Listening to your daughter carries some risk for a dad or stepdad. Girls will say disruptive things and challenge both the world and their fathers to be better.
There is no question, however, that the risk is worth it. None of us want our daughter to be disrespected. We dads want our daughters to be heard and taken seriously. We start by listening ourselves, an act of genuine courage in a world where girls often are silenced.
It’s no surprise that when we truly listen to our daughters, one of the things they begin to talk about is their fathers – what they value in us, what they think of what we do and who we are. In these conversations, we are very likely to learn some important things about ourselves.
My stepdaughter says it seems that I’m angrier now than when she first met me. In a way that feels bad to me, but in a way it feels good. I do express my emotions more now. I’ve bottled up a lot of anger for a lot of years being Mr. Patient, nice-guy. So definitely, because of Chloe, I’m getting more real. You can’t bullshit a kid. They know what you’re feeling or where you’re at. And you see it reflected in their face. You can’t pretend. Kids remember, too. But I have also learned that I can love her as a daughter. I really have a father’s love for her. Her being in my life has brought that out. - Andy
The father-daughter relationship is seldom easy during adolescence, but it's always important. The rewards are huge for your daughter -- as they are for you.
To earn the full measure of those rewards, a dad has to start the challenging task of understanding in detail some of the challenges girls face nowadays when it comes to body image, sexuality, drugs and alcohol, cultural attitudes and the everyday issues of life.
The more you understand the lives of girls, the clearer it becomes what your daughter truly does need from you -- and how you can provide it.
Adapted from my book Dads and Daughters: How to Inspire, Understand, and Support Your Daughter.