A couple months ago, my kids were playing upstairs when my two-year-old daughter Rebekah starts screaming at the top of her lungs. I ran upstairs to find that she'd cut her eyebrow from jumping off the bed onto her brother's train table. Since it looked bad, I called my neighbor for help so I could take Rebekah to the Urgent Care clinic. After waiting and being seen, the doctor explained that she'd need three stitches. The nurses and I held Rebekah down while the doctor threaded her skin. Her eyes filled with tears as she shouted, "D-a-d-d-y ... D-a-d-d-y!"
My heart broke for her. One of the nurses holding Rebekah's hand looked at me and said, "It's amazing how kids know daddy is the protector. She wants him!" I nodded my head and knew what she meant.
It starts young when a little girl's heart longs for Daddy. I was right there with Rebekah but she needed his strong hands, wisdom, encouragement and guidance in the midst of her suffering. And no one else could fill that protector role like him.
Thankfully her distress came to an end. She left the building with new stitches, stickers, a cute teddy bear, and still wondering where Daddy was. I assured her she'd see him soon.
Not only do girls need physical protection from their fathers but also emotional and spiritual safeguards throughout their life. But how does a father build a rich love and faith into his daughter's life for the long haul? Here are 8 non-negotiables.
1. Meditate on God's Word.
Reading, studying, and meditating on God's Word is your foundation. Putting your relationship with Christ a priority will model to your daughter that God is your ultimate authority and to whom you're accountable.
"I meditate on your precepts, and consider your ways" (Ps. 119:15).
2. Honor your marriage vows.
The greatest gift you can give your daughter is a deep love for your wife. Do whatever it takes to cultivate your marriage relationship. Your sacrificial love and commitment to your wife -- even when it's difficult -- shows your daughter that your faith is real.
"Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25).
3. Prize purity.
There's no better way to treasure purity than to model it yourself. Be accountable to other godly men. Protect your eyes and your screens. Help your daughter understand why it’s God’s plan to save sexual intimacy for marriage.
"Set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity" (1 Tim. 4:10).
4. Share God's truth.
Teach your daughter the gospel and God’s life-giving commands and truths. Your teaching doesn't always have to be a structured devotional time, but be diligent to use teachable moments as an opportunity to share who God is.
"Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads..." (Deut. 11:18).
5. Discipline consistently.
True freedom = discipline + rules. Your daughter needs to know there are real consequences to her actions and decisions. Setting strong boundaries and standards early on will save her from future heartache.
"Discipline your children while there is hope. Otherwise you will ruin their lives" (Prov. 19:18).
6. Schedule daddy-daughter dates.
Take her to her favorite restaurant or to your work for a lunch date. You can start this when she's young. Teach her what is appropriate dress before she leaves the house. Show her how a man should treat a woman.
"Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres" (1 Cor. 13:6-7).
7. Ditch the distractions.
Say "no" to activities and engagements that keep you away from family time. Be careful how much time you spend on electronics and sports channels. Show your daughter that your relationship to her takes precedence.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control..." (Gal. 5:22).
8. Ask forgiveness.
Your daughter knows you're human and make mistakes, but it's good to admit when you fail. Seek forgiveness when you've screwed up. Humbling yourself in such a way will show her that you're striving to follow God as best you can.
"Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (Jas 5:16).
No perfect dad exists, but there is a perfect God to help you. The time you spend investing in your daughter's life today will reap dividends in the future. She needs your love and faith more than you'll ever know.
Samantha Krieger is a writer and editor in Dallas, Texas. She's a regular contributor to StartMarriageRight.com, Ungrind.org, Believe.com, and has contributed to marriage and motherhood books with Focus on the Family. She holds a B.A. in English and M.A. in Religion from Liberty University. Samantha and her husband Jeremiah are busy raising four children, 4 and under. She loves hearing from readers through her blog, Facebook, or Twitter.