I have heard fathers say that being a father is a thankless job. I completely disagree with this statement. You are not going to win a trophy, get your name in the paper, or win an award for being a father. You are not going to get paid more money, have thousands of people lining up to get your autograph, or become famous by being a father. If that is the sort of reward you are expecting, you are looking in the wrong place. The greatest reward of fatherhood is to raise well-balanced children who are confident, are focused on God, have high moral standards, and love you with all their heart.
There will be times when your daughter will not understand the lessons you are teaching her until much later in life. Teach her anyway. Don’t stop doing your job as a father, even if no one points out that you are doing it well.
My Daughter’s Insight
The other night, I asked my daughters what they considered was the most important thing they had learned from my wife and me — something they would teach their own kids someday. My girls never disappoint, and as usual, I got some very funny answers.
First, let me set the scene up for you. My youngest daughter was the only one in the room with my wife and me when I asked this question. She instantly responded with, “I feel that love for God was the most important thing you taught me when I was younger, and I will definitely pass that on to my own kids someday.”
Then my oldest daughter came into the room, and I asked her the same question. She started off by saying, “How to speak your mind, how to stand up for what you believe in, how to be a good leader, how to fight, how to resolve conflict,” and other things like that.
My youngest daughter stared at her sister with open mouth and wondered why she did not mention God. I told her not to say anything, and my oldest daughter said, “What? What am I missing here? Did I miss something?” My youngest daughter could not contain herself any longer and blurted out, “What about God?” My oldest daughter said, “Well, of course God; that goes without saying.”
My middle daughter came into the room to see what we were laughing about, and I asked her the same question. Instantly she answered, “I would teach my kids to communicate better than you and Mom do!” I started laughing and said, “What do you mean? Don’t you think your mother and I communicate well?” She said, “No, you guys can never decide where you want to go out for dinner!”
We all started laughing, and I said, “So that’s all you’re going to take away from how you were raised?” Sarcastically, she said “Yes!” My youngest daughter again yelled, “What about God?” My middle daughter added, “Well, of course God,” and then started naming a few other things she learned and wanted to pass on to her kids someday, as did my oldest daughter.
Sometimes the lessons you teach your daughter will not seem like lessons to her, as when my oldest and middle daughters did not start off by naming the lesson I had taught them about God. The lessons I taught them about God seemed like second nature to them and part of who they have become.
It’s important for fathers to have a realistic expectation of what it means to raise a daughter. If you are expecting all your lessons to be etched on the walls of your daughter’s room with a huge banner that reads, “Things my dad taught me,” you are going to be very disappointed. That’s not the way fatherhood works.
Don’t get me wrong. There are certainly times when you will see the result of all your loving care. Actually, you will see it all the time if you pay attention.
It all depends on how needy you are! If you are the type of person who constantly needs to be told he has done a good job, you might be a little frustrated with parenting. If you understand, however, that you are planting seeds and your wisdom will take years and years of growing for your daughter to understand, you will find being a father very fulfilling.
I am not the type of person who needs to be told, “Great job!” I have always felt that doing a job and taking care of my responsibilities was reward enough. When I played baseball in my younger years and got a base hit, I never understood why the coach would say, “Good job!” It was not a good job; it was the job. It was the reason I was standing in the batter’s box — to get a hit. So when I did what I was expected to do, why should someone have to tell me I did a good job in order for me to appreciate what I did?
The greatest reward a father can have is given to him from God in the form of an opportunity to raise a family. My family has taught me the importance of self-sacrifice, how to put others first, how to love, and much more. I know I have made tons of mistakes, overreacted when I should have been more patient, used bad language at times, and not listened as much as I should have. But I have tried my very best to learn from my mistakes. That’s all you can really do as a father.
The one thing I can say without a doubt that I have done for my daughters is to raise them with all the love I have. Every decision, every mistake, every success, was reached by trying my best and keeping my daughters’ best interests in mind. I have also always done all I could to make sure they understand my love clearly.
If you do the same, your decisions will not be criticized as much. Not that it matters if anyone criticizes your fathering techniques — after all, you are the man of the house, and as long as you are leading your family toward God and keeping their best interests in mind, you can do no harm.
Manly fathers should never expect anything other than respect from their daughters. In fact, you should demand respect from your daughter. She does not have to agree with your decisions, but she does have to respect them.
Sometimes fathers try to instill fear in their children to make it appear as though they are respected. I feel that is a huge mistake. There will always be a healthy dose of fear mixed in with respect in a good father-daughter relationship. That’s the way God’s relationship is with us.
When we refrain from sin, it is mostly out of respect mixed with fear of the consequences. For this reason, fathers need to demand respect and set consequences for their daughters.
Causing your daughter to fear you completely is a big mistake. She needs to look up to you as her hero and her protector. She needs to expect all other men in the world to be like you and treat her as you do. And she should never accept anything less.
If you are waiting for her to thank you for all the hard work you did as a father, it will be a long wait. When was the last time you thanked your father for the way he raised you? Did you ever specifically thank your father for anything he taught you? If you haven’t, there is no time like the present.
This article is adapted from a chapter in The Manly Art of Raising a Daughter by Alan Migliorato, which is now available from Sophia Institute Press.
Art for this post: Cover and featured image used with permission.