Diet schemes, exercise classes, aerobic clubs, low calorie foods and drinks are in high demand today. Check the flyers in your mailbox or newspaper. Peer pressure to conform to this image can be intense, and the desire to be accepted by the ÒinÓ crowd is very strong, but the objective is usually unattainable. Girls often see themselves in the mirror as being too fat, too out of shape, too much of this, or too little of that to match the standard. Some girls even suffer from eating disorders such as bulimia and anorexia nervosa caused by these starvation diets. Being unable to become ÒBritney SpearsÓ look-alikes, they can develop a poor self-image. Some girls resort to self injury (SI), as a way of punishing themselves for failure to reach an expectation that they think people have for them.
Cigarette and alcohol use is on the rise in the female population. Girls are trying to prove that they are just as tough as boys, and can drink and smoke as much. Girls are going to court in order to be allowed to play on the hockey and football teams at public high schools and in community sports. Arenas are being forced to provide both male and female dressing rooms. Girls are increasingly reported to be involved in aggressive activities, bullying, and even beating up fellow students.
What is the antidote? How can we as parents help our daughters? Do we shelter them from the world completely, live like hermits and dress like Mennonites? How do we maintain a proper biblical balance in their lives? What guidance can we give them from the Word of God? I believe that fathers have a very vital role in all of this.
What is a father to do then? Fathers are to be the leaders in the home. This is not optional or something that we can leave up to our wives. Our girls need to have a strong Christian male role model before their eyes. As fathers, we need to be there to make decisions, sometimes tough ones, using Scripture to guide our families in GodÕs ways. We will make mistakes; that is a given. But we also need to be big enough to own up to them, and ask for forgiveness when we make them.
The best thing a father can do for his family is to love his wife. ÒHusbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against themÓ (Col.3:19; see also Eph.5:25). If a husband loves his wife, unconditionally, then his wife will love, respect, and honour him in return. ÒLet every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself; and the wife see that she reverence her husbandÓ (Eph.6:33). It works something like a reflex. There is a parallel to be found in the loving relationship between a husband and a wife that we also find between Christ and His Church. ÒWe love him, because he first loved usÓ (I Jn.4:19).
The loving, respectful relationship between a father and a mother needs to be deeply imprinted on the minds of our girls from their earliest years. Children need to see appropriate physical affection between a father and a mother openly displayed in the family. This is right, good, and normal. When mom and dad display affection for each other, then the children know that the home is stable and secure. The home becomes a refuge, a strong shelter that we can come to with our battle scars and problems. The family needs to be a place where you can talk out your problems, get honest advice and support, and where wounds can be bound up and healed.
It is important for a dad to encourage, praise, and support his daughter. Nothing is so devastating as when a father is critical, negative, and points out physical flaws and personal weaknesses in his daughter. Appropriate physical affection from a father is a necessary ingredient in order for a daughter to have a balanced, and positive self-image. If she doesnÕt get this affection from her father, she may seek it inappropriately elsewhere.
Shopping trips to the local mall for girls clothing can be a frustrating exercise today. Short skirts, long slits in skirts, low necklines, midriff baring, tight, clingy, and see through material fill the store shelves and racks. Modest clothing that still looks classy, can be a difficult find; rather like a challenging treasure hunt. Besides all this, every one else seems to be wearing it, so why canÕt I? Even though dads generally do not enjoy shopping, it may be a good idea for a father to tag along once in a while to support his wife in selecting clothing for their daughter. When she gets dressed up for a special occasion, gets a new outfit, or has her hair done, dad should take notice, and be generous with compliments.
A Christian fatherÕs characteristics and good qualities will become the standard for his daughter to look for in a boyfriend. This type of relationship will be considered to be the norm as she begins to relate to peers in the adolescent years. These are the characteristics and qualities that she will be trained to look for in a life partner. Although our girls may not be consciously aware of these things, in hindsight they will admit this to be true.
As a daughter matures, she will have learned to respect her father, trust him, and invite his valued input into the more difficult and important decisions in her life. Then dadÕs leadership will be appreciated, sought after, and treasured. DonÕt you want to be there when that happens?