Someone once told me that women unknowingly look for potential husbands in men who possess certain characteristics of their fathers, especially fathers whom they relate well to, love and respect. To put it plainly, fathers give their daughters a baseline reference of what is possible in a relationship with a man.
Hey dads, where will our daughters get the correct ‘concept’ of what a true man should be as they grow up through their teenage years into a young lady?
It is sad that our media portrays a very warped view of manliness today, focusing largely on their possession of power, wealth and killer looks.
One of the first books that I read whilst I was courting my wife was titled “Man of velvet and steel”. It portrays a true man as one who is firm but not over-domineering and gentle but not wishy washy. I must say I have not even attained 10% of what’s been described, but I do hope J will see shades and hues of those virtues.
Now back to the question. How should I relate to my daughter?
The following are some of my personal thoughts.
Demonstrate a willingness to stick to principles
I would like J to know that there are some things that should not be compromised – honesty, compassion, treating others with respect, self-control, etc. I have to be careful that I do not inadvertently erode her sense of right and wrong. Yes I am talking about the horrifying “If dad and mum can do it, why can’t I?”.
I think it is especially important for us to learn to keep our promises that we make to our daughters. There are still men that can be trusted. Let them know that there are men who will go to great lengths to fulfil something that has been vowed or promised. Do not ever compromise here!
Demonstrate the right attitudes towards her mom
My daughter needs to know that dad loves mom and will continue to honour and protect her, and indeed till death the two shall part.
Dad may not be perfect and will, time and again make mistakes. Big mistakes as well as small mistakes.
Dad will occasionally display his quirks and weird behaviour. Nevertheless, dad’s attitudes and mindset should make her feel safe within the harbour of a constant, clear & loving relationship.
Demonstrate respect for her as a young lady
Dads, listen up.
Your influence on the emotional and mental well-being of your daughter is greater than you imagine.
Learn to relate to her as a very special young lady who can always confide in you.
Understand that she probably will undergo a tremendous amount of change transitioning from a little girl to a young lady.
Be sensitive about shyness and learn to forego, especially in the realm of being physically affectionate.
Fathers are not always right
Dads do not have all the answers.
Learn to listen. Learn to assess the situation. Learn to empathize with what they are going through.
Hey our daughters have struggles too!
They go through the same “trying to be accepted thing” amongst their peers. The least you can do is to understand why they are doing something, saying something or thinking a certain way. The environment I grew up in was probably a lot less complex than what J goes through today.
If I am indeed wrong, then I must be prepared to say that I am sorry. By all means be firm, but please, do not be unreasonable and don’t let your ego and pride get in the way.
Learn our daughter’s lingo
I believe in the power of language to bridge gaps between people and bring them closer.
Do we realize that there are some very interesting lingo that’s standard in teenage land today?
Learn what they are exposed to with modern technology. MSN, Facebook, blogs, emoticons, music, etc. Are you left behind? This is the new communications media. Learn it. Use it. Communicate with it. If I have to keep up with technology, so be it.
Be a ready mentor.
I really want J to be comfortable coming to me for advice. I want to be there for her when she goes through the perplexities of teenage years. I want her to come to me for anything on her mind rather than look for answers from her peers. I think that trust has to be built over time.
Start now. It is not too late.
Always make time for a question. Always be available.
Learn to let go, with trust
There comes a time when the father’s duty ends and he is ready to let his little girl venture out on her own.
But before that happens, we have to gradually learn to give her “space”. I have to remind myself that she will start finding bonds within her circle of friends and may actually look forward to spending time with them rather than with me. If and when that happens, I need to be gracious and understanding. I need to learn to let go.
It is perhaps at this point that many good and dedicated fathers fail. Guide them, but learn to trust them to be on their own.
These are my thoughts as I think about J again this evening. I hope it has been useful for you, whoever you are who chances upon this article. I wish someone had taught me before.