A few weeks ago I was assigned to write a Father’s Day article about what daughters need to hear from their fathers as teens. Immediately I remembered this one time I did a Q&A session at a youth leaders’ conference. I and another preacher’s daughter answered a few questions about what it was like to grow up with a pastor as a father.
At the end of the session, the conference leader asked us what piece of advice we would give to fathers in the audience about daughters.
My fellow interviewee gave a very articulate, smart and somewhat long response. People applauded. It was a good answer. She talked about women being strong and independent and how beauty was often too central in our upbringings. I looked at her and nodded along. Then it was my turn.
I felt embarrassed. My answer was much shorter than hers. Less eloquent. It sounded superficial. But it was all I could think to say, so I said it: “Tell her you love her every day. Tell her she’s beautiful every day.”
If I were given the chance to answer this question today, I would say the exact same thing.
I believe when a dad tells his little girl she is beautiful before she is old enough to read magazines or understand dress sizes or compare her selfies on Instagram to others’, she learns to identify beauty as an intrinsic part of her soul, rather than a physical attribute she must strive to attain.
The concept of beauty in and of itself is not a bad thing; beauty is of God. It is the connotations we have put onto this word—looking a certain way, being a certain size, color, etc.—that make it seem like a negative thing.
If a father can tell his daughter daily from an early age that she is beautiful for no reason except that she simply exists, she is raised with a healthy idea of what beauty truly is and where her worth is actually found.
It is the same when she is told she is loved from day one, and every day after that. Somewhere in her subconscious she realizes that she isn’t doing anything to earn her dad’s love because he tells her, even on her worst days, that he loves her. “I must simply be worthy of love,” the little voice inside of her says.
My dad did this for me and my two sisters growing up and he does it still. He told us he loved us. He told us we were beautiful. In my teenage years, I rolled my eyes at these words of affirmation, but I’ve noticed that they have in many ways carried me into adulthood.
Even though during difficulties, setbacks and failures, I try to push this little voice of assurance away, I know it’s still there. And some days, it is the only thing that keeps me going.
What power the words of a father can have over his daughter.
It’s hard for me to hear stories that are not like mine. Stories that come from girls whose fathers didn’t think to say “I love you” and “You’re beautiful.” It’s such a simple thing. It’s such a crucial thing.
If we are sustained by the loving Word of God our Father, why would we not also assume that our children are sustained by the loving words of their earthly fathers?
Thank you to my dad and all the dads out there who are making the daily, conscious effort to speak truth over their girls.
You can read a better articulated and explained version of this post in an article I wrote for the June issue of Parenting Teens magazine: http://www.lifeway.com/n/Product-Family/Parenting-Teens