A Girl Still Needs Her Father


Greg Smalley provides insight for fathers who are preparing to meet their little girls' dates.

I was on my way to Hong Kong with my family recently when my 15-year old daughter, Murphy, handed me an opinion piece from USA Today titled “A Girl Still Needs Her Father.” (I’m not sure if she was trying to subtly tell me something or thought I would find the article interesting based on what I do for a living. (I choose to believe the latter!)

The author referenced a 2011 book called Girl Land, in which author Caitlin Flanagan stresses how important it is for a girl's father to be involved in her dating life. "Punks," Flanagan writes, can't stand "coming under the authority and scrutiny of a powerful adult male.”

What a great line! Punks can’t stand coming under the authority and scrutiny of a powerful adult male. I love that thought. But what does that mean exactly? As fathers, how do we make the young men who want to date our daughters, come under our authority and our scrutiny?

In trying to better understand the idea of “authority” and “scrutiny,” I came across a great blog post by Jared Wilson: “So You Want to Date My Daughter?” Read some of his hilarious (and serious, I think) ideas for all those “punks” out there trying to date his daughter:

• You must love Jesus. I don't care if you're a "good Christian boy." I was one of those, too. So I know the tricks. I'm going to ask you specific, heart-testing questions about your spiritual affections, your daily devotional life, your idols, your disciplines, and the like. I'll cut you a little bit of slack because you're young and hormonal and your pre-frontal lobe isn't fully developed yet, but I'll be watching you like a hawk.... So love Jesus more than my daughter or go home.

• You will accept my Facebook friend request.

• You don't love my daughter. You have no idea what love is. You like her and you might love her someday. That's an OK start with me, so put the seatbelt on the mushy gushy stuff. Don't profess your undying love, quote stupid love song lyrics to her, tell her you'd die for her, or feed her any other boneheaded lines that are way out of your depth as a [hormonal] little idiot. A lady's heart is a fragile thing. If you play with hers, I will show you yours!

• If you ever find yourself alone with my daughter, don't panic. Just correct the situation immediately. If I ever catch you trying to get alone with my daughter, that would be the time to panic.

All I can say is that Jared has my early vote for father of the year!

Authority and scrutiny is not about disrespecting the young man or making threats of violence; instead, I think the goal is to show the young man that I’m both protective and involved.

In terms of “protective,” I think it has to do with sending a clear message that my daughter is one of my greatest treasures, and that I’m going to require the young man to treat her as a priceless treasure. I think this involves interviewing each potential suitor before my daughter can say yes.

I heard about one girl who said that she did not accept dates but that her father did. The boy would literally have to ask her dad. I love it! This sends such a powerful message: “I’m priceless to my daddy and I respect my father.”

Some great potential interview questions:

• Tell me about your relationship with the Lord.
• Where do you attend church, and what is your involvement in youth group?
• Do you have a mentor?
• What are your goals for your future?
• What attracted you to my daughter?
• What are your views on premarital sex?

The interview really is about helping the young man to understand my expectations about honoring my daughter.

In terms of “involvement,” I think it means subjecting the young man to regular accountability (asking him how he’s honoring your daughter). I want any boy who dates my daughter to know that I’m going to be asking questions–that I’m going to stay involved. (Like they say in the military: Not on my watch! I’m staying awake and standing guard.)

What about you? How would you define “authority” and “scrutiny” when it comes to a young man dating your daughter? What other interview questions would demonstrate that you are a protective father? How would you stay involved when your daughter is dating?

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