Heroes are often people who face seemingly impossible odds, set personal wants and needs aside, and run to the rescue of someone who isn’t strong enough to help themselves. That’s also a pretty accurate description of a good father, don’t you think?
Dad, do you want your daughter to make smart choices when it comes to drugs and alcohol, sexual intimacy, boyfriends, academic performance, how she dresses and developing a strong faith? If so, I want to encourage you to read the four tips from Dr. Meg Meeker’s book, Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters below.
Make a plan.
Your aspirations for your daughter will be clearest when she is young. When she’s an infant, you know with crystal clarity what you will expect from her: everything from what she will be allowed to say and do to whom she can date. Write it down now, and keep it clear in your mind and in hers. Teens love to tangle with your thinking. So have your rules inscribed like the Ten Commandments—and stick to them.
Have courage under fire.
Yes, you will be fired upon—by friends, television programs, your wife, and your daughter. Keep your cool, but be firm and consistent. In the best men, kindness, strength, and perseverance go together. Have the courage to listen openly to your daughter’s side of the story and adjust your rules if it is in her best interest. But be brave enough to hold your ground when her wellbeing is at stake.
Be the leader.
Remember that you have far more life experience than your daughter. Even if her IQ is higher than yours, she can’t make decisions as well as you can. You can see the big picture and weigh the consequences of actions in a way that she can’t. Young children, particularly smart young children, have an astonishingly cunning ability to manipulate fathers. So, nice men, beware. When your two-year-old daughter has a temper tantrum, put her in time-out and ignore her until she calms down. When she’s sixteen, do exactly the same. If you need to ground her for a week or a month, do it. And don’t ever take personally the venom spewing from her lovely tongue. She’s still a kid. So you lead; don’t let her. She’ll have the entire rest of her life to run the show when she has her own home.
Don’t cave, persevere.
Heroes see a battle through until the end; they never run away. So stay in the fight, stay engaged with your daughter and your family, spend as much time at home as you can, stay consistent, loving, kind, and patient, and remember that you are more resilient than your daughter is. Parents often say that kids are resilient in crises like divorce. But they’re not; kids just don’t have a choice. You do. You can make the choice not to run when things get tough. Your daughter can’t tell you this, so I will: If there is any way you can stay married, do it. Even if your marriage seems doomed, stay in it, stay at home with your children for as long as possible, for their sake. Getting divorced when your daughter is twenty is better for her than when she’s fourteen. And you might find that the best remedy for a bad marriage is sticking it out. Things really can improve.
I hope those four tips from Dr. Meeker encourage you as you make the heroic effort to be the father your daughter needs. You have the privilege of helping her become a strong, wise, caring, confident woman who will make her mark on the world (even if she will always be Daddy’s Girl).
Dads, how have you dealt with the challenges of raising a little girl? Any tips for the guy who is at the end of his rope dealing with a sulky, eye-rolling teenage daughter? Help each other out, men! And, to the women, how has your dad or father-figure impacted who you are today? We look forward to hearing from you!
Live, Work & Relate Well!
Dr. Linaman is a psychologist and executive coach providing counseling and professional development services to individuals, couples, work teams and organizations.