Jun 18 2016

4 Things Daughters Need From Their Dads

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News flash: parenting is demanding work. Always has been, always will be.

Part of the reason it’s difficult is that the moment that tiny person appears, we suddenly no longer come first in our self-centered little world. This precious bundle of burping, crying, sleepless joy now comes first.

4 things daughters need As dads, it can be a challenge to know how to nurture these adorable beings overflowing with feisty, fragile femininity. Many of us are still dealing with our own wounds from childhood while fighting every day just to protect our manliness in a world that seems hell-bent on attacking every corner of our hearts.

And it’s hard enough to deal with testosterone, a fairly familiar and predictable substance; now we’re expected to deal skillfully with this utterly foreign material called estrogen? Just the thought of it can be emotionally exhausting, especially for someone like me who usually just wants to be left alone to retreat into a dark, silent man cave at the end of the day.

Yet that is our calling, and these precious warrior princesses deserve nothing less than everything God has purposed for them to receive from their daddies. And no, I’m not talking about pink bikes, ballet lessons, and Frozen-themed parties. I’m talking about four things that our daughters need from their earthly fathers to know, deep down in their souls, that they are truly cherished and beloved.

The best part? These four things don’t require complicated strategies or hours-long time blocks. They can be done in small doses in everyday moments.

4 Things Daughters Need From Their Dads

1. Time

Sounds simple. But in our digitally distracted, turbocharged lives, time is the scarcest of resources. How much of it we do (or do not) give to our daughters speaks volumes to them about their value in our eyes.

And here’s something I’ve been learning about time: we can’t fracture it, splice it, dice it, or multitask it if we want it to be quality. We’re either all in or all out from our children’s perspective.

One of the saddest images to me is one I see at the playground: the checked-out parent, eyes down on the smartphone, trailing their toddler around the park, texting between swing pushes. That’s not presence. That’s not attention. That’s not being all in. And it’s easy to fall into; trust me, I get it. It’s one of the reasons my wife and I created three “no phone zones” as parents: the dinner table, the playroom floor, and the playground.

And if your daughter’s love language is quality time, this becomes even more important. The other weekend, my four-year-old wanted to play dolls, so we sat on the floor and played with the dollhouse for thirty minutes. The next morning, before she even came downstairs, she yelled to me, “Daddy, can we play dolls again?” It’s not so much that she wanted to play dolls — it’s that she wanted to feel more of daddy’s love. I’m just glad I had ears to hear in that moment what she was really asking me for.

They say kids spell love “T-I-M-E.” Dads, let’s give it to our daughters. Let’s be present, so they can truly believe that there is a Heavenly Father Who is their strength and “a very present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).

2. Talk

Words matter. In fact, words are power. God created the cosmos through words. Similarly, as fathers we are continuously shaping our daughters through our words. Positive, affirming words are, in a very real way, infusing our girls with power and strength.

Conversely, harsh, negative words and criticism are sucking strength right out of them and bruising them in profound ways. And an absence of communication altogether can be just as harmful. A cruel, cynical, sexually violent world is waiting to step into that void.

Let’s secure the perimeter of our daughters’ hearts by talking about their uniqueness, our love for them, and God’s delight in them continually (as in, “when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7).

And, by the way, tell stories. Talk about your childhood. Talk about Grandpa in the war. Talk about the day your daughter was born. Research has shown that kids who hear stories from their parents are more resilient and confident as they go out in the world. Tell them your stories, so that they can understand their own vital role in the beautiful narrative God is crafting around them.

3. Touch

As far as I can tell, the answer to the question, “What is my oldest daughter’s love language?” is … all of them.

Without a doubt, though, physical touch ranks highly. When I hold her gently and tickle her arms and back, I can describe it only as her melting in my lap. All of the anxious energy seems to dissipate as she goes limp in peaceful repose.

That’s what appropriate and loving physical touch can do. Oxytocin is the hormone released when humans engage in loving, gentle touch, like hugging, kissing, holding hands. It’s sometimes called “the bonding hormone.” It truly binds us together, and a lack of it, like a lack of affirming words, can create a void that inhibits trusting, intimate relationships throughout life.

Research has even shown that the more healthy touch that kids experience from their parents, the more uncomfortable any unwanted touch from others feels to them. In a world that is daily trying to molest our kids, mentally and physically, holding our daughters’ hands and hugging them in our arms is, in a very real way, protecting them from harm.

What better way to model for them their Heavenly Father, who gathers his children “in his arms and carries them close to his heart” (Isaiah 40:11)?

4. Tenderness

All three of these needs — time, talk, and touch — require the common element of tenderness. In some ways, this is the hardest thing for me as a father. It seems every day there are moments where I simply am not tender — I was too harsh, too terse, too indifferent. Sometimes it’s my speech. Sometimes it’s just because I’m tired. But that’s what love ultimately is: dying to my own needs and desires and putting those of my daughters first.

Often, I’m not as tender as I should be because I forget how delicate their hearts are. You’d think after fifteen years of marriage I’d be cognizant every moment that no matter how tough, independent, and formidable my wife and daughters may be externally, internally their feminine soul will respond only to tenderness from me (see Hosea 2:14).

But, I forget. I make mistakes. I blow it. Maybe you do too. And even though we’re imperfect, we serve a redeeming Father Who is perfect, and He gives us grace to give our daughters more time, more talk, more touch, and more tenderness tomorrow.

Ultimately, that’s the most important thing, because just like us, they’ll blow it too. As I learned at the roller-skating rink the other week, they will fall down, often, and our job is to help them up tenderly, tell them they can do it, and hold their hands as we take baby steps forward together. And if an afternoon roller-skating is in any way an accurate metaphor for life, I can promise you that the bruises and scrapes will be far outweighed by the joy and delight we’ll experience … hand-in-hand with our daughters.

©pureHOPE ©Noel Bouche ©FamilyLife. All rights reserved. Content used with permission, for more resources please visit mensteppingupblog.com or visit www.purehope.net . Images, logos and brands may also be subject to copyright. ironmen.org.nz deeply values and appreciates having permission to share this content with men globally, please respect copyright.


Sep 28 2015

Dads, speak words of life into your children

I’ve always been a little jealous of King Solomon. When he took over as King of Israel from his father David, God appeared to him in a dream and invited Solomon to “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.” Hoping one day this happens to me, I’ve begun compiling a list of things I’d like and am currently ranking them in order of what I want most. Because of my love of the outdoors, right now owning the country of Switzerland is at the top.

Back to the story – you probably know how Solomon answers. He asks God for wisdom to lead the nation. God was pleased with this response and gave Solomon the understanding and discretion he asked for. Plus the answer was so good he also got everything else he didn’t ask for: wealth, long life, the death of his enemies, etc.

There is no exact age given for when Solomon took over for his dad, but most scholars agree he was in his middle to late teens. How many teenagers do you know are given a blank check for anything they want and they cash it in for wisdom? But that’s exactly what he did.

I’ve often wondered how Solomon knew to ask for wisdom and recently I found my answer! In 1 Chronicles 22:12, David is close to death and calls his son Solomon to his bedside and speaks this over him, “May the Lord give you discretion and understanding [a.k.a. wisdom] when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God.” David did not pray for his son to have wealth, long life or reprieve from his enemies. He prayed that he would have wisdom. And when Solomon was given a chance to ask for whatever he wanted, he knew what what was most important because of the words his dad had spoken over him and so he asked for wisdom. I wonder what Solomon would have asked for had David not put this in his heart by praying it over him?

This does serve as a great reminder to us dads to speak words of life and meaning into each of our kids. Solomon even said so himself when he wrote Proverbs 18:21, “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” And then again in Proverbs 25:11, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.”

Speak words of life you want to see in your children

I don’t believe we as fathers fully grasp the amount of life-changing power – for either good or devastation – that we possess when it comes to speaking into the lives of our kids. But we are the most powerful force and with that comes great responsibility and accountability. We must be intentional to speak words of encouragement and empowerment into our kids and we have to be intentional in controlling our tongues so we do not speak destructive words of death that haunt them for their entire life.

One thing I’m in the process of doing, and would encourage you to do as well, is to come up with five to seven words that are character traits you see in your child or are trusting God to give your child. For example, with one of my sons, the words I’ve come up with so far are: Strong, Courageous, Industrious and Loyal. I’m letting these words simmer for a few weeks as I pray over each of my four kids, asking God to give me the right words for each one. I’ll then take those words and create some type of poster and hang the words in their bedrooms. By doing this, every day they will be reminded of what I see in them and who God created them to be.

I may never own Switzerland, but if my kids grow up with their identity in Christ set and secure, I’ll take that over the Swiss Alps any day!

©Todd Nagel ©FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.  Content used with permission, for more resources please visit mensteppingupblog.com .  Images, logos and brands may also be subject to copyright.  ironmen.org.nz deeply values and appreciates having permission to share this content with men globally, please respect copyright. 


May 2 2015

6 sentences your child needs to hear from you

6Sentences In raising our five children, Susan and I have tried to consistently convey to each of them these 6 short sentences. We’ve done it with our words and our actions. And, as I write this post, I’m realizing I need to say these things even more because they can’t be said enough. Saying these 6 short sentences will give your child a strong sense of security, identity, belonging, and value.

1. “I’m here for you.”

Being available for your children is incredibly important. They may not need you when you tell them this, but they’ll remember you promised to be available to them when they need you the most. This sentence is more than just giving them permission to find you when the going gets rough … it’s an invitation to them. It tells them, “I will do whatever I can to help you whenever you need me.”

2. “I’m proud of you.”

Some middle-aged men I’ve talked to have never heard, or have waited years to hear, their dads say “I’m proud of you.” And many of them thought if they just performed better, if they just made it big in sports, or if they just had a thriving money-making career, their dads just might notice. Ladies and gentlemen, please don’t make your kids wait. Tell them today.

3. “I believe in you.”

Remember back to your teen and early adult years? How confident were you in yourself? And how confident are you today in yourself? Self-doubt and second-guessing come with the territory of being human. And you can be a great source of support to your child through these struggles. Your children need to know that somebody somewhere in this world believes in them and their immeasurable value.

4. “I want the best for you.”

This sentence has a couple of benefits. First, it tells your children that you have a purpose behind your parenting. They may not understand how you see “what’s best” … and they may not even agree with you, but they will hopefully start to appreciate it over time as they see you working hard to do what’s in their best interests. I have often said to each of my kids, “I’m doing this or saying this because I always have your best interests at heart.” And they know they can always trust me. Second, it puts you in their corner. Again, they may not always see how your ideas, your standards, or your consequences are really for their benefit, but giving them this regular reminder at least assures them, in the depths of their hearts, that you are for them, not against them.

5. “I will stand with you.”

I saw a video recently of a dad dancing with his daughter at a talent show. The girl had a severe and rare disorder that keeps her from having almost any muscle tone, control, or physical abilities of her own. But as her dad picked her up out of her chair and danced around the stage, her nearly inexpressive face suddenly blossomed with a huge smile. This girl knows that her dad is willing to risk embarrassment, harassment, or scorn from any person in order to be counted with her. This sentence tells your children that you are willing to be identified with them even when they’ve made a mistake or have to do hard things.

6. “I love you.”

This is, quite simply, a sentence that cannot be said too many times. Big family moment? “I love you.” Quiet and quick goodnight? “I love you.” Dropping them off at school or a job? “I love you.” Just for no particular reason at all in the middle of the day? “I love you.”

©Mark Merrill.  All rights reserved.  ©FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.  Content used with permission, for more resources please visit mensteppingupblog.com.  Images, logos and brands may also be subject to copyright.  ironmen.org.nz deeply values and appreciates having permission to share this content with men globally, please respect copyright.


Apr 27 2015

Serving and caring until the end

OldCoupleHandsHoldFrom the doorway, Roy quietly watched his darling wife standing in front of the cook stove. She wasn’t one for fancy recipes, but to Roy, everything she cooked was “good eatin’.”

Sophie breaded a pork chop and gently placed it in the frying pan as she had done so many times before. Roy could remember well the first meals she cooked as a newlywed almost 60 years before. The tears welled up in his weathered, hardened eyes, not only from the fond memories of the past, but also from his present grief.

You see, every 10-15 minutes Sophie would start another meal, forgetting she had already begun one. In addition to the pork chops, there was a chicken stewing on the back burner, and a pot roast in the oven. She was growing more and more forgetful.

Months earlier Roy noticed that Sophie would wander into a room to dust, forgetting she had just finished dusting moments before. More than once he caught her doing laundry and making their bed with fresh laundered sheets for the second time in one day. She was making several entrees for lunch and dinner—and now she had three going at once.

Sophie turned from the stove with all burners going, walked into the living room, and picked up her needlepoint to work. Roy knew that she would forget the dinner and burn the food, so without mention he adjusted the heat and finished each part of the dinner in time. Sophie continued to work on the needlepoint, pausing for long moments to vacantly stare.

No One Knew

Roy realized it was time to act. He fixed things around the house to protect his wife, putting in hidden switches on the stove, turning down the temperature on the water heater to prevent burns in the bathtub, and removing plug-in appliances to keep Sophie from hurting herself.

To the people around them, life looked pretty normal as they attended worship, went shopping, and even visited others for special occasions. Everyone knew Sophie was a bit forgetful, but no one knew to what extent. They said it was “cute” how Roy and Sophie were never separate, always together … “such sweet love.” But little did they know the depths of the love they observed.

It wasn’t easy for Roy to watch over Sophie, help her dress, oversee her cooking, and be with her at all times. But he willingly served, thinking often of the hymn, “I need Thee, O, I need thee. Every hour I need Thee …”

It wasn’t until one Saturday morning in early April that the family and the neighbors finally learned of the depths of Roy’s committed love.

In a mid-morning phone call, Sophie told her friend Lena, “Roy won’t wake up. I’ve been waiting for him for breakfast. He is still sleeping, and I can’t wake him.”

Lena responded quickly and kindly, “Sophie, I want you to sit in your chair by the phone, and then I want you to hang up so I can call your sister. Can you do that and promise not to move until I get there?” Sophie, obedient in her confusion, waited for Lena and her sister to arrive.

When they entered the house, they found my grandfather, Rudolph “Roy” Walter, in bed under the covers wearing a peaceful expression in sound eternal sleep. The doctor said, “His heart just wore out.”

My grandmother had no idea what had happened; Sophie had no concept of death or life. At the viewing, she observed her husband lying in the wheat-colored coffin. Touching his hand she said, “Roy’s cold; maybe we should cover him.”

It wasn’t until the family had to care for Sophie, that they truly understood for the first time how much Roy cared for her. Sophie needed help at every moment, and Roy had been willing to give it.

Roy died happy, knowing he loved his wife the only way he knew how— serving and caring for her, “until death do you part.” He knew that love is more than romance; it is constant, determined, serving, and uncomplaining.

©Ron Miller ©FamilyLife.  All rights reserved.  Content used with permission, for more resources please visit mensteppingupblog.com .  Images, logos and brands may also be subject to copyright.  ironmen.org.nz deeply values and appreciates having permission to share this content with men globally, please respect copyright. 


Apr 27 2015

Daddy Daughter and God

Daddy daughter

This post first appeared on the Noah Gets a Nailgun blog last summer. With pool weather right around the corner, start making plans to do what the author did: get the book, get together with other guys, and learn to be better daddies to your daughters.

I recently started discussing the book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters with a group of guys in my neighbourhood. We gather around the pool one night a week and talk through two chapters at a time while our kids play in the background. It works out great since many of us are already there closing down the swimming hole many summer nights, and this is one way to be intentional with some of that time.

The sub-title of the book is “Ten secrets every father should know.” It’s pretty straightforward: ten secrets, ten chapters. Easy reading that you can work through quickly. A perfect setup for group discussion. We began with the first two chapters, titled, “You Are the Most Important Man in Her Life,” and “She Needs a Hero.” There was a fascinating section in chapter one that has shaped the interactions with my daughter over the last few days:

Fathers, more than anyone else, set the course for a daughter’s life. … I have watched daughters talk to fathers. When you come in the room, they change. Everything about them changes: their eyes, their mouths, their gestures, their body language. Daughters are never lukewarm in the presence of their fathers. They might take their mothers for granted, but not you. They light up – or they cry. They watch you intensely. They hang on your words. They hope for your attention, and they wait for it in frustration – or in despair. They need a gesture of approval, a nod of encouragement, or even simple eye contact to let them know you care and are willing to help.

When she’s in your company, your daughter tries harder to excel. When you teach her, she learns more rapidly. When you guide her, she gains confidence. If you fully understood just how profoundly you can influence your daughter’s life, you would be terrified, overwhelmed, or both. Boyfriends, brothers, even husbands can’t shape her character the way you do. You will influence her entire life because she gives you an authority she gives no other man.

Wow. Talk about intimidating. No pressure here. As I’ve watched my daughter, I’ve thought about these words and wondered how I was shaping her life and how she perceived me. What would I unconsciously impart to her? What ways would I mark her as distinctly different from her peers?

The same day I read this paragraph, a friend shared with me that he is positive his wife would not have given him the time of day if it were not for her dad. She meant her dad was an untrustworthy individual, and my friend, though full of his own self-acknowledged challenges as a young man, was someone she could trust. She saw that he was honest. Even brutally so at times. And so she was drawn to him.

I see this at play with my wife, though in the opposite way. Her father was her biggest cheerleader, constantly sang her praises, made sure she knew she could do anything a boy could and anything she wanted to. Run a chainsaw, drive a tractor, mend a mangled barbed-wire fence, get an engineering degree. He believed in her. And she benefited from that in tremendous ways. She is one of the hardest working people I know. When she says she’s going to do something, look out. You can guarantee it will be done. He profoundly shaped who she is today. She would not be the same person without his influence.

The Daddy Daughter Connection

Fathers will leave a mark on their daughters. This is a scary reality at one level. But the other observation for me, related to this reality, is how much of our lives has been shaped by so many different influences to the point that there are many things we do, many decisions we make, that we have relatively little control over. Your immediate reaction to any circumstance is likely a complex mixture of responses that have been formed in you over the years, some of which you are not even aware. Some come from your parents, some your peers, some the books you read, your emotions, your experiences, your beliefs on religion, politics, nature, philosophy, and food. Even the smells that passively waft to your nostrils trigger a complex array of emotions and memories at the most unexpected moments. And then there is your own sin nature and sinful decisions. And boy do the stains from these ever linger.

Paul, in Romans 7:15, hits this head on when he says, “… I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” Ever feel that way? Why? Paul continues … “For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who did it, but sin that dwells within me”(v 19-20). Yes there are many influences at work which shape your reactions and choices, one of which is the root of sin that has been at work in your heart your entire life. But there is hope, as Paul proclaims, “Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”

You do have a choice about how to live your life, it’s just not always the easiest to choose against those habitual attitudes that have been hard wired in your heart over time. And the hope is not in trying harder, but leaning on the proper source of power.

Tim Keller in his book Center Church says this:

Imagine you’re in an orchestra and you begin to play, but the sound is horrific because the instruments are out of tune. The problem can’t be fixed by simply tuning them to each other. It won’t help for each person to get in tune to the person next to her because each person will be tuning to something different. No, they will all need to be tuned properly to one source of pitch. Often we go about trying to tune ourselves to the sound of everything else in our lives. We often her this described as “getting balance.” But the questions that need to be asked are these: “Balanced to what?” “Tuned to what?” The gospel does not begin by tuning us in relation to our particular problems and surroundings; it first re-tunes us to God.

Let’s bring this full circle shall we? Back to the starting theme of this post: Parenting daughters. The bottom line is to make sure your heart is tuned to the gospel every day. No doubt the task of parenting a daughter (or son for that matter) is daunting. But so is keeping the law and trying to be good on your own strength. The task is beyond you, but let that reality produce comfort rather than fear. Find your comfort in the strength of Christ, who will provide the measure of courage you need to fulfil the task ahead of you.

Although summer is not yet in full swing, it’s not too early to pick up the book and gather with a group of dads and discuss how you can be intentional in your efforts to parent your daughter. Some say it takes a village to raise a child, but at the very least it takes a pool to gather the men who make up that village who will raise that child.

©Noah Gets a Nailgun. ©John Majors.  All rights reserved.  Content used with permission, for more resources please visit mensteppingupblog.com .  John is a key creator for Stepping Up. Images, logos and brands may also be subject to copyright.  ironmen.org.nz deeply values and appreciates having permission to share this content with men globally, please respect copyright.