A Few Things
that Fathers and Daughters
Ought to Know
So much is taken for granted by both
fathers and daughters — some things, in fact, that ought not
be taken for granted in the sacred bond of love and trust that
should bind father and daughter.
The responsibilities of fatherhood should be connatural to a
man, but somehow have become terribly vitiated, and have
frightfully dwindled over a generation more concerned with
gender and power than the far more vital notion of gender and
love, especially as it pertains to, is enacted within, the
relationship between parents and children — and most especially
fathers and daughters.
So many women ask fundamental questions that, at first, perplex
a father. They perplex us because we take some things for
granted and fail to understand that what we have understood in
our relationship to our own children is not necessarily —
perhaps even largely — the shared experience of other fathers
and daughters. A confusion has set in. The notion of what is
normative seems, sometimes, to have vanished totally. And this
is a stunning — more than a stunning, it is a frightening
What ought children, especially daughters, expect of their
fathers? And what should fathers expect of their daughters?
These are questions that should not have to be asked — even as
we now find it terribly urgent that they must be asked.
Many relationships between fathers and daughters are deeply
wounded, broken — even ... and this is the greatest tragedy ...
We cannot expect the children to be answerable for this horrific
state of affairs. But we can ask the fathers. And if the fathers
no longer clearly understand their role in the lives of their
daughters, then let us presume to articulate it for them. Please
God that for most men and women who read this, it is redundant
and unnecessary. But for those who still ask deeply painful and
recurring questions that linger from their childhood relating to
Dad and his relationship to them, let us at least explain what a
father ought never do.
Sexuality and Children: A Beautiful Abhorrence
God has given fathers, by nature, what can only be called a
“beautiful abhorrence” toward any notion of anything remotely
sexual with their own children (and all children). It does not —
or must not — even enter the consciousness of a father. It is
not that the father detests anything of the child or her
sexuality (of which he is the holy guardian); nothing of a child
is abhorrent, or detestable, to a father — absolutely nothing —
except the notion of sexual intimacy with the child.
If your father has sexually abused you, understand this and
understand it very, very clearly: IT IS NOT, WAS
NOT, IN ANY CONCEIVABLE WAY, YOUR FAULT!
You did nothing to invite it. You are not IN THE LEAST, IN ANY
WAY, RESPONSIBLE FOR IT. It is your father’s fault. Not yours.
You may still love your father and find yourself unwilling to
ascribe blame to what he may have done. You may deny it. More
than likely you fear it. But this is the point: IT IS NOT
YOUR FAULT IN ANY CONCEIVABLE OR POSSIBLE WAY.
Children are innocent. That is the immense beauty of children.
It is an innocence cherished by God Himself Who is Father to “Jesu,
Innocens Patri” ... “Jesus, Innocent of the Father” ... the
Innocent One whose Holy Innocence is most closely approximated
... by children.
Any father who has changed a diaper knows the absolute beauty of
this innocence. If there is one single factor motivating
chastity in men, it is in having had a daughter. He sees in
other women the innocence that is in his own daughter. It does
not distort another woman’s sexuality — it ennobles it!
Physical remoteness from your child will come — much to the
anguish of your heart — even as you delight in her becoming a
young woman in her own right. Until that time — when budding
womanhood no longer makes possible the rough and tumble playing
that fathers enjoy with their daughters, to the glee and
laughter of both — do not be stingy in your affection for your
daughter. Kiss her. Hold her. Caress her head. Comfort her.
Tickle her. Bite her (gently!). Chase her! Let her beat you up!
Play with her! The days will come when remembrance of such
beautifully innocent love between father and daughter will pass,
with anguish, into memory — although it will never leave you.
Never Strike your Child in the Face — or do Him Lasting
Especially in the face! Especially with a fist, or even with
an open hand! A spanking on the rump will never hurt a child and
will correct behavior not amenable to all your reasoning and
pleading. It is simply the case. Is it “punishing” the child?
Yes; for unacceptable behavior that must be curbed for the good
of the child (and there is such a thing as “for the good of the
A blow to the face, the back, the chest, the stomach — is
something else. It is terribly frightening to a child. Not
because of the physical pain, but because of the horrific
violence that they see behind it, that they find in you! It is a
fearful, frightful, terrible violence that, to a child, is the
harbinger of things worse yet to come.
“If I can be beaten through this violence in my father ... what
could he, what could this terrible violence, do to me if he
really got angry? What if he could not control it, even as he
cannot control it right now? Will he Kill me? Mutilate me?”
Striking a child is not inexcusable — it is despicable.
You are so much bigger, larger, taller, stronger than they are.
They will perceive themselves as hated, and deserving of hate.
Who, after all, violently strikes someone he loves? Is it ever
an expression of love?
If you try to bring up a virtuous child, then they will come to
know enough of hatred from the world — they do not, must not,
find it in you. You are the giver of love! Nothing must
overshadow that. Nothing must obscure it, diminish it, or mar
it. Your child's ability to love and be loved later in life will
largely depend on your ability to communicate your love for them
and their “loveableness” to you. If your own father does not
love you ... who, then, could ever possibly love you ...?
Do not slap a child in the face! This shames and
humiliates the child. It is violence pretending to be less than
violence. You cannot be “graciously” violent!
Period. Alcohol is one of the greatest precipitators of
violence in a family. This holds true for mother as well as
father. Do not deceive yourself that your drinking is something
of a social grace, that it is “sophisticated” and that — for you
fathers — it is a “man’s right” to get drunk once in a while.
You never have that “right”! You shame yourself; your mouth
becomes coarse and foul, you become violent and something
terribly frightening to a child — and then excuse your violence
by blaming it on the liquor. Do you love your children? Toss the
bottle and drop the pretensions. Real men do not dishonor
themselves through violence and shameful excesses. They avoid
them. Love of their children compels them! And if love will not
suffice, then honor will — or at least ought to.
Never physically abuse your spouse! This goes for women as
well as men! Do not let your child witness this — which should
never be seen because it should never happen! A child seeing a
frightened mother, a humiliated father, grows fearful and
insecure. Those entrusted with their care do not even care for
“How will they possibly care for me? What is more, both are big,
and I am little! What if he or she did that to me? They can do
it to each other. They can do it to me!” Want an insecure,
recessive, child? Beat your spouse and humiliate them before
Do not Manipulate Your Child!
Threats of any sort are just veiled forms of manipulation.
You are teaching your children to use other people to their own
selfish ends. The worst — and most common — form of manipulation
is emotional. You tamper with, leverage, your own child's
greatest vulnerability: their emotions. Fear, sorrow, shame,
guilt, to name a few — you use these cleverly to force the child
to conform to your own ultimately selfish ends. Invoking fear,
shame, guilt — if you find a word more condign, more suitable
than “despicable”, write me — is one of the most harmful things
you can do to your child. Children should not fear. Children
should not be brought to shame. Children should not bend, be
broken, under guilt no matter how justifiable you think it is.
There is appropriate sorrow for a child, but children are
sinless and therefore guiltless. Don't lay your burden on your
child and then hold them accountable for your own deficiencies
or inadequacies. Accountability and emotional extortion are
very, very different.
God Himself has given them their innocence. Who are you to take
it away? He does not hold them “guilty”. Who are you to stand
them in the dock? God has shared His Fatherhood with you. Who
are you to misuse it? To abuse it? Love your children! God
Himself does! Are you greater than God?
Being a Father ... is being a man — not an excuse
Fatherhood is the most dignified and honorable vocation
possible to a man. God may give kings thousands of subjects
... but He gives you — and, yes, even kings — something far
greater still: children. Worldly success, power, esteem, wealth,
“trophy houses” ... these are so many cheap monuments to your
own immature and distorted sense of grandeur. Tomorrow they will
pass to another. Despite your illusions, they have nothing to do
with “you”. If you think they do, and lose them, you have lost
Not so with a child, with children, who cleave to you when all
else is taken from you. Flesh of your flesh, bone of your bone,
they are inseparable from you — from your very identity! You are
a father forever — their father — not only in time, but in
eternity. Nothing can sunder this — or deprive you of it.
Children are from God, and belong to God — Who has dignified you
with a participation in His own Fatherhood!
The world is made for them — contrary to your own self-centered
In fact ... so is the Kingdom of God, into which no “man” will
enter — only children.
Geoffrey K. Mondello
for the Boston Catholic Journal
June 30, 2017