“That’s my Daddy. He’s tall.”
And strong and handsome. And a good dancer. A good smiler and a good laugher. That’s me, through the eyes of my four-year-old daughter.
My little girl wants and needs a hero; I’m it.
Meg Meeker, author of Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters explains: “From the moment your daughter first sees you, she gives you hero status. … She wants you to be terrific. So regardless of how terrific you feel, your daughter thinks you are. You are her hero simply because she wants you to be one.” (Sons want heroes too.)
Dr. Meeker points out that this hero status isn’t earned, but must be maintained. So how can I—or any father—maintain hero status? Here are what I believe to be the four essentials.
1. Recognize how much you matter. There’s an endless amount of research to show the significant impact a father has on the lives of his children. Research suggests that a dad’s parenting style can have even more influence on a child than mom’s.
Daddies matter, big time.
At work, I’m expendable. Someone else could walk into my office and take my place, and eventually someone will. But to my little girl, no one else can take my place. I’m Daddy.
Nothing else I do is more important. Nothing else matters more. Nothing else will make more of a difference. Nothing.
Heroes know what matters most.
2. Be involved. I don’t mind eating leftovers for supper. Leftovers are good. What’s not good: giving my daughter only the leftovers of me. Regardless of how I feel when I come home from work, she needs all of me and she deserves my full attention, not my leftovers.
We know it’s not presents that communicate love to a child, but presence. And this is more than simply being in the same room. If she’s glued to the TV and I’m preoccupied on my iPad, what value is that? “Don’t bother me right now, I’m writing a blog about how to be a good father.” Not good.
Unplug. Engage. Be all there.
Heroes make the most of every opportunity.
3. Walk the talk. One of my most important roles as daddy is to teach the difference between right and wrong. That’s not done just by setting rules, but by example.
As kids get older they see through hypocrisy. If I teach Sunday School on Sundays and then yell at my wife and daughter all week, whatever I say about kindness won’t count in my child’s eyes. My words will fall on deaf ears.
Heroes set an example.
4. Go the extra mile. I know how deeply I love my daughter, yet that doesn’t guarantee she will always feel loved by me.
If you have a daughter, please hear this from Dr. Meg Meeker:
“Many fathers assume that their daughters intuitively know that they love them. Let me tell you that they don’t. … As far as daughters are concerned, their mother’s love is non-negotiable. Yours, on the other hand, is negotiable (in her mind). … Daughters feel that they must be careful to earn their father’s love. They don’t assume that it is there. Mom, they believe, will never go anywhere. You, on the other hand, might. Again, this is completely independent of what you feel or communicate. It just is. So you need to go the extra mile to communicate to your daughter that no matter what, you will always love her. She needs to know deep in her soul that, even if she sat in a closet for an entire year, you would love her the same as if she got straight A’s in school. (Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: The 30-Day Challenge)
Heroes express their love.
A few weeks ago a dad in Colorado died while saving his teenage daughter’s life during a rockslide. She was 13 years old. The father, Dwayne Johnson, jumped on top of his daughter, Gracie, as boulders began to crash down around them. He sacrificed his life to save his daughter. That’s a hero dad.
We all can be hero dads to our kids by doing the right things everyday: focusing on what matters most, being involved in our kids’ lives, being men of integrity, and loving unconditionally.