By L.A. Kohl
March 14, 2007
(published in the Apr.25, 2007 edition of "The Bullseye")
There have been countless articles and books written on the subject of the importance of the father/daughter relationship. With six daughters of my own, I have a vested interest in the topic. Thus, I eagerly perused another magazine article on the subject a couple of weeks ago, but found some of their advice a little disheartening.
The article was good in that it asserted the importance of a dad spending time with his daughter, and staying in touch with her life. But it also acknowledged there may come a time in a young lady’s life – usually sometime from 11 to 13 years of age – when a daughter may not want to have much to do with her father.
I think we all understand that. As good as the relationship is between my husband and our teenagers (we currently have four daughters who are teens) I still see the “rolled eyes” look and shaking of head that my husband gets from a teenage daughter on occasion. What I didn’t like was the article’s suggestion that there is not a lot you can do about it. It went on to imply that sometimes a dad just has to wait out the “cold shoulder” years, and hope the relationship gets better once the daughter reaches her twenties.
If you are a dad who has taken that laid back approach, let me encourage you to get aggressive and creative in reviving a healthy relationship with your teen girl. Teenagers make some huge choices during those years – decisions that can affect them for the rest of their life – and to think that a dad ought to just sit back and watch his daughter make those choices without his involvement is a scary and dangerous approach.
I’m thinking of something along the lines of a good, old fashioned bribe! If you’re serious about this, you’ll be willing to spend some resources and make some efforts toward results. So, why not offer your daughter a $100 shopping spree, or whatever price you can fit into your budget? Make a day of it…just the two of you. Drive to a mall a couple hours away, wander around different types of stores, take her out for a nice lunch, etc. Hopefully, after an awesome day like that with her dad, your daughter will warm up to you a bit, and be willing to participate in some other one on one activities in the future.
My husband hasn’t done the shopping thing too often – but he has an amazing relationship with all of his girls, because he manages to do lots of varying things with them. He’s done a little bit of everything with them: hunting and fishing together, teaching their 4-H classes, bike-riding, camping, working together on all sorts of jobs and projects, four-wheeling, helping them develop their interests, going to movies together, helping them through algebra, geometry and calculus, and even going on mission trips together. The activities you do are not what matters – it’s the time together that counts. Just being available to your daughter, seeking ways to spend time with her and letting her know you’re interested in her life. Being willing to apologize when you goof up, to let her talk and ask you some hard questions, knowing that she can trust you to give her some straight answers…those are the types of things that can make or break a father/daughter relationship.
One last little thought…it is not your job to just be the “cool” dad, or the tough dad, or the dad with the deep pockets and the car keys. Instead, your job is to love her, guide her, love her some more, and be there for her no matter what. Prove to her that she is precious and valuable, and hopefully she won’t be able to turn her back on a dad who treasures her so highly.