2. Protect her. Watch what she is doing, those around her, and keep her safe. Don’t give her any reason to mistrust you, so that when she leaves the safety of your home, she will remember what you taught her and your protection will be carried out even away from your walls.
3. Be committed. The extent of this should be that if anything ever happened to her mother–even before you legally become a family– you will always provide, protect, advocate for, and love her.
4. Pray. In quiet, and also out loud so that she can hear you. Let her know that you intercede on her behalf in every way, and that you also pray that you will always be bettering yourself as a father to her.
5. Be unconditional. Even when she says awful things to you as a teenager, attempts to claw your eyes out as a toddler, or given any other crazy circumstance, let her know that you are not going anywhere and neither is your love.
6. Be consistent. She should know what to expect as far as your mood, rules, and love goes. Keep things stable, even when the rest of her or your world is falling apart.
7. Treat her mother like a queen. The more adoration, protection, dedication, affection, and delight you show towards her mother, the more security you are giving to your daughter. Show her by example what sort of man she herself should marry some day.
8. Lead. Know who you are, what you want, and what your role is in this family. Give her the comfort of knowing that you can guide not only her, but also yourself through life. Create opportunities for her, and gently lead her to grow when you know she is capable of something.
9. Respect her biological father. Even if you don’t care for him at all, find truthful positive attributes of his and point them out when possible. Give him the opportunity to shine in her life. Allow her to feel what she will about her biological father, and help her to express that in healthy, respectful ways. However, don’t be obnoxious in any of this. It isn’t your job to cover up for him.
10. Call her your daughter. Leave that “step” word out.
11. Say you are sorry. When you screw up, it’s ok. She is going to forgive you and move on. But tell her you are sorry, and mean it.
12. Dance with her. At least once in her lifetime, she should be able to dress up in her princess outfit and eat a dinner by candlelight and then dance with you in the living room to everything from Frank Sinatra to Who Let The Dogs Out. Just because it’s fun, and because every little girl deserves a ball. If she is beyond the Disney Princess thing, find another opportunity to dance with her, even if you are embarrassed.
13. Eat the food she prepares for you. That applesauce with ketchup and rainbow colored goldfish crackers may not seem very appetizing, but you will make her feel proud and like you two have a connection when you eat a big spoonful, give a big smile, and eat another big spoonful before she even asks you to.
14. Tell her she is beautiful, and teach her to respect her body. It is not gross or inappropriate for a (step)father to tell his teenage daughter that she is not going on her date tonight if she is still wearing that low-cut shirt, nor is it wrong for him to tell her she is beautiful every single day. Get comfortable doing these things, because if you don’t shape her self image and value, someone else will.
15. Make her breakfast. Pancakes in the shape of her initials will do the trick at the age of three, and will also do the trick again when she is a teenager and just broke up with her first boyfriend the night before.
16. Go outside and get dirty with her. She probably doesn’t play outside often enough with mom, so make sure she gets out there with you. In the mud. Up the trees. In the rain. Under the leaves.
17. Let her help you. As you serve her mother by fixing things around the house and changing the car oil, allow her to see these things and to help you in any way she can. She will learn useful skills as a result, and also learn better how to love others through servant hood. So even if it isn’t really helpful to you, let her help.
18. Write her letters. A written affirmation of how grateful you are to be in her life and of how much you love her and her mother open doors that conversations sometimes leave closed. These are treasures she can carry with her, think about, and revisit in her own timing.
19. Allow her to cry. It might freak you out, so just be quiet and let it happen. If it seems like the right time to hug her, then hug her. If it seems like the right time to go buy her chocolate and a chick-flick movie, go buy them for her.
20. Do not attempt to buy your fatherhood. She doesn’t need stuff, to be impressed, or to be coerced. Earn your place as daddy by being that to her.
21. Date the entire family. As you should never stop dating her mom, you should never stop dating the whole family, either. Take everyone out to an event. Create a regular “family” night at the house and get excited about it. The point is to just spend family time with your undivided attention. Doing this will show her that you value her time and company, not just her mother’s.
22. Do not make her choose between you and her biological father. Let her know that as long as she is safe, you support what she wants to do concerning both of her fathers and that whatever relationship she has with her biological father will not ever change her relationship with you. She is allowed to love both of you with all of her heart.
23. Don’t be afraid of tough love. As her father, you are responsible to discipline and raise her correctly and with boundaries, too. It might be a risk for you to do this, but it’s a greater risk for you to not do this. Demonstrating tough love will build trust in you, and it’s the right thing for you to do for her, anyway.
24. Be on the same team as mom. In everything you do, be united on the parenting front. If mom says no, you had better say no, too. Your daughter needs to see the mutual respect between mom and dad.
25. Let whatever is important to her be important to you, too. Practice piano with her, make every dance recital, attend all three showings of her school play. Help her make it happen, and rejoice with her when she does.
26. Tell her you love her. Often.
27. Talk to her on the phone. Anytime she wants, day or night. If you can’t talk and she leaves you a message, call her back as soon as possible.
28. Take a photo of you and her. Silly or serious, those daddy-daughter documents are important!
29. Take her on adventures. This may mean backpacking through the jungles of Peru, or building a fort in the living room. The point is that you are allowing, encouraging, and partaking in new and exciting things with her that she may not ever do otherwise.
30. Tell her stories when she is little. True ones about your day, adventure Bible stories, or make believe plots about flying teddy bears.
31. Let her do your hair. Those matching bows might look better than you think. However, gently explain to her about masculinity when you have to take it out of your hair before leaving the house.
32. Respect her space. There may be some parts of her life she doesn’t want you involved in, and as long as it’s something you don’t need to be involved in, let it go.
33. Send her on mommy-daughter dates. They need girl time, so clean the house, babysit her brothers, or make reservations for this on a regular basis. This will remind her that you are not taking mommy away from her, but instead are creating a family by being her father.
34. Sing with her. Even if you don’t stay on tune very well, don’t be afraid to belt out the hokey pokey while wildly spinning in circles.
35. Make her wear sunscreen. The long term effects of this have been proven to be positive.
36. Know that from time to time, you will feel overwhelmed. This is normal. Just take a deep breath, and carry on. Her mother even feels like this sometimes, too, in fact, probably at least once every day. 🙂
37. Strive to bring out her best characteristics. Praise her for the things she does well, and brag about her to other people. Maximize her opportunities to use her talents and positive attributes.
38. Get excited about her. When she walks into the room, smile. Every time.
39. Be a kid with her. Be silly, extravagant, random, and spontaneous. She will love it, and odds are it will be therapeutic for you.
40. Allow her to snuggle you. Positive, healthy, safe, loving physical contact is important for a child’s development. If she wants to fall asleep in your arms, let her. Cherish those moments, she is going to grow fast and they will be gone. The sound of your heartbeat and the strength of your embrace can fix all of her problems when she is young.
41. Make her a Valentine. Every year, no matter how old she gets. She will come to expect this, so make sure you don’t forget.
42. Roughouse with her. It’s more fun with you than mom, since you aren’t always telling her to “be careful” and sucking in your breath every time she falls. Mom will act like she is worried that someone will get hurt when you do this, but she will secretly be glad that you are brave enough to give her daughter this outlet.
43. Have movie nights. Make popcorn and camp out on the couch while you laugh and hang in suspense with each other. You may be surprised to find that if she has seemed angry or ignoring of you throughout the rest of the day, she will silently climb onto your lap for the movie, and if you don’t let her know you noticed it, she might even hold your hand.
44. Allow her to watch you do the things you do. Take her to the firehouse for a drill or a meeting, let her watch you in your place of work, or ask her if she wants to sit by the window while you mow the lawn. Her observations may seem quiet to you, but she is talking non-stop to mommy about you and how she loves seeing you do these things.
45. Take care of yourself…so you can be there and fully participate throughout her life.
46. Soothe her when she is sick. Midnight runs to Walmart for popsicles, rubbing her hair, letting her sleep in mommy and papa’s bed. Take care of that little one, even if you can’t fix the problem.
47. Be spontaneous. Sometimes, your best efforts at planning will fail. The beautiful thing, is that she either won’t notice or won’t remember if you just go with the flow and have a good attitude about what happens next.
48. Do “man things” with her brothers. Seeing this will show her that you are protecting and training her siblings, too. It will also help her understand men–this will be important later in life. Not to mention it might ease her life by way of not having to wrestle with her brothers if she doesn’t want to. They will do it with you, instead.
49. Give her piggyback rides. Yours are more fun than mom’s. Beware, though, she has no understanding of the correlation between your neck being strangled and your ability to breathe. When you are done, flip her over your head and (safely) onto the ground. You will be a real life superhero for doing this.
50. Remember that God chose a (step)father for Jesus, too. You are not any less of a father than any other father is…unless you choose to be.