Get off the couch and into your daughter’s life
Simple steps to pursuing an intentional relationship with your daughter
It’s a new year, and time for fresh starts and resolutions. But as the memory of your latest gym trial membership fades in mid-January, try and make one promise that you will keep. This year, make it your goal to spend quality time with your daughter, helping her grow into a strong, confident, and successful woman.
How, you may ask? By engaging in the simple, yet profound concept of pursuing an intentional relationship with her. It takes time and effort, but the payoff will be amongst the largest in both of your lives.
At the end of your workday, it’s tempting to plop down on the couch and turn on the boob tube. And…this probably isn’t news to anyone, but your daughter isn’t going to come skipping down the hallway and beg to take part in your NASCAR marathon. You need to take a proactive approach, and set aside at least a few days each week to concentrate on your relationship with your daughter. Get off the couch, and into your daughter’s life. Follow these eight simple steps, and you can make sure that you build a healthy, strong bond that isn’t an accident.
1. Set the pace
Always remember that you’re setting the standard for how men will treat her for the rest of her life. If you don’t hold open the door for your daughter, if you don’t spend time doing what she likes to do, chances are she’ll be more likely to date a bunch of knuckleheads that don’t hold doors open and don’t care where she wants to go on a date. The kind of dudes who take her to UFC fights on their anniversary, and conveniently “forget” their wallets when the bill appears. If you want your daughter to be treated like royalty by the men in her life, you have to make sure it starts with you.
3. Carve out time
Can you make time to eat? Put your seatbelt on? Then you can make time for your daughter. For her, in her formative years, you are just as important as food and safety. Take time to figure out what makes your daughter tick. A great way to get a baseline on your daughter’s personality as well as a cheat sheet on planning great outings that suite her specific personality, take this Pop Quiz: at http://bit.ly/DDpopquiz. It’s a great start to showing her that you truly have a vested interest in figuring out what she’s all about.
3. Models needed
You know you aren't perfect. Here's a newsflash: your kid knows it, too. But you can demonstrate that you're responsible, despite your flaws. It's more admirable (and much more reasonable) than trying to be “perfect.” Show your kid that you think about your actions and words and try to make the right decisions. Show her that when you make a mistake, you take full responsibility for your actions and try to correct them. So when you make a bad call or overreact to a situation, go eat some humble pie, then take your daughter out for hot chocolate or yogurt to deliver your mea culpa.
4. Ask for space
If you feel like your better half “gets it” better than you do, don’t get intimidated. Explain to your spouse that you need to spend some one-on-one time with your daughter to establish your own unique relationship. Let your wife know you appreciate her guidance, but that your actions will seem more genuine and be better received by your daughter if she feels like you aren’t just reading a script penned by mom. And don’t forget to pursue mom with equal gusto!
5. Power off
Give your daughter undivided attention when she needs it. When you take her out on a daddy-daughter date, make it a cell-phone free zone. Take advantage of each and every opportunity to connect. Show that you value her first, and shut down the outside world to prove it. It’s modeling a good habit that she can carry throughout her life– giving people your undivided attention when they are talking.
6. Let your ears do the talking
Don't speak teenage girl? No problem. Stop worrying about what you don't know and just listen. Girls want you to pay attention when they’re talking. Do it. Ask follow-up questions, and share some of your personal stories, but only with her permission. Your conversations should always be a two-way street, but her lane should be a lot wider. Follow the 80/20 rule: she does 80 percent of the talking and you do 20 percent. You can share words of wisdom, but don't shut down her opinions in the process.
7. Get uncomfortable
Don’t be afraid of deeper conversations with your girl, even if the conversation topic makes you uncomfortable or you don’t have the answers. From boys to body image, if we don’t pursue these conversations, we set the expectation that our daughter can’t come to talk with us. No one wants to be the back up parent, so get in the game and tackle those awkward conversations.
When you talk to your daughter, draw an imaginary circle around her face in your head and don’t let your eyes stray from that circle. Block out your peripherals and make sure that she knows that you’re only there for her. Focused vision communicates undivided attention, and ensures that your time spent together is quality time.
Greg Wright is the father to four teen daughters, and is the author of “Daddy Dates: A Road Map for Any Dad to Raise a Strong and Confident Daughter.”
To read Greg’s blog “21st Century MANual,” visit daddydatesthebook.com.