This Post: What a Teenage Girl Needs From Her Dad
When our daughters became teenagers my husband was bombarded with advice from other fathers who had weathered the teen years with their daughters.
“Man, you better watch out, these are the tough years!”
“My daughter didn’t talk to me for two years.”
“Get ready, that sweet little girl of yours is going to test your patience and wear you down to your last nerve.”
After hearing from the front lines that life was going to be one serious tumultuous roller coaster, he did what every other father would do.
He braced himself for the worst…
Ironically, despite all the well-intentioned words of advice he was given, my husband has been pleasantly surprised by how “relatively” easy (and completely wonderful) it’s been to raise our daughters. Don’t get me wrong, he’s had his fair share of tough days with our girls and they’ve tested him to the limit. But, in his eyes, it could be a lot worse.
“Maybe it’s just luck,” he said to me. “Maybe, genetically, we have great kids who aren’t hell-bent on defying us. Or, maybe it’s all attributed to you and your influence.”
“True,” I said. “Those certainly might be factors. But, I can’t take credit for the role you’ve played in their lives. You’ve been the steady in their storm.”
If there’s one thing I’ve learned watching my husband with our girls it’s how he’s figured out how to be a little bit of everything they need. He laughs and messes around with them like a kid, offers advice and guidance like a trusted friend, and loves and protects them fiercely like a father.
He still doesn’t have it all figured out. And, every day brings new challenges. But he’s learned a thing or two about raising teen girls that has worked for him. In my husband’s words, here is what he feels a teenage girl needs from her dad.
Loved For Exactly Who She Is
During her teen years, your daughter will go through plenty of awkward physical and emotional stages that can shake her confidence. Throughout it all – the crazy hormonal fluctuations, her first period, growth spurts, and a face full of pimples – she needs to know her dad loves her. Don’t ever let her down.
Find ways, even if you have to get creative, to let her know your love for her is steadfast and unconditional and help her build an unshakable self-image by focusing on her inner qualities, not just her physical appearance.
Remember… if Dad she’s beautiful, then she IS. If Dad says she’s an amazing soccer player, then she IS. If Dad says she can accomplish anything in life, then she CAN. From future romantic relationships to her career success, you hold the power to influence her future in a BIG way.
Genuine Interest in Her World
What does your daughter love to do? What type of music does she like? What’s her favorite Netflix series? Spend time with your girl every chance you get. Get to know her… I mean, really know her. The more you know about your daughter – her likes, dislikes, passions, dreams, fears – the easier it will be to have a meaningful conversation with her. Even if you feel you’re being pushed away, keep making an effort to be part of her world.
Teenage girls can be fickle. She may act like she doesn’t care. She may even turn her back on you for a time. But you need to be her constant. One day she’ll come around. And, when she does, she’ll appreciate the fact that you didn’t give up on her.
Teach Her to Respect Herself
The best way to teach your daughter about love and respect is to love her mother. Your daughter is watching. Treat her mom (or other females in your life) with respect and you’ll be showing your daughter how she should expect to be treated in future relationships.
Your guidance and influence can also help her build the confidence she needs to respect herself – her body, her mind, and her instincts – and give her the ability and mental strength to identify and walk away from unhealthy relationships down the road.
How to Take a Punch (Literally and Figuratively)
It’s every dad’s worst nightmare that his daughter will have to defend herself, but if she does, giving her a few self-defense pointers (or taking a class together) will go a long way to empower her and give you peace of mind as well. Just as important, teach your daughter to be mentally tough and face life’s struggles with a healthy dose of resilience and optimism.
Rejection in any area of her life – socially, romantically, or in extracurricular activities – can be devastating. Your intuitive, straightforward pep talks (which are typically far less emotional than moms) can help your daughter stand strong and keep life in perspective.
How to Keep a Sense of Humor When Life Gets Hard
There is plenty in life to be serious about, but taking life too seriously can actually drain the happiness right out of your daughter. Consider yourself her daily dose of humor – especially on those tough days when she failed a test, had a fight with her best friend, or didn’t get selected for the team.
Try to find (even a hint of) humor in every situation (or, at the very least, dish out a few silly jokes) to keep your daughter smiling. Humor = reduces stress = develops grit.
A Solid Role Model
For a healthy, steady father-daughter relationship to be formed, teenage girls need a dad they can look up to. Even if your daughter finally figured out you’re not perfect and knocked you off the parental pedestal she had you on when she was little, she still needs to view you as someone she respects and trusts, and who she knows has her very best interest at heart. Not only will you be building a strong relationship with your daughter, she’ll be far more inclined to obey your rules if she respects you.
A Gentle Balance Between Freedom and Boundaries
It’s the toughest balancing act of all. Too much freedom can backfire leaving your daughter floundering. Too little freedom with strict rules will suffocate her and cause her to rebel.
The trick is to strike a gentle balance between the two. Give her plenty of space and freedom to find out who she is, explore new adventures, and let her fail so she can learn how to pick herself up and brush herself off. Sit down with her and set clear rules, boundaries, and expectations with consequences so she understands where you stand on key issues.
When girls hit the teen years, they typically pull away – both physically and emotionally. Don’t take it personally, dad! It’s their way of getting ready to fly the coop – it’s normal. In fact, it’s healthy! Of course, it’s important to give your daughter her space, but don’t discount the power of your touch. ‘
A big bear hug from dad is the best therapy around for a girl who’s going through a ton of crazy hormonal changes. Adopt a “hug a day” rule so it becomes a regular part of your daily routine.
As hard as it is to accept, your sweet, loving daughter will mess up. She’ll disobey you, break a few rules, cross the line, and disappoint you.
Expect it. Deal with each situation as it arises, dish out consequences as needed, and move on. Don’t hold a grudge and never hold it over her head. Her mistakes don’t define her. Remember, we all make mistakes. So, be sure to extend her a little grace, patience, compassion, and a healthy dose of forgiveness. She needs to know your love is unconditional.
(TIP: Remember, if you teach your daughter to perceive her mistakes as a natural progression of learning, she’ll build resilience; if you instill the belief that her mistakes are a byproduct of her inadequacy, she’ll develop poor self-esteem and a fear of failure.)
Raising my girls (and my son) has been my greatest joy. Every day the bond between us grows stronger. What I love the most about the relationship I have with my girls is that we’ve become a team. We understand each other, support each other when we need it most, laugh at each other (because that’s what families do), tolerate each other on days when we’re moody, and always, always love each other unconditionally.