed as dad’s humour.
Affirm your daughter with a kindly spoken, well-timed word of encouragement. It is so easy to say something that discourages, thinking that we are pushing her forward.
However, she needs encouragement, not more pressure from you.
4. Go on a Special Trip
Elsewhere on this website, I wrote about a special trip I took with one of my daughters. It was a fathering adventure with Fathering Adventures.
You can read the article here.
My daughter felt really valuable because of this trip – and she told me so in a letter – that because I would spend my time and money on her and her alone, it affirmed her value to me.
Those are just 4 ideas that I have used that work really well.
The key is to find your own way, your own style of communicating to your daughter over and over that she is valuable.
How do you do it?
I’d love to have a comment from you on what you have done to answer your daughter’s one question, and what difference it made.
Leave a comment and share your success. Other dads need to hear it too.
Originally published on RealMen24/7. Image by