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Author Interview

52 Things Daughters Need from Their Dad

By Chris Carpenter Program Director - With Father’s Day just around the corner perhaps you are beginning to think about how you will be celebrating dear old dad this year.  A new power tool, that thinga-ma-jiggy you use to fish golf balls out of a pond, or a new tie with neon-green polka dots could be just the thing to celebrate your man of importance.

For dads who like to read, 52 Things Daughters Need from Their Dad, by Jay Payleitner,might be just the right book this year.  Filled with great man-friendly advice, the radio host turned author helps guide fathers who might feel uncertain about how they relate to their daughters.  Most importantly, he helps dads to feel respected and encouraged to the point where they feel comfortable in building a strong foundation in their girls.

I recently sat down with Jay to discuss the major differences in raising girls over boys, the critical importance of “dating” your daughter, and ways to be more relatable in your father-daughter relationships.

You’re a father of five children; four of them are boys and one girl. In your experience, how was raising a girl different from raising boys?

We have to be careful there because of course, the culture says that they’re the same, but they are different. Boys are more physical and girls are more verbal. Boys explore, girls relate more. When I was doing research for this book I came across this great article in American Psychologist magazine that said in the sub-headline, “Finally, scientific proof that boys and girls are the same.” You read through the article and hidden way underneath is that 78% of the time, boys and girls are the same, dozens and dozens of different comparisons and analysis and things.  Of course they are, 78% of the time, yes. Boys and girls both like ice cream, boys and girls both like piggy back rides from dad, boys and girls are both disappointed when they get cut from a baseball team. But 22% of the time, they’re different. The whole point of the article was finally proof that they’re the same.  And I’m saying, no, this is proof that they’re different. God designed us differently; boys are different than girls.

If you had to pick one thing in your book that you believe to be its core message, what do you think that would be and why?

The idea of loving your daughter unconditionally. That’s almost a cliché. We’ve heard that we have to love our kids unconditionally. I want to do more than just camp on that. The understanding of what a girl needs that a boy doesn’t so much is the whole self esteem issue. A guy looks in the mirror and says, “Oh, that’s not too bad.” We hold in our guts, not too bad. But a girl, even the most beautiful creature in the world, even the most beautiful young lady you could imagine, she looks in the mirror and thinks she’s fat, she thinks she has acne. She laments, “Oh, my hair is terrible.” I think that dads can either pile onto that or overcome some of that. Your daughter needs to get up in the morning and look in the mirror and say, “I have value.” And I think that’s why a dad is specifically equipped to lead his daughter to Christ. A way to do that is like in Matthew 22, the idea of when Jesus is talking to the disciples saying, “When you visited me in prison, when you brought me somebody. . . . “ And the disciples are saying, “We don’t remember that. When did we do that?” So I think a dad’s got to keep his eyes open, look for when his daughter does something awesome, like being nice to her little brother or helping a stranger or does just something extra and say, “Sweetheart, that’s Jesus working in you.” I think a father’s uniquely equipped to do that, to identify value that Jesus is in her and Jesus is working through her. So when she looks in the mirror, she doesn’t see crud or fat, or acne, she sees Jesus. She’s got to have her self esteem rooted in that great substitution or atonement. That’s an overarching principle for all dads, for all Christians everywhere. The relationship between father and daughter is really unique in that he can point that out, because moms get caught up in the day to day. Moms can be creative, and wonderful and awesome. But if a mom helps with homework, she’s got other things going on. But a dad might look at that history lesson or science lesson and help his daughter see how that ties into a greater worldview.

In your book, you encourage dads to date their daughters. I have several friends that do this. Why is this so important for a dad to have a courtship with his daughter? Secondly, what would a typical father-daughter date look like in your household?

It’s your daughter and if you want to enter her life at all to help guide her and protect her, when she comes to you so that you know what she’s going through so that you can protect her and provide for her, that’s what dads do; we protect and provide. You need to know what she’s going through, who she is, where she is right now.

You have to be in your daughter’s life so that she knows that you get her, and the way to do that specifically with daughters is dating. Boys you can hang out with, but daughters are very different. Doing it when they’re three, four and five is easy -- ten minutes doing bubbles or chalk on the driveway or hula hoops. Then when they are in about third grade, go ahead and start calling it a date, dashing out to McDonalds or out for ice cream or going to the library. Later on of course it gets more complex. When they’re younger they will make time for you. When they’re teenagers, you have to make time for them. But figure out a way that you can connect with your daughter. I have a good friend that likes sushi and his daughter likes sushi, but mom doesn’t like sushi.  That’s their thing.  Interestingly, his daughter will come and say, “Dad, I’m feeling like some sushi tonight.” Suddenly that means that, “I need to talk to you about something.” It’s hard for daughters to say, “Dad, I need your help on something.” But a daughter can certainly say, “Hey, dad, let’s go do our thing together.”  What a great way to connect. Dates are a great way to connect with your daughter. You can’t go on a date with your son.

What advice do you have for dads who feel like they just can’t seem to relate to their daughter no matter what they do?

Don’t give up. Talk to your child’s mother, ask mom for some advice on how to connect, and understand that it might just be a season. An eight year old girl can sit on her dad’s lap, but somewhere around 12 or 13, they’re trying to figure out who they are. Little girls are trying to figure out who they are, how they relate to dads, the opposite sex kind of thing, so there may be a season where they do push away, but just aren’t as intentional.  There’s a sense that you need to be intentional. It would be very easy for dads to say, “Oh, well if you don’t have time for me, then the heck with you, I don’t have time for you.” It would be very easy to feel bad about that and just take a step back.  But you know what? You need to be more intentional and take a step forward.  Sometimes, you need to look for a reason to connect. Driving her to her softball practice, driving her to here, spiritual things maybe, maybe helping her with some memorization of something for school or Awana verses, anything like that. You need to be intentional about looking for ways to make one on one time. You’ve got to be creative. It’s a very legitimate question to say, “I don’t feel like I know my daughter.” It’s good that you realize that and be intentional about it. There’s going to be an idea or two in my book that you can grab onto immediately.

As an author, after people read 52 Things Daughters Need from Their Dads, what do you want them to get out of that experience?

I can do this. People tell me all of the time, I felt like a friend talking to them. I’m not lecturing him, and the whole idea is “I can do this.” Psalm 127:3 does not say, “Children are a burden from the Lord.” No, it’s not that. “Children are a gift from the Lord.” And I’m stunned when I look at an audience, and I’ll throw that idea out there, and their eyes kind of look like, “Oh, my goodness, children are a gift.” And so that’s the job, one is to totally accept the gift. So many dads don’t even know how to. When you accept a gift, you take it and you use it and you get involved with it. So be there, accept the gift and be intentional about it. You know, “I can do this, yeah. This is something I can do. Even though I’m not a girl, even though I didn’t have any sisters,” whatever it is, “I can do this.” I can make a connecting point with my little girl, and I need to.

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