By Dr. Meg Meeker, Crosswalk.com
To be a father is to be a leader, to make decisions, to intervene on your daughter’s behalf, and to instruct and form her character so that she knows right from wrong, so that she knows when to say no, and so that she’s strong enough to fight temptation. And all that requires you to have unapologetic moral clarity.
Your daughter needs to know your standards because everyone else is trying to sell her theirs—at school, in magazines, on television, and in cyberspace. Take a look at few of the most common battles you’ll face:
“I need to be beautiful.”
I don’t have to rage against the marketing of American glamour. You see it, you realize it, you can’t escape it. Neither can your daughter. So what can you as a father do?
Your daughter’s desire to look beautiful is fine if you, as her father, help direct it. The standards should not be MTV’s, they should be yours. Don’t let her believe that she needs to look one way or another as dictated by popular culture. She’s beautiful just as she is.
“I need to be sexy.”
Every day girls see flesh flashed at them by beautiful women: plunging necklines, breasts protruding, silky long legs in slit dresses, feet in spiked heels. They see products advertised with sex, they see TV shows relentlessly focused on sex, they listen to music and watch music videos more graphic in sexual imagery than anything experienced by previous generations. In the mind of a 10-year-old American girl—and certainly if she’s older—being sexy is an expected way of life.
“I need to be independent.”
Strong women are independent. They think on their own, weigh options, and make decisions. Good fathers want their daughters to “stand on their own two feet” and learn to think for themselves. That’s great in theory, but it misses the point that we’re all dependent on others—and your daughter is dependent on you.
So while popular culture will teach your daughter she needs to be independent, you need to ensure this is a natural and healthy psychological development (as it can and should be) and not a contrived one. Kids must learn—and earn—their independence.
“I need more.”
This one is simple. But it’s also widely ignored. Parents simply find it hard to say no when kids say, “But please, Dad, I need...” It starts with toys, then moves up to CDs, televisions in the room, designer-label jeans—you know the score. The problem is not in having things. The problem is thinking that “things” will make you happier.
Does your daughter really need extra toys, bikes, jeans, and shoes in order to make her life better? Of course not. You know that. And she needs to learn it. So act on that knowledge.
“I can’t say no.”
If your daughter is sensitive, sincere, and very nice, you have a serious problem on your hands. Nice girls want to please people. Sensitive daughters work very hard to get their fathers’ approval. They will go to extremes to receive attention, adoration, and congratulations from you. A nice girl needs to be taught to be nice but firm, and to say no and mean it. Teach her to act according to what is best for her, have her practice saying no, and tell her that the most important part of being nice is living up to the moral code you’ve given her.
These are just a few of the battles you will face when you choose to raise a strong daughter, but Dads, you are far more powerful than you think you are. All you need to learn is how to use your power to improve your life with your daughter, and by doing so to make your life remarkably richer, more rewarding, and more beneficial to those you love.
Adapted from Meg Meeker’s New York Times bestselling book Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters.
Publication date: February 9, 2016
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/shironosov