I’ve been blessed with three daughters who are amazing in every way. Each one has taught me so much about how to live and love. My oldest girl is 21, so I‘ve had over twenty years to figure out how to win my daughter’s heart. This journey of learning has not always been an easy road, with plenty of trial and error (still is, if I’m honest). I grew up in a home with four boys, so connecting with a daughter did not come naturally. Even so, they’ve won my heart. I want to do all I possibly can to do the same for them.
Capturing your daughter’s heart may not always be easy for you, either, but having a strong relationship is one of the greatest rewards in a dad’s life. You will most likely stumble and fumble your way through it from time to time like I have. However, I’ve found our daughters will give a lot of love and grace if they know our desire is to know and love them for who they are.
Do you want to win your daughter’s heart? Here are five ways to build a close relationship that lasts:
Tell your daughter who she is.
I don’t mean tell her who you think she should be. Instead, discover the unique person God made your daughter to be and celebrate who she is. Many voices are telling your daughter who she is not—that she’s not thin enough, not stylish enough, not smart, not athletic, not, not, not. As a dad you have the powerful opportunity to communicate to your daughter who she is: a beautiful child of God who created her intentionally, has a purpose and a plan for her life, and who loves her unconditionally.
The love a dad shows his daughter is the first picture she’ll see of her loving heavenly Father. So, if you express your love for who she is, she’ll more likely believe God knows and loves her too.
To tell your daughter who and whose she truly is, take time to do what’s next.
Get to know your daughter.
There’s no shortcut to getting to know your daughter. A dad has to spend one-on-one time with his girl. Quality time is where true affirmation, fun, experiences, meaningful conversations, and prayer will happen authentically and naturally.
As dads we don’t always know the best way to connect. I’ve talked to many dads who love their daughters, but after going out for ice cream and a princess movie they’re unsure where to go next. Don’t just “Let it go!” I challenge you to discover what your daughter loves to do. Dig in to find out her passions. As she grows, you can even take part in helping her discover new interests and talents.
My three daughters couldn’t be more different from each other. I see some personality traits and gifting similar to their mom and me, but I see plenty that’s unique to themselves. Among them they enjoy drawing and painting. Travel. Fitness. Cooking. Reading. Animals. Hiking. Shopping for thrift store bargains. Making music. Listening to music. I’ve got an extrovert and introverts. A clean freak and a girl who can’t see her floor. A homebody and a restless spirit. With each one, knowing their preferences and personality gives me insight in how to connect.
Take your daughter out to experience new things. When you find what she loves to do, help her experience it even more. Even if you don’t get it right every time, the fact that you’re making effort to know her better goes a long way. Doing some planning, opening up dates on your calendar, and making the sacrifice of time and money is well worth it. You’ll create memories and connections that will last as she gets older.
I experienced this with my youngest daughter, Anna. She inherited my perfectionism (a quality I’m not necessarily proud of). She also loves adventure and travel. This past Michigan winter felt endlessly cold and painful. My girl was beyond bored and restless by March. She’d been throwing herself deep into her studies and was worn down to the wire. I decided she needed some sun, a change of scenery, and a real break.
We threw our stuff in the car and headed to one of our favorite places, Tennessee. The only rule was absolutely no homework. Honestly, we didn’t do anything profound. She got some drive time for her learner’s permit, we talked and read at coffee shops, and fit in a good bit of hiking. I got to watch her stress levels go down and her happy, creative spirit come back. Back at home, she’s been more open and the bond between us is tighter than ever.
Let your daughter get to know you.
On the flip side, your daughter needs to know you too. When I asked my daughters to weigh in on this article, I was surprised when they let me know this is a big deal to them. They were emphatic that bringing them into my world made them feel connected to me. Over the years I’ve brought them along on business trips, had them tag along when I’m working at Starbucks, and invited them to work out side-by-side at the gym. I’ve dragged them along on what I thought were boring errands. Who knew that kind of togetherness made them feel loved?
I’ve realized the secret sauce of winning your daughter’s heart is to balance both entering her world to discover who she is and giving her a chance to explore your world too. They discover you experience the same kind of stress they do. You have hopes and dreams, favorites and pet peeves, and questions and opinions. You’re human. Inviting them to get to know you makes you approachable and real.
Have your daughter’s back.
Your daughter needs to know you’re watching out for her and will step in when she needs you. This means you will sometimes have to take initiative to understand her needs and how you can help. If you’re like me, you’re tempted to go passive when you don’t know what to do, especially in relationships. Leaning in, listening, and taking action is tough.
Sometimes your girls just needs some encouraging words or instruction. But sometimes it takes bold decisions and sacrifices. My oldest daughter, for example, is returning to the mission field. She’s been climbing the huge mountain of raising support and navigating adulthood in general. Recently she was sharing her discouragement about the slow process of achieving her goals. I can’t fix that for her. But she also shared an opportunity to join her team for some short-term training. That I can do—I dropped everything and bought the girl a plane ticket to Florida. Was it an expense? Yes. But I can’t think of a better investment than to put my money where my mouth is and support my daughter in a tangible way.
I’m not talking about spoiling our daughters or enabling them to avoid responsibility. I’m saying we pull them up when they’re down. We offer ourselves as a shield when they feel vulnerable or attacked. We set boundaries when they can’t protect themselves. Life is hard, and we stick close so they don’t have to go it alone. Our daughters should know we’re there no matter what.
Little things make a big difference.
This was another epiphany as I was talking to my daughters. They reminded me that life is busy. Adults have got too much on our plate. There’s always a nagging sense of guilt that we’re not investing enough in our people.
As a dad, it’s tempting to think the big things cover a multitude of my absences. I can try to cram my fathering into a BIG summer vacation, a BIG spring break, and a BIG stack of presents under the Christmas tree. However, my kids don’t care just about those big things. My girls appreciate little things like taking walks around the block, grabbing a milkshake, and the hours we spent reading bedtime stories when they were little. The regular, mundane little moments of connecting go a lot further than I realized to win my daughter’s heart.
Do you want to win your daughter’s heart? She just wants to know that you love her. That she’s known for the person God created her to be. She wants to share generous amounts of quality time with her dad. She’s craving the security of knowing you have her back. And when her heart is won, you hold a relationship that stands the test of time. You’ll have influence when she’s making tough life decisions. She’ll see authenticity in your faith and character. You’ll have won not just a daughter, but a friend.
Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not
easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
(1 Corinthians 13:4-8)