As you probably know, my wife and I have six children, four girls and two boys. I spent the first seven years of parenthood as a father of all girls. Now one thing you’ll learn about me is I’m what you would consider a “guy’s guy”. I grew up rough, tough, and never overly sensitive. So, as you can imagine… I had a lot of growing up to do as a father of three little girls. I’m not sure who it was, but several years ago, I received great advice from a father of daughters. It went something like this: Most fathers start off as buffalos, but they need to enter into “their cocoon” and emerge as butterflies. A buffalo is big, powerful, does what he wants and tramples all over the flowers and everything beautiful without a second thought. A butterfly is gifted in appreciating the beauty of a flower and handles every delicate item with care. Fathers of daughters need to move from being buffalos to butterflies in how we deal with our daughters. Fast forward ten or eleven years…transformation complete! (…or at least mostly complete. Now my wife doesn’t need to look at me with her “you’re acting like a buffalo” look.) Let me share with you My Total Transformation from Buffalo to Butterfly in 7 Easy Steps. Here are seven lessons I had to learn to achieve Master Butterfly status: Lesson One: Your words matter Aime and I talk about this a lot. We believe that our words have the power to give life and take life. Our daughters need life-giving words. They need to hear on a consistent basis that they are loved, respected, and important. Daughters need to hear their father telling them that they are beautiful. Studies have shown time and time again that if a daughter doesn't hear these healthy affirmations or feel loved by their father they will seek out this affirmation from someone else. A daughter’s first love should be her dad. Lesson Two: Hugs are the best way to say, I love you, I’m proud of you, I respect you, and about 100 other esteem-building messages. For much of the same reason as lesson number one, our daughters need healthy physical touch that shows them they are cared for. The way in which we express our love to our children helps them know that no matter the circumstance, they are loved. Your daughter needs to know there is nothing that they can do that will make you love them anymore, and there is nothing they can do to make you love them any less. Like God’s love for us, they need to know and see your love is unconditional. Lesson Three: Keep them talking Don’t ever stop talking about…everything. In today's society, culture has made it socially unacceptable for fathers and daughters to have certain conversations. Master butterflies have gained the ability to have sensitive conversations with their daughters. One way in accomplishing this is by always talking with them. As they get older, don't run from conversations about boys, hopes, dreams…and even Tampons. Let your daughter know she can turn to you for anything. Lesson Four: You’re teaching them everything about their future husband This is a big one. It has been said that girls oftentimes marry someone "just like their dad". Although this is not always the case, you have to understand that you are setting the standard for what a husband should be. Your daughter will grow up wanting to marry someone either a lot like you or nothing like you. They discover what a husband should be in how you treat your wife. They learn about a balanced approach to marriage and family by your own personal integrity and commitments. Are you hard-working? Do you sacrifice by placing other people's needs above your own? Do they see you loving your wife and showing her the respect she deserves? Are you modeling how a husband should walk, talk, and live? Lesson Five: Your opinion matters…just not now Every husband has to learn this lesson and the same is true for fathers. Most of us begin our journey as fixers. We bring it into our marriage and we often times bring it in to how we raise our daughters as well. Dads fix things. It's what we do. There is nothing wrong with this, except for when we are fixing the wrong things. As a dad, you have to remember that many times keeping an open line of communication with your daughter is all about listening. If you want your daughter to feel the freedom to come to you with problems, then you have to master the art of listening. Lesson Six: Boys need to fear you for all the right reasons Most fathers believe that this is the number one role of a dad. “My job is to keep the boys away!”… well, kinda. I do believe it is your job to protect your daughter. I do believe it is your job to watch over the hearts of all your children. The problem comes with the mentality that this is done through intimidation. We like to approach this with the mentality of "I am bigger than you". The problem is someday you might not be bigger. If a boy is to be intimidated, it should be because of respect. If a boy is to be nervous when around your daughter it should be because he knows and understands the example you have set in her life. Boys need to know that your daughter is one of the most valuable possessions you have in this world and that you love them so much that you have invested your time, love, and life in raising her the very best way you know. Lesson Seven: I’m sorry goes a long way I learned years ago , “love covers a multitude of sins”. The truth is - you're going to mess this up. Like any other transformation, this is not easy. It takes a lot of work and if you're anything like me you're going to fall short time and time again. There is no greater moment of vulnerability than saying “I'm sorry” to your daughter when you mess up. You are showing her that she is important enough for you to apologize. You are modeling what it means to value somebody. And you are working at keeping the lines of communication open between the two of you. Our society likes to show the role of dad as the Buffalo, but the truth is being a Buffalo is easy. It's comes so naturally to us. Real dads…the ones that truly do what it takes to raise great kids go beyond what is easy. They work at their inner butterfly. So next time your “Buffalo” comes out and steps on flowers, be sure to remember your journey to becoming a butterfly and apologize. Give her a hug. Tell her you love her. And repeat to yourself over and over again:
I'm a butterfly, not a Buffalo! I'm a butterfly, not a Buffalo! I'm a butterfly, not a Buffalo!
Change one thing a day! - Joe (Guest Post from my hubby...pastor and marriage and family counselor)