Your daughter wants a hero-and she has chosen you, Dad, to be hers. She needs a hero to help her navigate a treacherous popular culture. But being her hero is not for the weak at heart. It requires emotional fortitude, mental self-control, and physical restraint. It means walking into embarrassing, uncomfortable, or even life-threatening situations in order to rescue your daughter. Here’s where you start:
- Make a Plan. Your aspirations for your daughter will be clearest when she is young. When she’s an infant, you know with crystal clarity what you will expect from her: everything from what she will be allowed to say and do to whom she can date. Write it down now, and keep it clear in your mind and in hers. Teens love to tangle with your thinking. So have your rules inscribed like the Ten Commandments-and stick to them.
- Have courage under fire. Yes, you will be fired upon-by friends, pop psychologists, television programs, your wife and your daughter. Keep your cool, but be firm and consistent. In the best men, kindness, strength, and perseverance go together.
- Be the leader. Remember that you have far more life experience than your daughter. She can’t make decisions as well as you can because you can see the big picture and weigh the consequences of actions in a way that she can’t. Young children, particularly smart young children, have an astonishingly cunning ability to manipulate fathers. So, nice men, beware. When your two-year-old daughter has a temper tantrum, put her in a time- out and ignore her until she calms down. When she’s sixteen, do exactly the same. If you need to ground her for a week, or a month, do it. And don’t ever take personally the venom spewing from her lovely tongue. She’s still a kid. So you lead don’t let her. She’ll have the entire rest of her life to run the show when she has her own home.
- Don’t cave, persevere. Heroes see a battle through until the end; they never run away. So stay in the fight, stay engaged with your daughter and your family, and spend as much time at home as you can. Stay consistent, loving kind, and patient, and remember that you are more resilient in crises than she is. You can make the choice not to run when things get tough. If you are contemplating divorce, I will say something which your daughter wants to say, but can’t. If there is any way you can stay married, do it. Even if your marriage seems doomed, stay in it, stay at home with your children for as long as possible, for their sake. Getting divorced when your daughter is twenty is better for her than when she’s fourteen. And you might find that the best remedy for a bad marriage is sticking it out. Things really can improve.