Parenting Tips… from a Serial Killer

In the last year I’ve done some research for two different books; one was on dads parenting daughters, and the other was on serial killers.

I know, I know. Great combo, huh? It started with my research about the Columbine killers for the book I was writing about bullying, but then my research expanded to look at serial killers. And you know what I discovered?

Serial killers are way better at “noticing” then most dads are.

I’m amazed how many serial killers lured their victims by noticing them and giving them attention. Bundy was quite a romantic. Gacy was actually a clown who entertained children at parties. Most of these guys were able to spot a vulnerability in young women (and young men) and exploit it.

Call me taboo for even making the comparison, but it’s pretty pathetic when a dad doesn’t even take this kind of time and effort to “notice” his kids. That’s a pretty sad insult. “Bundy knows your daughter better than you do!”

I Failed
I need to hear this reminder of “noticing” as much as anyone.

A little over a year ago my daughter was having a really bad day. Okay…maybe a bad month! She began giving subtle signs…and I missed them all! Finally my dad called me up and said, “What’s wrong with Alyssa?”

I felt stupid. I said, “I don’t know. Why do you ask?”

He begins to tell me some things that he “noticed” (my parents live just down the street and see the kids often). He noticed that she was moping around the house, she was quieter than normal, and she had posted a few Facebook posts that were a little on the depressing side. My dad caught all of these.

I caught none!

The sad thing is that I had asked Alyssa several times about how she was doing and heard the normal one-word answers, “Fine.” I let it go, instead of being a good parent and putting a little more effort into it. Not being pushy, just creating an atmosphere where Alyssa would feel safe to open up and talk, something that usually only happens when our kids feel truly “listened to.”

I took my daughter to breakfast the next day and I asked her if I could help. At first it was just more of, “I’m fine.” But with some gentle effort on my part, she eventually shared what was on her mind. It was an amazing time of her talking and me just listening. No judging, no angry outbursts, just a daddy willing to catch his daughter if she fell, and extending a hand to pick her up. Most daughters welcome that.

It starts with the simple act of “noticing.”

  • Who is your daughter’s best friend?
  • Who does she get the most texts from?
  • What website does she spend the most time on?
  • What does she order at Starbucks?
  • What store would be her first stop if she had a $100 to spend?

Dads, do you know your daughters? How hard would it be to notice some of these things?

When Dad Isn’t There
In my parenting research, my personal experience as a parent, and in my 20 years of youth ministry, I can say without hesitation that a daughter’s relationship with her dad is much more important than most people realize. Sadly, the best evidence to this theory is what happens when a dad isn’t there. Girls with absent fathers often seek male attention elsewhere.

It’s as simple as this: our girls need to hear they are beautiful. They need to feel safe. They need male attention and advice. They can either hear it from their dads…. or they’ll seek it somewhere else.

Here’s where many articles or parenting workshops might list out “5 Tips for Building Better Relationships.” I’m not going to do that. I’m going to give you just one:


If you want to help protect your daughter from the vulnerability of predators, the best way to do that is to fill that void in their life with positive attention from the male that should be giving that attention in the first place.


If you fail, like I did…hopefully your daughter has a grandpa that will pinch hit. Better yet, turn off the game tonight and…

  • Walk in your daughter’s room and ask her about her day (using these tips to “get your teenager talking”)
  • Make family dinners a priority
  • Take your daughter out to her favorite yogurt or ice cream place
  • Go to her swim meet, softball game, cross country race, soccer game…even if she says, “You don’t need to come.”

What about you?
What are some ways you can “notice” your daughter in daily life?



Should We Read Our Kids’ Texts?

Dad, Can I Go to the Homecoming Dance?

“Just Let Em Watch T.V.”

  • Rick Johnson

    Excellent stuff Jonathan!

  • Nancy French

    Great — slightly disturbing — first post!

    • Fabio

      Hi, my name is Jeaneth and I have three beautiful chilerdn. We live in Guatemala City, Central America. We have the best coffee in the whole world; therefore, I love drinking coffee with my friends. My oldest daughter is 14, Daniella is almost 9 and Edgar Emilio is almost 7 years old. Being a mom is something that I enjoy and sometimes I feel like running away from. My youngest is Autistic which is something that takes a lot of my time and energy, I enjoy doing both. My only advice: enjoy your chilerdn while you have them at home and get tones of patience!!!

  • MB

    Jonathan–this is an excellent article. Thanks so much. Your daughter has a wonderful grandfather, too.

  • Zeke Pipher

    Good stuff, Jonathan! Thanks!

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  • Erin

    This is a great article! I have a wonderful father and he made sure to listen to me no matter how petty things were. Contrast that with girls in youth group who would flirt with the youth pastor and any male helper/role model. I think that started a cycle of frustration from other girls and it all leads nowhere good, fast! Your daughter is a blessed girl to have a father and a grandfather that love her and want to be such an important part of her life!

  • thepriss

    How true what you wrote is. I wish my father had spent more time noticing what was going on with me. I DID care… and I DID want him present mentally – not just physically.

    When he wasn’t a part of my life any more (he’s still alive and still not much a part of my life), I did look for attention elsewhere. It didn’t turn out all that great.

    I tell dads about this stuff, because their daughters mean to be good girls. They want to make their fathers proud of them. It’s not a foolproof system, but the odds are better for a girl with her father truly involved in her life.