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
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
“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
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
“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
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
“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.
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