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Pursuing A Daughter's Heart

A field full of wildflowers

I wanted our next child to be a girl. When the ultrasound confirmed it, I was elated. Her name is Felicity and she’s arriving in June.

My brother has two daughters, one who’s two months older than Benedict and another who just turned one. Admittedly I feel jealous when I see how his girls are just completely in love with him. They gravitate towards him, want to be held by him, and want him to play with them. They are totally obsessed with their father.

The relationship between a father and a daughter is incredibly powerful. A strong relationship with her father results in a woman with high self-esteem and a solid sense of self-worth. A real expert in this field is the renowned Dr. Meg Meeker, a Traverse City based pediatrician who has written extensively on the subject.

All children need a stable home, loving parents, and to have their emotional needs met. It’s especially important for fathers to pursue their daughter’s hearts, to teach them how to love, and to show them that they are loved. When you look at these emotional needs, they have a common thread. The need for a strong sense of self-respect and self-worth in order to live well adjusted lives. These foundations are first built and later reinforced within the context of the parental relationship. Girls innately look to their fathers to be affirmed and to learn how to love, meaning that as fathers, it’s up to us to help them in this critical area of human development.

Fathers carry the special responsibility of pursuing their daughter’s heart. That turn of phrase is one that I heard frequently while I was studying at Franciscan University of Steubenville. What was an annoyance then has clarity now. Pursuit of your daughter’s heart is about being intentional about expressing the feelings and emotions that you have for her in tangible ways. As men, we tend to be reserved in expressing soft emotions. Our communication style uses fewer words than women and we use nonverbal signals to express our approval and acceptance of others. Pursuing your daughter’s heart is recognizing that it’s not enough for her that you feel emotions of love internally: they must be externalized.

I was recently at a dinner with Alison’s colleagues. It was around Valentine’s Day and one of the women at our table shared her father’s tradition of giving a Valentine’s Day gift to his daughters until they got married. This particular young lady, a working professional, is still single, and she related the extremely heartfelt and thoughtful gift that she had recently received to mark this year’s Valentine’s Day. Her father gets it. He goes out of his way to make sure that she knows that she’s loved and he communicates it to her in ways that she understands.

In order to truly love one’s daughter, it’s important to model a good marriage. We should first look to how we treat our wife and the courtesies that we show to her because our children are always watching. Daughters in a particular way keenly observe the dynamics of the domestic life, intuiting how they should expect their future husband to act. Your marriage is the primary relationship in your family from which all other relationships flow. Make sure you’re working hard to have a great one.

Teach your daughters to love, show them that they have dignity and worth, and give them the foundation that they need to live a healthy and well-adjusted life. While you’re at it, teach your sons to reject the idea that women are at their disposal. Boys and girls who are given a solid model of family, marriage, and love will carry those lesson into their own lives and pass them down to their children’s children.