Are you old enough to remember the craze in the 60’s and 70’s where really cool prizes (a.k.a. “cheap gimmicks”) were tucked inside cereal boxes? I can still see my sister and I begging my mom to buy the cereal with the most alluring prizes, regardless of whether we even liked them (which I’m sure set a foundation that thrives to this day because I’m still a sucker for a deal!).
One of my all-time favorite prizes was a decoder ring that I somehow believed would instantaneously transform me into Sherlock Holmes because I now had the tool for solving the mysteries on the back of the box (it’s amazing how inexpensive toys brought such joy back then…but that’s another story for another day).
The thing that sticks out in my mind about decoder rings is that they instantly provide the link between the problem and the solution. Without the magic ring the problem is left unsolved and unanswered.
If you’re a dad to a daughter, the question I pose to you is this: Do you ever wish you had a decoder ring to better translate, understand, and relate to her?
If you’re anything like the dads of daughters I lead in The Abba Project (a group for dads with girls between the ages of 13 and 30) you are often left scratching your head as your daughter matures into her teen years and beyond, sometimes wondering where “daddy’s little girl” went. As your potential confusion and overwhelm rise, it can easily lead you to make a reactive decision where you back away while turning to mom and saying, “Here, you’re a girl---you handle it.”
Child psychologist Dr. James Dobson poses a powerful question: What does a girl need from her parents when everything has gone topsy-turvy? The answer, he says, is more attachment, not less.
To further underscore the point he adds, “Even when she is most unlovable, she needs love and connectedness not only from her mother but also from her father.”
So what do you need to be a dialed-in dad who is sensitive to your ever-changing daughter even with all of her ups and downs?
I believe the answer is tucked inside an obscure story in the middle of the book of Joshua (by the way, even if you’re not one to crack open the Bible I hope you’ll hang in here and keep reading. It’s a really cool narrative…I promise!)
This is a story about an incredible dad who got it right with his daughter. He says six words that, if emulated, will make you a better dad starting today.
Quick backstory: Caleb is an Israelite spy who, along with his friend Joshua, went on a journey to check out what was called “the Promised Land” to find out if it was inhabitable. After their exploration there was one BIG problem: there were giants living in it. But instead of being intimidated, these two guys saw with eyes of faith and believed that God would give them the land regardless of the overwhelming odds.
Now we'll fast forward to a later time when Caleb is interacting with his married daughter, Achsah. Just like her visionary dad, she was a courageous woman who wasn’t afraid to ask for what she wanted. It’s obvious that her dad had modeled to her what it meant to be bold and forthright.
Let’s pick up the story in Joshua 15. “One day when Achsah came to her husband, she urged him to ask her father for a field. When she got off her donkey, Caleb asked her,
“What can I do for you?”
I love that question from dad to daughter. It’s so simple yet so profound. These are six words that every dad should memorize and use regularly. I believe they will positively impact the way your daughter interacts with you if you put them into practice.
Notice that this dad brought himself to his daughter’s problem. He was willing to invest his time and his resources to help her, all before he knew what it was she even wanted.
Here is Achsah’s response to her dad’s question: “Do me a special favor. Since you have given me land in the Negev, give me also springs of water.”
She obviously had a foundation of relationship to ask her dad for “a special favor.” She knew he would listen. She had no fear of asking for something in addition to the first gift he’d already given her. She trusted that he would respond.
The amazing thing is that he does it for her. We read that “Caleb gave her the upper and lower springs.”
Do you notice how easily she responded to her dad’s question about what she wanted without holding back?
Do you notice how he offers himself as the solution to her request?
Do you notice how he gives his daughter more than she asked for? Dad, I encourage you to begin making these six words a regular part of your interactions with your daughter: “What can I do for you?” It’s not about throwing things at her; it’s about bringing YOU to the relationship. I guarantee that these few words will be a game-changer in the way your daughter responds to you.
Who would've thought that a father from the 16th century BC could provide such a profound six-word code that dads in the 21st century can use to unlock their daughter’s heart?
Thanks Caleb for being a fantastic role model of a dialed-in dad.