Assemblies of God SearchSite GuideStoreContact Us

Dads and daughters: Taking time for Cinderella

By Christina Quick

Steven Curtis Chapman’s song “Cinderella” struck a chord with listeners when it came out in 2007.

The tender tribute to daddies and girls tells the story of a father spending time with his daughter as she grows. The single quickly climbed the charts and became the No. 1 Christian download on iTunes.

In spite of the enthusiastic response to such sentiments, many people underestimate the importance of father-daughter relationships.

“If a dad could learn to see himself as his daughter sees him, his life would never be the same,” says Meg Meeker, a pediatrician and author of the book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters. “Men need to understand how enormous they are in their daughter’s eyes, how much authority they carry in their daughter’s eyes.”

In a Roper Poll commissioned by the nonprofit advocacy group Dads and Daughters, two-thirds of fathers surveyed didn’t think their involvement in their daughters’ lives was important to the girls’ health and well-being.

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Recent studies show girls with involved fathers feel more protected, have higher self-esteem, manage stress better, are less likely to engage in premarital sex or attempt suicide, achieve greater academic success, and are more likely to attend college.

“The relationship that a dad has with a daughter is one of the most important relationships a girl has in her life,” says Jason Noble, national Children’s Ministries Agency director for the Assemblies of God and a father of three young daughters. “The role that a dad plays in being a self-esteem builder, an encourager, and showing girls love in an appropriate way is vital.”

Fathers also can have a profound effect on their daughters’ spirituality, Meeker says.

“When a daughter is born, her first experience with male love is with her dad,” Meeker says. “A daughter’s relationship with her dad sets a template over her heart for how she will relate to all male figures for the rest of her life, including God.”

Dads don’t always get a lot of encouragement when it comes to raising daughters. It’s generally accepted that boys need male role models to help them make a healthy transition to manhood. But fathers may not hear a lot about what their girls need from them.

“There is a real sense of authority that a dad has in a daughter’s eyes that is different from what a daughter feels toward her mother,” Meeker says. “A daughter needs him to be her hero. She wants her dad to be the smartest guy in the world, the strongest, the most powerful, the wisest.”

Of course, that doesn’t mean dads must be perfect. But they do need to be men their daughters can respect.

“Really, what being a hero is about is living a life of character,” Meeker says. “It’s being a good listener, having a strong faith, and showing love and compassion. Those are the kinds of things that a daughter will latch onto.”

Girls also need their fathers’ time. As youth pastor at Victory Assembly of God in Hendersonville, Tenn., Toby Swager has witnessed the damaging effects of poor father-daughter relationships.

“I’ve seen girls in my youth group change so boys would like them, even to the point of turning away from God,” Swager says. “They’re desperately searching for male approval. It’s hard for them to believe there’s a Father in heaven who loves them enough to sacrifice His Son, because they haven’t known a father’s love.”

That has made Swager even more determined to invest in the lives of his own daughters, 10-year-old Bria and 7-year-old Lexy. He maintains a home office and arranges his church duties around the girls’ schedules while his wife works. He recently wrote a book about his parenting experiences, Daddy, Do My Socks Match? Adventures of a Stay-at-Home Dad.

“The self-confidence of a girl and who she is comes from her relationship with her father,” Swager says. “I want my girls to know they are perfect and loved the way God created them.”

Swager takes his daughters on outings and participates in games and activities they enjoy. Sometimes that means that Swager, who stands 6 feet 3 inches tall, plays with dolls or attends events designed for female tastes.

“I’m willing to come down to their level and let them know things that are important to them are important to me too,” Swager says. “Girls suffer when dads keep their distance. You’ve got to make the most of the time you’re given.”

For 15 years as his two girls were growing up, Jim Bradford, general secretary of the Assemblies of God, took each one on a weekly “daddy-daughter date.” Over time, they talked about everything from teachers to boyfriends.

“I tried to be a listening ear,” Bradford says, “to take off my preacher’s hat and just listen carefully. Whether it was profound conversation or just eating ice cream, it was a defining pattern in our lives.”

Meeker says such listening is one of the best things a dad can do to mentor his daughter.

Listening accomplishes more than just keeping fathers and daughters connected, according to Candy Tolbert, director of Assemblies of God National Girls Ministries. It boosts a girl’s self-esteem when she understands that her father values her as a person and is interested in what she has to say.

“If daddy thinks she’s beautiful and important and is involved in her life in those formative years, that’s huge,” Tolbert says. “Daddy is her hero.”

Bradford, whose daughters are now 19 and 21, says the rewards are worth the effort.

“When I see my girls really loving Jesus and standing in church worshipping their Heavenly Father, I know I probably have had a role in that as their earthly father,” Bradford says. “The idea that God loves them and the idea of grace don’t seem to be distant concepts for them.”

CHRISTINA QUICK is a freelance writer and former TPE staff writer. She lives in Springfield, Mo., and attends Central Assembly of God.

E-mail your comments to

E-mail this page to a friend.
©1999-2009 General Council of the Assemblies of God