Dads, huddle up for a second. Especially if you have daughters.
Let’s be real for a moment. In all honesty, we can, at times, suck as listeners when it comes to women. We may “try” to listen, and the words may even get past the ear drum, but the interpretation is often completely way off. What this leads to is a complete misunderstanding of how our own words are interpreted because we don’t really hear the responses properly. This is bad enough when you’re in a relationship with an adult woman. Add to the mix the insecurities of an eleven or thirteen year old and you have a recipe for disaster. Communicating to our daughters can be a treacherous hike through a land mine field filled with comments that can blow up in your face at any moment.
We say: “That shirt is too revealing”
She hears: “You dress like a whore and are an embarrassment.”
We say: “You were supposed to be ready to go at 9:00”
She hears: “Can’t you do anything right?”
We say: “No, it’s too expensive and you already have too many clothes.”
She hears: “You’re a financial burden.”
I got into a heated conversation with my eldest not long ago. At a certain point I remember focusing on the look on her face. She was being pummeled by negativity from me about her attitude and she just stood there almost numbed over, expressionless. Everything got really quiet in my head and I was completely focused on the look on her face. And I got real empty inside. This was not the dad I wanted to be nor was it the message I wanted to send to my daughter.
But how often do we get to that place? How often do we get frustrated repeating the same lesson over and over again? We’re so quick to point out when they make a mistake or react inappropriately, all with good intentions. But how many times do we fall into the trap of habitual parenting? Meaning, the constant corrections simply become habit. And all our kid hears is “you suck, you suck, you suck.”
I want to be better than that. I want my daughter to know how amazing I think she is. Unfortunately I’m a guy. And as a guy, I’m not always as sensitive to what’s coming out of my mouth as I need to be when it comes to the ego of a young woman. There was a time when she was say six or seven, that suggesting she get the next size jeans was a positive as it meant she was growing up. Yeah don’t do that to a thirteen year old.
It’s a tightrope that requires careful thought and thinking through our words. Something that doesn’t necessarily come naturally to us. Listen, you’re going to say the wrong thing. You’re going to have a “tone.” You’re going to unintentionally insult. Simply put, you’re going to be an ass in her eyes. But there’s good news. There are two tools you have at your disposal that I highly recommend. The first is called reflection. Recognize when you’ve screwed up or potentially sent the wrong message. Then use the second tool, known as an apology. We can’t expect our kids to own their mistakes if we aren’t willing to do so ourselves. It’s a chance for you to let them know you don’t think they dress like a whore and that they do a lot of things right. It’s a chance to let them know that you have a heart. It’s also a chance to counter the negatives with a plethora of positives in a calm, reflective manner.
Guys, obviously our abilities to understand and communicate with women aren’t perfect, or we likely wouldn’t be divorced in the first place. When it comes to our daughters, we can pin it on them to deal with it because we’re the dad OR we can acknowledge we have no idea what we’re doing and do our best to adjust and let our daughters know how much we love them and that we’re making this stuff up as we go along. Honestly, I think it’s OK to let your daughter know you’re an idiot.
She’s already quite aware of that fact and will probably respect you for acknowledging it.