I have a special gift to help you celebrate Father’s Day, June 18. As a father, it comes from my heart and is addressed to both dads and moms. The monthly letter that follows is a little “serendipity” that appears in my book, Bringing Up Girls. Listed below are some selected short proverbs reprinted with permission from a friend named Harry Harrison. They are excerpted from his book, entitled, Father to Daughter: Life Lessons on Raising a Girl.
As you read these quips and suggestions, you might want to underline those that stand out as particularly insightful. That is exactly what I did. Prepare to be delighted . . . and informed.
1. Accept the fact that your little girl will melt your heart anytime she chooses.
2. Take part in her life now. Don’t wait until she’s 15 to try and develop a relationship.
3. Sing to her while you’re rocking her. She’ll love hearing your voice—and it’s a great way to pass the time at 1 a.m.
4. Remember, if you yell at a boy not to play with a wall socket, he’ll either stomp off or do it anyway. A girl will cry.
5. Her mom will show her how to bake chocolate chip cookies. You show her how to dunk them in milk.
6. Teach her to count. First her fingers. Then Cheerios, M&Ms, dandelions, and fireflies.
7. Be prepared to watch Walt Disney movies with her some 200 times. Each.
8. Never lose the wonder of watching her and her mother together.
9. Relish the moments when she toddles up and for no reason at all throws her arms around your neck. Resist the urge to buy her the world.
10. Trust her mom to understand the mystery of little girls. You have yet to figure out the mystery of big ones.
11. Never, ever, make fun of her.
12. Bear in mind that from the very beginning your personality will shape her.
13. Never forget that supportive fathers produce daughters with high self-esteem.
14. Read to her often. Very soon, she’ll be reading to you.
15. Give her a picture of you to put in her first purse. If you’re lucky, she’ll always carry a photo of you.
16. Don’t tolerate her temper tantrums. Not now. Not when she’s 15. Your home will be more peaceful for this.
17. Restrict her TV viewing, unless you want her to grow up with the values Hollywood teaches.
18. Little girls are fascinated by escalators. Make sure you hold hands.
19. Make her a Valentine’s Day card—every year.
20. Lie on your backs in the grass together and look for shapes in the clouds. It’s a good way to approach life when you’re young.
21. Be home for dinner on time. Very important.
22. Ask her about her day, every day. Share her wonder.
23. Keep her secrets. This way she will begin to trust men.
24. Take her for a walk in the woods. Show her what poison ivy looks like, how to cross a stream, how to find her way back.
25. Let her teach you. About what she learned in school today. About the Pilgrims, or multiplication, or manatees. How to sing her favorite song. How to bake a cake. How to braid Barbie’s hair.
26. Praise her often. Let her know you love her the way she is. If you tell her this often enough she might remember it throughout adolescence.
27. Make up stories to tell each other at night. Stretch her imagination.
28. Surprise her by showing up at her school for lunch, bearing Happy Meals or pizza.
29. Never argue with her mom in front of her. As hard as it may be, walk away.
30. Remember, society is teaching her its values 24/7. You need to be more determined to teach her yours.
31. Never permit her to talk back rudely—to you or to her mother. Or anybody else, for that matter.
32. Teach her patience, kindness, and tolerance. If you don’t, many years from now you’ll wish you had.
33. Take her to the golf course with you. Give her a sawed-off club she can use to whack balls around.
34. Think before you speak. Even when you don’t mean to, you can end up hurting her feelings.
35. Never laugh at her dreams.
36. Teach her to read between the lines. Remember, though, that she will probably have a better natural ability for this than you.
37. Take her out of town to somewhere she’s never been at least once a year. This will develop her sense of adventure.
38. Don’t miss a recital, concert, play, or any other performance of hers. Not now. Not until she graduates.
39. Encourage her to be kind. Even to the girl nobody likes.
40. Make sure she can reach you 24 hours a day.
41. Remember, she needs a strong self-image before she becomes an awkward teen. A father’s love can make all the difference.
42. Accept the fact that the loving, tender angel you’ve spent the last decade with may disappear sometimes. She will return.
43. Remember, teenage girls spend hours in their room doing something. No man has ever really figured out what that something is.
44. Once she begins to develop physically and sexually, don’t pull away from her.
45. Get to know her friends. Middle school marks the zenith of peer influence.
46. Remind her that the most sacred thing between a father and daughter is trust.
47. Drive the car pool. You’ll learn firsthand what she’s doing each day.
48. Remember, when you’re dealing with a 13 year-old girl, for all intents and purposes, you’re dealing with a fruitcake.
49. Talk to her often about decision making and sex. About her peer pressure, about love, about romance, about God. You never know when it will be just the thing she needs to hear.
50. Watch your language around her. Insist she watch hers.
51. Girls this age can be uncomfortable stating what they really need. More often than not, she needs you to be a parent.
52. Accept the fact that girls squeal when they’re happy or confused or excited or scared or because they just saw a certain boy in line.
53. When she’s particularly angry, sit down with her and have her try to describe what’s going on. Remember, the longer you listen, the more you’ll learn.
54. Don’t subscribe to magazines that exploit women. It makes a statement about how you view all women.
55. If you don’t approve of the way she looks before she goes out, send her back to her room to start over. Be gentle but firm.
56. There will be days when you think you’ve raised an alien. Those are the same days she feels she’s being raised by one.
57. Don’t let her play you and her mother against each other.
58. Never call her names. No matter how mad you are. No matter what she did. If you do, she’ll remember it for the rest of her life.
59. Remember—many girls look back on middle school as the worst time in their lives. Stay tuned; stay involved.
60. Volunteer to drive her and her friends to the movies. Then just listen while they talk.
61. The day she’s born, ask God to guide you in all aspects of raising her.
62. Drag her to church . . . every week. She may not share your enthusiasm, but after 18 years, the message will have sunk in.
63. Forgive her when she seeks forgiveness. This is the best way for her to learn to forgive others.
64. Teach her how to be moral in an age that bombards her with sexual imagery and innuendo.
65. Ask her every now and then about her spiritual life. If she asks you what you mean, be prepared to have a discussion with her.
66. Teach her to pray for her enemies. This could possibly include a rotating cast of classmates and ex-boyfriends.
67. Teach her to treat each day as holy.
68. Teach her that sometimes God has other plans.
69. No matter how much you are tempted, don’t yell at the refs or insult the umpire. You’ll embarrass her and look like an idiot.
70. You will have to teach her how to drive . . . without making her cry.
71. Make it very clear that you expect her to wear a seat belt. Even over her prom dress.
72. Persuade her to buy gas when the fuel tank level is at a quarter tank, not when the needle is buried and the car is riding on fumes.
73. Odd-looking boys will start showing up at your house. This is to be expected because adolescent boys are odd-looking.
74. Let her see, by the way you treat your wife, the way a man is supposed to treat a woman.
75. Teach her how to look a boy in the eye and say “No.”
76. Do not tease her about boyfriends. She may not have one, and you might make her feel like she’s supposed to.
77. Understand that if she suddenly becomes a football fanatic even though she hates the game, you can be sure a boy is involved.
78. Teach her that if she acts stupid to attract boys, she’ll attract stupid boys.
79. Explain to her that there are dangerous boys as well as honorable ones, and how to tell the difference.
80. If a boy pulls up and honks for her, go out and have words with him. Explain that your daughter answers to a doorbell.
81. Wait up for her. Knowing Dad will be greeting her at the door has a very positive effect on her decision-making process.
82. Remember, every girl’s heart gets broken. There’s nothing you can do to fix it. Hunting down the boy won’t help. On the other hand, she will also break a few hearts herself.
83. Don’t get too emotionally involved in her love life. It will drive you nuts.
84. Don’t let her moods or anger push you away. She needs you now more than ever.
85. You have no power over how much makeup, shampoo, suntan lotion, skin creams, hair color treatment, mascara, eyeliner, perfume, cologne, body wash, and bath lotion she will buy. Accept this and move on.
86. Be firm about maintaining family traditions. They will become more important to her than either of you can imagine.
87. Take long walks with her. If you just listen, she’ll eventually tell you everything that’s on her mind.
88. Remember, if her home life is crazy, the rest of her life will be too.
89. Teach her to respect herself.
90. Don’t let her miss school to get her hair done for a party. Unless all you want is a party girl.
91. Remember, you’re her definition of a man. If you drink and smoke and take drugs, chances are the men in her life will, too.
92. Understand that when she’s 15, and wearing a black dress, with her hair done and face made up, you will be very hesitant to let her leave the house.
93. Visit college campuses with her in her junior year. (This is not the time to get emotional. There will be plenty of time for that.)
94. There will be times when you’d rather stick needles in your eyes than have a particular conversation with her. This is when you must act like a father.
95. Prepare for the day when you’re not the most important man in her life.
96. Tell her the three keys to wisdom: not believing all you hear, not spending all you have, not sleeping all you want. This will be difficult for her until she graduates from college.
97. Have a look around her room. Take a moment to look at her pictures, her photos, her keepsakes. These are her memories. This was the childhood you gave her.
98. Remember, she will break your heart when she leaves for college. But you will survive.
99. Tell her she is the daughter you always dreamed about.
100. In the end, let her go.1
Do you have a lump in your throat now? If not, go back and read these suggestions again.
It is a pleasure writing these monthly letters for you and thousands of others who seem to enjoy them. I have been doing just that for nearly 40 years, totaling more than 480 to date. Other ministries write their constituencies once a month to ask for money. They call them “appeal letters.” I see Family Talk’s monthly messages not as funding devices, but as another form of teaching and inspiring. I want each letter to have “takeaway value” for families.
Of course, I hope I will be forgiven for mentioning how Family Talk is supported, especially this month when we have a matching grant of $250,000 provided by a very generous family. Every dollar contributed between now and the end of June is doubled. That will help us get through the summer.
I bring you greetings from all of us at Family Talk. The Lord is blessing our efforts together, and we are enjoying this assignment He has given us. I’ll write you again in July.
Your friend in Christ,
1. Harry H. Harrison, Father to Daughter: Life Lessons on Raising a Girl (New York: Workman Publishing Company, 2003). harryhharrisonjr.com. Used by permission.
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