Dads and Daughters
It may seem impossible to believe, but today's teens do want to consider their parents as friends, even though they think we could never understand the realities of their world. They are also interested in what it was like being a teenager during the Stone Age. Life without cell phones or the Internet must have been unimaginable!
So even with this interest, can a father and teenage daughter really become best friends when competing with busy schedules and raging hormones? The answer is a resounding YES – and it is worth the effort!
What is important to understand is that both of you have to want the new relationship on a long-term basis. You cannot appear to be going through the motions, or acting like you are fitting this new relationship into your busy schedules.
As a father, I knew I was a good provider. I put food on the table, a roof over her head and helped fund those great sales that saved me so much money.
As important as the father role is, it was improving the "Dad" role that allowed me to develop a lasting relationship with my daughter. Essentially, I modified the communication and problem-solving skills that I successfully used at work to improve my relationship with my daughter.
The following are the 10 ways that helped me to become one of my teenage daughter's best friends:
1. We defined what trust meant to each of us. We also agreed that there would be no games or hidden agendas – just honesty – to build the trust.
2. We agreed that mutual trust is earned by exhibiting consistent behavior. The amount of trust that we developed would be proportionate to the amount of freedom that she would enjoy.
3. Anything that she discussed with me was kept in the strictest of confidence. This helped to reinforce the trust.
4. I talked to her as an adult while remembering that she was still a kid. This allowed for flexibility during those trying adolescent years.
5. I became an attentive listener. Multitasking may be necessary at work, however, it will make you appear distracted when discussing something important with your daughter. I learned to focus.
6. I asked the right questions without appearing to interrogate her. It was important that my daughter not fear coming to me to discuss what was important to her. It was equally important that she felt that I took the time to understand what she was trying to communicate.
7. I did not judge her for her actions or ever say, "I told you so!" This helped in having her continue to come to me to discuss topics, and encouraged her to do things better the next time.
8. When helping her with problem solving, we discussed the desired outcomes first and what she needed to do to resolve her problem. Then she was allowed to proactively make her own decisions based upon the facts rather than reacting to her emotions.
9. We set guidelines instead of making rules for her to follow. She had input into the guidelines, and was then expected to follow them. She perceived this as fair and in her best interests.
10. We "hung out" as opposed to just spending time together. Remember that there is a difference between motion and productivity, so we made our time together interactive. If we went to a movie, then we went for an ice cream and discussed the movie. Or we played some "one-on-one" games or sports.
Today, Jennifer is in college and our father-teenage daughter relationship is transitioning into one that is more father-young adult oriented. She continues to call me to discuss topics important to her and, it is gratifying to see that she has grown into an independent young woman. It gives me great peace of mind to know that she can think for herself, and still values coming to me to discuss things before she acts. Also, she is still saving me tons of money with those great sales.
If you want to be a better dad, don't forget the child within you. All too often, we get so wrapped up in being an adult that we forget how to have fun and enjoy life. I found that by using my imagination, I rekindled my creativity, and this made me an "OK guy" for my daughter to hang out with.