Being a dad is never easy, but you don’t have to look back on your little girl’s childhood with regret.
My soon-to-be 17-year-old daughter recently announced that she would like to preview some colleges she might like to attend. For some reason, this hit me deep in my soul. The tiny baby girl that had slept on my chest for days when we brought her home is actually going to be leaving soon. Memories of tea parties, elementary school plays, and cheerleading practices brought to mind some tough questions. What have I not done that I need to do? Will she look back on her childhood with positive memories? Have I prepared her enough for the challenges of life?
These questions caused me to evaluate the father I am and have been. What will I regret if I don’t make some changes fast?
Whether you have young daughters or grown daughters, we all have regrets. But you don’t have to carry them for a lifetime. They can be healed as long as you identify them and take action, no matter how old your daughter may be.
After asking a few other fathers what they wished they could go back and do differently, I found that most Dads share these 5 regrets.
They regret being too critical
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me,” was not written by a daughter speaking of her father. Daughters hang on every word their fathers say to them, whether it be encouraging or discouraging. The self-esteem (or lack thereof) you see in teenage girls is largely based on the approval (or lack thereof) from their fathers.
A friend of mine tells the story of her sister-in-law who is extremely bitter toward her father. This bitterness has been a part of her life for almost sixty years. She was slightly overweight when she was young and every so often, her father would make little comments about her weight. Not purposely mean, just subtle comments about how much food she was eating. This led to a lifetime of weight issues, bitterness and a relationship that has yet to be repaired.
Watch what you say to your daughter. Find a way to encourage her. Compliment her on something she does well. No matter what age your daughter might be, compliment her in some way today. You will never regret encouraging your daughter.
They regret treating them like a queen instead of like a princess
Do you know any households that revolve completely around the daughter? What she says goes. She begins to believe she is entitled to whatever she wants. This attitude carries over into adulthood.
I know a father who gave his daughter everything she wanted. He and his wife made her “queen” of the house. As the daughter became an adult she struggled. Her marriage failed in large part due to her husband never being able to satisfy her constant need for his complete attention and his inability to ever satisfy her desire for the next thing.
Fathers should treat their daughters like princesses, but not like queens. Leave room for her future husband to be her knight in shining armor. Instead of giving her things, give her instruction. Give her a heart to serve others. The best way to do this is to show her by your example. Take her along when you take a bag of groceries to a single mom. Take her along while you spend a day volunteering at a soup kitchen. Whatever you would like to see blossom in her, exhibit through your own choices. You will never regret modeling traits you desire her to have.
They regret not modeling the man they hope she will marry
Many young women marry men that are just like their fathers. Many times, their fathers are the only example they have seen of a husband. With that in mind, what they see is often what they will choose for themselves.
This is a scary thought for many of us. Would I be happy if my daughter married someone who had my traits (good and bad)? That is a tough question.
As my daughters grew, I began to realize the impact my example would have on the future husbands they choose. I believe with all my heart that my daughters will only accept being treated the way that they see me treat my wife. With that in mind, I try to treat my wife with the utmost respect. I try to encourage her to chase her passions. I try to help out around the house as much as possible. I try to support her in anything she does.
I do these things to be a better husband to my wife, but I also do these things to show my daughters what they should expect from their husband. I surely don’t always do it right, but I want them to see me doing my best. Are there any areas you need to evaluate in your life so that you can be the example of the husband you want for your daughter?
They regret not “dating” their daughters
Daughters will not remember the things you give them, but they will never forget the times they spent with their fathers. When our daughters were young, my wife encouraged me to take our daughters out individually on dates. Usually this involved taking them out to a restaurant. Sometimes it was other activities they enjoyed, like taking my teenage daughter to get a manicure and pedicure.
It is important for your daughter to see a man open doors for her and pull her chair out. Unless she is treated like a lady, she will not know when she is being treated improperly. Turn off the phone and fully engage with her. By doing so, you will build a bond that can last a lifetime.
No matter your daughter’s age, take her on a date.
They regret not having more physical contact
Daughters are physical creatures. Growing up with only a brother, I didn’t understand the strong desire daughters have for physical contact. I wish I had understood this earlier. For years, I only kissed and hugged my daughters occasionally. I never realized how important it was for them to just be held or hugged.
The scary thing is that when young ladies don’t get this physical affection from their fathers, they often search for it in other places. This can lead to daughters finding affection in less-than-ideal places, and sometimes at earlier ages than fathers would hope.
Hold your daughter. I don’t care if she is 30 years old with daughters of her own. Embrace her. Make sure she knows how much she is loved and appreciated. You will never regret showing your daughter affection.
Live life without regrets
No matter how old your daughters are today, or how many mistakes you may have made in the past, you can improve your relationship moving forward. Take action. Text them a word of encouragement right now! Simply say you love them or whatever you need to say. Live with no regrets.
Share in the comments below what you intend to do to look back on your years as the father of a daughter without regrets.
Photo: Flickr/Quinn Dombrowski